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D&D 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
I cut my teeth on 1E, so I have extraordinarily fond memories of it. I've looked back on it, and with better knowledge of the history of the game I've come to understand it a lot better. I will say that like most editions, it suffered from the lower quality of the later books (UA, DSG, and WSG were all trash).

One of the biggest things that would throw modern gamers is the fact that the rules of how to play the game are not located in the PHB. It only contains rules on how to build a character, and what specific abilities you have (about half the book is just spells). This had the interesting effect of preventing players from arguing about the rules, since they didn't know what they were (unless they'd actually read the DMG, which quite a few did). It was more about players saying "I'm doing [x]," rather than "I roll [x]," which is extremely common for modern gamers, despite 5E specifically stating that only the DM can call for a roll. It also made the game really exciting, because you really didn't know what might possibly happen.

The real downside of the game is the complexity, with charts galore to modify and determine results. IME a huge number of these (like weapon modifier) were quickly discarded, either because no one understood them, or they were just too much of a pain in the butt. I never understood why, until I learned the history of its wargaming roots, which had these same kind of rules. The eventual elimination of most of these over the editions greatly improved the game.

Another interesting aspect of the game, which could vary from table to table, is the fact that role-playing initially wasn't really about the social aspect of the game, but was more like a CRPG. Part of this was again a carryover from the wargaming past, another from the youth of many groups. Some groups, like those of Dave Arnson and those who grew from his games, were ahead of the curve, focusing on personalities of characters.

Overall I feel there are quite a few aspects of the game that I'm sorry to see gone. Resurrection chance and limited resurrections makes the fear of death significant. Non-linear ability benefits make the individual values more important, but only at the farther ends of the spectrum. The original multi-classing rules, where you truly were of two classes, rather than simply level dips. Finally, the massive charts in the DMG for random stuff, but fortunately those are mostly still usable in any edition :)

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AD&D1e anecdote #1 :

One player's character became racist towards half-elves after being attacked outside a tavern at night. They stole his gold and beat him senseless. At first we didn't mind his roleplaying. But with time his exactions against half-elves in the valley, where the characters lived, became very uncomfortable to watch. Our characters tried to talk him down but it didn't work. The next adventure was a dungeon crawl. His character died but we had a soul gem to store his essence. After the adventure all we could find was a wizard who could do reincarnation. He asked to roll. Can you guess what he rolled? Yes, he rolled half-elf on the reincarnation table !!! :D

He only had 6% of rolling that.
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This is the edition I learned on in summer camp and ran and played for many years.

I am very glad to have the collector's edition 1E books WotC put out at the end of the 3E era, partly for nostalgia, partly as inspirational source material, but I'd never run it again. You shouldn't need multiple charts to adjudicate a single round of combat, nor remember whether rolling high or low is good at any given moment.

It is, in a lot of ways, a wonderful mess. After killing Hitler, my second trip with a time machine would be to plop an even mediocre modern RPG editor down beside Gygax to gently nudge him to rationalize all the systems and make them work together properly in 1E.


The real downside of the game is the complexity, with charts galore to modify and determine results. IME a huge number of these (like weapon modifier) were quickly discarded, either because no one understood them, or they were just too much of a pain in the butt. I never understood why, until I learned the history of its wargaming roots, which had these same kind of rules. The eventual elimination of most of these over the editions greatly improved the game.

Ironically, weapon vs. armor tables is part of 1e AD&D I miss a lot, and along with casting times, one of the things I wish I could import into 3e without making 3e too complex.




