D&D 1E Inquiry: How do fans of AD&D (aka 1E) feel about the Unearthed Arcana supplement?

aco175

Legend
I remember getting it and thinking it was cool to have supplemental material. I do not recall another book where there was more spells and classes to pick from. It was the new and shiny- precious as it were. I do not remember how much we used it before 2e came along, but the feeling is options was what I recall. Now, a new splat book comes out and we are all- Xanthars, SCAG, Mordinkinans (sp)- meh.

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At the time, I thought it was cool as heck. We definitely had sessions with a thief-acrobat, barbarian, and cavalier in the party. But we were also fairly young and uncritical at this time.

In hindsight, I am still not convinced that the cavalier and barbarian classes weren't traps for minmaxers. They front-loaded a bunch of powerful abilities, sure. But for the barbarian it took forever to level up and in a game where so much of your progression involved gaining magic items, not being able to do so at low levels (which you'd be stuck at for ages, still stuck at 1st level while everyone else was hitting 3rd), really hamstrung you. As for the cavalier, the code of conduct you were required to stick to meant that you'd likely end up charging to your death the first chance you got (provided your DM was a stickler for those details).
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
It was dumb, but as teenagers we just rolled with it, because we didn't really know better.
Nothing dumb about it to my mind. In what way would doing this differently or "smarter" have made your game more fun?

I came into D&D with 2nd Edition in the mid-90s, so most of the useful UA stuff was already implemented and the book itself had only mild echoes in my games. That said, some of the more experienced games I played with still had fond stories and recollections of using it.

I do remember a couple of cavaliers and drow in different games I played, but they seemed no sillier or different from any other options.

I've said this before, but maybe I was just lucky: the groups I played with didn't really sweat "balance" or anything like it; everything went, and it all rocked. We had a ball.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Nothing dumb about it to my mind. In what way would doing this differently or "smarter" have made your game more fun?

Note: The "smarter" thing would have been to realize that a deisgn that gives one player significant power if they take role playing restrictions that nearly guarantee PvP action leading to PC death or unplayability in a typical party (one that has spellcasters) is a highly questionable balance choice in a nominally cooperative game.

We set up the scenario I described as a metagame conceit partially to ignore the restriction. The rest of the restriction was payed for not by the barbarian, but by the rest of the party. The spellcasters had to continuously take a back seat whenever they were in line of sight of the barbarian, severely limiting their ability to take spotlight. We basically gave the player an overpowered character the rest of us had to pay for. And the stupid conversations we had to "convince" the barbarian that "No, nobody in the party cast a fireball, we guess the bad guys cast that on themsleves for no good reason" were just inane time-wasters. It got old quickly.

Unfortunately "spotlight sharing" wasn't a concept we had yet - we just knew it was a pain in the butt for our characters to contribute much of the time without risking death.

Doing things differently, by saying, "Well, that's a dumb design, let's not do that," would have ended up with more entertaining play for most of the other players.
 

Voadam

Legend
I hate Comeliness, which I first saw in the WoG boxed set and then in UA then Oriental Adventures. There was probably an original Dragon magazine article too. The mechanics of it are both really misogynistic and annoying as game mechanics.

I like the spells and magic items.

Cantrips were fun add ons and were a positive in my games.

I really liked the expansion of demi-human limits and class options, though there was no explanation for them.

Given the bell curve of 1e stat bonuses and stiff class prereqs I liked the human rolls options to have a regular baseline of high stats for most characters and more of an option to play what you wanted.

The new races and classes were interesting and flavorful but not balanced in ways I like.

The new weapons and armor (spiked buckler) were neat.
 


Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
Note: The "smarter" thing would have been to realize that a deisgn that gives one player significant power if they take role playing restrictions that nearly guarantee PvP action leading to PC death or unplayability in a typical party (one that has spellcasters) is a highly questionable balance choice in a nominally cooperative game.

We set up the scenario I described as a metagame conceit partially to ignore the restriction. The rest of the restriction was payed for not by the barbarian, but by the rest of the party. The spellcasters had to continuously take a back seat whenever they were in line of sight of the barbarian, severely limiting their ability to take spotlight. We basically gave the player an overpowered character the rest of us had to pay for. And the stupid conversations we had to "convince" the barbarian that "No, nobody in the party cast a fireball, we guess the bad guys cast that on themsleves for no good reason" were just inane time-wasters. It got old quickly.

