1E Edition Experience: Did/Do you Play 1E AD&D? How Was/Is It?

How Did/Do You Feel About 1E D&D?

  • I'm playing it right now; I'll have to let you know later.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • I'm playing it right now and so far, I don't like it.

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    120

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
With all of the talk about the Golden Age of Gaming, and all of the retro-clones floating around, it's made me curious about the older editions of the game. I'm curious how many folks on ENWorld have ever played the older editions, and what their level of satisfaction was. Or is, if you are one of the rare birds that are still keeping it Old School.

This week I'd like to examine the 1st Edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Have you played it before? or are you still playing it? What do you think about it?

By "played," I mean that you've been either a player or a DM for at least one gaming session. By "playing," I mean you have an ongoing gaming group that still actively plays this version, however occasionally. And for the purpose of this survey, I'm only referring to the 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons version, which was first published in 1977 and compiled by Gary Gygax. This one right here, the one with the ruby-eyed statue on the cover:

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Note that this is different from the "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons" 2nd Edition, which had a knight on the cover (and the words "2nd Edition" in bold, red letters). That version was published a whole decade later.

Feel free to add nuance in your comments, but let's not have an edition war over this. I'm really just interested in hearing peoples' stories of playing the 1E rules, and what they remembered (for better or worse) about it.

Next week we will tackle the B/X, "Moldvay" version. So if that's your flavor of choice, I hope to hear from you next week.

Other Surveys
OD&D
Basic D&D
B/X D&D
BECMI / Rules Cyclopedia
 
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Celebrim

Legend
I played it. Enjoyed it immensely most of the time I was playing it.

Would never play it again. I've test run games using it, but it's so primitive, clunky, and opaque compared to a more modern system. I had a lot of frustrations with it at the time that I was continually trying to house rule around. And I have even more frustrations with it now than I had then because I've used so much more technology since then than I had available at the time.

There are still parts of it I love, and I have a great deal of nostalgia for it, and I like the lack of number inflation compared to recent editions, but before I'd play again I'd have to rewrite the rules.

And the effort involved in that would not be worth it. I'd end up with something that was almost but not quite 3e, that used a lot of 1e terminology and wore 1e clothes but wouldn't play that differently than my 3e house rules.

For areas that I'm frustrated with 3e, I've found it to be useful thought experiments to imagine what I would have wanted the 1e rules to be, and then write those, and then convert those to 3e. But ultimately, 1e is like an old classic car - it looks great sitting in a garage and taken out rarely but you wouldn't want to use it as a commuter vehicle.
 
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lowkey13

Guest
Jackassery so soon? The only reason I’m not booting you is it’s an old post.
Note that this is different from the "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons" 2nd Edition, which had a knight on the cover (and the words "2nd Edition" in bold, red letters). That version was published a whole decade later.
You should probably change this to:

Note that this is different from the "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons" 2nd Edition, which had a much worse illustration of guy riding his horsey on the cover (and the words "2nd Edition" in bold, red letters). That version is the version that is terrible. It was called "2nd" because it was twice as bad. Like, you know, TSR did the number two all over the better edition.

:poop: Hi! I'm the Second Edition Mascot! Ask me about Kits!
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
You should probably change this to:

Note that this is different from the "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons" 2nd Edition, which had a much worse illustration of guy riding his horsey on the cover (and the words "2nd Edition" in bold, red letters). That version is the version that is terrible. It was called "2nd" because it was twice as bad. Like, you know, TSR did the number two all over the better edition.

:poop: Hi! I'm the Second Edition Mascot! Ask me about Kits!
Now now, don't bite too early. Save some of your venom for the AD&D 2nd Edition survey in a couple of weeks!

(For what it's worth, I predict that lots of folks will agree with you on this. Even-numbered editions of D&D seem to be weirdly divisive.)
 

Count_Zero

Adventurer
So - to answer the question - my first time playing AD&D 1E was in my middle school D&D club, where the GM ran us through Keep at the Borderlands and I made the mistake of rolling a wizard as my first character. That, combined with the GM also giving full XP to the PC who got the last hit meant that my wizard ended up having to run into combat, and getting killed by a rat before the party ever reached the Caves of Chaos.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
This was the first form of D&D I played. I played a lot of it at the time. It was awesome, and a lot of fun.

I've gone back and run an occasional one-shot of the game for the heck of it, usually focusing on a tournament-style module, so you have a chance of getting through it in one long sitting, and such.

But would I run a campaign with it now? No.
 

atanakar

Hero
I voted : I played it, and remember liking it.

PHB: We liked that all the info for levels was in one book. Glad Race-as-Class of B/X is gone. 9 alignments is better. Weapon Speeds were dropped after a few games. More classes is better. Didn't like restrictions to humanoids levels so we never followed them. The bard class was weird and no one ever managed to create one from level 1 up.

DMG: The book that really opened my eyes to the full potential of D&D as a world building engine. The page with all the political systems was a revelation.

