log in or register to remove this ad

 

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

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
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.

I found that ignoring entire sections of the rules worked just fine and didn't have the cascading impact on things that ignoring major parts of d20 did. So for me the tightly integrated system of 3e made the game more of a chore to modify to my liking.
 

log in or register to remove this ad

Monayuris

Adventurer
Back in the day, used maybe a tiny subset of the full AD&D rules... in reality we were really playing Basic with AD&D classes.

But yeah the beauty of it was you can use what you want and toss what you don’t and it still works. There’s not a lot of interdependency.

As far as role playing goes... 1E is very much a role playing game as is any other edition.

The act of pretending to be a fighter or magic-user or elf exploring a dungeon and interacting with that environment as your character is the very definition of role playing (in he context of D&D).
 

Monayuris

Adventurer
Back in the day, used maybe a tiny subset of the full AD&D rules... in reality we were really playing Basic with AD&D classes.

But yeah the beauty of it was you can use what you want and toss what you don’t and it still works. There’s not a lot of interdependency.

As far as role playing goes... 1E is very much a role playing game as is any other edition.

The act of pretending to be a fighter or magic-user or elf exploring a dungeon and interacting with that environment as your character is the very definition of role playing (in he context of D&D).
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
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".
Of course, you could always grub in a hole in the ground and hope you find a princess... :)
 

Ath-kethin

Elder Thing
Trapper Keeper?

Look it up or ask your mom. Who, come to think of it, might need to have been an American to know anything about it.

Basically they were a kind of fancy binder that we were all nuts about back in the early-mid 80s. Not customizable, but you could buy them with just about any junk you wanted printed on the cover.

They were awesome. I
 

Zardnaar

Legend
The 1E core books;)

You can pluck on the ol heartstrings with art and presentation though along with adventure design and optional rules.
 

howandwhy99

Adventurer
I assume they are modules for a strategy game where the players succeed or fail at their objectives based upon their actions.

And they copy stuff from the 70s and 80s. (not necessary)
 

Voadam

Hero
All the people who said homebrew settings and how official worlds are the opposite of 1e to them crack me up a bit. From 1e I've got the World of Greyhawk Folio, World of Greyhawk Boxed Set Campaign Setting, Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting, Dragonlance Adventures, and Lankhmar. I used Greyhawk as my 1e setting for a long time.

For me the 1e feel is a contrast to 2e's core default heroic storytelling focus. 1e had a more of an anything goes mercenary base (PC options for incompatible LG paladins, evil assassins, true neutral druids) where PCs were default free form exploratory dungeoneering over more scripted story plots. It also had more evil stuff from the get go with named demon princes and archdevils, Cthulhu and Melnibonean Mythoses in Deities and Demigods, and so on. Dragonlance and Ravenloft were more story based from the start, and 2e eventually branched out to many different niches including extraplanar evil in the Guide to Hell, but 1e feel is generally more Elric/Conanish short story than Lord of the Rings epic.
 

Andras

Explorer
Bring three characters, expect two to die.

Once you step out into the world you have no idea what to expect, no nicely scaling-with-level encounters. The random encounter table for forest has a green dragon on it regardless of what level you are. Characters had lower hp and once you hit name level you stopped getting HD.

The action economy was much harsher. If you moved more then 10ft you couldn't attack unless you charged (and suffered double damage from spears set to receive which also automatically went first). Spell-casters had a chance of a spell getting ruined before they could get it off. Surprise could devastate the party, with opponents getting 2-3 rounds of attacks before you can reply. Shields didn't protect you if you are attacked from behind.

Larger parties, offsetting the lower action economy and lower spell count, you had parties of 7-9 characters plus henchmen and hirelings.

Magic items couldn't really be made or purchased easily, but they were everywhere. Wizards had a harder time getting spells.

9th (ish) level was a thing, your character was someone important at that level. A Fighter could charge tax on the occupants of the land he cleared and made safe. Or a Wizard could set up a tower and gain apprentices.

Attributes- no improving attributes except by a wish, in general. What you rolled is what you got. Ability scores also had to be pretty high before they had a significant effect. Less reliance on high scores for spell casting in combat.
 

der_kluge

Adventurer
As much as I generally like the stuff Frog God (and previously, S&S Studios) put out, I've never really understood the selling point of "1st edition feel", since I "feel" like 1st edition was pretty terrible for many, many reasons. 2nd edition was even worse.

Racial level limits
Lack of cohesive rules
Really terrible art
Terrible design choices - "room 2 has 3 orcs in it. Room 4 has 5 giant beetles in it. Room 6 has a vampire...."

