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


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Sacrosanct

Legend
Lowkey13 hits much of what I think as well. A lot of it is hard to capture the feel unless you were there back in the day to experience first hand while it was happening. I think that's at least half of it.

The other half is what people have been mentioning: focus on exploration, more grittiness and lethality, making stuff up or ignoring rules you didn't like, etc. It was also a time of individual creation, which I don't see much anymore. Every gaming table and DM I knew back in the day created their own adventures, regions, or even game worlds. Hardly anyone does that anymore. Also, it's not just the rules, but the aesthetic. I've used that tagline myself back in 2012 when I created Felk Mor, "Old school feel". But I also focused on the look. For example, here are some shots of maps and art from that superdungeon so you know exactly what I'm talking about:

 


Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
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?

Most of the above. Maybe less "gonzo" styling too. In our last 5e game my monk did a 65 foot driving headbutt on a foe since I knew there is now way I could die from it. At worst I'd be at 0 and up in one round when I got hit with a quick spell and ready to go hard into action moments later. Its hard for me to not view the system as a mix of wuxia and loony tunes. 1e with lower HP and more negatives to being knocked to 0 or less it would never occur to me. You really don't need to plan as much, no emphasis on logistics, granted I know a lot of gamers don't want to worry about how they will carry a half ton of metal out of dungeon, and other things.
 


Yaarel

Adventurer
D&D 1e ...
... was more "free" in terms of genre conventions. While many tables had campaigns set in particular worlds, and, maybe, an overarching theme, for the most part it was a series of small adventures (you might even call them "modules"). It's like the difference between episodic television, and more modern "season long" narratives. Because of this, you could have adventurers doing all sorts of things- from exploring the underworld (D1-D3) to spaceships (Barrier Peaks) to Alice in Wonderland homages (EX1-2) to gothic horror (Strahd) to Egyptian-influenced desert crawls (Desert of Desolation) to Dinosaurs (Isle of Terror) all within the same campaign, not to mention crossing over the Gamma World. Because everything was less defined, it was also more free.

That possibility of freedom of setting also gave the players power to choose, to go anywhere, do anything. 1e is a game of imagination, where the DM and players work out each others thought experiments.
 


Yaarel

Adventurer
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.

In D&D 1e, narrative adjudication is − by far − more important than the mechanical resolution.

It is all about thought experiments. Dice are just for stabbing.
 


Yaarel

Adventurer
Making stuff up or ignoring rules you didn't like, etc. It was also a time of individual creation, which I don't see much anymore. Every gaming table and DM I knew back in the day created their own adventures, regions, or even game worlds. Hardly anyone does that anymore.

DMs created their own worlds − often in response to where the players decided to go.
 
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Yaarel

Adventurer
The more the ‘World of Greyhawk’ became an ‘official’ setting, the less the DMs created their own worlds. D&D became less about creativity and imagination, thus became less D&D 1e.

For me, the World of Greyhawk is the opposite of D&D 1e.



D&D 5e with its ‘multiverse’ of ‘official’ settings, baking setting flavor into everything, suffocates the best of D&D 1e.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
In D&D 1e, narrative adjudication is − by far − more important than the mechanical resolution.

It is all about thought experiments. Dice are just for stabbing.

I know a lot of people totally disagree with this but AD&D/OD&D/BECMI was more you playing a game, later on it became more you playing a character. Emphasis moved from the player and his choices and more to numbers on the sheet. The DM wasn't trying to challenge the players with traps and puzzles as much as she was challenging the skills and abilities on the sheet. I used to always hear complaints of "but player X at my table is a real idiot and that hinders him when he tries to play a smart PC..." Or "player Y is nearly catatonic and we need skills and more systems so she can play a charismatic character!". Emphasis moved from the adventure environment to the "ding" of level advancement so build tweaking could commence. And to help this advancement became quicker and quicker. You didn't do multiple modules per level, you did multiple levels per module.
 

Saelorn

Hero
Having played AD&D 2E extensively, but not AD&D 1E in any capacity, my perspective is based mostly on the differences between those editions.

A D&D game gives me the feeling of 1E if the information is presented primarily in terms of game mechanics, rather than in terms of how the world works. First edition didn't really care about ecology or world-building to nearly the same degree as second edition.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
I know a lot of people totally disagree with this but AD&D/OD&D/BECMI was more you playing a game, later on it became more you playing a character. Emphasis moved from the player and his choices and more to numbers on the sheet. The DM wasn't trying to challenge the players with traps and puzzles as much as she was challenging the skills and abilities on the sheet. I used to always hear complaints of "but player X at my table is a real idiot and that hinders him when he tries to play a smart PC..." Or "player Y is nearly catatonic and we need skills and more systems so she can play a charismatic character!". Emphasis moved from the adventure environment to the "ding" of level advancement so build tweaking could commence. And to help this advancement became quicker and quicker. You didn't do multiple modules per level, you did multiple levels per module.

