Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Why AD&D For Fantasy Adventure Gaming

Over at the "Classic Adventure Gaming" discord, there is a channel/thread with the subject title of this blog post.  The originator of the conversation had several questions they wanted addressed, including:
  • Why is it the Fantasy Adventure Gaming style prefers AD&D to other "old school" versions of the game? 
  • Is running a B/X game in the Adventure Gaming style possible? 
  • Is the Advanced Fantasy of OSE a reasonable middle ground? 
  • Is running a game RAW an element of Adventure Gaming? 
  • Any advice on how to sell AD&D to your players who like B/X for the simplicity?
This was posed back in November (when I was deep in the heart of Mexico), or I would have weighed in (duh). As is, most of what I would have said was rather sufficiently answered (and probably more succinctly and elegantly) than anything I would have written anyway.

And, yet, the subject continues to come up, in various shapes and forms: here was a comment recently posed on a different blog:
"...what’s the beef people have with OSE? It’s a retelling of BX using modern layout and publishing tools."
[this with regard to a criticism of OSE: Advanced being less-than-wonderful as a system for high level game play]

Of course, here at the B/X Blackrazor blog, I made my "reputation" (such as it is) in part by propping up the B/X system and extolling its virtues, long before there even was such a thing as "OSE" (close to ten years before, seeing as I started blogging circa 2009). So, I think it's safe to say I know some stuff about B/X play...the good and the bad. I think, if required, I could defend the system pretty well...the Basic edition of the game does have virtues, not the least of which include its clarity, accessibility, compactness, and simplicity. 

These are EXCELLENT things...for learning how to play D&D.

I now run AD&D exclusively (when I run games) even for new (i.e. "never have I experienced D&D") players. Not because it is clear, accessible, compact, or simple...first edition AD&D is NONE of those things. But none of those things matter to ME, because I already know how to play and (more importantly) how to RUN D&D. I know how to be a Dungeon Master. Can I be a better one? can always get better at their craft. Experience, practice, self-evaluation/reflection, research...all these things go into honing one's skills (not just running and managing players, but building worlds and scenarios and running campaigns). It is an on-going process of refinement. If I am judged a "better DM" than others (I won't make that claim myself), it is ONLY because I've been doing it longer. There are PLENTY of DMs out there that have been doing it longer than me, who are smarter than me, who have been more consistent than me. But I know that I am competent...and I think that most people should be able to obtain a solid degree of competence with a few decades of practice; I am not unique in this regard.

SO...part of being a competent DM is knowing how to run the game at table. And running the game at table OFTEN involves picking up the slack for players. It is not imperative for players to know all the rules of the system (though the best players will have a high degree of knowledge/mastery when it comes to game mechanics). However, it IS imperative...heck, essential...that the DM has a good grasp of the game concepts and how they function. Which is one of the reasons the original B/X (Moldvay/Cook/Marsh) edition of D&D is so darn provides ALL THE TOOLS NEEDED for a beginning Dungeon Master to 'learn the ropes:' clarity, accessibility, compactness, and simplicity. You have a Basic book of 64 pages (with plenty of examples) describing the most elementary concepts of a very complex game, and then an Expert book of 64 pages (most of which is simply new CONTENT...spells, monsters, treasure, extended tables...not CONCEPTS) to fill in a few additional "blank" spots in the game. These are GREAT TOOLS...for learning how to play D&D.

Everyone needs to learn how to play somehow. Learning to play as a player is "a piece of easy, chummer" so long as you have a competent DM running the game; most folks content to play a PC have little need to crack a rule book at all, except as a reference. The lack of actual nuts-n-bolts mechanics (saves, combat tables, etc.) in the original PHB may have simply been Gygax acknowledging the way MOST players approach the game: the DM is going to tell them their "target numbers" for dice rolls (or what followers are going to be available, etc.), what they need to know is how close they are to leveling up, and what new capabilities such leveling will convey to their character (in terms of hit dice, spells, skill percentages, etc.). The PHB is a lovely reference...and everything a (1E) player really needs as a reference.

Learning to be a Dungeon Master is a different story. It requires reading (and knowing and understanding) the rule books. I will argue (strenuously) that it's not something you just "pick up" from watching other DMs at the table or...worse!...from videos on Ye Old Internet. Such viewing can CLARIFY certain concepts, but you have to read the damn book. You have to know the game to run the game, and the knowing comes from reading (and learning) the rules which (surprise!) are found in the rulebook.

