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D&D 1E Tell me about your AD&D 1E house rules

Inspired by a similar thread asking about 2E house rules—and in dire need of distracting, happy thoughts today—I figured I might take a moment to post about the 1E game that I have the good fortune to be able to start tomorrow. I'll be running a small group through module T1, with the roster of players and characters consisting of of my wife (paladin—she rolled two 17s and two 16s before my very eyes!), my brother (gnome assassin), my boss (halfling thief), and my neighbor (half-elf cleric/mage, in service to Wee Jas). It's gonna be a time!

Anyhow: it's been more than five years since I've played any Advanced D&D (I'm usually dedicated to the original/basic game), and it's been a lot of fun putting together a list of tweaks for how I want to run 1E at my table! Here we go —

• • •

My 1e House Rules

• • •

So that's my take on 1st Edition. Tomorrow evening, we'll see what happens when Hommlet and the Moathouse get a load of this fresh party of 1st level heroes (being run by players who, I should stress, are generally more familiar with Critical Role than with 1E… hoo-boy).

Grognards of EN World (I know you're out there!), what are your 1st Edition house rules? How do you mod "Gary's game"?
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See? THIS! THIS is why I prefer "old skool" mentality/mindset to the newer "want something new...go buy a book" and 'stick to RAW/official'. :)

I would belly up to your table any day of the week! Your campaign rules/adds sound like a lot of fun and have some nice flavour already. I can only imagine the interesting Campaign World stuff you have going on!

My 1e house rules are 'simple' overall. However, for the biggest changes/additions, I'd have to turn to my home brewed world of Eisla. If I was to copy/paste...well...that would be HUGE for a post (re: it's about 29 pages worth in PDF form).

Suffice it to say, after attempting some "broad strokes" to post here... I gave up. Too much stuff! :(

Most glaring: it is EXTREMELY low powered. Highest level NPC in the 'world' (area about 1600km x 1600km; 1k x 1k miles) is 7th level! Almost nobody has a "Class". PC's start with 'bonus' HP's equal to their Secondary Skill category (either Sedentary, Average, or Labourer). If you are 1st level, you are better than 99% of the population. If you get to 3rd or 4th? Pffft! Fugettaboudit! You are top of the food chain, so to speak.

Magic Items are either very 'weak' (Potion of Healing, Amulet that can cast Light once a day, etc), or very 'powerful' (Sword of Sharpness, Tome of Persuasion, Chainmail +3, etc). And yes, there is an in-game campaign setting reason.

Monsters are rare, so to say. They keep to the dark ruins and deep dungeons and caves of the world. They avoid sunlight if at all possible. So much so that the majority of people in the world don't believe any of the "really big, nasty ones!" exist anymore (re: ogres, giants, manticore, dragons, etc). Orcs, goblins, kobolds, etc... "Yeah, I suppose SOME might still be around. But they stay in their caves and dungeons...like respectable monster should! Besides, even IF an Ogre actually existed still...the Gods would protect us, just like they did Pre-Cataclysm. So don't worry so much!". ;)

Proficiencies are rolled using 3d6, with modifier dice for Easy (-1d4 to your roll), or Hard (+1d4). There are Critical Success and Critical Failure for Proficiency checks too (extra bad/dangerous result, or the opposite).

Quality Level is an Equipment thing. I call it the "CPAGMEL" system. I created it back around 2000, 2001 for my homebrew game system (not based on 1e, btw). It stands for "Crap/Poor/Average/Good/Masterwork/Exquisite/Legendary". These QL's correspond to penalties or bonuses. It allows me to easily emulate "environmental effects on equipment". For example, if PC's are wandering around a saltwater bog for a day or two, and don't have the skill, knowledge, background or tools to maintain stuff, I might have everyone reduce their "boots/shoes" by 1 QL. It gives the Players a better sense of 'reality' for their PC's...and gives actual mechanical reasons to go shopping for some new boots after getting back to town! :)

