No rule is completely worthless; it can always serve as a bad example

Last updated: 220220..220617

Whenever rules are confusing, one normally turns to the examples to figure it out. In AD&D, don’t rely on it. A few of the examples contradict the rules as written. Indeed, using a baseline of, “the example is how not to do it” will sometimes serve in better stead.

Let’s look at some … examples.

PHB, p. 9: “If a character could normally carry 500 gold pieces without encumbrance, but the character had strength of 17 instead of the normal 8-11 range, 1,000 gold pieces could be carried without incurring movement penalty.”

From this quote, one might infer that the baseline for an average PC is 500 gp (50#). Yet that’s contradicted everywhere else. The PHB (p. 100) defines how movement is affected by encumbrance as: ≤ 35#, ≤70#, ≤105#, more than 105#. No 50# as part of the range. While WSG and DSG meddle a bit with the lower range of encumbrance (mostly adding a new classification of Unencumbered in the context of swimming), they still use 35/70/150 as the break points. OA meddles with the upper range of encumbrance, defining each 35# as a 3″ decrease in movement.

PCs don’t default to a base 50# of “free” encumbrance.


PHB, p. 12: “The wicked necromancer polymorphs (others) his hireling into a giant roc, with the rather foolish agreement of the changee; the hireling must make a saving throw based on his constitution score using the table above.”

While the text here states, “saving throw”, the clear intent is a System Shock roll, not a saving throw. If polymorphed, a PC would make a saving throw against the spell, and then a System Shock check to determine if changing form killed them. In this case, the hireling as agreed, so must only make a System Shock roll.


PHB, p. 34: “Let us suppose that a 10th level fighter has 55 hit points, plus a bonus of 30 hit points for his constitution, for a total of 85 hit points.”

and the corresponding example in the DMG, p. 82:

“Consider a character who is a 10th level fighter with an 18 constitution. This character would have an average of 5.5 hit points per die, plus a constitution bonus of 4 hit points, per level, or 95 hit points!”

Doing the math there, the PHB 10th level fighter has a 17 Constitution, gaining +3 hp/ level for 10 levels. The DMG fighter is calculated based on a 5.5 average of 10 hit dice + 40. However, the Constitution HP bonus applies to Hit Dice, not level.  The maximum number of Hit Dice are defined for each class on PHB, p. 19, Character Classes Table I and fighters stop gaining hit dice at level 9.

To support that, the PHB, p.  12 reads: “Hit Point Adjustment indicates the subtraction from or addition to each hit die for a character… the additional hit points for each hit die due to superior constitution is +2″ and further repeatedly emphasizes it on p. 19:
“**The ranger beings with two eight-sided hit dice (2d8), but thereafter goes up one die per level, to the indicated maximum, as do all other classes. The monk begins with two four-sided dice (2d4), and goes up thereafter as do rangers, at one die per level.”

“Maximum Number of Hit Dice assumes that the character has no racial limitation to prevent rise commensurate with the number of hit dice. Note that additional hit points are still gained with increase in level, even though no additional hit dice can be, in those cases where there is no class (or race) level limit. “

That’s additionally supported in Dragon #144: “Q: Do characters still get constitution bonuses to their hit points after reaching “name” level? A: No. Once the character stops gaining new hit dice, he also stops gaining constitution bonuses.” and the Cavalier text in UA, p. 14: “The character’s hit-point bonus for high constitution (if applicable) is first received at either Horseman or Armiger level, and is then applied to each additional hit die from second level on as normal.”

Both examples erroneously assume fighters gain 10 hit dice, not 9. The PHB fighter should have a bonus of 27 (9×3) hit points, not 30!


PHB, p. 44: “Detect Evil: This is a spell which discovers emanations of evil, or of good in the case of the reverse spell, from any creature or object.”

However, the DMG (p. 60) goes on to say:

“It is important to make a distinction between character alignment and some powerful force of evil or good when this detection function is considered. In general, only a know alignment spell will determine the evil or good a character holds within. It must be a great evil or a strong good to be detected. Characters who ore very strongly aligned, do not stray from their faith, and who are of relatively high level (at least 8th or higher) might radiate evil or good if they are intent upon appropriate actions.”

Detect Evil won’t work on characters unless they are at least 8th level.


PHB, p. 105: “A party of 5 characters – a magic-user, a cleric, a thief, a human fighter, and a dwarf fighter surprise an illusionist with 20 arcs. The opponents are 30′ distant, and the magic-user immediately begins casting a sleep spell. The cleric also prepares to cast a spell, silence, 15′ radius. Meanwhile, the thief darts to the rear of the party to attempt to hide in the shadows and attack from behind when opportunity presents itself; the human fighter nocks an arrow and shoots it at the illusionist; and the dwarf hurls an axe.”