The B/X rules are short. Even at 64 pages, Moldvay's book includes...roughly...thirty-three pages of instructional text, of which at least five pages are EXAMPLES of: character creation, encumbrance, x.p. calculation, combat, dungeon design, and running a session. So, 27-28 pages of instruction? Is that too many? I don't think so...but I'm an old man who grew up reading books from a young age. If you want to learn how to be a Dungeon Master for the greatest game ever penned, I think that an afternoon or evening's reading seems like a small price to pay for the opportunity.

'Great, JB. We get it. SO...why then make AD&D your staple for adventure gaming? Why not just run Labyrinth Lord or OSE, or (even) "OSE Advanced" if you miss the inclusion of illusionists and beholders? Why insist on running 1st edition? What gives man?!'

B/X is a GREAT game...for learning to play D&D. But for running the game long-term, it is my opinion that you need a more robust game system. I have written about it at length before, but those posts are divided over many topics. Let's see if I can collate them here.

First you have to get on-board with a premise: that the game is at its best when run in the form of a long-term campaign. That means: there is a (fictional) world that PCs adventure in, that is sustained over time and that exhibits consistency. That PCs advance in level and thereby have opportunities to experience MORE content and adventure. If you can't buy into that premise, it doesn't matter what system you're running nor (probably) what game. 

SO, assuming you buy said premise, you need a system that sustains long-term play. And that is NOT just a matter of "bonus content." It's not just about adding additional levels of spell-casting or a larger selection of treasure and magic items or extra, more powerful monsters. If that was all there is to it then, sure, OSE Advanced might be your huckleberry. After all, it adds more content to OSE: AD&D classes, AD&D monsters, AD&D magic-items, etc.

But it's not the content (alone) that makes a game suitable for long-term play. Does OSE Advanced address issues of PC survivability that allows sustained play and advancement over time? AD&D does, adding clerical spells at 1st level (and bonus spells for WIS), increasing HD dice types, reducing penalties for low ability scores, adding rules for negative HPs, and increasing weapon damage versus large-sized monsters. Does OSE Advanced address issues of game economy, by adding x.p. and g.p. values for magic items, instituting training costs, and monthly expenses as AD&D does? Does OSE Advanced add systems that increase or promote verisimilitude like urban encounters, disease, racial relations (between sentient humanoids), discussions of medieval politics and taxes, folklore remedies and dungeon trappings? Does OSE Advanced introduce cosmological considerations, outer planes, interactions between clerics and their deities, dimensional cross-overs for even wilder fantasy well as getting down to the nitty gritty of troop movements and costs for traditional war gamers?

Perhaps OSE Advanced DOES do all this? I honestly don't know, as I don't own the OSE Advanced books. But I know that 1st Edition AD&D does all this...and it does so in two books (the PHB and the DMG), one of which is 126 pages (and mostly "reference material:) and the other of which is 240 pages...of which more than half is non-instructional material: tables and charts and treasure descriptions and random dungeons and appendices and glossary and index and (repeated) cheat sheets.

SO...100 or so pages of DM-facing rules? For a system that supports long-term, sustained campaign play?

OSE Advanced Fantasy Player's Tome is 248 pages. OSE Advanced Fantasy Referee's Tome is 248 pages.  Sure, much of that latter book includes the monster to have more content!...but does it have the oomph to use that content? And even if it did...which I'm not sure it does...why not just stick with my 1E PHB and DMG? Their page count means they take up less space in my backpack when I take them on the road.

There are other advantages to using 1E. It is OLD and it is MODULAR. There is a LOT of material that has been written for it over the years. I don't use the Unearthed Arcana or the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide or the Manual of the Planes...but I could. I don't use the vast majority of suggestions and variants and house rules found in the pages of Dragon magazine...but I could. In general, I have enough experience with the system that it's not necessary for me to consult the plethora of grey-beard AD&D players that exist in various forums and discord channels and chat groups...but I could, if I needed to do so. Those resources are available, which are great aids for would-be DMs trying to get better at their craft.

"But JB, those books (the PHB and DMG) are so OLD! And clunky! And crunchy! Hell, they aren't even SOLD anymore!" Oh, wait. Yeah...they are

But okay, let's talk about "crunch." I know several folks via the blog-o-sphere who will swear up and down that they run a B/X or (more usually) a BECMI or RC game, and have for years...long-term, campaign play...using nothing more than the simpler, stream-lined rules these Basic games provide. That, in fact, they do not want additional complexity. And these are guys older than me, with more years of experience...competent, veteran Dungeon Masters. Why? Why does it work for them?

