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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.

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Hi, I'm a Mindflayer, but don't let that worry you
I played 1E and liked it at the time, but I would never go back to it. Too much rules complexity for me. I'm more likely to import some of the systems from 1E (such as strongholds, morale, class titles, and followers) into 5E than ever play 1E again.

Also, RIP lowkey. :cry:


Harn fluff was so good. .... But the maps were amazing.

I agree on the maps, and the stories are exactly as I like them, the right medievalish feel, about mostly humans or close, with economics and culture important to the action.

IMC(s) PC’s from the oldest campaign live and own the Keep on the Borderlands (or its Green Man Inn and a monastery of Rao being built down the hill). PC’s from the newest campaign arrived on a delivery mission (other campaign wanted to stockpile potions for the growing Keep forces).

The newest campaign’s next mission will be Harn‘s Trobridge Inn, 16 miles down the road on the edge of the no man’s land of the Borderlands. Oldest campaign PC’s have passed it but not visited, but now it matters, because the newest campaign fought bandits who fled there, and the warlord won’t give them back, and the oldest campaign has both the lord & sheriff of the area. So they want the junior party (different players) to either make a downlow deal with the warlord to get the prisoners with recognizing his authority, or kidnap the bandit, or defeat the warlord - good old troubleshooting.



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!

Good! Then you were doing it right. :)
Or did you mean that as a "bad thing"? Because it isn't. At least not in my mind. The thing with AD&D was that you, the DM, were supposed to tweak the rules, add new subsystems, remove stuff you didn't like, add things to suit your style and campaign world, etc. When I read what EGG wrote in the DMG (iirc, it was something along the lines of "If you aren't playing by the rules, you aren't playing AD&D!")...I didn't think of it as a negative admonishment or warning. I saw it as more of a challenge or more of an expectation. The very few interactions I had with Gary (online), he would always defer to "Here's my take....[stuff]...but that's me. It's YOUR game, so YOU get to decide". In short...I don't think he ever expected people to play "AD&D". I think he expected people to play "THEIR AD&D".
So when I see a DM who says "We have 20 pages of house rules", I get excited! I think "Awesome! I'd love to see what you did with it to make it YOUR game!". Now, a DM who says "We have 20 pages of RULES FIXES"...well, that's a WHOLE other kettle of ixitxachitl!


Paul L. Ming


See I understand some of the restrictions as genre emulation. Halflings tend to like quiet, comfortable lives and see adventuring as disruptions to their lives and communities. Adventurers are frowned upon. This is the classic lore behind halflings for example. Humans were more prone to wanting to carve out their own way and niche. They wanted stories told of their adventures and daring, carving their own kingdoms, ala Conan. Notice most races cap out before they achieved name level and the fortress/tower/etc. half Elves got a pass on some of that... to an extent. So I get the restrictions. We never really followed them though, for class level. In general they emulated the genre extremely well at that time.

Since then it’s changed, the end game is now extraplanar adventures and ever increasingly powerful enemies. Hit point accumulation stopped at 9th level or thereabouts And it makes sense with the end game of 1e. The gear shift to kingdom management or spell research and such, the game took on a different sort of epic scale than we’ve had since 3e where the end game changed.

Plus the slower level gains. Someone once retorted when I mentioned one got more XP for treasure found than from killing things that most did both but sure, in 2e but how many people paid attention to “number appearing” in the Monster Manuals? They weren’t 3-8. So even then finding treasure didn’t even mean you could obtain that treasure because most “fodder” was overwhelming for the party. So leveling was slower. That meant in most cases that demihumans never really got to their level limit in 1e. Maybe in OD&D with the slightly lower limits.

My very first RPG was AD&D 1st Ed. It was a short-lived game that ended when the DM went off to university. Given that I'm still gaming... yeah, I enjoyed it.

It actually wasn't until a few years ago that I actually read those 1st Ed rulebooks, and that experience did not impress. Yes, Gygax had a certain flair for language, but in terms of actually explaining things I'm afraid he did not do the best job.

:cautious:1E AD&D is honestly a mixed bag. There is SO MUCH great stuff in it that should never - EVER - have been cut out. Yet much of what built D&D into what it actually is has been removed in subsequent editions by designers who actually want it to be something other than what made it truly popular in the first place, and in so doing cut out much of the soul of the game. Its popularity now is more a tribute to skillful marketing and the general rise of geek culture than it is a testament to the underlying superiority of the latest edition.

Yet there is also SO MUCH in 1E that is short-sighted, contradictory, readily used in a mean-spirited way and far clunkier and a block to smoother play and fun. Because it is a product of its time - an edition that was created before "RPG design" was a PROFESSION and everything that was done with it was new and different that all later editions would build on - it MUST be house-ruled in order to address these issues. However, that was always what DM's were EXPECTED to do anyway. No "professional" game designer sitting anywhere that isn't MY TABLE really knows precisely what I need and want from D&D as the DM, much less what 4, 6, 10 players at my table all individually want and need. Those designers can only GUESS and aim their game at one particular chunk of demographics, and they can be right most of the time but rarely, so rarely, are they going to have got it just right for everyone at any given table.