MM: A classic despite the ugly multi-monster illustration. Psionics were a thing. Made the demons and devils very dangerous. I never bought or used the MMII. But used the Fiend and Folio with its weird monsters.

The World of Greyhawk Gazeteer : Again, another eye opener despite the fact that it didn't contain that much information. Just the shear scope of the gazetteer and the beauty of Darlene's map breath taking.

We played two campaigns at the same time with two different DMs. The first time we managed to bring characters up to 10th level and above since starting with B/X. Still as deadly but we used the «not dead until -10» house rule. Stopped playing AD&D1e when I left to study in the big city.

Would I play it today? No. 5e gives me what I want out of D&D.
 
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Ed_Laprade

Adventurer
Played it a lot, DMed occasionally. It was what we had, mostly, but it obviously needed a lot of work. I'd say that 5E is probably as good as it'll ever get. But what do I know?
 
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lowkey13

Guest
So I should elaborate on AD&D (the real thing) a little, I guess.

Let's get a few things out of the way. In a list of pros and cons, there are some cons to AD&D (there can be only ONE ....e). So let's get those cons out of the way.

1. AD&D is distinctly 70s in its attitude. There are rules and quirks and bits that don't feel quite right in a more modern game. Whether it's gendered maximum ability scores, or some cheesecake art, or the "cursed" girdle of femininity/masculinity, there are aspects of the game that will definitely echo the 1970s.

2. Bad gatekeeping. This is a slightly different one, and I'm not using "gatekeeping" in the more modern sense. I only mean that AD&D had this weird idea that the best way to "gatekeep" awesome abilities, is to restrict them to already-awesome characters! Yeah, it's kind of weird.* But you see this over and over again- whether it's the 17 charisma for a Paladin, or the higher chance for psionics if you have good abilities, or whatever. The better you are, the more likely it is that you can be ... even better. The flip side of this is that in order to "balance" ridiculous overpowering, bizarre restrictions are put in as well. Famously, the Lawful Stupid Paladin who couldn't adventure with evil or non-good characters.

3. Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I do, for I am the Gygax, and I speak for the rules. The dense and purple prose of Gygax might have taught a generation all sorts of words, and, further, might have caused a surplus of scientists, lawyers, engineers, and computer coders how to muddle through lengthy rules ... but the trouble with such verbose rules is that you end up either contradicting yourself or with rules that few (or very few) people know about. Playing 1e "out of the box" is almost never done, and even those who claim to play it with "all the rules" usually just aren't aware of all of them.

So, with all of that, what makes AD&D (yeah, that's the edition!) so magical? Other than pure nostalgia?

Well, the ruleset itself embodies and requires a DIY attitude. I would argue that AD&D, moreso than any other particular edition, is ur-D&D. It was the edition that took off, that captured minds, that was built upon. Yes, OD&D came first. Red Box BECMI was omnipresent. But serious gamers, those who played D&D, all gravitated toward AD&D during the first boom. It codified the lingua franca that we still use today.

And, TBH, it still just works. I do not make excuses for the many bad parts of AD&D (and they are legion!) but there's a reason that, no matter what, it (along with Moldvay) are the two D&Ds I still break out.



*I will leave it unanswered the extent to which you can say that this reflects real life.
 
Enjoyed the heck out of 1e back in the day. One of the biggest fights we had early on was with Orcus and I've had a soft spot for the goat-headed demon lord ever since.

Ran a full throwback campaign a few years back and it still held up. The younger players that didn't have that same nostalgia for it had mixed reactions to it. The one power gamer did not like it because the power imbalance was severe enough that nothing he did seemed to give him any sort of edge.

One thing that was true for AD&D 1e then and now, is that it's more defined by what you carve away than add, I think.
 

dnd4vr

Tactical Studies Rules - The Original Game Wizards
Played it from 1979 to 2007 and I am trying to talk my current group into trying it. It is hands-down the best version of D&D ever IMO. Much of what some people wouldn't like about it nowadays, are some of the reasons why I think it is the best.
 

prabe

Aspiring Lurker (He/Him)
I played a fair amount of it, but I was too young (and too introverted) to find more than a few people to play it with. Also, we had various houserules that I'm not sure where they came from.

I haven't played it since 3E came out, and I'm not likely to go back to it. The rules are just too clunky in play. Whatever nostalgic jones I might have for it is amply scratched by the callbacks in 5E. Obviously, I'm happy that the people who are playing it, are enjoying it, and I might be willing to play something short in the system, to see if my memories from something like 20 years ago would be confirmed.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Played it from 1979 to 2007 and I am trying to talk my current group into trying it. It is hands-down the best version of D&D ever IMO. Much of what some people wouldn't like about it nowadays, are some of the reasons why I think it is the best.
Come on man, don't leave us hanging! Tell us what you loved most about it, and what you miss from it that you haven't been able to find in newer editions. Turn that nostalgia dial up to 11 and let us have it.
 

Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
This was the first form of D&D I played. I played a lot of it at the time. It was awesome, and a lot of fun.