Oh, MU's are special. They have "The Taint", which is a magical mutational thing imprinted on their very soul! Basically, a MU is always recognized as an "Arcanist" (re: MU/Illusionist) by any living thing. Arcanists also have a visible mutation that they can not 'hide' for more than a few seconds, if that. It can be 'simple', like having pure white everything...skin, eyes, hair, and even blood! Or it can be more pronounced...just think 'extreme looking' (like a Tiefling/Alu-Demon, Dragonborn/Lizardman, or Azer, for example). Each Arcanist also has a "magical tell". Something in their spells (all fof them) that make them recognizable for who they are; example, a MU in the campaign is 3rd level right now iirc...pretty powerful indeed!...and he has 'chrom skin and solid blue eyes'. All his spells have the "theme" of mercury; sloshy sounds, chrome look, metallic smell, etc. His Magic Missile is a large barage of chrome needles with a slight blue glow that trail dissipating droplets of 'mercury'. Needless to say, people are pretty freaked out around Arcanists, so there are social advantages and disadvantages. Re: An Arcanist could walk around a bar, grab a bottle of whisky, and walk out....and nobody would do a dang thing about it.

Clerics have "The Aura". Much the same, but is specific to their deity and personality. They can't hide either; people will just recognize them as a "true" holy man/woman! One who is capable of performing miracles! (re: casting spells or turning undead...not that people think undead actually exist, but you get the point). The higher the level of Cleric, the more of his/her deities "traits" they start to show/develop (example: a Cleric of Thor might grow the most epic of beards and flowing locks...and project a feeling of being in a thunderstorm, perhaps even having little 'trickles' of electricity visible in his eyes when angered, etc).

There's a LOT more, but just no space here. :(
Twenty Nine Pages, remember? And that's not even the booklet on the world stuff!


Paul L. Ming


Solitary Role Playing
From what I can recall of the 80s:

  • No level limits to non-humans.
  • We never played beyond level 12.
  • Death at -10.
  • On a 1 drop your sword.
  • On a 20 maximum damage.
  • Maximum HPs at level 1.
  • Start at level 2-3 (equivalent level according to each XP table).
  • 4d6 drop lowest, place were you want.


41st lv DM
One of the main ones we settled on was how to qualify for classes (or races) with min. Score requirements.
Somewhere along the line we'd already settled on the 4d6Keep3 method still in use today.

This was amended to:
If you want to play a class with min score requirements, 1st place any rolls that satisfy a score in that score. Highest roll goes to the highest requirement it could satisfy. Repeat.
Then, if there are any remaing required scores, fill them the same way, coming as close as possible.
Adjust for race/gender/age.
If any scores are still below requirements, adjust them up to the minimums.

At some point we also allowed this if you really really wanted to play a certain race.
The catch was that you could only choose class OR race

We played almost raw. What we had changed was level limitations
Single class level limitation was raised to 5.
Additionnal level requirement stats were downed by three for every single stats (with a minimum of 1 more than the base requirement for a "power" class).

Once max level in a class is reached, you need 2 times as much experience to continue to rise in levels + 1 per additional class that you may had. So an elf fighter/ magic-user/ thief would need 4 times the normal amount of exp to rise beyond his max level in fighter and mu. A fighter/magic-user would need 3 times the normal exp to rise beyond his max level.

All sexist limitations were removed but not racial ones.

4d6 keep three highest 6 times. No non sense about comeliness. All stats are rolled in order. So getting a "power" class such as paladin was rare, very rare. The most common power class were druids, illusionists and rangers.

Maximum HP at fisrt level. After that...

Religion was extremely important. No heaten healing. If you do not follow the god or the pantheon of the cleric no magical healing for you save to save your life. If your life is not in danger, no healing. A cleric not attempting to convert people to his religion might get into trouble. And the god can always refuse to give a specific spell to a cleric. Sometimes, negociations with your god or his representative were in order, especially if your requested spells were dubious ethos wise. Only 1st and 2nd level spells were barred from this rule. It also meant that at low level, druids were fairly popular as they did not follow a god and would heal any one in need... (but actually getting a druid was not necessarily easy)

Classes that required a fight at certain level were actually forced to seek the current owner of the title and fight. Druids did not have dozens of order of druids but only one world wide. Only three order of monk existed. One for good, one for neutral and one for evil. The Grand Father of assassin was especially hard to reach and you should not expect a fair fight.

