Friday, April 30, 2021

The Long Awaited* Analysis of the OSE Druid and Why They Are Terrible

 *Long-awaited by JB, and I think that's about it. 

So some months ago, one of the players in my OSE game rolled up a druid. After a couple of sessions, he retired the character, having found nothing but frustration with it. 

"How could this be?" we asked. The druid had long been considered a beefy character class by many of us. For fuck's sake, man, you have to roll certain stats to qualify! Not just any schmuck coming off of 3d6 in order can be a *druid*  (Granted, the requirement in OSE is just charisma 9, whereas in AD&D it was wisdom 13+ and charisma 15+) 

Let us, as Tears for Fears would say, break it down again. 

Hit Dice: The OSE druid gets a d6, compared to the d8 of the AD&D druid. However, almost everybody in OSE has lower hit dice, just like B/X. Fighters only have a d8 instead of a d10, thieves have a d4 instead of a d6, etc. Perhaps it is because we had no B/X druids, and we always knew them as a d8 hit die class. Still, this is hardly criterion enough to dismiss the class. 

Weapons/Armor: Ah, here we go. The AD&Druid can use the scimitar, a d8 bladed weapon that doesn't even exist in OSE. All weapons, in OSE's default rules, do d6. There are optional rules for the damage variants we know and love, with d8 and even d10 weapons. This oft-used variant leaves OSE druids in the dust, stuck with a meager selection of d6 weapons at their disposal. Armor selection is unchanged. This still seems like a thin pretense under which to cast the druid out. 

Spells: OSE druids begin with a single 1st level spell slot. AD&D started the druids with two 1st level spell slots, and AD&D 2nd started them with a single slot, but a high wisdom score could net them some bonus spell slots. However, one must note that OSE starts almost all the divine type spellcasters off with no spells at 1st level. Like the original B/X design, they have to reach 2nd level before their deity starts doling out the dweomers. Having a spell slot makes the druids better than clerics. I must confess, I have a house rule allowing for a bonus spell slot for clerics with wisdom of 13+. I may have done the druid dirty in my campaign by having this house rule. (I added little bonuses to the four basic classes to encourage players to roll them.) At any rate, we can hardly dismiss the druid based on spell slots, since in the RAW they're better off than all of the other divine spellcasters. (Even the drow race-class, which gets a slot at 1st level but can only use it for one particular specific spell.)  

Is it perhaps the selection of spells? I know the first thing the player lamented was the absence of shillelagh. This spell allows the druid to imbue a club or staff with magic energy to deliver a pretty potent (for 1st level) mystical beatdown. This spell is absent from OSE. The only solid spell the druid has at first level is entangle, and that particular spell is useless in most dungeons, as there isn't any of the required plantlife. Lacking cure light wounds as an initial spell selection, the druid's magical contribution to the party is quite limited. 

...and maybe that's it. Maybe the beginning druid of OSE is so undesirable because they aren't as prepared for combat as the cleric, and while they do get spells right off the bat, the spells are...underwhelming. In fact, the most valuable contribution the druid made to the party was using animal friendship on the big, necklace-wearing rat in Cave A. (Who, by the way, is objectively better than any character who was in the party at that time.) 

I cut off this analysis, which was going to go much deeper, because a.) I am unlikely to continue running my OSE game, and 2.) I just don't care anymore. I am fickle and easily bored. 


  1. Dammit, man...I was just about to take my mid-morning nap when you posted this. Now, I must respond.

    Absent shilelelagh and scimitars, and with a reduced hit die and spell complement (please note that the 1E druid receives the same bonus spells for wisdom as a cleric, allowing the 1st level druid to start with up to FOUR spells!), what a sucky character option. Best AC of 6? Animal friendship? Does that even work on a giant (or hungry) animal?

    Yeah, I see what you're saying. I never really did get why people were so hip to Labyrinth Lord Advanced, and OSE Advanced (or whatever it's called) looks about the same mishmash. If folks want advanced versions of the game, they should probably just be playing an advanced version, not a BX-ified one.

    But I get that, too: OSE is the New Shiny. It's supported; it's in print. Players will buy into IT as opposed to some long-forgotten, dusty tome with Gygax's name on the cover. It can stop the bleeding (of money) that is 5E.

    I went a different route myself. I just started teaching children how to play the original stuff, and I've picked up a bunch of (used) copies of the old books, and now they're proliferating.