I cannot say...I haven't played in their games. I could speculate, but instead I'll focus on the question at hand: "Why choose AD&D?" I can only discuss (with confidence) why I choose AD&D. For on-going campaign play, I want a robust system, designed in conjunction with that "added content." For me, a B/X fan, AD&D functions better and for a longer time than the Basic alternative.

As said (at the start of this post), I have played a LOT of B/ home, on the road, in campaigns, at conventions, in my youth, and as an adult, with family, friends, and complete strangers. What I have found is written...the game does not sustain play over the long-term. Rather, the system becomes a source of frustration

Now some folks would say: "just add the changes you need to add to make the system sustainable." And that's fine advice. However, in practice what I find is that I simply end up adding pieces from AD&D. EXCEPT THAT a "patch" doesn't work as well as simply using the rule with the system for which it was designed and (presumably) play-tested. 

I could use the treasure tables from the DMG, the classes and spell lists from the PHB, the monsters in the MM...but then why not just play 1E? I like that fighters improve in hitting at every level. Why not 'port the combat matrix into my B/X game? Why? Because I can simply play 1E and discard the extra books.

Why play AD&D? Why NOT play AD&D? What is the issue? That it's hard to find the specific rules you're looking for in the book? Because it's "poorly organized" (the common complaint)? It still has an index and a table of contents; it still has quick reference sheets at the back of the book. I don't know, fella...I have little problem finding info I need within the book. And it's easy enough to create my own cheat sheets (if needed). So...what else? You don't like the artwork? You don't like Gygax? I mean, what is it, really?

A lot of folks talking these days about ACKS and (the soon-to-be-published) ACKS II. Okay. I picked up ACKS: it's a 270 page book that takes B/X and adds some extra elements to extend game play, specifically (what is commonly referred to as) domain play for high level characters. Fine and dandy. But AD&D's system, the way it's written, extends "standard" adventure play into high levels, while giving you options for that "domain stuff." To be clear, a lot of ACKS "extras" can be seen as having their precursors in AD&D. And so I ask again: why not just play AD&D? Because you want a single, enormous book to flip through? Because you want new art? Because you don't like the occasional Gygaxian digression into statistical analysis or flanking maneuvers from his war-game days?


So sorry folks. So sorry this post is so long, and that I've taken up so much of your time. After all, none of this is terribly important anyway...the most important thing is (of course) that you play, regardless of what you choose to play and/or what your reasons are for playing the system you choose. Hopefully, I have managed to communicate my reasons (for those who are so interested) and this will be an issue I don't have to address again in the future. Hopefully. 
; )


  1. It doesn't make much difference at all to your argument, but I should point out that OSE is 248 pages in A5 format. If it were US letter, like AD&D, it would be much smaller.

    Anyway, carry on!

    1. I actually quite like the "text-book" size of the old 1E books, the (A3?) pamphlets size paperbacks of OD&D, and (of course) the 3-hole punch B/X books...for each of these editions, the form (IMO) fits the function.

      A very fat, small, hardcover isn't what I'm looking for in an instruction manual. But I may just be weird about this kind of thing.
      ; )

    2. Oh, I'm not saying one format is better than the other, I'm just pointing out that if OSE was also in US letter format, then the section of your argument about page counts would be quite different. In that (small) section, you are comparing apples and oranges.

      It doesn't affect the rest of your discussion, but I felt it was worth pointing out.

    3. In addition, I noticed on my most recent perusals of the DMG that the page margins are pretty damn small.

    4. Need a magic 'reformat old school size' spell.

  2. Interesting point about the page counts. Personally I use Moldvay/Cook as my reference for running a heavily house ruled B/X, for that same reason, those volumes are so slim.
    I played a lot of ADnD back in the day but what we were really running was just a basic game with the PHB player options.

  3. As you say. Why play AD&D? Why NOT play AD&D? But whatever. Anyway, you might not have seen this article from earlier in the year:

    1. Ha! I haven't seen that. But I'm not surprised there are similar articles (and, I'd equally NOT be surprised to find half-a-dozen articles extolling 5E as the "best" edition ever published).

