The recent annoucement that D&D was going to get a new iteration has garnered a lot of reactions on the web. I decided to refrain from early judgement but, much like when 4e was announced, I take an optimistic approach to it. I happen to respect and even quite like the work of the three main designers working on it so that helps my somewhat positive outlook.
I was very intrigued with Mike Mearls vision of creating a “D&D’s Greatest Hits.” It evokes a plethora of images about modular designs and piecemeal “build your own game” elements that inspires the writer and budding game designer in me. This gave me an idea for a series of post here at Critical Hits. Some of the bloggers here have been playing various editions of D&D for the last 4 decades, I thought it would be interesting if we shared our five DMing Greatest Hits for some or all of the versions of D&D we played as dungeon masters.
Let me start with my first foray in RPGs:
Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (1e)
- Age Range when played : 10-16
- Nostalgia Factor: Very High
- Rules Mastery: Moderate
As I mentioned in my RPG DNA post a while back, I discovered tabletop RPGs when I was 10. A schoolmate invited me over to show me a made-up game based on what he had played with his cousin (the original Red Box) over a weekend. We played for hours with hardly any rules more complex than “Roll a d6 to fight, you die on a 1, you kill the monster on a 6, we roleplay the inbetweens“.
When I showed that game to a 13 y.o. friend of mine, he came back a few days later with a borrowed Player’s Handbook he got from a buddy in high school. We played with that for months.
I bought the Dungeon Masters Guide one year later. And more or less taught myself English while reading Gygaxian prose. The rest is history…
So onwards with the Top 5 elements I loved most about running AD&D, admitting I am heavily biased by the nostalgia factor.
The AD&D core books ooze with inspiration for games, NPCs, dungeons, traps, tricks and plots. Charts, titles (brazen trollops anyone?), random tables, weapon names, monster lore and the much misunderstood concepts of Gygaxian Ecologies. From random dungeon generators to monster lairs found in the wilderness, I yearn for as many inspirational aids I can get to design exciting settings, campaign arcs, plotlines, and encounters for my players.
What I remember most of AD&D is that sense of discovery about almost anything as I deciphered Gary’s teachings. I wanted every stone turned, I wanted to draw dungeons that took multiple pads of graph paper (and I did), I wanted to use and create monters that made no frakking sense (Crap elementals FTW), and I laughed when friends threatened each other by comparing their character sheets.
Joel: Oh yeah? Well just wait till my illusionist levels up and I’ll Phantasmal Killer you with images of your parents DOING IT!
All editions of D&D have this, hence my nostalgia warning. Practically speaking, as a DM I expect to be provided concise tools (tables, charts, generators, short blurb) at my gaming table (in paper or e-format) and more elaborate online resources to help me cater to my players’ sense of exploration.
You’ve got to hand it to Gary Gygax, he had a very strong opinion of how his game should be played. Now, while I HATE to be told how a game MUST be played, I loved how Gary’s attitude and certitudes transpired in the pages of his books and lent them a sense of credibility that made you feel like you were invited to join a club (or attending a heartfelt lecture).
While I’d like to do away with the most glaring patronizing passages (as I ignore them now), I like engaging, authoritative or conversational tones in my rulesbook. AD&D certainly had the tone right to engage my tweenaged mind.
I’ve rarely met people that played AD&D 1e with all the rules and subsystems and ENJOYED it for a prolonged periods of time. Yet AD&D’s chaotic goo of crunch could take some severe misinterpretation, heavy handed house-ruling and glaring omissions while remaining very playable. I like that in a game. Keep giving me a system that has a simple core and allow me to eject almost anything from it without threatening its fundamental integrity as an engine and I’ll be happy.
The early AD&D modules were simple, had low page content and were direct. Short intro (ex: do this quest or the baron burns you alive), dungeon rooms with minimal description… and an emergent sense of plot that arose organically through play. (I’m referring to modules like Village of Homlet, Against the Giants, the slave lords and others of that ilk). I want more of that.
What about you? Did you play 1e? What was the elements you liked the most about it. Please keep it positive, we all know the warts of our games, let’s focus on the awesome.
Up next, Dave and friends tackle that multi-headed beast that was Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd Edition.