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

Jack Daniel

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.)

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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

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.


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.


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.



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!


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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