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1E What makes a D&D game have a 1E feel?

Olaf the Stout

So Frog God Games market their products as having a 1E feel. What to you makes a product have a 1E feel?

Is it the increased lethality? Is it a DM vs PC mentality? Is it forcing the players to think carefully about every action and situation, rather than relying on the abilities of their PCs to defeat encounters?

What to you gives the 1E feel to D&D games or products?

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Steeliest of the dragons
For starters, you nix 3+e style multiclassing. Thankfully, in 5e, that just means not using that option.

2. No Feats. Same thing. They're an option in 5e, so just don't use them.

3. Roll your stats. No array. No "point buy."

4. Preferably, no Drow PCs. If you are in love with Dragonborn or Tieflings and are just looking for a 1e "flavor", then sure, keep the dragonman and half-demon as PC options.

5. Limit Eldritch Knights and Arcane Tricksters to Elves, Half-elves, and gnomes. Gnome Eldritch Knights are still limited to Enchantments and Illusions (as Arcane Tricksters, for the 1e "Fighter/Illusionist" MC gnome character option).

6. Lethality. Full stop.
6a) No "full healing" overnight. No "short rest" HD rolling. If anything, allow a single HD roll for overnight.
6b) Encounters that exist as they make sense within to the world. No "balanced" encounters and definitely no expectation of auto-success.
6c) Traps & Hazards. They're a thing. All over the place, not just in nice little bundled packages/obvious places where the thief knows they are before walking in.

The 1e of me experience is not/was never about "DM vs. PC." It's still a communal story of heroic characters doing daring-do. But it's not "the PCs are entitled to..." ANYthing. The PC's should not and can not EXPECT they can handle everything they walk into. If you are not willing to run away in the face of defeat, imminent, assured, or otherwise, you aren't ready for 1e.

7. Alignment. It is also a thing. Monks must be Lawful. PALADINS must be Lawful (if not actually Lawful Good, which would be truly traditional). Barbarians, I suppose, should have to be Chaotic. Rangers must be Good. Druids must be [True] Neutral... Assassins, since I guess it isn't obvious anymore, must be Evil. Alignment matters -yes, moreso for clerics, druids, paladins moreso than anyone else. Don't like it? Don't play them- and prolonged or egregious deviation from your proposed alignment CAN (and WILL) result in the loss of your deity's connection and/or class-specific powers and abilities.

8. Auto double damage on a natural 20. Auto fumble on a 1.

9. Side Initiative. You all go first or they all go first. The other side, all, goes after and back and forth. Round by round if you like.

...ummmm...there's probably more. But nothing else is coming to me nad those ought to give you a good 1e "feeling" game.


What makes a D&D game have a 1E feel?

For me, it is:

Less focus on mechanics. Your choices and your roleplaying are more impactful than then the modifiers on a die roll.

That you can succeed at a task by describing what you are doing or how you are approaching a problem without needing a die roll.

Characters are an avatar for you to explore a fantasy world more so than a full persona.

An attitude of ‘dice fall where they may’ and an acceptance that not all encounters / traps / environments are fair or balanced. Save or die poison exists, accept it and move on.

Greater sense of lethality. You can lose your character if you make a poor choice.

I agree: gold for XP is a huge part of the feel.

Class specific character sheets.

Character sheets that include a ‘Last Will and Testament’

The stronghold / domain end game.


Being poorly designed


My friend came up to visit recently and he ran a 1E one shot.

The interesting thing about it was that with all the weird subsystems and charts and odd design choices, creating a character takes a certain amount of effort and time.

The process of looking up all the different modifiers for ability scores (in 1E they are not unified), text for class abilities, charts for thaco modification vs. AC, etc... takes time and concentration.

For me, it kind of had an effect of solidifying the character in my mind. Like in some way, I felt more connected to it, because it took so much effort to create.

I normally eschew complicated game systems and complexity in character creation, but I kind of better understand the appeal higher crunch systems.


Victoria Rules
Level drain.