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

We had the exact same "feeling" with Kits when they came out. My initial thoughts when reading the Complete Fighters book when it just came out was.... "Huh. Neat idea. But they did it wrong...". At that point I had been a DM for about 8 years already, and probably hundreds of hours (EDIT: Scratch that! Just did some quick math...wowzers!...closer to about 3300 hours at that point), and saw where "Kits" were going. Sure enough, each Complete Book Of... that came out had a tendency to 'one-up' the previous book. It got to the point where a kit would instantly make the PC significantly more capable/powerful than his core class, with the drawbacks being something like "But you don't like to eat fish, and female fish-mongers between the ages of 30 and 44, with any hair colour other than red, don't like you for some reason. On the plus side, you get twice the number of attacks, you double your HP's rolled at each level gained, and can choose to instantaneously cast Raise Dead on yourself if you die from anything other than a three-legged house cat at the cost of reducing your maximum HP total by 1".


I guess you could say I am "Currently playing..." because I do work on my campaign(s) and we do play in them when we play 1e. That said, I haven't had any face-to-face RPG'ing for about 6 months or so! :( Life got to my group (odd how that happens when you hit your 30's and 40's...). But I figure in a couple decades we'll get back to our regular schedule because everyone will be either retired or have enough clout in their job that they can say "No. I'm not working on Saturday or Sunday. Ever" and not get fired. shrug It's only a couple decades...should be able to whip out a bunch of adventures and detail at least one or two of my Campaign Settings in MUCH more detail!
What can I say? I'm a patient guy! :)


Paul L. Ming


I played a lot of it. I’d still play a lot of it if I could get my players to agree but they are at best lukewarm and my wife downright stink eyeing me.

To me it’s damn near perfect. The thief system doesn’t clash with a poorly thought out skill system.

The requirements to make certain classes isn’t gatekeeping, it reflects the difficulty of training those classes experience. A ranger or Paladin is like an Army Ranger or Navy Seal and it’s not gatekeeping to give them harder requirements. You have to be a resilient bad ass to make the grade and I wholly endorse that.

I like that the system is why there aren’t high level NPCs running around doing all the heavy lifting with it being more like Goblin Killer than Dragon Prince (love both). It’s about adventuring but fighting monsters, in spite of stories of murderhobos, is not the smart thing to do at low levels. Even a 4th level wizard is something to feel a bit of awe about.

I was looking at my 1e books the last few weeks and I’m gonna be 100% honest, it is a LOT better than I remember. A LOT better. While the Monster Manual cover is a garish affair next to the thematically similar PHB and DMG, the rest of the art is fun and sometimes silly, which is a good contrast to the peril the PCs will face.

I used to feel that the classes were hamstrung but really? They are so wide open and allow a creative DM to do things that will really wow a player rather than focusing on builds and what they are going to do for their next level, it allows the players to focus on story and the characters developing as people. This lets the DM surprise players with more than just magic items but interesting STORY developments. Example, I had a PC in a 1E game that was killed by another PC. It wasn’t a disruptive game but a game where we weren’t a party and had our own things going on with the idea it would tie together later. When this happened the DM’s eyes lit up and we had a jam session the next day and crafted an undead character who was a revenant resurrected by the spirits of the barrow to hunt down murderers. This led to a campaign ending clash with a god of murder and the murdering PC and a very fun campaign. Can I do that in 3e or higher? Sure but it would take a lot more work and planning. This isn’t to attack 3e and later. I love 5e and have a great Waterdeep campaign going right now! It’s just two different styles of games!


AD&D was my first real exposure to D&D, and I must say that although we had many fun times, almost all of us preferred exploring any other system at the time: Runequest, Pendragon, Warhammer Fantasy, Call of Cthulhu, Rolemaster, Powers and Perils, Ars Magica, White Wolf and various homebrews ...
... so much so that I did not play D&D between 1985 and 2009 when I rediscovered it through the absolute joy of 4E. AD&D did however shape indelibly my tastes, lore and views on roleplaying. For example, almost everything I love about 4E is how it changed things from 1E.


What I liked about it in part were BECAUSE of the restrictions. Because of Restrictions it focused a more Humanocentric game which reflected more of the sword and sorcery feel of that and earlier eras (1920s-1980s).