The party has surprise (which, while unspecified, must be for one segment given the example). The fighter nocks an arrow and shoots it.  However,

DMG, p. 63: “Even if distance prevents striking with weapons, the discharge of arrows, bolts or hand-hurled weapons is permissible at three times the normal rate providing the weapon/missiles are ready, otherwise at normal rates for rounds. Once surprise segments are over, melee proceeds normally on a round-by-round basis.”

Even if our fighter wasn’t ready, he should have fired two arrows, not one. Were he ready, he should have fired more. How many more is a different discussion.


PHB, p. 105: “The illusionist/orcs win initiative, and while the former begins a spell of his own, the latter rush to attack, hurling spears as they come. A spear hits the magic-user, so the sleep spell is spoiled.”

How exactly is the Sleep spell spoiled? Sleep takes but 1 segment to cast, and the magic user began (and completed) casting that spell during their 1 segment of Surprise (see above):

DMG, p. 61: “Most spells cannot be cast in a single segment, although first level magic-user/illusionist spells ore usually but 1 segment long, as are some other spells, and these spells ore possible to use in a surprise segment.”


DMG, p. 71: Meanwhile, Blastum has been preparing a shocking grasp spell, and now he steps forward and touches (rolls a successful “to hit” die score) Arlanni the thief, delivering 10 points of damage (1-8 + 4). There is no saving throw: Arlanni has only 8 hit points, and dies. … On the left, Aggro again attacks Balto with his axe. He rolls a 12 and hits him for 5 points. Balto only had two points left, so he is dead.

But do Arlanni and Balto die at -2 and -3 hit points respectively? When exactly do PCs die? We know from DMG p. 82:

When any creature is brought to 0 hit points (optionally as low as -3 hit points if from the same blow which brought the total to 0), it is unconscious. In each of the next succeeding rounds 1 additional (negative) point will be lost until -10 is reached and the creature dies.

There are a number of ways to parse this whole thing incorrectly, making the example even more confusing. PCs go unconscious when at—or below—0 hit points (optionally not falling unconscious until -3 hit points), and die at –10 hit points.


The Dimwall encumbrance example in the DMG (Appendix O, p. 225) suggests the capacity of a backpack as at least 400:

  • hand axe: 50
  • 3 flasks of oil: 20 × 3
  • a candle: 5
  • 3 small sacks: 5 × 3
  • 1 large sack: 20
  • 7 torches: 25 × 7
  • 50′ Rope (lashed): 75

Total: 400

And his companion Druge:

  • 10 spikes: 10 × 10
  • 1 week’s iron rations: 75
  • flask of oil: 20
  • 50′ rope (strapped): 75
  • heavy crossbow (hanging from pack): 80

Total: 350

Now both examples include rope “lashed in a bundle” but lashing stuff to the pack as far as I’m concerned is a standard pack thing. If you don’t count the rope, Dimwall’s backpack capacity is 325. Yet the AD&D Character Sheets list the capacity of a backpack as 3 cu. ft (300 gp).

While the weight of a standard spell book is 150 gp, “The encumbrance value of a spell book equal to three times its weight (450 gp or thereabouts), although it is correct to assume that a volume will fit within an otherwise empty backpack or large sack.” (UA, p.  79). It makes more sense to assume it’s just barely squeezing into a pack with a 400 capacity than a pack of 300! 400 is consistent with the earlier value of 400 cn in Set 1: Basic. The Character Sheets are wrong.

Depending on your edition of the DMG, the extended combat example on p. 71 has numerous errors. They’re updated in the errata for the DMG and later printings of the DMG, so I won’t detail them here.


Anything else?


Players Manual: Set 1: Basic Rules, 1974.
TSR 2010, Players Handbook [1e], 1978.
TSR 2011, Dungeon Masters Guide [1e], 1979.
TSR 9028, Player Character Record Sheets, 1984.
TSR 2017, Unearthed Arcana, 1985.
Dragon Magazine Issue 124, Packing It All Away, August, 1987, p. 54.


Author: Rick

A DM for *mumble* years, I've been playing AD&D since junior high. I've currently got two separate campaigns running, both in Mystara. I've been told when they handed out hobbies, I stood in the short lines. I actively cycle tour, kayak, play board games, read, develop home automation software, play Stars!, volunteer with the International and National American Red Cross, and work on a never-ending stream of home repairs. In my wake I've left paintball, medieval full-contact combat (SCA), computer gaming, Heroclix, and kite construction.

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