Unfortunately "spotlight sharing" wasn't a concept we had yet - we just knew it was a pain in the butt for our characters to contribute much of the time without risking death.

Doing things differently, by saying, "Well, that's a dumb design, let's not do that," would have ended up with more entertaining play for most of the other players.
My apologies. My first reading of your post led me to believe you'd come up with a pleasant and mutually fun workaround and that the whole thing was just goofy fun.

Rereading it, I'm not sure how I reached that conclusion. Maybe it was jumping to your foot it's and downplaying the "the classes were bogus" bit at the beginning.

Oops.
 

pming

Legend
Hiya!
Piggybacking off of my other post regarding 4E and Essentials, I wanted to get a read on how fans of 1E feel about 1E Unearthed Arcana.

If you are a fan of 1E, did you like Unearthed Arcana? Did you hate it with the fury of a thousand suns? Were you ambivalent? Please include your reasoning behind your feelings if you can articulate them.
I like it. I use it. I modify it to suit my needs and desires. So...yes. Good book and useful. Not perfect, but more positives than negatives for me.

Personally, I hated Unearthed Arcana.
A fair number of 1e'ers are right there with you. A few are complete fanboi's, but I think most fall somewhere in the range of "Don't particularily care for it, but some stuff is cool" to "I like it mostly, but some stuff I don't". Or, in other words... typical 1e AD&D DM's/Player's. :)

The new classes were so wonky: Barbarians had lots of interesting stuff but couldn't work with magic-users, tried to destroy magic items (IIRC) and needed ridiculous amounts of xp to level,
Love Barbarians! I played one for a little over a year. "Grod the Barbarian". He was 5th level (with 88hp!) when he 'died' and became a Greater Mummy (and no, I didn't keep playing him...he was a mummy, so, NPC; effectively 'dead'). They were one of those Classes that had to sort of get "group buy-in" to play; if someone in the group was a MU, then nobody played a Barbarian and vice versa. The Barbarians got XP from destroying magic items, so that was an incentive. Especially considering their HUGE XP per level table! But...this worked. As I said, I was 5th level...everyone else in the group was about 8th or 9th and I could STILL hold my own...easily. Grod was an amazing character that was a TON of fun to play...and the other Players enjoyed it as well. Several of his insane antics are still talked about to this day (like the time he saved EVERYONE and pretty much and entire town by grabbing the spell-powering gem of the evil wizard and then jumping off the top of the 70' tower down onto some jagged rocks at the edge of the underground lake, smashing the gem into a million pieces, exploding it into a huge magical fireball which then threw him a hundred feet out into the depths of the water, and then being attacked by a giant underground lake squid that he BARELY managed to kill...and dragged himself up onto shore with 2hp left... "Got 'em!". :D ).

Pretty freaking heroic! All because of the Barbarians HP's and Save bonuses. No DM fudging needed. :)

cavaliers were so mount focused that they seemed pretty useless for most currently produced site based (often dungeon) adventures plus they had the weird mechanic of slowly raising their ability scores,
Cavaliers are just heroic and/or honour driven Fighters ("Knights"). They come with a HUGE host of societal drawback and obligations that make the a helluva lot of fun to RP! :) Their stat increase thing did always throw us off as being...strange. It was one special "rule change" that only they got, and that rule change went against everything that AD&D had established before hand. Easy enough to fix "Oh, and no. Cavaliers and Cavalier/Paladins can not increase their stats"), but a very out of place addition. As for being "useless"...not in my experience. They were spectacular when in their element (outdoors and social), but were still a lot of fun to play in a dungeon, or ruins environment. I DM'ed some great Cavaliers in my day (and one or two bad ones, but hey, dems da breaks, right?).

acrobats were...just...lame.

The Acrobat... GREAT for urban situations. Less so for dungeons/caves, but when a situation came up where they could use all their goodies...man. Talk about impressive! Never had many people play them (stats were killer), but they were nice to see in action.

