Lowered Ability Scores

1st Ed. D&D question (or HackMaster v4.)

I was about to ask what happens when a character's ability scores fall below the minimum for a class. Do they lose the class?

i.e. If a Magic User becomes too stupid to be a Magic User (e.g. Int falls below 9), do they cease to be a Magic User? If the Wisdom falls below 9 do they cease to be a Cleric.

I couldn't actually find a rule outside of initial character creation minumums.

Then my attention was drawn to the ability table for Wisdom in HackMaster and they listed chance of spell failure for scores below 9.

And looking at the Intelligence table you don't get any spells below 8 (With three asterisks Gnomes get Cantrips only.)

Looking at the Thief skill Dexterity adjustments it bottoms out at Dex of 7.

So by inference I think I answered my own question. It appears you don't lose being a class, but it sure becomes more difficult. (A Magic User with an Int of 7 and the inability to cast spells wouldn't cease being a Magic User, but it may be better if the Magic User found another line of work.)

What do you think?

Tracy Johnson
Old fashioned text games hosted below:





Kersus's picture

I would heavily agree with you. While a Paladin losing some abilities by altering alignment might encourage adventure, removing a class based on attribute loss would be harsh and only usable if it encouraged adventure.

Honestly, I probably wouldn't do anything to the Thief who's Dex dropped heavily unless I had inspiration for adventure surrounding it.

tmjva's picture

I got a response from elsewhere, on the old text based Greytalk list-server (still in business). It was also funny that the impetus for my question was also a monk. The response from 1981 was as follows:

For 1e AD&D, someone asked a similar question in the Sage Advice column in Dragon , September 1981.

Copied and pasted from the Dragon Magazine Archive:

My monk with a dexterity of 15 was hit in the leg by an arrow. The DM said there would be a temporary loss of 3 dexterity points, and later he said that one of those points would be lost permanently. He took away half of my experience points (the character was first level) and said I’d have to change classes because the character no longer met the minimum requirements for being a monk.. Is this proper? If I change, would I keep any of the abilities of the former class?

It sounds like you’ve willingly accepted the “fact” that you have permanently lost a point of dexterity from a relatively minor wound — yet that’s really the heart of your problem. It seems as though your DM was determined to find a way to keep you from playing that character as a monk. This sage doesn’t have ESP, of course, and it’s impossible to know the details of this incident, but any DM who decides to have such a tragedy befall a first-level character had better have a very good reason for acting that way.

There is nothing in the AD&D rules to suggest that a character has to abandon his or her chosen class because of a drop in an ability score anyway. Ability scores are not infrequently raised or lowered by various magical means, and by certain types of psionic attacks. The life of acharacter or a long-running campaign would be thrown into disorder if characters were forced to change classes every time an ability score fell below the minimum number originally needed to qualify for membership in that class.

If it were mandatory for a character to change class whenever an important ability score was lowered during the course of an adventure, what would be the fate of, for instance, a character rendered feebleminded by a psionic blast attack? Such a character, with (by definition) a combined intelligence and wisdom score of 0-5 for the duration of the feeblemind effect, technically doesn’t qualify for any class of adventurer.

There are certain types of magical attacks which cause the loss of a point of strength or some other attribute. Losses of this kind are sometimes only temporary (the strength drain of a shadow, for instance), and even so-called “permanent” changes can be counteracted by different magical means at a later time. There may be occasions when a character has lost so much of his original attribute score that it is not practical or healthy to continue in the same class: A human fighter who has his strength reduced to, say, 6 points is risking ruin if he sets out on an adventure in that condition, and the character might stand a better chance of survival in the long run if he decided to take up magic-using (assuming a sufficiently high intelligence to do that). But the choice should belong to the character and player, not to the DM. In the descriptions of the fighter, paladin and thief player character classes in the Players Handbook, the rules state that certain minimum ability scores are needed to “become” a member of that class. The same reasoning should be applied to those classes where the same wording is not used. In other words, minimum requirements have to be met when a character begins a career in a class, but not necessarily at all times thereafter while that profession is being pursued