Despite all its flaws, 1E AD&D is equally worthy, if not more worthy than 5E. It's more accommodating of customization than 5E could hope to be, even though that accommodation is effectively mandatory for every game.


I recently restarted a Play By Post on Dragonsfoot that uses 1e AD&D with the OSRIC retro-clone - I refer to eg Unearthed Arcana Cantrips and the PHB Monk Class for stuff missing from OSRIC, so I think it counts as 1e. I certainly enjoy it. I particularly like how 1st level PCs can be pretty Big Damn Heroes in 1e with UA due to Weapon Spec, the advanced classes, lots of spells for starting Clerics, and house ruled max hp at level 1 giving Rangers who can demolish small warbands. :D

My first exposure to Dungeons and Dragons was the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual. It was love at first sight, and it took me two years of begging to get the Basic set.

I was 10 years old and I really didn't know the difference between the two--and neither did my friends. Rules were not a concern. We played whatever we could get our hands on, whether it was Advanced or Basic.

So, I played Advanced Dungeons and Dragons--kind of. Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, Keep on the Borderlands, Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan; also Isle of Dread and Dragonlance. It was a wonderful blur.


Hobbit on Quest
We had a blast playing 1e. The PH was the first game book I ever bought - I got it with my own money at the Waldenbooks at the closest shopping mall to home, got the keys to the car from my mother, then dashed out to the car to dig in and start reading it. We had already been playing Holmes Basic and a bit of the Redbox Basic but were itching to move up to the more advanced game with more options.

So 1e was the main game of my high school and half of my college years (we also mixed in things ranging from Star Frontiers, Traveller, Villains and Vigilantes, Paranoia, Indiana Jones and more). It obviously got quite a workout. We were playing long sessions weekly (particularly once we started driving and could get places under our own power rather than relying on parents), reading Dragon Magazine religiously (I had the subscription in the group), and saving the world regularly.
It also had a lot of longevity - we used elements of 1e right through our play of 2e because they were so compatible. We used whichever bit we preferred if they differed.

One thing about 1e. When looking through the materials, particularly the PH, the art and design is so much more evocative of grittiness that glitzier later editions never inspire in me. It's kind of hard to pinpoint exactly what it is. I don't mind the dungeonpunk aesthetic of early 3e, but it's still kind of slick by comparison, not gritty and grimy. 1e is really unique in that sense for me.

Tried to play it out of the books when I was a teenager. Got lost somewhere in the DMG (we were starting with the books without the beginner box to lead us in) and we all got confused. Decided to play simpler systems like GURPS instead (not kidding on that one).

I can see what, with hindsight, it was trying to do, but remain utterly unimpressed by the execution and by Gygaxian prose and organisation.


Be just and fear not...
Well, the ruleset itself embodies and requires a DIY attitude.
I feel like that contributed greatly to its success. Almost everyone I knew had ideas about how to improve it that they wanted to try out. Had it been a better ruleset, it might have stifled a lot of creativity. Or at least, its flaws promoted creative responses.


Limit Break Dancing
I was looking through a list of AD&D products, and it jogged a memory that hadn't been brought out to light in decades.

It was probably 1989 or 1990. My friend Aaron and I were teenagers, and we were playing one of many all-night D&D sleepover games. We've always been huge fans of Japanese art, history, and culture, and that summer we had watched Utsonomiko for the first time--so we wanted to play a D&D game set in feudal Japan. I borrowed a copy of "OA2 Night of the Seven Swords" from a buddy at school, and he loaned me his Oriental Adventures book with it. I didn't have any of the AD&D books, so I did my best to run OA2 using the Basic "Red Box" and Expert "Blue Box" rules. It was a mess, but it was also a blast.

So I guess I still haven't played an AD&D 1E game, not really. But also I I kinda have.


I started out DM'ing Basic with Keep on the Borderlands. One of the players in that game told me about AD&D, and I was excited that there was more to this game I had fallen on love with.
As soon as I picked up the three core books we switched to AD&D. Having started with Basic, we kept using some of those rules, like initiative, because no one understood how it was supposed to work in AD&D.
We only adopted some of UA, like spells and magic items.
We all loved the game.
We continued playing until 2nd edition was released, then switched to the newer edition.


Limit Break Dancing
Recent posts in this thread (and in a couple of others) serve to illustrate that even now, decades later, some folks are still confusing the player with the character, and the DM with the enemy. Which might be how some of us end up taking this game too personally, and getting too defensive.
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