Not 1st edition... but I came across someone running 2nd edition D&D with the Skills and Powers option. I went back and re-read that book for nostalgia's sake. OMG, that has to be the worst book ever made. It's just.... I don't even know where to start. Terrible. The 1st edition books were also terrible. Just... awful. They were completely disorganized, had all kinds of rules that made no sense; were overly complicated.

To me, "1st edition feel" is 100% about nostalgia. Because there really isn't much there worth revisiting. The game is just so much better these days. In every possible way.
 

Spohedus

Explorer
Hard to believe the thread is three pages long without addressing how different magic works for players. No cantrips. No save every round. No concentration mechanic. Low level wizards are dart-throwing acolytes. High level wizards....gods.
 

Voadam

Hero
Hard to believe the thread is three pages long without addressing how different magic works for players. No cantrips. No save every round. No concentration mechanic. Low level wizards are dart-throwing acolytes. High level wizards....gods.

Actually 1e introduced cantrips. It did not have cantrips that caused hp damage however even when summoning a bee to sting a target or sending out a jet of flame from your finger.

For concentration the 1e DMG had different concentration mechanics, focused on interruption of casting so this is not the same as 5e, but closer to 3e's/Pathfinder's concentration mechanics. Also a number of spells require concentration. See e.g. phantasmal force "The illusion lasts until struck by an opponent — unless the spell caster causes the illusion to react appropriately — or until the magic-user ceases concentration upon the spell (due to desire, moving, or successful attack which causes damage)." It is not always so well defined in other spells, but concentration was there a bunch in 1e.

(I was going to say "See for example" but "See e.g." feels much more 1e :))
 

Mercurius

Legend
As much as I generally like the stuff Frog God (and previously, S&S Studios) put out, I've never really understood the selling point of "1st edition feel", since I "feel" like 1st edition was pretty terrible for many, many reasons. 2nd edition was even worse.

Racial level limits
Lack of cohesive rules
Really terrible art
Terrible design choices - "room 2 has 3 orcs in it. Room 4 has 5 giant beetles in it. Room 6 has a vampire...."

Not 1st edition... but I came across someone running 2nd edition D&D with the Skills and Powers option. I went back and re-read that book for nostalgia's sake. OMG, that has to be the worst book ever made. It's just.... I don't even know where to start. Terrible. The 1st edition books were also terrible. Just... awful. They were completely disorganized, had all kinds of rules that made no sense; were overly complicated.

To me, "1st edition feel" is 100% about nostalgia. Because there really isn't much there worth revisiting. The game is just so much better these days. In every possible way.

There is truth to this, but some of what you call flaws, OSR folks call features. And further, the "feel" of something, of 1E in this case, isn't tied to the technical elements - the rules. One can evoke "1E feel" with the 5E rules. Even many of the OSR games are modernized in some way. Streamlined and cleaned up. I think the "feeling" part is less about the rules, and more about evoking other qualities of D&D from those earlier periods (on the other hand, there are "old school purists" who won't touch anything published after 1982, the year before Dragonlance ruined the protean purity of True D&D).

Even if it is mostly about nostalgia, you kind of answered your question - that is a massive selling point for many. OSR stuff evokes the D&D of youth, or at least the youth of those who started playing in the first decade or two of D&D. Or as someone once said, "the golden age of science fiction is 12." Or fantasy. Many of us started playing in middle-school, and a large portion of OSR folks are Gen Xers who started in the 70s-80s, and OSR stuff evokes some of that original inspiration and imagination.

And of course one could argue that D&D is inherently nostalgic - a game of wizards and dragons, a lost age of forgotten secrets. Some of this comes from Tolkien, who was deeply nostalgic and believed the modern world was, in many ways, "fallen" -- and each successive age of Middle-earth was a further fall from the primordial golden time of Valinor.

A note on the art. Some OSR and actual older art is "terrible," at least in terms of technique. But some of it is, again, evocative. Don't confuse technique with quality. Some people like the older, pre-Elmore/Easley/Parkinson/Caldwell art because it is less realistic and detailed, and thus can inspire the imagination in a different way. And of course, some of the WotC art veered from pure realism into stylistic qualities that some dislike. While technical ability is somewhat objectively measurable, art is far more than technique.
 

What is a 1e feel?