Additionally, I HATED the inclusion of new, bizarre races like deep gnomes and drow as playable races. HATED it.
I agree! I also hated the inclusion of the Drow and the Svirfneblin. I mean the deep gnomes ability to summon freaking Earth Elementals was just... I mean... WTF were they thinking?!? I allowed them in my game, but I REALLY played up the distrust and hatred of these "other" sub-races. My players were informed before hand, so no surprises for them, and they also agreed with my assessment and we just kinda went with it. I think a Drow was played maybe two times in 30+ years. Deep Gnome...once I think. Duegar (grey dwarf)...none?

But yeah...didn't like. :(

Unearthed Arcana dramatically diminished my interest in D&D and it was a precursor to even further changes which pretty much killed my interest in the game for a long time.
What I DID really like was the inclusion of Cantrips, New Spells, and the Classes (overall), and the new, more detailed "Level Limits" and MC'ing choices. Oh, and the magic items were cool too. The descriptions and illustrations of the Pole-Arms was also a nice touch.

I'd say that I use about 75% of UA in my games, maybe 80%. Of the stuff I use, some of it is "home brew adjusted" for my particular play style (re: playing up how unusual and 'hated' the Drow and Duegar are, and how 'strange and frightening' the Svirfneblin are, for example).

Oh, and Comeliness. Thought it was a nice addition. I do 'modify' it on a NPC to NPC basis though. I roll d6 and d4; if they are the same number, no Com adjustment. If they are not, then the d6 determines a - or + modifier to Com for THAT SPECIFIC NPC (odd number is -, even number is +), with the d4 being the amount (e.g., d6 is a 3 and the d4 is a 2, then that particular NPC sees the PC's Comeliness score as being -2 points lower; if it was a 4 and a 4, then it's +4 points higher). I then just make a note on that NPC's sheet (e.g., "Sir Redgar; Com+1"). You know..."Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and all that).

Unearthed Arcana: 8/10 for me.

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 
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MerricB

Eternal Optimist
I was lucky: my father knew a bookbinder, so my copy of Unearthed Arcana got rebound (with the original cover) a few days after the pages started falling out - which wasn't that long after I got it.

It does bring up the question of "How much D&D was Gary playing at that stage?" Because you can't imagine a lot of it was playtested.

It has stuff in it that works, and it points to the changing of D&D play patterns with the increased level limits for demihumans. In general, I think the ideas are much better than the implementation. People liked the idea of barbarians and cavaliers, but then you started looking at the rules...

There's also something extremely weird in it. So, while you have the new ability score generation system, which says "Choose the class you want, then play it" (now a long way from roll stats in order), it also has a rule that you randomly generate a social class for your character, and limits your initial class based on it!

When I was younger, I thought UA was great. These days, I think it's mostly not great. Some good material, but it's inconsistent.

I love the idea of the barbarian, and some of its implementation (raise a horde, secondary and tertiary abilities are great!), but "Oh, I hate magic-users"? Not good at all.

Cheers!
 

Greg K

Hero
Overall, it was disappointing.
There were some things that i liked
  • Weapon Specialization
  • The Barbarian class in theory. I liked the general idea of the class and many of the class abilities- especially liked the ideas of cultrural weapons and home terrain giving extra abiiliites. The Greyhawk information was highly enjoyed. However, I did not like the AC Bonus to Dex twice (I don't even like the Con bonus to AC in 5e) nor the dislike of magic aspect.
  • Cantrips, Bind, Ceremony, Cloak of Fear (/Cloak of Bravery), Detect Life, Enthrall, Slow Poison, Spike Growth, Taunt, and a few other spells. However, I still dislike the majority of spells including several that have have made it into later editions (e.g. Armor (now Mage Armor). Flame Blade, Flaming Sphere, Goodberry)
  • edit: I forgot many of the new weapons and I think that I liked, at least, some of the magic items. Will have to check the copy my friend gave me before moving to Ohio.
 
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Egon Spengler

"We eat gods for breakfast!"
I mostly ignore it. There's very little in UA that I find useful to an AD&D campaign.

The introduction of elfin mail and clarifications on weapons allowed to thieves and thief skill penalties for various armor types are handy. That's about it.

