In a comment on a blog link post, Norman J. Harman, Jr. expressed his opinion about Gygax’s writing and quality of rules. Which is fine, everyone can have opinions. But the comment ends with “B/X is a better game than AD&D.” And that had me do a double-take, because I think of both as being about equally bad, and certainly B/X had a couple distinct rules differences I’d consider worse than AD&D. And I’m not talking about minor quibbling differences that people always seem to focus on. I’m talking about the differences everyone seems to ignore that are basically the deal-breakers for me.
One difference is race as class. I’m not completely opposed to the idea, but I do think it’s a terrible design choice. People generally want to add fantasy races so that they can have more variety… so making all elves the same, all dwarves the same, and so on seems counterproductive. OD&D started with fighter-dwarf, fighter-halfling, and elves that could be either fighter, magic-user, or both, then expanded the options for those three races with thieves… and then B/X came along and got rid of the options. AD&D expands the options, and though I don’t think it did so in the correct way, at least it’s not B/X.
Continuing that line of reasoning: minimum ability scores is also a bad idea. B/X shares this with AD&D, though, and at least B/X doesn’t have minimum scores for the core classes, just the races, so that’s one thing in its favor. But having minimum scores at all, for anything other than rare classes like paladins, is a bad decision, again because it limits variety. You can’t play the weak but brave dwarf in B/X (or the weak but brave fighter or cleric or thief, in AD&D,) because hey, why have more variety in your game? Plus, it has the added effect of making ability scores more important and dominating the game, but that’s a whole other line of argument.
You may have noticed, in the Liber Zero class pamphlets, that none of the variant classes like Beast Master, Witch, or Apothecary have minimum scores. I decided to shift the opposite direction, away from B/X and AD&D, towards more freedom and variety instead of less.
Because dammit, even if I agreed B/X is a better game than AD&D, it’s not better than OD&D.