In terms general game rules, a 1e feel is one where the mechanics have no consistency. Where every mechanic in the game is either a single percentage die roll off of a table, or else some arcane mix of obtuse and cumbersome mechanics chosen seemingly at random. The more table lookups you have and the more inscrutable the design, the more 1e it feels. Bonus points if you have two competing systems that accomplish identical purposes in totally different and incompatible ways. In this way, reading the game rules feels like you're perusing a magical tome of arcane secrets. The term arcane truly is all encompassing here in every meaning of the word. It should feel like you can't change anything without collapsing the whole system like a house of cards, and also you should not be able to tell what the intent of the game design is or what the designer of the game intended. Quite frankly, you should be able to read the entirety of the game's rules and still have absolutely no idea how to play the game at all.

Notably, healing and recovery should be almost overwhelmingly difficult, explicitly sacrificing playability in favor of "realism." On the one hand, this discourages players from always relying on combat to achieve their goals, but on the other hand the only way to even begin to overcome this hindrance is to include a cleric or other source of magic healing in the party. If combat doesn't feel like it will essentially always have a negative consequence on the pace of play, your healing is too good.

[Note: I put "realism" in quotes above because the same game also ignores permanent injury, which I think is necessary for actual realism even if it clearly makes the game unplayable. That is to say, I think it's disingenuous to call any recovery system "realistic" when there is no system of permanent injury or consequence to injury outside of what the DM arbitrarily decides and the existence of one spell and a handful of items.]

In terms of classes, I would say that all characters have all their abilities at first level. Those abilities may and often do improve throughout play as levels increase -- even going so far as to start out functionally useless at early levels -- but there should be virtually no brand new abilities tied to class level. Further, any abilities that you have should generally be relatively minor, or powerful but narrow, or powerful but with severe drawbacks.

Your "progression" in the game is solely determined by the XP you earn -- inherent HP, attack bonus, save bonus, and spell count but that's it -- and the treasure you find, especially the magic items. This is doubly true if the XP you earn is directly tied to the treasure you find rather than being a function of the challenges you overcome. The one exception to this design is the ability to construct a stronghold at high level and transition from purely an adventurer or mercenary into nobility, politics, state-building, armies, mass combat, etc. This major transformation of play at "name" level or at 10th level is relatively core to the 1e experience even if, IMX, most tables ignored it in practice.

The biggest ability of every character in a 1e game is the creativity of the player, and the DM should be willing to entertain any creative solution to a problem. Towards this end, the design should overwhelmingly favor martial characters at the levels people actually play. This is because, aside from main force, martials don't have any ability at all except a lot of HP. So, martials get the best equipment draw, and that extends to magic item tables, too. At higher level, magic is much more potent, but high level martials are far more resistant to magic, have a lot of equipment which negates magic, and monsters will often get two chances to resist a spell (magic resistance). Magic is very, very potent, but between full Vancian casting (i.e., slot preparation), limited spell selection (often determined randomly), and severe restrictions on spellcasters, every spellcaster is a glass cannon... but only on a good day. The more abilities a character gets, the more penalties and disadvantages. This doesn't mean you give any nod to inter-class balance, it just means things are made with many critical flaws or drawbacks so that martials are effectively mandatory.

DMs are encouraged to make campaign worlds large sandboxes without a central narrative. Stationing a campaign in a town surrounded by wilderness, or presenting the players with a hexcrawl map are both deeply 1e play styles. There should be no central narrative to the game; adventures are what you find, are often disconnected or independent from each other, and are kind of just about what the players themselves want to do in the campaign world rather than what story the DM and players want to tell or what the player characters want to accomplish.

Save or die or single die roll deaths do happen, but... at least in the games I played in they were largely used (a) against NPCs by the PCs, (b) against PCs when they did something really stupid (doing nothing to avoid meeting a medusa's gaze), or (c) when the other PCs or DM could do something to keep the character going. I know some people who played meat grinder games, but that's just not central to what I'd call the 1e experience. Tthe game's ability to support a meat grinder game probably is essential to 1e, though. Still, enough of the games handwaved that away that I really don't think most tables honestly played that way once players started to actually roleplay their characters and not treat the game as a competitive DM vs PCs metagame dungeon crawl challenge (a la, Tomb of Horrors). I think that style of play has largely been subsumed by by modern video games which just do it better and on tap. I don't think it was a surprise that most of the people I knew who liked D&D but never played always assumed the game was full of save-or-die effects, while the people I knew who played the game regularly just didn't use that very often or only used it in ways that could be mitigated if the players were careful. That might be my personal experience or my own hindsight, but that's what I remember.

In terms of gameplay settings, the themes of the campaign setting and motivations of the PCs will strongly favor colonialism and will glorify noble station and feudalism in the same way that myths, legends, and fairy tales tend to do. On the one hand, this means the game can be focused on wide open, untamed, wilderness exploration. Spelunking ancient dungeons, discovering lost treasures, fighting fantastic monsters. High adventure reminiscent of the European and white American expansion into the American west or African jungle.