I never thought of it that way, but there is truth to that.

In 1e, the characters are so minimalist they are defined by their experiences, rather than their stats.

Three memorable characters that I played in 1e are, an Illusionist, a Druid, and a multiclass Magic-User/Fighter/Thief. When I think about them now, what I remember is the things that they did: vivid encounters, their adventures, yet also the unique spells that they researched.

Spell research is a kind of mix of adventure and stats. But it is the adventure, the personal invention that is memorable. The creativity and imagination.

As part of world building, the characters had specific relationships to other characters. Especially, new characters tended to be the children of retired characters. These relationships were mostly ‘off camera’, rather than being acted out. The relationships were setting details, from which the adventure commenced.
 
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I know a lot of people totally disagree with this but AD&D/OD&D/BECMI was more you playing a game, later on it became more you playing a character. Emphasis moved from the player and his choices and more to numbers on the sheet.
The way you put it might have something to do with the disagreement. D&D did go from treasure-hunting & puzzle-solving like a board game played on graph paper, with nameless (until 5th level, apparently) monopoly-piece characters to actual 'Roleplaying,' at some point. That should get different people angry for opposite reasons, but, really, it's saying about the same thing. ;P

I often make a similar point, though not in an historical context. There's still a strong tendency to use the player as the resolution system, and call it 'role playing.' The player who's good at persuading the DM succeeds in diplomatic situations, whether the character he's playing is an 18 CHA seasoned diplomat or an 8 CHA berserker. But, I suppose you're right: that attitude was even more prevalent back in the day, before we had any hint of a skill system.
 

jasper

Rotten DM
You fell victim to one of the classic blunders—the most famous of which is, “Never get involved in a land war in Asia”—but only slightly less well-known is this: “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons death is ALWAYAS on the line!"
EVERYONE SAVE VS DEATH MAGIC!
 


Yaarel

Adventurer
A D&D game gives me the feeling of 1E if the information is presented primarily in terms of game mechanics, rather than in terms of how the world works. First edition didn't really care about ecology or world-building to nearly the same degree as second edition.

Yeah, the whole point of D&D 1e is world building. The DM is 100% responsible for building the world. Because of this, the official rules are mechanics only. The fluff, if any, was minimalist and optional. The rules try to stay out of the way of the DMs imagination.

Even the official mechanics encouraged (and often required) the DM to make house rules.
 
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Jer

Adventurer
The rules try to stay out of the way of the DMs imagination.

See this is what I mean by people thinking "1e" means different things. To me when I think of AD&D 1e the last thing I think of are "rules that stay out of your way". To me the 1e AD&D rules were things that stifled creativity - I gave up trying to run AD&D and stuck with B/X or BECMI right up until 3e came out because 1e and 2e had lots of ticky-tacky rules that just got in my way and made the game less fun for me to run. (3e did too, but at least the rules were fairly cohesive and close enough to B/X that I was comfortable ignoring them when I needed to.)

But that was likely because of how the guys around me were running AD&D 1e. If I'd been around a different group of 1e gamers, I'd likely have kinder, more nostalgic thoughts for 1e AD&D than I do.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
1e and 2e had lots of ticky-tacky rules that just got in my way and made the game less fun for me to run.

Regarding the 1e mechanics, I agree with you. The way 3e systematizes all of the crazy ad-hoc 1e mechanics into a reasonably consistent rule set is awesome. The way 4e calibrated and balanced the rules is awesome. And the way 5e, simplified rules in a way that benefits from both free form and balance, is excellent. The mechanics needed to − and did evolve.



But what I miss about 1e is its flavor − that is the absence of official flavor − that instead empowers the DM and the players to create it.

In 1e, I have so many immersive experiences that are personally meaningful, from adventuring thru a four-dimensional hypercube (DM was a math freak), to a jaunt in the world today, to the invention of a unique spell, to the building of a unique world.

I find this kind of personalized, customized, experience too difficult to do when all the rules bake in the flavor of someone elses ‘official’ setting.

1e remains valuable to me, because of the radical freedom it forces.
 

Halloween Horror For 5E

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