Action declarations were made before the initiative. Attacking with a bow, a melee weapon and casting a spell were important declarations. A bow fighter could get screwed if an opponent reached him in melee. Same thing for casting spells.

Aging was especially harsh. Getting magically age at the point where you would get bonus to intel or wisdom would get you nowhere. Only natural aging would allow you to claim the bonuses. So spell like haste were not used that often and only on dire circumstances. The slow spell was much more popular. Elves were dreaded as they did not fear to use the haste spells as bonuses and penalties were so far away. But even them showed restraint in using the spell as too much aging was not without risks.
Otherwise, we played mostly raw.


I don't debate opinions.
We didn't have many house-rules for 1E (or our 1E/2E-hybrid that I played for about 20 years if different groups):
  • A 20 is only a critical if you would hit on a 16 or lower. A 1 is only a fumble if you need a roll of 6 or higher.
  • Fighters gain a +1 bonus to hit above all other bonuses.
  • Higher attack rates for all classes: Thief at 10th, Cleric 11th, and Wizard at 16th get 3/2.
  • Any class (except Cavalier/Paladin, who have weapons of choice) can specialize (+1/+1, not +1/+2) in a weapon, but only fighters and rangers may double-specialize. Double-specialization granted two more points of bonuses, you could put them where you wanted, so you had the options of: +2/+2, +3/+1, or +1/+3.
  • If you move, you only get one attack, regardless of your attack rate.
EDIT: We didn't bother with racial limits on classes, either. But we did use limits on STR for gender.

Once 2E came out, we adopted the Initiative and Proficiencies systems, but kept much of 1E intact.
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Victoria Rules
Our entire system is made up of 40+ years of 1e-based house rules (this development was well underway before I ever started playing, never mind DMing). There's very little original 1e left in it, though the framework is still recognizable.

For the version I'm currently using, player-side basics (a rough equivalent of a spell-less PH) can be found here:

There's other pages on the same site that cover spells (all of 'em, re-written and tweaked, with some old ones dropped and new ones added) and pantheons.

DM-side stuff is largely not online yet; the main changes are:
--- most tables and charts have been smoothed out thus for example combat proficiency gradates by level or HD rather than in big jumps every four levels, as do saving throws
--- we've added tables for fumbles, wild magic effects, and magic-item destruction effects; also for childbirth (which hopefully doesn't involve any of those other three tables!)
--- many monsters - most notably giants and dragons - have been considerably beefed up, and others significantly changed from their MM versions
--- available magic items have been vastly expanded in type - all weapons and armour, for example, come in +0 to +5 versions (with greatly decreasing odds as the + gets bigger) with a large table of possible special effects on top of this, countered by a big expansion in possible curse types and effects
--- magic-like herbs have been added; there's three pages of tables outlining what they are and the odds of finding each in different terrain types
--- homebrew rules for a) mass-army and b) naval combats; though made up ages ago these have yet to be run out for any real test, so it's uncertain if they'll ever amount to anything
--- as of this month, a new major change is coming: the saving throw categories will be split out and tweaked. Instead of death, poison and paralysis all lumped together, for example, they'll be split out to allow for more variance. Ditto for petrify and polymorph. Work is in progress.


Moderator Emeritus
Most of the houserules I used for 1E were things that made their way into my 2E game and 95% of it was stuff I cribbed from Dragon Magazine articles and tweaked. That meant mostly things like NPC classes allowed as PCs (the Duelist, the Archer, etc. . ), a handful of magic-user spells accessible to clerics as one-level higher if thematically appropriate (for example a Cleric of Zeus could cast Lightning Bolt as a 4th level spell), we got rid of level limits (but that never mattered - as we never got that high) and a bunch of other stuff. I only played 1E for about 5 years before adopting 2E in 1989.


