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%
  • I never played this edition, or even considered it tbh.

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
    106

Dracura

Barovian Wannabe
I've played in five ongoing AD&D 1E campaigns: three that I ran, and two that I played in, and all were from the years of 2011 and onward. I'm barely old enough to remember the 80s, let alone the earliest days of the hobby. But something about the archaic, byzantine nature of the old hardcovers always appealed to me, and that's why I designed my first campaign using the system. I had to figure out for myself what rules to use or ignore (I've never used weapons vs. armor class, weapon speed, psionics...), discern how magic users are supposed to gain new spells, and piece together rules that definitely do not make sense. Reading the Dragonsfoot forums helped a lot.

As others have said, I love the free-form nature of adding and removing rules, and I love the old-school feel of sword and sorcery, and the lack of long lists of skills and feats in favor of players just using their heads. Lots of things appeal to me about the system. I don't even mind THAC0! Many of my most cherished gaming memories come from the five campaigns I've run using the system. I've played a mixture of homebrew settings as well as famous published adventures like Ravenloft, Against the Giants, Barrier Peaks, and Demonweb Pits. I used to stan for 1E, and stan HARD.

But I feel a little differently now.

I recently started up a new campaign with players who are either new to D&D or are used to newer editions, and I've had a hard time rationalizing my old love for the system. I want them to have the freedom to make the characters they want to play, so it's hard to justify 1E's restrictions on races and classes. They're confused by all the different dice they have to roll for skill checks and initiative and thief skills, and they tend to forget if they have to roll high or low. And I can't really blame them! 1E in many ways just. doesn't. make. sense.

And what I've realized is that 5E can do almost all the things I like about 1E, but with the benefit of 40+ years of streamlining and playtesting. It's so refreshing to read these books that are well-organized and elegant, and pay tribute to the old-school games in ways that feel respectful but modernized. In the years I played 1E the most, before 5E's release, there wasn't a system that filled this niche for me. So now that it exists, I started questioning why I was so loyal to this old system, and what it offered that newer ones didn't.

Ultimately I came to the conclusion that I'd rather play the modern version. So I'm converting my megadungeon to 5E. But the 1E books stay on the shelf - lots of great information I can still glean from them, the DMG and the monster books in particular.
 

fearsomepirate

Explorer
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.
From what I have gleaned, and I could be completely wrong, EGG's original concept of D&D was that the DM would run a continuous world, with a fairly fluid, rotating cast of players dropping in and out, almost like an MMO. So the idea was that a Paladin should be rare in the world, as should the Ranger.

From a DM perspective, running the sort of game where Lord Robilar can fly in on his carpet one day and completely ruin the ToEE for a different party, it makes sense. But for the game most people actually ended up playing, where a group of four or five friends would play together for a long time, having classes gated behind randomized ability scores is nonsensical. If you don't have 20 different players rotating in and out of your table, you might never see a Paladin.
 
Ultimately I came to the conclusion that I'd rather play the modern version. So I'm converting my megadungeon to 5E. But the 1E books stay on the shelf - lots of great information I can still glean from them, the DMG and the monster books in particular.
I'm with you.

My first 5E purchases were Tales from the Yawning Portal and Curse of Strahd, and I own all of Goodman Games' OAR books.

I do wish that WotC had included the Fiend Folio and maybe Monster Manual II when they released their collector's edition 1E books. Having nice, less beat up versions of the inspirational texts would be nice.
 
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lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
From what I have gleaned, and I could be completely wrong, EGG's original concept of D&D was that the DM would run a continuous world, with a fairly fluid, rotating cast of players dropping in and out, almost like an MMO. So the idea was that a Paladin should be rare in the world, as should the Ranger.

From a DM perspective, running the sort of game where Lord Robilar can fly in on his carpet one day and completely ruin the ToEE for a different party, it makes sense. But for the game most people actually ended up playing, where a group of four or five friends would play together for a long time, having classes gated behind randomized ability scores is nonsensical. If you don't have 20 different players rotating in and out of your table, you might never see a Paladin.
I would argue that it was worse than that. For two reasons that I alluded to in my post.

First, even assuming the person you were responding to was correct for Paladins and Rangers, he isn't ... because it exists in all aspects of the game. It's not just for subclasses. Look at almost every single rule in 1e.

1. To be an awesome subclass, you already had to be awesome .

That's right. Almost anyone could be a F, MU. CL, or TH. But to be a druid or paladin, you had to have a 15 or 17 charisma; a 14 in con to be a ranger; a 16(!) in dexterity to be an illusionist; a 15 in wisdom to be a monk, and so on. Heck, to be an illusionist, one of the weakest classes there is (but a gated subclass) you had to have a 15 intelligence and a 16 dexterity!!!!


