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%


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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Whizbang Dustyboots

Gnometown Hero
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.

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