In the pulp fantasy/fiction era of sword and sorcery it normally was not about an elf, or a dwarf, or some other fantasy creature adventuring, it was about humans encountering the strange, the unexplained, the malevolent, and the evil. The humans themselves were not necessarily good, but what they were facing were worse.

Conan or Tarzan or Allen Quartermain all exemplify this era of adventurers and sword and sorcery, Lovecraft exemplifies the unknown and weird, and other pulp heroes place the human experience of the adventuring lifestyle.

Things were not all equal per se. A trained gunman was going to hit his target a LOT more often. It was NOT because your ability scores, but because you actually trained and WERE a better shot and due to who you were and what you did. That mysterious wizard or scientist from the Lab had no proficiency in weapons and couldn't hit the broadside of a barn, but they had gadgets or knowledge or spells that could enchant the most stolid out there. Van Helsing wasn't the greatest swordsman in the world, but his faith and ability to outmaneuver Vampires and their spawn gave him an edge that even the most able soldier would lack.

The restrictions were not about equality or fairness because the world they were based upon was not about equality or fairness. The World was NOT fair and at times was set against you. Unready adventurers died by the dozens.

It was about the adventure.

And that's why level limits, class restrictions, and everything else hits the right nerve with me...because at that time the world wasn't seen as fair, and neither were the worlds of sword and sorcery. In fact at times it was inherently UNFAIR. However, even as it was injust to those who were not prepared to face such a thing, it was inherently equal in the ability to be a human and face the odds of the unknown, to become that hero like you read about in the pulps and triumph to be the rugged warrior kings like Conan and the others of his ilk.

However, many weren't of the sword and sorcery kingdom and came from the Tolkien arrangements where Elves were ancient heroes and Dwarves journeyed as the main characters alongside non-human halflings. They didn't like these restrictions on being something other than human. They disliked the humanocentric ideals of AD&D...and as they gained influence we see changes to the system and the lessening of restrictions. First via AD&D 2e, and then almost completely gone in D&D 3e.

As such, they got away from the era of human protagonist (good or ill) facing the unknown wilderness, and more into high fantasy fare where instead of you playing the mad max worlds where all odds were against you, you were instead the fantasy creatures/races of fairy tales that went on adventures with each other and normally were the good guys facing off against evil. It took more on the face of epic fantasy with good vs. evil rather than the sword and sorcery feel where you may not be good, but you were probably not quite as bad as what you were facing.

It's hard to put in words, but those restrictions recreated a feel of an era which is hard to find today. In a world where D&D (4e/5e) has it that ALL proficiency bonuses with weapons advance at the same rate, where equality is seen as what all things should be based upon as balance is the key to the game (rather than inequality as the way things just are), and luck is minimized by the stats rather than choices and strategies of the players, games are much harder to make to replicate that feel of the long lost era of the 20th century.

AD&D was the game that recreated that feel, but then, that was last century...this is the 21st century and a new crop of gamers playing today want a game to replicate the feel of their century (the 21st century) rather than the eons of past ages. Thus, we have 4e and 5e which cater more to their desires than the games of the bygone days which I still play.


Victoria Rules
Started out with it, started kitbashing it, never stopped playing it, never stopped kitbashing it, still playing it (in a very kitbashed form), still kitbashing it.

I like the randomness in abilities, where someone really can be better at everything than someone else, because that reflects real life.

I like the lethality and risk, and the high rewards for the survivors.

I like that there's vastly different subsystems for different things, as it's then possible to use or design the best sub-system for a particular need and not have to worry about how it affects any other systems.

I like the strong niche protection afforded most classes (though it's still far from perfect)

I like the underlying sense of whimsy and occasional silliness that quietly runs through it all. Later editions, much to their demerit, lost this.

I like that it's open-ended without really having to worry about being open-ended; as in if you drop xp-for-gp your advancement slows down so much that while in theory you can get to 15th level, in practice you're extremely likely not to unless your campaign is 30 years long.

I like that it fairly often makes me use every die in the bag.


