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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

AD&D 1st edition

I get asked from time to time why I use 1st edition AD&D rules for the games I run. The answer is simple- it's the game I know best. I started playing AD&D very shortly after being introduced to role playing games via the Holmes Basic D&D boxed set. The Expert boxed set followed when it got released adding to the confusion; I mostly dumped Basic and Expert in favor of Advanced probably before the end of 1982. From there until the release of second edition AD&D, the most gaming filled years of my life, I ran or played in 1st edition. I know rules and house rules for pretty much every situation. I still have, tucked in my DMG, intoxication rules I wrote for the game sometime after 1985.

I didn't play 1st edition much after the release of 2nd edition until after 3rd edition was released. Just a couple of short campaigns run by a guy I met that didn't see much point in buying a new set of books when he owned a perfectly serviceable version of the game. I wish I could say I had his wisdom, but I bought into second edition myself, not as hard as some, but I did. There was a lot to like in second edition- clarifications, removal of contradictory rules, the way Thief abilities worked (in theory). At first I liked the supplementary books with the kits too, I bought the Fighter one. If I had known what they would eventually become...

The loss of the 1/2 Orc was kind of a bummer, the loss of the Monk not so much. They screwed the Ranger up pretty bad for no reason I could tell. Lost the Assassin, not a great loss. Changing the names of Demons and Devils, cowardly but understandable. But the minor rules changes for the sake of change were an irritant to me for the whole of the 2nd edition period. Plus the constant decline in quality of supplemental materials like modules was a plague. I also preferred Greyhawk to the Forgotten Realms, but that really was not terribly important to me because I used a home-brewed campaign world.

3rd edition brought my first wave of revolt. My gaming group refused to buy into the new rules at first because we didn't want to spend the money or convert our characters. Eventually though we started buying the books and investing ourselves into 3e. I agreed to DM a campaign and away we went. First I liked it, then I grew weary of it, then I hated it. 3e was not conducive to my "off the cuff" style of DMing, required way more prep time and rules memorization than I had time for and had much more the feel of a tactical miniatures game than I wanted for D&D. I eventually gave over the DMing responsibility to one of the other guys and rolled up a character of my own to play the remainder of the module series we had been playing, we never finished but he took us through the next 2 modules before we just quit.

I ran a couple of more games using 3.5 (for which I only ever bought the PH), one in my home-brewed world with a much more "old school" style of play which ended only because of life getting in the way; the other was a heavily house-ruled Oriental Adventures campaign using the Kara Tur setting and old OA modules converted to a mix of 1st edition/3e/3.5e/stuff I found on the net and stuff from my head. It drove our resident rules Nazi a little crazy, but we all had a pretty good time until life screwed it up too.

During this same time my buddy Lance started talking about going "back to basics" and started a Rules Cyclopedia based campaign, it didn't last, but it was a good idea. Less rules means less rules lawyering and more DM is always right. Basic D&D was not the right fit for us because we had cut our teeth on Advanced and played it for a long time- it was too retro.

Then I thought about my campaign world. I had designed it and evolved it largely through 1st edition, 3e was too far removed, made too many changes to be a good fit. I needed to either house-rule the hell out of 3e (which I did) or go retro. My kids were reticent to go retro at first, but now they are actually 1st edition partisans. I think when they were younger they fell for the more polished presentation of 3e (and 2nd edition to a lesser extent). I guess it didn't hurt either that those editions were marketed to younger audiences than 1st edition.

Ultimately this post is about my impending "sand-box" style campaign with 1st edition AD&D rules, where the players (my wife and 3 kids) will start in a small town on the frontier near some ruins. Characters are made, we start this weekend. My wife, Mona, and my youngest, Ember, are playing Human Clerics; My son,John, a Human Fighter and my oldest daughter, Ashli, is playing a Halfling Thief. I hope it goes well.

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