Start with a B/X background for rules so a lot of stuff came straight from there like initiative and the basics of combat. My AD&D was a lot like Moldvay Basic with AD&D add ons for stats, classes, races, and equipment.

I used Basic modules and monsters and magic items in my 1e games without hesitation.

I ignored the charisma and reaction rules and just ran interactions as seemed natural without dice.

At points I was using critical hits and fumbles out of a Best of Dragon article. I also did the simpler a 1 is drop your weapon, a 20 is double damage.

Fairly similar to the later 2e house rules I had.


Moderator Emeritus
Start with a B/X background for rules so a lot of stuff came straight from there like initiative and the basics of combat. My AD&D was a lot like Moldvay Basic with AD&D add ons for stats, classes, races, and equipment.

I used Basic modules and monsters and magic items in my 1e games without hesitation.

I ignored the charisma and reaction rules and just ran interactions as seemed natural without dice.

At points I was using critical hits and fumbles out of a Best of Dragon article. I also did the simpler a 1 is drop your weapon, a 20 is double damage.

This is very similar to my experience. I used B/X and BECMI stuff for AD&D (esp. adventures) all the time. I also ignored reactions and I used critical hit and fumble charts based on that "Good Hits Bad Misses" article all the way through 3.5E and 5E is the first time I am not using it since I discovered it in like 1987.
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Dungeon Master at large.
Ooooh! Now you're talking my language! Must... resist... temptation to overdo... it... aaargh...

Despite 1st Ed being my system of choice, I freely admit that it does require some individual tinkering. That's a feature not a bug! :D

  • No alignment languages available automatically, but can be learned. (in context they are the natural languages of extraplanar creatures from those respective realms)
  • No gender based strength limits, but racial limits still in play.
  • Non-human PCs may be clerics, with the printed level caps, but only Half-orcs and Half-elves may be multiclassed clerics.
  • Half elves are capped at level 9 for Druid, but of course may multiclass.
  • Monks are treated as having natural armour for weapon type adjustments, ergo they don't suffer modifiers from weapons. (as opposed to always being stuck at the super debilitating AC type 10)
  • I haven't implemented it, but am toying with giving Monks the 'mook' rule like fighters.
  • Crossbows are double base damage dice.
  • Shapeshifted druids of 8th level or higher can affect creatures that require magic to affect them.
  • Shields negate weapon type bonuses against your AC until they are breached. (ie: a small metal shield is good for two attacks per round before being breached and the bonus is lost; a small wooden shield is good for one etc)
  • Surprise rounds are folded into the normal melee round. The segments are resolved first, and the Surprised side automatically loses initiative when determining the sequence for the rest of the round. (technically this isn't a house rule as it's justifiable based on text in the DMG, but I've never seen anyone else run it this way)
  • I've also ported over miscellaneous rules like Parrying, Blocking, disarming etc from the 2nd Ed Combat and Tactics book.
  • For miscellaneous challenges against attributes, I use a variable d6 system against attributes when a test or check isn't defined. 3d6 being the default which I increase or decrease as necessary. (eg: a character walking over a balance beam trying to keep their balance would roll 3d6 against their dexterity, falling or losing balance if they go over their stat. If the beam is slick, or conditions otherwise unfavourable, I might add 1d6 or 2d6 etc.)
  • I do use some elements of UA, but only ones I specifically approve.
  • Specialization from UA is allowed, but cannot be learned until level 4, and only if you've found a mentor who is already a specialist in that particular weapon.
  • UA spells are available, but not automatically. They must be found or researched.

That gives a rough idea of how my games go.

Great... now I'm missing my campaign group... thanks a lot! :p
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My AD&D 1st ed house rules (from back in the day)

1) Never, ever, ever use the official AD&D rules for unarmed combat. Other characters just hit for damage (like Monks). IIRC I had them flip a coin, heads was 1 hp damage & tails was 0 hp damage, then add STR bonus.

