AD&D3 Rule Changes (aka Fixing the Thief)


Now that I’ve finally managed to get a good gaming group together, we’ve been able to give the rules a decent test-drive over the past few months.

From what we’ve seen in game-play,  1st and 2nd level AD&D3 characters are more resilient than their 1st and 2nd edition counterparts.  Spellcasters, as intended, have more flexibility with spellcasting.  At the same time, classic adventures can be easily converted and are still a challenge for low-leveled groups.

At the same time, we’ve also seen some class-balance issues when it comes to the Thief.  As presented in the rules, the Thief class seems mostly on par with its earlier counterparts.  At the same time, when measured against other AD&D3 classes, it definitely was in need of some added oomph.

The following rule changes to Thief (and Assassin) class abilities should fix this imbalance without adding complexity:

Backstab (Assassins and Thieves)
Thieves are opportunistic attackers, striking vulnerable foes more effectively than others. When making a melee or ranged attack against an opponent’s rear facing, or when making a melee attack against a flanked foe, thieves gain a +2 bonus to their attack and damage rolls. This bonus to attack and damage rolls increases by 1 point (to a maximum of +5) at thief levels 6, 11, and 16.

A thief may only Backstab creatures that have a discernible anatomy. The thief must be able to see the target well enough to pick out a vital spot. They may only Backstab with weapons listed on the thief weapon proficiency list. If making ranged Backstab attacks, they must be within close range for the weapon used.

Sneak Attack (Thieves)
A thief normally avoids face-to-face combat if possible, preferring instead to use stealth or guile to catch an opponent unaware or off-guard.

If a thief successfully strikes a surprised opponent, the first attack deals twice the usual Backstab damage (4 points of Backstab damage at levels 1-5, 6 points of Backstab damage at levels 6-10, etc.)

Sneak Attacks, unlike normal Backstab attacks, need not be made against flanked foes or a foes’ rear facing. The other requirements for Backstabbing opponents still apply.

Flank Attacks (Page 68 PHB and DMG)
Attacks made against a defender by flanking foes are called flanking attacks. Flanking attacks against a defender are made with a +1 bonus to the attack roll. Thieves and assassins making flank attacks against opponents gain an additional, Backstab, bonus. See Opponents and Facing on page 65 for details on flanking attacks in combat.

Rear Attacks (Page 68 PHB and DMG)
Opponents attacking a defender’s rear facing gain a +2 bonus to their attack roll. Thieves and assassins making rear attacks against opponents gain an additional, Backstab, bonus. See Opponents and Facing on page 65 for details on making rear attacks in combat.

A flanking attacker who is also making a rear attack does not gain both attack roll bonuses. Only the better, rear attack, bonus applies to its attack rolls (though its ally still gains a flanking bonus to its attack rolls).

3 thoughts on “AD&D3 Rule Changes (aka Fixing the Thief)

  1. Just finished reading through your entire blog and I really enjoyed your content, good stuff.

    Question for you though. Are you planning on updating the AD&D3E books any time soon (within the next year) as I am considering printing out hard copies of them for myself (and myself only) via lulu but, if you do update them again I’d rather wait till said update occurs.

    Question 2, would you consider doing a post covering, even roughly, what you added into AD&D from other versions of D&D to turn it into AD&D3E? I’ve glanced over the 3 main PDF’s but I didn’t see any ‘designer’s notes’ on the subject.

  2. Thanks Gwarh!
    We’ve been playtesting the rules over the past 2 months and, so far, the players have hit 4th level (1 human war cleric, 1 gnome magic-user, 1 human fighter, 1 human thief, and 1 elven ranger/cleric. The only issues that have come up have been minor typos (that I’ve fixed) and that the thief was found to be somewhat lacking as it was (also fixed).
    I wish I could say that there won’t be any changes BUT there is still a good deal of playtesting; as the characters make their way through classic adventures and advance in level.
    As for what AD&D 3 grew out of…
    It started with me getting sick of 3.5’s crunchiness (as both a player and DM) and moving on to Castles & Crusades in 2005. At first, back in 2006, I started adding elements from AD&D into C&C, such as spells, multiclassing rules, and classes. Then I ditched the “primes” system of Castles & Crusades and started changing races and classes so that they better-matched their 1st edition AD&D counterparts.
    Once the Player’s Handbook was done, I started creating an Unearthed Arcana tome; which added new races (such as drow, half-ogres, and duergar) and variant classes (such as blackguards, spell-less rangers, and psionicists).
    Eventually I ditched this book and started working on a Dungeons Master’s Guide that would incorporate all of the material from Unearthed Arcana plus material from the 1st and 2nd edition Dungeon Master’s Guides. I used the 2nd edition AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide as the skeleton for my AD&D 3 DMG and finished that up in 2013.
    With those book done, I tried to complete a Monster Manual for the rules but kept hitting the wall… it was too much work for me.
    When 5th edition came out, I worked on streamlining my PHB and DMG. For the most part, I did this by reducing the proficiency bonuses to skills and saves, and by reducing the saving throw/check check DCs to put them in line with those reduced bonuses. I also tried to bring the finished work more in line with 2nd edition AD&D by making XP awards, treasure tables, and encounter tables more compatible with those rules.
    With that in mind, in 2018, I reworked the 2nd edition Monstrous Manual to make it compatible with the PHB and DMG… while using first edition art due to my preference for the older art. Once that was completed, in 2019, I put out feelers for new players and, at the start of this year, started gaming with my current group (mostly younger players, in their early 30s, who had only played later editions of D&D).
    So far, they seem to enjoy the streamlined rules and easy character creation/advancement. There has been some adjustment to the reduced power curve BUT they appreciate that the reduced might of player characters is more-than-offset by the reduced power level of monsters.
    The closest thing to a design journal was my first post ( and subsequent posts on minor tweaks to the rules.

    1. Thanks for the reply, I appreciate getting more on the projects backstory.

      And thank Pholtus for using ‘older’ art. B&W art is under appreciated these days. I’m sick of game books chock full of loose concept art high fantasy implausible armor nonsense.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s