2. To be an awesome demi-human, you already had to be awesome.

That's right. You're playing a level-limited demi-human. But guess what? Your level limits are higher, if your ability scores are awesome! Because .... reasons! A dwarven fighter, for example, had a three level swing depending on their strength. And so on.


3. To be awesome in your class, you already had to be awesome.

Want to cast higher level MU spells? Better have a high intelligence! Want to get extra cleric spells and be able to cast resurrection? Better have a high wisdom! Want to be decent at thieving ... sorry, want to be remotely useful at thieving at single-digit levels? Better have an insanely high dexterity!


4. To get a bonus to your XP, you had to have higher scores.

So, do you have a really high score? Congratulations, you get a bonus to your experience! That's right, if you're awesome, you can benefit by advancing in level more quickly, thus becoming more awesome.


5. To get any chance of psionics, you had to have high abilities. The higher the better.

That's right, not only is your chance of getting psionics based on your abilities, but your chance of getting useful psionics (as opposed to being turned into a drooling lemon the first time you encounter a psionic monster) also depends on having high abilities!


I could keep going, but the trend is clear. In AD&D, the rich get richer. Being awesome allowed you to be more awesome. Do more stuff. Do cooler stuff. Use cooler magic items. Advance more quickly.

The extent to which this may have caused some "rolling my character at home, oh my, look at those great rolls!" is an exercise left for others.


But this led to the second issue; terrible balancing. Every ... single ... time .... in AD&D that something awesome was given, it was usually balanced in a terrible and stupid way. We see this in the original rules (Paladins can't adventure in mixed parties, strictures on gold and magic items and so on) and we keep seeing it as the game progressed (wanna be a cool drow? great, don't go in the sun; wanna be a cool barbarian? great, don't hang out with them spellcasters).

Speaking from my own, anecdotal and observed experience ... when you try to "balance" awesome features with drawbacks that are nearly unplayable, the drawbacks get removed or forgotten or otherwise ignored, which means they aren't really drawbacks, and therefore don't balance.


TLDR; I love 1e, so very much, but this is stupid. It's the stupidest non-70s "just the rules" problem with 1e.

IMO, of course.
 

Bacon Bits

Adventurer
But then you'd have no way of spotting the players that cheat. They're the ones who showed up with a Paladin.
Hey, I legitimately rolled a Paladin once. A really good Paladin. With witnesses, including the DM. Of course, it was for an evil campaign so I didn't end up playing that character until like 5 years later. I had that character sheet sitting in my PHB for years, though.

Str 18/76
Int 10
Wis 14
Dex 15
Con 15
Cha 17

I didn't actually roll 76, but that's the category I had. I eventually ran the character 2 years at the end of 2e and 3-4 years into 3e. Ended up level 15. He's currently stuck in The Abyss, IIRC.

Our method was only slightly different than normal. Roll 4d6 drop 1 until you get a 16 or better. Keep that stat and the next 5 you roll, then arrange to taste. It's the same method we've used for 20 years now, though we did stop using it for 4e after making the characters a little too good.
 

dave2008

Legend
Played it on and off for about 20 yrs and had a blast. However, it was when we switched to 4e and I joined the WotC forum and EnWorld that I realized with our 20 pages of house rules we were practically playing a different game completely!
 
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dnd4vr

Tactical Studies Rules - The Original Game Wizards
LOL! I am just the opposite. When we switched from 1e to 4e I ditched my 20 pages of AD&D rules for about 2-3 pages for 4e and down to 1-2 pages for 5e.
Really? I would seem like from some of your posts you have more house-rules for 5E? But, maybe I am thinking of someone else... shrug
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
From what I have gleaned, and I could be completely wrong, EGG's original concept of D&D was that the DM would run a continuous world, with a fairly fluid, rotating cast of players dropping in and out, almost like an MMO. So the idea was that a Paladin should be rare in the world, as should the Ranger.
Even without the rotating cast of players, having some classes be less common than others is fine. (particularly Paladin, which without serious redesign can often just be a headache)

From a DM perspective, running the sort of game where Lord Robilar can fly in on his carpet one day and completely ruin the ToEE for a different party, it makes sense. But for the game most people actually ended up playing, where a group of four or five friends would play together for a long time, having classes gated behind randomized ability scores is nonsensical.
Why?