Golden Procrastinator
I have played a ton of AD&D 1e and I absolutely love it. In recent years, I ran for a long time a campaign that went on indefinite hiatus (due to real life) about a year and a half ago. I'm currently playing in a PBEM game and, one year ago, I ran Tomb of Horrors.


I like that there's vastly different subsystems for different things, as it's then possible to use or design the best sub-system for a particular need and not have to worry about how it affects any other systems.

That is a good point I had forgotten about.
Unified systems are easier to grasp but are hard to hack properly.

I really miss the 100% table for thieves in later editions. Letting the player distribute the percentages was a nice touch in 2e.


Rob Of The North
Played it during a brief window of 3 years or so. Loved it but never found a group to play with after other kids' interest waned. For me the richness of the game was what made it so incredible. The random encounter odds in the DMG especially made clear that the distribution odds are important for making a world feel real. To this day I still am revulsed by random encounter tables that have even odds for all encounters. % or a bell curve is the only way it should ever be done.

Started playing D&D again in 2006 with 3.5e. While I wouldn't play AD&D again as I think 5e does it well enough, I do still play B/X as I feel that's the best ruleset. My ideal game would be B/X rules with all the DMG random encounter tables and magic.

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!

To non-AD&D players, the 1e vs 2e war is like listening to the Independent Fundamental Baptists explain why they can never, ever get along with the Fundamental Independent Baptists.


AD&D 1e anecdote #2 :

We are level 10-12. After years of carving out a territory we have a restored castle and a large valley under our control. Suddenly news arrives that the capital of the kingdom was attacked by a fleet of ships from a foreign nation never heard of before. The sea-side capital is in the hands of the enemy.

We rally the troops and other nobles and march towards the city. Once there we build siege engines and start a proper siege. The enemy (Arabs) have flying carpets and keep bombarding our position with incendiary bombs. Our men are starting to loose morale fast.

The players and I ask for a 15 minutes break to talk strategy. We go to another room while the DM stays in the gaming room. We come back with a plan.

We tell the troops that we are invading the city right now! The DM thinks we are crazy. Our armies starts moving forward. The party is in front on horse with cavalry charging madly at the stone wall. Arrows fly. When we arrive at the proper range my wizard puts one hand forward and says «I wish that a 30' wide portion of wall in front of me disappears!» The last wish on a ring of three wishes is spent. The DM cries... Noooooooooooo! Gets up from his chair and lies down on the floor. He doesn't speak for a good 10 minutes.

Our group had a convention. Wishes were only supposed to be used to bring back dead characters. The poor DM had spent weeks creating a new part for the campaign. We were supposed to get capture and brought to the desert city. He learned a valuable lesson that day. Never prepare too much in advance cause players will not follow the script.

The DM let us storm the city and win the day. We shot fireballs and flaming arrows at the enemy ships and freed the kingdom from the invaders. It was awesome !!!

Sadly, the DM was so utterly crushed that we never played that campaign again.
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This is what I learned on back in 1980, and even then we ignored modifiers by AC type and weapon type. Still, too many level 1 deaths, even with 4d6k3. Starting at max HP would have been huge, and I developed my own point buy system back then.

Note, the title of the post (1E AD&D) doesn't match the title of the poll (1E D&D).

For people who, like me, like the 1E tone and flavor, if not the mechanics now, may I recommend Goodman Games' Dungeon Alphabet and Monster Alphabet? They're books of more than 26 random tables (each keeps getting expanded during subsequent reprint Kickstarter campaigns) featuring cool and atmospheric things to add to your game, surrounded by new art by classic AD&D artists and their modern proteges.

Both books are systemless, and thus work with any edition forever.

EDIT: The Monster Alphabet is out of print at the moment, which likely means it'll be part of a Goodman Games Kickstarter campaign some time in 2021 or 2022. Worth keeping an eye out for that, because they'll be adding even more pages of random tables and old school art. (And I'll likely be selling my earlier edition of the book to Noble Knight at the same time, to make room for the new edition.)
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