I don't like the OP stat-rolling methods. I don't like Comeliness. I don't like the expanded list of sub-races (particularly the OP Underdark races), the tables of expanded level limits based on ability scores, or the OP cavalier class. (The thief-acrobat is useless to me because I already incorporate acrobatics into the base thief class, and if I were ever inclined to allow the use of the barbarian as a character class rather than just a cultural background, I'd use the much more reasonable 2nd edition version.)

But the main reason that I ignore UA is the expanded spell lists. When I play AD&D, I stick with core-only 1st edition, because the spell lists are reasonably manageable. Spells in 2nd edition are a sprawling, unwieldy mess, and that's the end result of a process that started with UA.

And my feelings regarding OA are pretty much the same. (As much as I loved the hell out of OA as a kid, nowadays I'd much rather use the more restrained Complete Ninja's Handbook from 2e.)
 

Azzy

KMF DM
Yeah, I have to agree with the others that it was a mixed bag. I liked the new races, new spells, new equipment, magic items, the Thief-Acrobat (prestige) class, the non-human gods, and the section on polearms. I didn't like the Ranger getting weapon specialization. The Barbarian and Cavalier needed to die in a fire. The rest was meh.
 

Casimir Liber

Adventurer
Mixed bag - great to expand on original PHB (which seems spartan now), Cavalier was definitely unbalanced, specialisations and cantrips were great - remember pre UA low level MUs with dagger/dart/staff attack options and almost never using spells...? Oh yeah, the crappy binding......
 


UA was already out when I started playing, so it was part of the game for me. Overall I'd have to say it was a negative influence, with only the expanded racial level limits and new magic items being really beneficial. Barbarian was the only new class that was well received, but the xp per level was so ridiculous that almost no one bothered.
 

Orius

Hero
Never played or ran 1e myself as I started with 2e. There's a good amount of UA material, particularly magic that made it into 2e but luckily the bad stuff generally didn't make the cut. In general, I've noticed that 1e players often don't have a good opinion of the book, especially if they started in early 1e or even OD&D. I have taken a look at it, and these are my impressions.

Comeliness is totally unnecessary and an extra complication to the game. I can't think of any reason to use it.

Method V for character creation is ridiculously overpowered. How many 18s do you want for your character anyway?

Barbarian is a terrible class. Stupid slow XP progression, and the whole hates magic thing is bad for party teamwork. I think it reflects the nature of Gary's personal game where there was a good amount of competition between the players and he had people playing solo at times; the magic item destruction and hatred of caster types maybe made sense at his table, and barbarian might play well solo, but it seems like a bad character to put in a typical group.

Cavalier maybe isn't as bad, but it has a reputation for being overpowered.

The new subraces aren't a big deal to me, because they're present in optional 2e material, but I'd likely not allow them except for svirfneblins in an underdark campaign.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
When it came out I loved it. But I was also a teenager and didn’t know any better. Soon it became clear it was broken, especially the chargen method. The Monty haul players loved it, but that’s about it.

After learning it was a money grab of reused Dragon material, it left me with an even worse impression.
 

GuyBoy

Hero
Hiya!

I like it. I use it. I modify it to suit my needs and desires. So...yes. Good book and useful. Not perfect, but more positives than negatives for me.


A fair number of 1e'ers are right there with you. A few are complete fanboi's, but I think most fall somewhere in the range of "Don't particularily care for it, but some stuff is cool" to "I like it mostly, but some stuff I don't". Or, in other words... typical 1e AD&D DM's/Player's. :)


Love Barbarians! I played one for a little over a year. "Grod the Barbarian". He was 5th level (with 88hp!) when he 'died' and became a Greater Mummy (and no, I didn't keep playing him...he was a mummy, so, NPC; effectively 'dead'). They were one of those Classes that had to sort of get "group buy-in" to play; if someone in the group was a MU, then nobody played a Barbarian and vice versa. The Barbarians got XP from destroying magic items, so that was an incentive. Especially considering their HUGE XP per level table! But...this worked. As I said, I was 5th level...everyone else in the group was about 8th or 9th and I could STILL hold my own...easily. Grod was an amazing character that was a TON of fun to play...and the other Players enjoyed it as well. Several of his insane antics are still talked about to this day (like the time he saved EVERYONE and pretty much and entire town by grabbing the spell-powering gem of the evil wizard and then jumping off the top of the 70' tower down onto some jagged rocks at the edge of the underground lake, smashing the gem into a million pieces, exploding it into a huge magical fireball which then threw him a hundred feet out into the depths of the water, and then being attacked by a giant underground lake squid that he BARELY managed to kill...and dragged himself up onto shore with 2hp left... "Got 'em!". :D ).