What it does is force a different mindset, where instead of showing up to roll-up night with your character already fully formed in your head, you instead don't start thinking about character concepts until AFTER you see what the dice give you to work with.

Also, given that 1e is quite lethal at low levels you're fairly safe in assuming you'll get a few more cracks at rolling up characters in that campaign; and there's nothing stopping you from retiring a character out after a while and coming back with something new.

If you don't have 20 different players rotating in and out of your table, you might never see a Paladin.
Some might say this is a very strong feature. :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
But then you'd have no way of spotting the players that cheat. They're the ones who showed up with a Paladin.
Yes you would. It's easy:

All rolling is done in front of someone else, preferably the DM. Showing up with a pre-rolled character sends that character straight to the bin. Start over.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
But this led to the second issue; terrible balancing. Every ... single ... time .... in AD&D that something awesome was given, it was usually balanced in a terrible and stupid way. We see this in the original rules (Paladins can't adventure in mixed parties, strictures on gold and magic items and so on) and we keep seeing it as the game progressed (wanna be a cool drow? great, don't go in the sun; wanna be a cool barbarian? great, don't hang out with them spellcasters).

Speaking from my own, anecdotal and observed experience ... when you try to "balance" awesome features with drawbacks that are nearly unplayable, the drawbacks get removed or forgotten or otherwise ignored, which means they aren't really drawbacks, and therefore don't balance.
That the drawbacks are removed isn't the fault of the drawbacks, or of the designers, it's the fault of the DMs who removed them or failed to enforce them. The drawbacks exist for a reason: to intentionally make an otherwise-powerful class harder to play. Philosophy: no bonus without corresponding penalty; something later editions have sadly failed to maintain.

The only one I've ever found to be a real headache is the alignment restrictions on who can adventure with a Paladin. It took me decades, but I finally ended up redesigning Paladins into LG, CG, CE and LE versions, each of whom have restrictions on who they'll run with but chances are much higher one can fit with a given party.
 
When I last ran 1e, I told people that if they wanted to play a class and didn't qualify for the stats, they could siphon points from other scores. I wanted people to be able to play what they wanted to play. We had a paladin and a barbarian. I'm pretty sure that the barbarian fudged his stats anyway, but his character still ended up being the first to die.
 

TwoSix

The hero you deserve
What it does is force a different mindset, where instead of showing up to roll-up night with your character already fully formed in your head, you instead don't start thinking about character concepts until AFTER you see what the dice give you to work with.
I think there's a lot of positive to be said for random and procedural generation of characters; as you say, it reinforces that the focus of the game is on skilled play through the adventure rather than on development of specific character arcs.

That being said, I'm not a fan of keeping the stronger classes gated behind high rolls, it's definitely a case of "the rich get richer". I favor playbook generation of random characters such as Beyond the Wall, or a system where the stronger classes are gated behind lower rolls, or one where the gated classes are the more oddball and distinct classes.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
When I last ran 1e, I told people that if they wanted to play a class and didn't qualify for the stats, they could siphon points from other scores. I wanted people to be able to play what they wanted to play. We had a paladin and a barbarian. I'm pretty sure that the barbarian fudged his stats anyway, but his character still ended up being the first to die.
That's just it - high stats don't guarantee anything.

Best set of rolls I've seen in my life, and rolled right in front of me: 18-18-17-17-15-15. (not in that order, but that's how I remember 'em). Player made a Ranger out of it, brought it in in mid-campaign, party's about 4th-5th level, he was 4th I think.

And after the very next combat, out came his roll-up dice again...
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
That the drawbacks are removed isn't the fault of the drawbacks, or of the designers, it's the fault of the DMs who removed them or failed to enforce them. The drawbacks exist for a reason: to intentionally make an otherwise-powerful class harder to play. Philosophy: no bonus without corresponding penalty; something later editions have sadly failed to maintain.
I disagree completely. It is the fault of the designers.

I didn't used to think so, but I've gradually realized that this was a completely foreseeable issue.

Look, take any random RPG system that lets you trade "flaws" of some kind for a mechanical advantage. You will inevitably see people start gaming that system and find ways to downplay those flaws and gain mechanical advantage. The RPG equivalent of, "My worst feature? Oh, I work too hard sometimes."

And it's the same here. Either the drawbacks are strictly maintained, in which case you cannot use the races, classes, etc. as written, or they aren't. And if they aren't, then you are allowing in overly-powered creations.

So you either enforce rules that ensure something is unplayable or, if played, is completely disruptive to the group, or you relax the rules and thus ensure that it is abused.

This is a forseeable and problematic issue that occurs from design.
 

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