I’ve said before that 1st level in 4e D&D is comparable to 4th level in 3rd Edition. So where’s that put it against Rules Cyclopedia-era Classic D&D? 6th level, that’s where. Here’s a straight head-to-head comparison between a 1st level (4e), 4th level (3e) and 6th level (uhhh…. 0.5e) character to see how the numbers stack up.
Just to make things interesting, the character who’s going to get a multi-edition make-over is a Human Wizard (err… Magic-User) generated straight from the Core Rules for each Edition. I’ve used 4e’s standard array (10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, adjusted for race and level) for all the characters and max Hit Points at 1st level. For the Rules Cyclopedia, both the Skills and Weapon Mastery systems are being used (‘cos they’re the bomb) and I’ve allowed bonus memorized spells for high INT (13-15 = +1 1st, 16-17 = +1 1st & 2nd, 18 = +1 1st, 2nd & 3rd).
First, let’s meet the victim.
Felonius Crumbb (with two Bs) is a portly, bookish Wizard with a fascination for the magic of forgotten Empires. Much as he’d rather do his research in a comfortable chair in front of a roaring fire, he accepts that field trips are essential, and (truth be told) quite enjoys the fresh air and chance to put his more explodey spells into practise. He has a habit of muttering to himself and poking dead things with the end of his staff.
Here’s his stats in 4e, 1st level.
Felonius Crumbb, Lawful Good Human Wizard-1
STR 10, CON 13, DEX 13, INT 16, WIS 12, CHA 14
HP 23, bloodied 11, surges 5×7/day
AC 14 (robes & staff), Fort 12, Ref 14, Will 15, Init +1
Dagger +3 vs AC, 1d4, Thrown +4 vs AC, 1d4+1
Quarterstaff +2 vs AC, 1d8
Ghost Sound/w, Light/w, Mage Hand/w, Prestidigitation/w
Cloud of Daggers/w +3 vs Ref, Magic Missile/w +3 vs Ref, Scorching Burst/w +3 vs Ref
Ray of Enfeeblement/e +3 vs Fort
Acid Arrow/d +3 vs Ref or Flaming Sphere/d +3 vs Ref
Arcana +8, History +11, Insight +6, Nature +6, Religion +8
Alchemist, Skill Focus (History)
Rituals: Brew Potion, Comprehend Language, Explorer’s Fire
…. and 3e, 4th level. (* denotes memorised spells)
Felonius Crumbb, Lawful Good Human Wizard-4
STR 10, DEX 14, CON 12, INT 17, WIS 13, CHA 15
HP 16, AC 13 (Ring of Protection+1, Cloak of Resistance +1), Init +2
Fort +3, Ref +4, Will +6
Quarterstaff+1, +3, 1d6+1
Decipher Script +10, Diplomacy +4, Gather Information +4, KS:Arcana +10, KS:Geography +7, KS:History +10, KS:Local +6, KS:Nobility +10, Search +5, Spellcraft +14, Use Magic Devices +4
Common, Elven, Draconic, Dwarven, Giant, Common
Combat Casting, Investigator, Magical Aptitude, Scribe Scroll, Brew Potion, Summon Familiar
0: Arcane Mark, Dancing Lights*, Detect Magic**, Prestidigitation, Read Magic*
1: Color Spray, Mage Armor*, Magic Missile***
2: Hypnotic Pattern*, Web**
…. and Classic D&D, 6th level. (again, * denotes memorised spells)
Felonius Crumbb, Lawful Magic-User-6
STR 10, INT 16, WIS 13, DEX 14, CON 12, CHA 15
HP 17, AC 6 (Ring of Protection +2), THAC0 17
DR/P 11, MW 12, P/TtS 11, BA 14, R/S/S 12
KS:History+2 (18), Alchemy (16), Navigation (16), Mapping+1 (17)
Staff of Harming (Sk), A:+2, A:-1AC/2, Deflect(1), 1d6+2 or 2d6+3 (30 charges)
Dagger+1 (Sk), 15/25/35, H:+2, H:-1AC/1, d6+1
1: Magic Missile**, Light, Protection from Evil, Shield*
2: Web**, Entangle*, Knock
Broadly speaking, the three characters are comparable. The 3e and 4e characters have identical Hit Points and Armor Class, and the saving throws are within spitting distance of each other. The Classic D&D character, even at 6th level, has lower Hit Points (hey, it’s a Magic-User – what did you expect?), but a higher Armor Class, especially when armed with a Staff – the Weapon Mastery rules mean he’s AC 5 against the first two attacks in a round, and he’s pretty skilled at cracking skulls too. Nice. Each Edition’s Skill system makes it clear that this is a character who knows his ancient history with 3rd Edition winning out with it’s lovely granularity and 4e’s broader skillset feeling like a step backward in comparison.
When it comes to each character’s abilities in combat there’s little difference with each one more than able to hold it’s own. Where the 4e version has a multitude of at-will abilities, both the 3e and Classic characters have Magic Missiles as 1st level spells and Web ‘n’ Fireball covering the per Encounter and Daily bases. 4e’s Rituals pad out the 4e Wizard’s non-combat magical abilities.
In short, yeh, these characters are equivalent. 6 is 4 is 1, indeed.
What this means is simple. If you want to play a high-fantasy high-octane D&D game in the style of 4e but using the 3rd Edition rules, generate 4th level characters but set the XP at 0. When the players reach 1,000 XP allow them to gain another level, and continue from there.
If you want to play 4e-style in Classic D&D, generate 6th level characters, start at 0 XP and…. oh, I’m sure you get the idea. It also means that 4e’s 30 levels of play are comparable to Classic D&D’s 36 levels of play with the first 6 levels shaved off. If you want to know where D&D low-level play went to, that’s where.
UPDATE: 3e Wizard corrected, as spotted by Oz. This puts the Hit Points lower than 4e (and Classic D&D too, but that’s the way the dice fall sometimes), but the rest of the class abilities remain comparable nonetheless. Good catch!