2) You're not dead at O HP

3) Don't be a confrontational jerk DM like Gygax.

4) XP's gained could not take you up more than one level at a time, but you don't have to pay for training.


A few things in brief.

Uniform experience progression.

Classes replaced with backgrounds (Talislanta inspired)

Additional attributes 10 to 13 depending upon player choice and chosen backgrounds.

Dwarves, Gnomes, Halflings, Humans, Elves, Faeries (custom race), Orcs, (Hobgoblins, Goblins, Bugbears (based more on myth)), Ogres, Trolls, Giants (GoT themed) are player races. Special rules for "half-races".


1.) We had alignment, but it was relative. It was defined by the God that granted the ability that interacted with alignment. You might consider your PC to be LG, but different Gods might disagree.
2.) Demi-human level limits were soft. Once you hit the level limit, the cost to advance was double what was listed in the book, but you could still advance. This was important as we often adventured to very high levels.
3.) Segmented combat. Rather than having one set of actions that you took on your turn during a round, everybody moved a bit every second.
It was a complex system, where everything had a speed cost. It gave fighters a chance to do a lot of attacks, in the space of one high level wizard spell. I miss it at times, as it created a more 'realistic' combat scenario, but it was incredibly fiddly and hard to balance.
4.) Insane amounts of homebrew materials. I have thousands of spells and monsters that were created for old campaigns. I dig through the bin often and update the materials into 5E. Homebrew monsters and spells keep players from always knowing what they're facing. When I play, my experience as a DM often leaves me with lot of information about monsters floating around in my head - and they hate it when I know how many HPs a monster has off the top of my head. I suggest to them that they either reskin the monsters so that they are not as easy to recognize, or use homebrew.
5.) Psionics. The PHB rules were broken, so we revised them. My favorite version was not something that the others liked so much, but it used physical props. You had a pyramid built with 7 spaces at the base (and one at the top) in front of you. The bottom square in each space had a color (which represented a discipline). When you engaged in psionic combat, your defenses would do a variety of things - add levels of defense (by 'coloring in' higher blocks in the pyramid, narrow your pyramid (removing blocks), etc... Psionic attacks would have a pattern that repeated until they hit obstructions, and then would do something based upon what the obstruction was (edge of the pyramid was different than hitting a colored block, different colored blocks had different effects, etc...) Rolls were involved. If your attack broke through the defense and had an impact beyond the bottom of the pyramid, the psionic abilities then acted like a spell with a saving throw, etc... Players could lay down multiple defenses and offensive powers at once, with the costs of doing so increasing for each additional power evoked. It was not perfectly balanced, but it was very evocative and better than the PHB rules.


Victoria Rules
5.) Psionics. The PHB rules were broken, so we revised them.
Heh. I tried rebuilding psionics from the ground up a few times back in the day and was never all that happy with the results; so for this campaign I just dropped them for PCs. Can't say I've missed them.

I did keep psionics for a few iconic monsters that rely on them e.g. mind flayers, demons, and the like; but these can't be played as PCs.


Here are some house rules that I've used in the past. A chunk of my house rules are from various Dragon articles so they aren't listed below.

  • Greyhawk specialty clerics.
  • Halflings get a +3 to hit bonus with slings.
  • Druids can speak with animals as many times per day as their class level.
  • Fighters have 'Armour Training' that allows them to operate at one step higher than their base movement (to racial maximum). So a fighter wearing chain mail would have a movement rate of 9" instead of 6". Standard encumbrance rules still apply.
  • Thieves got an Appraisal skill (equal to their Open Locks skill).
  • Thieves also got 'Criminal Expertise' that allows them to add their DEX score as bonus percentage points to their skills. This happens at 1st level and then again every four levels afterwards (1st, 5th, 9th, 13th, etc.).
  • Magic-Users can cast Read Magic once per day per every five levels. For example, a 6th level MU can cast Read Magic 2/day.
  • Large shields offer an additional +1 AC vs. missile fire.