More seriously, there's a few things that could make any D&D feel more like 1e:

- pull some of the rules back behind the DM screen: magic item lists and pricing, combat bonus by level (BAB in 3e), etc.
- no healing without use of either a divine spell, a potion, a device (rare!), or lengthy rest; and no magical healing at any range greater than 'touch'
- magic items have to save or be destroyed if carried by someone who fails a save vs. area damage e.g. fireball, lightning bolt, dragon breath, etc.
- an overriding sense, emphasized by the DM at session 0, that the game world will be out to kill the PCs dead; that bad things can and will happen to PCs so don't get mad when they do
- an overriding sense, borne out in play, that the party is more important than any one character: characters come and go while the party is (one hopes!) everlasting
- fewer mechanics - no feats, no skills except for thieving abilities, etc.
- no ASIs. Permanent stat boosts in 1e were very uncommon.
- harsher revival options after death including a resurrection survival roll to come back at all and permanent loss of a con point if you do
- henches and hirelings in the party; and multiple PCs per player whether played all at once or not


The 5e Old School document on DMsguild...obviously...:hmm:

Hey, I'll even give you a link!!! http://www.dmsguild.com/product/180409/5e-Old-School-and-Oriental-Adventures :p

(actually, it was originally focused on OD&D, and then I added in BECMI and AD&D, and then OA at the end of it all).

More seriously, I don't think it's just one thing that makes it have a 1e feel. I think there are a bunch of factors ranging from everything in regards to how races are, to how classes are built and interact. It's also that feel where you pick and choose what rules to use or enforce (that's more of an OD&D thing, but I think there are plenty of us who also did this in AD&D). There's a LOT there that makes it have a distinct feel all of it's own, but it's not just one little thing, it's the entire package (if one could put it that way).

From the Gygax feel, to the Class limitations and focus on humanity, from the XP tables that are all different to the various states of spellcasting. Sometimes what really feels nostalgic 1e to me may mean nothing to the guy next to me, and vice versa.

Because of this, it can be very hard to boil down exactly what causes a game to have that 1e feel and what does not.
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Needing a twenty page PDF to follow the combat rules! http://knights-n-knaves.com/dmprata/ADDICT.pdf

But as I went from BECMI to AD&D, we pretty much played lose BECM rules with AD&D classes and monsters - I really have no idea. It was fun tho, so make it fun with crazy stuff going on cos we were teens and we just let it flow :)

Rolling 1E style into OS style - for me it's less flashy, more dangerous, more thinking, less rolling (apart from rolling up PCs), more talking and running, and very much about getting the gold - even when you are supposedly Lawful Good!


Less reliant on class abilities, more reliant on ingenuity to overcome obstacles...to get stuff.

For me its gold for xp and this.

Gold for xp as it gives one of the most sensical reasons youd be adventuring anyway - more gold trhan you could dream of in a lifetime. If you want to use that to buil an orphanage, or buy a tavern and drink all the profits, hey, thats on your pc. But at least we know why you're risking your life.

It ties into the above as well i think which i believe is the most 1e feeling elements "game as puzzle"

A lot of trapped dungeons and overpowered monsters couldnt be defeated directly. You had to find ways to navigate a corridoor without setting off traps, to find a way to distract, poison or otherwise occupy that family of ogres guarding that lovely chest.

All the other elements such as morale rules, reaction tables etc, i feel were to support that


What to you gives the 1E feel to D&D games or products?

I honestly don't think there is such a thing. Or rather not such a singular thing. "1e feel" to me mostly means "trying to recapture how the game was played when I started playing in the late 70s/early 80s/mid 80s/late 80s" and that varied so much across time, from region to region, or even from table to table that I think everyone has their own idea of what it means.

What that term means for me is "survivalist". You're in a world where everything is trying to kill you and your goal is to kill them first - generally by accumulating power and wealth. Because that's how the AD&D 1e players played the game around me in the early 80s. It was often fun at the time, but I drifted away from that style with my own B/X D&D games where the players tended to want to be more "heroic" - more "save the princess" less "grub in a hole in the ground and hope we find a magic sword".

I personally don't think modern D&D versions support the survivalist style of play very well mostly because of character creation - character creation takes too much effort even in 5e for a character who might die the first time you roll the dice. If you aren't playing a game where characters potentially die when they open the wrong door, or flub a find traps roll, or accidentally stumble into the lair of a horde of goblins who proceed to slaughter them and eat their entrails in front of them, you aren't playing what I consider a "1e" game. A 1e game to me means character death - lots and lots of character death - and characters that you don't bother investing a lot of energy into until they're at least 5th level because they're likely to be dead the next time you play.

I know AD&D 1e was not this for everyone - but that's the association I make with it. Survivalist bordering on "survivalist horror".

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