On the other hand, it's overtly human-centric (in some cases to the point of xenophobia) and is about expanding human influence in the world even if the characters (or players!) don't realize it. The PCs are the vanguard of human civilization taking over the world; the first steps to bringing order to wilderness. That's why the original alignments were Law vs Chaos (even if it was cribbed from Three Hearts Three Lions) instead of Good vs Evil. That's why you end up building a stronghold; your characters are expected to conquer a region and rule over it and extract wealth from the land. You'll oversee clear cutting of forests for building materials and establishment of vast farmlands to feed the settling populace as you use your armies to drive out the monsters and goblinoids formerly living there.

In short, I would consider the 1e feel to be the core OSR principals combined with generally poor game design and overall cumbersome game mechanics. Plus some questionable gameplay themes when looked at objectively, even if the idea is just to emulate romantic fantasy epics, fairy tales, mythologies, and legends.

What do I think Frog God Games means by a 1e feel?

My guess is that Frog God Games is thinking more OSR principals and adventure modules that lack a connected plotline and can be dropped in anywhere.
 

haakon1

Adventurer
To me, it means in the style of the great modules from that era, like Keep on the Borderland, the Village of Hommlet, Temple of Elemental Evil, and the G123/D123/Q1 series.

Their style was highly dangerous, but rewarded what Gygax would have called “clever” play. Not buffing and stacking spells within the game mechanics like what 4e rewears, but more real world based stuff. Like in TOEE (which I’m DMing with 3.5e rules), there are ways to “social engineer” deeper into the dungeon, allies and helpers you can cultivate, and advantages to sneaking in when their guard is down, all written into the adventure text.

To me, another key aspect is how it treats balance. A Fighter gets 1d10 hp and generally does 1d8 or better damage. An MU gets 1d4 hp. People say, “ooh, MU’s were gods”, but the balance was they were glasscannons - really hard to survive to be “Fireball capable” unless the DM gave away free levels. Character classes were VERY different and that was fine.
 

Haffrung

Adventurer
It's funny that the OP asks about 'feel', and most of the posts talk about mechanics. Funny because in my experience with AD&D 1E mechanics faded into the background. When you were faced with a problem, the solution was rarely on your character sheet. If you weren't running a spellcaster, you rarely had need of the PHB.

For me, 1E feel is:

PCs develop in play - they aren't deliberately built.

Playing in a gritty and hostile world with a strong medieval feel.

Being put in extremely perilous situations that the players have to think a way out of, and the solutions often don't involved PC abilities.

Lots of loot and magical treasure, but often won at the cost of lives.

Certain fantasy tropes and elements from that era, including lairs full of humanoids, mad wizards, henchmen and hirelings, merciless traps, slimes and jellies, forgotten cities, lost tombs, evil clerics, wandering monster tables, two-level dungeons, etc.

Episodic adventures rather than epic save-the-world heroics.

Reaching 10th level being a major achievement.
 

Ace

Adventurer
In a 5E adventure, 1E styled in my opinion include things like being very "kill and loot" centered, deadly traps and often a kind of dank, grotty eldritch vibe. Look at the old 1E PHB cover, you have pulp elements, obvious fantasy elements and this veneer of realism. Also note that there was no Star Wars Cantina vibe either , everyone in that picture was probably human. Same in the very pulpy original vs the Efreet cover of the DMG

Another classic is the old Players Handbook where the party divides the loot ZENOPUS ARCHIVES: AD&D 1E Players Handbook PDF | Dungeons and dragons art, Nostalgia art, Dungeons and dragons

Yes there is an Elf Wizard in robes but its clearly a bunch of shady people out to make some money and they mostly iffy art aside look like regular folks not heroic types, Ren Faire Denizens or shudder "Dungeon Punks" The feel and mechanics were low magic, few spell casters in a party and even when you used house rules as we did (4d6 drop lowest, max HP L1 and bonus spells for hig INT for wizards) it never felt liek later editions with lots of people with lots of spells and non casters being actually pretty rare. That party above was probably two fighters, a thief and magic users which in 5E might mean 4 casters possibly with spells from more than one class.

Also outright weird and trippy Science Fantasy flavor ala the Barrier Peaks or the "adding Gamma World" Appendix in the 1E DMG feels very 1E to me.
 
Last edited:

Stormdale

Explorer
1.Save or die. Snakes, spiders etc. Lot's of things killed a a failed save.

2. Energy drain and level loss- wights etc were terrifying! Sure it wasn't tied to the in game but Gary got what scared players.