Pretty freaking heroic! All because of the Barbarians HP's and Save bonuses. No DM fudging needed. :)


Cavaliers are just heroic and/or honour driven Fighters ("Knights"). They come with a HUGE host of societal drawback and obligations that make the a helluva lot of fun to RP! :) Their stat increase thing did always throw us off as being...strange. It was one special "rule change" that only they got, and that rule change went against everything that AD&D had established before hand. Easy enough to fix "Oh, and no. Cavaliers and Cavalier/Paladins can not increase their stats"), but a very out of place addition. As for being "useless"...not in my experience. They were spectacular when in their element (outdoors and social), but were still a lot of fun to play in a dungeon, or ruins environment. I DM'ed some great Cavaliers in my day (and one or two bad ones, but hey, dems da breaks, right?).



The Acrobat... GREAT for urban situations. Less so for dungeons/caves, but when a situation came up where they could use all their goodies...man. Talk about impressive! Never had many people play them (stats were killer), but they were nice to see in action.


I agree! I also hated the inclusion of the Drow and the Svirfneblin. I mean the deep gnomes ability to summon freaking Earth Elementals was just... I mean... WTF were they thinking?!? I allowed them in my game, but I REALLY played up the distrust and hatred of these "other" sub-races. My players were informed before hand, so no surprises for them, and they also agreed with my assessment and we just kinda went with it. I think a Drow was played maybe two times in 30+ years. Deep Gnome...once I think. Duegar (grey dwarf)...none?

But yeah...didn't like. :(


What I DID really like was the inclusion of Cantrips, New Spells, and the Classes (overall), and the new, more detailed "Level Limits" and MC'ing choices. Oh, and the magic items were cool too. The descriptions and illustrations of the Pole-Arms was also a nice touch.

I'd say that I use about 75% of UA in my games, maybe 80%. Of the stuff I use, some of it is "home brew adjusted" for my particular play style (re: playing up how unusual and 'hated' the Drow and Duegar are, and how 'strange and frightening' the Svirfneblin are, for example).

Oh, and Comeliness. Thought it was a nice addition. I do 'modify' it on a NPC to NPC basis though. I roll d6 and d4; if they are the same number, no Com adjustment. If they are not, then the d6 determines a - or + modifier to Com for THAT SPECIFIC NPC (odd number is -, even number is +), with the d4 being the amount (e.g., d6 is a 3 and the d4 is a 2, then that particular NPC sees the PC's Comeliness score as being -2 points lower; if it was a 4 and a 4, then it's +4 points higher). I then just make a note on that NPC's sheet (e.g., "Sir Redgar; Com+1"). You know..."Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and all that).

Unearthed Arcana: 8/10 for me.

^_^

Paul L. Ming
For all its many faults, UA definitely scores the extra point for allowing the antics (and now the shared story) of Grod the Barbarian!
 


LoganRan

Explorer
Reading through the responses (thanks to all who have responded btw!), I had forgotten a lot of the points that people have mentioned (it has been 30 years since I last looked at UA):

The optional (super OP) method of attribute generation. Oh man, that was just awful.

Weapon specialization: I had forgotten that this originated in 1E via UA. I thought this didn't come about until 2E which I never played at the table and only experienced via cRPG's like Baldur's Gate. Didn't weapon specialization result in a weird situation where people started specializing in darts because you could throw three of them per round and with the specialization bonus to damage plus strength bonus to damage you could end up doing obscene amounts of damage by throwing darts?

Comeliness: What was the point of that stat, seriously?

I am even more convinced, after being reacquainted with these rules, that UA was a really terrible addition to 1E D&D.
 

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