    2. It comes down to perception, it seems. Basic D&D is touted as approachable, streamlined and so forth. I see that as a good foundation to build on. For instance, Ghastly Affair or Apes Victorious both take the Basic framework and create interesting games out of it. By that same logic, 1e AD&D builds on the Basic framework (as developed through OD&D) and expands it (thus, "advanced"). 1e AD&D gives us all its classes and multi- plus dual-classing, their specific advancement tables, its selection of races and their adjustments, its specific combat system and tables, alignments, and so forth. I prefer 1e AD&D. I don't want to give up what 1e provides and play a stripped-down and fiddled-with Basic game. Funny thing. When I go and adapt a setting or scenario to "D&D," I always use 1e as the framework. Always. My own Tekumel game system is 1e AD&D, tweaked to fit. I would never have built it on Basic D&D.

    3. Ha! For me, 1E is a little too specific to use for anything other than a 1E game (keeping in mind that 1E can be adapted in MANY ways with regard to setting). In contrast, I've used B/X to create a number of "adventure games" including a very workable Shadowrun knock-off, a Star Wars Jedi thing, and something very pulp/late 19th century explorer stuff. Just a very good, generic system for class-based adventure gaming.

      However, 1E has a staying power that is un-matched...for a number of reasons.

  4. Of course you know that I'm deeply beholden to AD&D ... only, whereas you've come to this revelation in the last few years, I embraced the system hard some 44 years ago and have played it or focused my efforts upon it constantly over that time. At what point over the next thirty years, as I assume your lifespan will reach that long, do you see yourself choosing to "redesign" large segments of AD&D to make it "better."

    If you can get better at your craft as a DM, then surely there's a way for the game to get better through your gaming design.

    1. That's an interesting question, Alexis. While I have a lot of years of experience with AD&D (retaining and reading the books even when I wasn't playing/running), I am really in my "infancy" when it comes to serious world-building, and I anticipate spending more time on THAT in the coming years then, say, re-working the combat system or adding something like your "sage abilities." Working out issues of trade, population distribution, and weather/climate are higher priorities when I'm already fairly proficient running most of the RAW systems.

      [and I'll thank YOU for helping engender my mindset on this]
      ; )

  5. As little as a couple of years ago I wouldn't have touched AD&D with a ten foot pole. 'Overcomplicated! Archaic! It's S&W for me!' Now I'm very glad to have it, and wouldn't go back for the world.

    I would defend the idea that it's not very well organized: this is less of an issue for the DMG than the PHB, and mostly an issue for new players. Once you've looked it over a few times it's not hard, but it's a barrier for new players. Still, it's easily remedied. Better a great system badly organized than a slick void.

    1. While "organization" is a secondary consideration (at best!) when I'm trying to learn a new game, AD&D is probably the ONLY system I give a solid "pass" to in this regard, for a couple reasons:

      1) Unlike you, I think the PHB is laid out in a perfectly understandable fashion with a very logical progression of concepts. I have ZERO issue with the PHB. The DMG, on the other hand, is laid out in an "understandable fashion" (as it is written to be read side-by-side with the PHB) but this makes search-and-handling of some minutia rules very awkward.

      2) Despite this awkwardness, I KNOW that a determined 12-13 year old can master the AD&D rules as written...without any more help than a B/X introduction to the game!...because *I* did it myself, at that age. So I am less-than-sympathetic to adults who say the system is too baroque/archaic to learn.

    2. Certainly no issue for learning: I got my little cousin the reprinted books and he's having a blast, starting a D&D club in his school and everything, with old-school play as his baseline. Plus, I find that just leafing through the books can instill some wonder, a la the 'Dragonology' kid's books and the like.

      In my experience, the issue is with adults, who either have less time or think they have less time to learn and indulge in wonder. Doubly so when bringing in players whose prior experience is with 5e (not necessarily well laid out books, but sleek and modern), who are already a bit skeptical of this whole 'old school' endeavor. Linking them a crusty pdf with bad OCR? Empiezas mal. Some reformatting, a custom PHB for the campaign, and a few sessions in, they're past their prejudices.

    3. Once I realized the DMG was meant to be read as a running commentary on the PHB, it all fell into place.

  6. It's interesting to read this. And I don't have any arguments or quibbles with your reasoning. In fact, it's pretty similar to my reasoning of why I cobbled together Treasures, Serpents & Ruins. And why I don't just run OSE or BECMI or 1E or whatever. I've got the ruleset that I'm comfortable with, so why change?