3. Smart play. It still amazes me how amazingly tactically stupid moden players bought up on "it must be level appropriate CR and balanced encounter" editions can be. "You know there is an option to run away right?" Oh you didn't. [Shrug].

4. Resource management.

5. Avoiding crap you didn't need to fight cos you got the bulk of xp for treasure.

1e is a mindset. I enjoy 5e but it is like playing with one hand tied behind your back. "Yes, you are special snowflakes and it is "unfun" (which is afaik not even a friggin word) if you don't win and yes if there is a tpk it is my fault as a dm and not at all due to your poor choices. My bad.

Don't mind me, just off to yell at the neighbourhood kids (if any actually know how to get outside) and tell at them to get off the lawn!

Stormdale
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
It can probably be summed up thusly: in 1e the game world is out to kill your character dead. It's your job as that character's player to put off that event for as long as you can. Whatever else happens - you know, all that story and plot stuff - is somewhat secondary. :)
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I'm snipping most of what was for some reason a very negative take on 1e, but a few bits are worth a look...
The term arcane truly is all encompassing here in every meaning of the word. It should feel like you can't change anything without collapsing the whole system like a house of cards, and also you should not be able to tell what the intent of the game design is or what the designer of the game intended.
What's odd there is that 1e (and Basic) are without question the D&D editions most amenable to kitbashing, and also the most forgiving when mistakes are made in said kitbashing.

Put another way, that house of cards is far more robust and durable than you're giving it credit for.
The biggest ability of every character in a 1e game is the creativity of the player, and the DM should be willing to entertain any creative solution to a problem.
Exactly. The game expects the players/PCs to push against the boundaries of the rules and-or setting conceits, and the DM to make reasonable rulings when they do. Unlike the 3e approach, there isn't a rule for everything.

There's an underlying philosophy in 1e of "you can try it unless a rule says you can't". Somewhere along the line (and I blame 3e) the thinking went to "you can't try it unless a rule says you can"; and 4e and 5e perpetuated this (despite some attempts by 5e to do otherwise).
The more abilities a character gets, the more penalties and disadvantages.
This is a feature, not a bug. Characters gaining abilities without drawbacks or penalties ends up with either the characters way overpowered relative to the game world, or in an arms race between the characters and the opponents leading to more of a 'supers' game, which isn't the end goal here.
DMs are encouraged to make campaign worlds large sandboxes without a central narrative. Stationing a campaign in a town surrounded by wilderness, or presenting the players with a hexcrawl map are both deeply 1e play styles. There should be no central narrative to the game; adventures are what you find, are often disconnected or independent from each other, and are kind of just about what the players themselves want to do in the campaign world rather than what story the DM and players want to tell or what the player characters want to accomplish.
1e is flexible enough to handle true sandbox, hard-line DM-story railroad, player (meta) driven play - as in what the players themselves want to do, and-or play driven by what the characters in the fiction want to do...and sometimes all can happen at different points within the same campaign! :)
In terms of gameplay settings, the themes of the campaign setting and motivations of the PCs will strongly favor colonialism and will glorify noble station and feudalism in the same way that myths, legends, and fairy tales tend to do. On the one hand, this means the game can be focused on wide open, untamed, wilderness exploration. Spelunking ancient dungeons, discovering lost treasures, fighting fantastic monsters. High adventure reminiscent of the European and white American expansion into the American west or African jungle.

On the other hand, it's overtly human-centric (in some cases to the point of xenophobia) and is about expanding human influence in the world even if the characters (or players!) don't realize it. The PCs are the vanguard of human civilization taking over the world; the first steps to bringing order to wilderness. That's why the original alignments were Law vs Chaos (even if it was cribbed from Three Hearts Three Lions) instead of Good vs Evil. That's why you end up building a stronghold; your characters are expected to conquer a region and rule over it and extract wealth from the land. You'll oversee clear cutting of forests for building materials and establishment of vast farmlands to feed the settling populace as you use your armies to drive out the monsters and goblinoids formerly living there.
All sounds fine to me, given as those things largely defined the late-medieval/Renaissance type of era in which the game is often set.
In short, I would consider the 1e feel to be the core OSR principals combined with generally poor game design and overall cumbersome game mechanics. Plus some questionable gameplay themes when looked at objectively, even if the idea is just to emulate romantic fantasy epics, fairy tales, mythologies, and legends.
The mechanics are mostly cumbersome, as written. In some cases time has shown that despite this, they work well. In other cases we've had over 40 years to kitbash and streamline those mechanics into what we want at our own tables.
 

Halloween Horror For 5E

Advertisement2

Advertisement4

Top