David Howery

the only 1E house rules that I recall using off the top of my head are:
max HP at first level'
nixing the level/stat limits for gender/race
1 always misses, 20 always hits

that's about it...

Glad to see the Grand Auld Game still has some love. :)

I ran my group through the beginning of T1 the other night, as expected. The party met with some familiar faces—Elmo, Spugnoir, Terjon, Rufus & Burne, and others. (Brought back a lot of memories, that.)

Based on that experience, I do need to make a couple of addenda to the house-rules up in the OP, as it turns out. We had a fifth player join us, and he too rolled some darned impressive stats (that 4d6-drop-lowest-and-arrange schtick is just something I'm not used to after years of playing 0E). He decided on a monk, which was pretty cool. In the end, I felt the need to codify that AD&D monks should get the same chance to perform feats of acrobatics that they have in BECMI ([Dex × 3] + [level × 2] %), and to give the monk a bit of an extra AC boost in the form of allowing monks to add both their Dexterity defensive adjustment and their Wisdom magical defense adjustment to their starting AC.

I think how I'll run it is that monks use whichever AC value is better for them, the straight table unmodified (i.e. starts at AC 10 and gets 1 point better on every level not divisible by five) or AC 10 − Dex adjustment − Wisdom adjustment − 1 point per five levels gained − magical protections from rings and the like. So it would look something like this:

Monk LevelBase ACAlternative AC
11010 − Dex adj. − Wis adj. − magical adj.
2910 − Dex adj. − Wis adj. − magical adj.
3810 − Dex adj. − Wis adj. − magical adj.
4710 − Dex adj. − Wis adj. − magical adj.
579 − Dex adj. − Wis adj. − magical adj.
669 − Dex adj. − Wis adj. − magical adj.
759 − Dex adj. − Wis adj. − magical adj.
849 − Dex adj. − Wis adj. − magical adj.
939 − Dex adj. − Wis adj. − magical adj.
1038 − Dex adj. − Wis adj. − magical adj.
1128 − Dex adj. − Wis adj. − magical adj.
1218 − Dex adj. − Wis adj. − magical adj.
1308 − Dex adj. − Wis adj. − magical adj.
14−18 − Dex adj. − Wis adj. − magical adj.
15−17 − Dex adj. − Wis adj. − magical adj.
16−27 − Dex adj. − Wis adj. − magical adj.
17−37 − Dex adj. − Wis adj. − magical adj.

Basically, either 1st Edition style or 3rd Edition style, whichever grants them the better number. (A Grand Master of Flowers with Dex 18, Wis 18, and a ring of protection +3 would enjoy an AC of −4, so it's actually pretty close to the expected value… but it certainly starts the monk off with a decent boost at level one!)
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1e that was so long ago.... here is a few that I remember...
1) falling damage is d20 per 10 feet. Then roll 1d6 and divide the total of the d20s by the result of the d6. Still use this one.
2) XP.... If you single handedly kill a monster you get all the XP for it.
3) XP... first time fighting or meeting a particular creature everyone gets the base amount of XP for the monster.
4) You could wear leather armor over your other armor. Yes, ridiculous - but very young at the time.
5) Everyone had henchmen and/or hirelings. We usually invaded a dungeon with a small army.
6) Had rules for pushing opponents back (like a bull rush). Mostly so the army could get in the door.
7) Tended to run very static dungeons. Monsters never moved out of their rooms. Sure the wandering monster tables were used. But perfectly fine to rest just outside the room of a monster.

Some amusing mis-reads when I started playing...
1) Every hit did 1 point of damage because they were 'hit points'
2) After casting a spell it was gone forever. No memorizing. You got new ones when you went up a level


Morkus from Orkus
We got rid of racial level limits and gender stat limitations. The DM had a race chart that you rolled on. I think you needed a 70% or higher to hit non-human races. He also had a special roll chart that you rolled on twice that had 100 different little heroic specials that you could get. And of course he had a few special races that he made up and/or got from books he had read.

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