    Of course, that tactic doesn't work for adults (usually). But (for me), I'm trapped with nothing but children (for the moment).

    1. I think the OSE druid dies the death of a thousand cuts. While no one particular reason I outline above is enough to write off the class, I think the combination of *all* of them does.

      Yes, OSE is slick and shiny. Whereas John hates that, I find it strangely charming.

      I have no children in my house, and in fact, prefer not to game with most of the people who live there. I must suffer through Discord until this is over... but as of late, no gaming is vastly preferable to Discord gaming.

  2. I must come to the defense of the Advanced Edition Companion/Advanced Labyrinth Lord druid, though I myself never thought much of the druid class in general.

    The AEC/ALL druid is essentially a perfect clone of the AD&D druid, with the notable (and required) difference in XP chart. Also, under Basic rules, it has a d6 for Hit Dice (as does the cleric), but if using the Advanced HD rules, it has a d8 (again just like a cleric). Also, just like clerics, druids gain bonus spells from high Wisdom (and as all druids have a Wisdom of no less than 12, most are likely to have at least one or two bonus 1st level spells).

    So, in AEC/ALL, druids suck no more (or less) than AD&D druids.

  3. I knew there had to be a more substantive reason behind why I like Advanced LL better than OSE. Something about OSE rubs me the wrong way. Seems too slick and polished — like a used car salesman — where LL is kind of janky and slapdash in the same way early D&D stuff is.

    1. I'm reading through B/X and I vastly prefer it to the cold 'instruction manual' aura of OSE. Additionally, it feels like I may hack B/X, while OSE feels a lot more impenetrable.

    2. I prefer "kludged together with heart and hope" rather than "janky and slapdash," but you are not wrong. Up through the era of 2E, D&D and AD&D were built up from rulings and pure ideas, rather than building upon some sort of scientific, mathematical principle. Gives a lot more wiggle room in designing your own thing, or add house rules, as it does not need to necessarily fit "the formula," lest everything fall apart.

      There were methods to the madness, but the methods were each divided into their own set of sub-rules, rather than beholden to The One True Rule.

      One thing that went to the wayside early on, even with those who used THAC0 in the pre-2E days, was the "Repeating 20s" on the combat charts. A LOT of the essence of the combat rule system for higher-level characters and high-AC creatures was lost when that got casually thrown out of the system cause it "didn't fit the math."

      I have not read OSE yet (I don't need it, I already have ALL), but from everything I hear, it isn't so much a clone as it is a systemic, formulaic, mathematical, mechanical re-telling of the B/X system. Which kind of misses the point, and loses the soul and spirit of the game.

    3. I'm not particularly versed with THAC0; What are the "Repeating 20s" that didn't fit the math?

    4. I like the OSE rulebooks because they're small and easy to use if you're writing your own stuff. But I do think it would be hard to learn the game for the first time from them and the brevity does take some of the wonder out of the game. And I ran one of their modules and hated the bullet point presentation style. Found it more distracting than helpful. Vastly prefer the LL-compatible megadungeons out there in that respect.

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  5. My thoughts on this are that upon reaching level 4, the OSE druid levels very very quickly. The key to this class is to make good use of animal friendship as the druid can have a maximum of 2HD of pet per level. So think about a 5th level druid with two lions for companions, certainly a formidable adversary!

    Yes, the spell selection is inferior with a few gems (protection from poison, protection from fire and lightning for example). Because they get more spells than clerics do, by 5th level, druid is actually a better potential healer than a cleric and this continues for a while. And there's nothing to stop a druid from doing spell research. I got mine to research the AD&D 1E druidic version of reincarnation, feign death, detect magic, wilderness invisibility and a couple more.

    One final note, two very useful first level spells are Detect Danger and Speak with Animals. The usefulness of Detect Danger should be readily obvious but with Speak with Animals I've had druids get birds for pets and send them out scouting, particularly before setting up camp and the party has been able to avoid those horrible wilderness wandering monsters. By casting speak with animals on the bird, all kinds of information can be gleaned. Similarly, you want to know the inside scoop, find a guard dog, horse or other mount or livestock who will often be willing to tell you all kinds of information to the level of their intellectual ability, and this includes normal rats in dungeons!

    1. Well, I'm glad you found a use for the class. Our one druid got thrown back in the stable and forgotten about, and sadly this campaign ended almost a year and a half ago, as did any desire I have to run OSE. XD