Over at Zenopus Archives the good wizard has some scans of TSR promotional materials for the D&D Basic set, circa 1978. "ABOUT 15 MINUTES IS ALL THAT'S NEEDED TO HAVE A COMPLETE GAME UNDERWAY, EXCLUSIVE OF RULE READING TIME, OF COURSE," one ad touts. I love a challenge. I grabbed 3d6 and my sad little copy of the blue book and created a thief in about 5 minutes, including ability scores, hp, AC, equipment, and ability modifiers. His stats were painful, but no worries, because the only ability scores that have *any* mechanical effect during combat are Constitution (hit points) and Dexterity (missile weapon accuracy). His low CON score combined with a hit die roll of 3 gave him a rugged 2 hp with which to nurse his way to 2nd level. With only leather armor between his heart and the other guy's blade, he stands a 45% chance of being hit by a 1st-level monster each blow, with a 5/6 chance of being slain on each hit. Luckily he can stab with his dagger twice per round, inflicting 1d6 damage on each hit, while his companion the fighter does a lousy 1d6 every other round with his intimidating but clumsy two-handed sword.
I found myself settling into my OD&D mindset, where character development is as much based on what you do poorly as on what you do well. OK, this guy must be a cowardly little fink who will help out when there are locks to be picked but stays way in the back during combat. He can quickly dispatch an unprepared foe with two stabs of his dagger but can't survive so much as a withering sidelong glance across a bar room, so I figure that he tries to avoid fair fights entirely. This is a guy who stabs first and asks rhetorical questions later. Alignment: true neutral, a pragmatic survivor with maybe a touch of psychopath.
And this is why OD&D is a great game, despite it's mechanical quirks or outright contradictions. I already love this thief and he would only make it to second level if I played him to the hilt and was extremely adept at negotiating his role within the party. Or he might die in the first ten minutes, and I could roll another one who presented a whole different set of challenges to overcome.