I've gone back and run an occasional one-shot of the game for the heck of it, usually focusing on a tournament-style module, so you have a chance of getting through it in one long sitting, and such.

But would I run a campaign with it now? No.
This.
I ran a bunch, and played a bunch from 1977 to 1984. Then didn't play another version of D&D (except once in the early 90's - not sure what version it was) until we started a 4e campaign in 2008.
 

dnd4vr

Tactical Studies Rules - The Original Game Wizards
Come on man, don't leave us hanging! Tell us what you loved most about it, and what you miss from it that you haven't been able to find in newer editions. Turn that nostalgia dial up to 11 and let us have it.
LOL, what is there to say?

I was only 5 when I rolled up my first AD&D character in 1979. A Magic-User named, "Dartson" because he threw darts, he later evolved to become "Darson" and I used to have a letter from E. Gary Gygax when I wrote to him about maybe featuring the character in a module back in 1986 or so. I SO wish I still had it!

The game was complex, had lots of rules, but you didn't have to use nearly all of them because we were used to the simpler Basic system. Advanced offered more if you want it. Building adventures are pretty easy compared to the balancing act of 5E IMO.

The characters were simple, with only certain things available. Most of what your character did was about the choices you made in the adventure not after you leveled. I sometimes hear people complain, "But I couldn't play this or that!" and I respond you can play pretty much anything as long as the DM approves. All concepts were achievable without having to make subclasses for each and every one of them. How was this possible? You just played your character that way. What you did with your character was vastly more important than what your character could do.

In our modern era, some things aren't very PC. Well, I am all for certain changes from 30+ years ago, but some things and changes I don't like. AD&D had certain restrictions and limitations because they made sense. Sorry to the people who didn't like them, but I did. There were more that weren't there, but should have been even.

Of course it was the edition I grew up on and for that alone I have fond memories. Hundreds of adventures, thousands of hours of play, dozens and dozens of great friends; not to mention the education it gave me. I learned a lot about math, economies, statistics, and other areas that aren't as prevalent in D&D nowadays IME.

Finally, I only had about 2-3 pages of house-rules for AD&D, compared to the 16 or so pages our group has for 5E.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Never run it, played it a few times. Last time about 4-5 years ago I played a druid.

Would play again, might play as a one off.
 

Helldritch

Adventurer
It was the first. It was the best. It is the parangon RPG by which every other RPG are compared to. Even today. Like it or not, 1ed had a lot going for it.
I was a player from 1980 to 1983, then I became a DM in AD&D from 1983 up to 1998 with so many different people that they easily number over a hundred.
Of course a lot of rules of ease were missing. No skills like herbalism (unless you had Dungeoneer and the Wilderness Surival guides or access to Dragon Magazines.) but what it lacked in rules, it had in flexibility. The players were simply describing what they were doing and made a check against the relevant stat (that is what the DM decided) to see if they succeeded. Simple, elegant and faster. If the action described was cool, it had a good chance of working just because. No mechanics needed but the judgment of the DM.

Balance???? Who needs balance? Martial classes were stronger in early to mid game. Clerics and druids were average for all their career and magic users were weak from early to mid game but at high levels they were the top damage dealers. Was it balanced? Hell no! But it was fun. As even in high level, the brave fighter could slay a wizard as the wizards' hp were so low...

Humans were considered the best because they could advance in any class up to the top. Other races were limited but they could mix multiple classes to be much more versatile than any humans could ever be.

Yes there was some Lawful Stupid paladins out there. The lack of understanding about the code of chivalry and the easy access to such a heroic class made it so. Paladins were supposed to be rare. Yet, in many groups, there was one. Simply because many people wanted to play one (because everyone knew that paladins were the strongest martial class...) so many DM were simply raising the missing stat to the minimum required to play a paladin. Yet, when the paladin was rare, they were not Lawful Stupid they had enough limitations as is. No need to force them to act stupidly. A quick death to an enemy is about as much mercy as a said enemy would get from a paladin. The 8th level paladin's title was Justicar. An administer of justice. He was a judge, a jury and an executioner if needed.

Wizard were all powerful at high level but they had one weakness, Hit Points... They needed protection, and the martial classes were there for that.

Gods really mattered. If you wanted to have access to spells higher than fifth level, you needed to pray a lesser deity for spells of 6th level and a greater deity for spells of 7th level. Choosing your god was really important but converting people to your religion was even more so. As the more worshippers a deity had, the more powerful it became. Having a lesser deity become a greater god because of the actions of one player was something to behold. Now? Well, any spells can be acquired. Even without gods...

This edition was full of "over the board" powers. But players could be killed easily if they were careless. Lethatlity was a real thing. Now dying is due generally to a succession of mistakes. In 1ed, just one mistake was more than enough to put a party to the grave. Combat was played as a war, and not as a sport a youtuber said. And he was right. Now combat is more like a sport where the opponents are on equal footing. It was not so in 1ed. It was hard to achieve high level in 1ed. But to every character that actualy reached high level (that is higher than level 12) it is an achievement that these players will always remember.
 

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