    1. If you've already put in the work, re-designing your home system, there's no reason to (at this point) "switch" to AD&D. The question raised on the discord thread was by a person relatively NEW to "fantasy adventure gaming" and wondering why so many of us FAGs were promoting 1E over B/X (and similar clones). My post should...hopefully! a time-saver for folks who don't want to take the time building their perfect system from the ground up.

      That's not you, Dennis. There's no need for you to change, say, Chanbara from a "basic" chassis to a 1E chassis. You've already over-hauled the original system! At this point, you can ADD "1E-isms" that might fit with your system and you'll get more bang for you buck.

      It's the same with devotees of the ACKS (Adventurer-Conqueror-King System): if you've already mastered that system, and enjoy the game play it provides, then have at it: ACKS 1 does a LOT to extend B/X game play, striving to make it "viable fun" up through L14. For some, that's Good Enough...and so great! No skin off my nose.

      For me, I'm going to run/play something that goes further and plays longer, and that I don't have to cobble myself. I suppose that makes me LAZY...but all that "saved effort" can be put into world-building and adventure design.
      ; )

  7. First, I really enjoyed this post. You make a good argument and I agree that AD&D provides material that a DM would need to develop a long term campaign that is missing in B/X. BECMI has its charms and fills in some f what B/X is missing, but AD&D is still the better product overall.
    The issue I have with AD&D is that there's actually a lot that you will probably want to remove or replace. But most of that isn't in the PHB, so it should be fairly transparent to the players.
    All that said, I still tend to use B/X in most of my games because I don't run truly long term campaigns. Mine tend to go for a few months to a year, the game is fairly casual (players dropping in and out), and characters generally don't go past 7th level, so B/X works very well for those sorts of games.

    1. Interesting. I would suggest...even given your gaming habits (casual play, irregular players, etc.) try running a campaign with 1E in a persistent world (i.e. start building a world and run all your games in it). Regardless of whether you're getting people to show up on regular basis, regardless of whether or not the players are changing from session to session. Just start building a world, using 1E, and placing all your adventures and gaming in that world.

      It's just a suggestion. Not a strong suggestion, not an imperative, not a command. Just a suggestion. Give it a shot. See how it goes.

      And do it using 1E.

      Here is a list of rules I've jettisoned from AD&D:
      - alignment
      - books beyond the DMG, PHB, and three MMs
      - clerics needing to memorize spells in advance
      - magic-users knowing more spells than their list allows (though they receive two extra spells at 1st level)
      - "read magic" (not a spell; MUs can read MU scrolls)
      - training

      Here's what I've added:
      - demi-humans add +2 to max level if single-classed in a class that's available for multi-classing
      - great helms add +1 to AC; no helm subtracts 1 from AC of armor worn

      You need not follow suit; just running a 1E game is enough. See where it goes; see how your game develops. Don't worry too much about "doing it right." Just start. Try it as a fun experiment.
      : )

    2. Are you still using my experience rules?

    3. I still use your 10 x.p./per point inflicted + 20 x.p./per point sustained as an individual bonus for each character in the party. It makes a great incentive for bold AND cooperative action.

      The "group x.p." divided amongst the party? No. I've gone back to the normal monster x.p. for what's parceled out to the party (if they defeat an encounter). This is standard and accounts for inconveniences monsters can inflict BESIDES hit point damage.

  8. I guess the disconnect I have with your repeated praising of Adnd comes from my approach to game. I don't see a big difference between using BX or BECMI or Adnd or ODnD. They're all interchangable to me. I guess the difference is apparent if you run strictly by the book and don't use many houserules. I mean I have run by the "basic" dnd, but like you I don't find it satisfactory, however I don't find most of what gygax presents in Adnd satisfactory either; maybe the premise of a lot of his rules, but not the actual implementation (and I still feel a lot was missed in Adnd that was better handled in BECMI or at least gives me a basis to go on). Which has led me to really make own system that I still consider dnd but is just my houserules that have built up over time. I just really feel like the argument of Adnd vs BX vs ODnD is moot because any DM over a decade(or longer) of continuous dedicated running and world building will be playing their own version of the game(like Alexis).

    Not to get overly religious here, but I kinda think of the core rulebooks in the same way I think of the Bible, "I'm past the point of needing a scripture to defend my beliefs."

    1. See my response to Dennis above.

      There are some folks out there who have NOT been playing D&D for 30+ years. This is not you; this post isn't directed at you.

      Based on your comment, I infer that you run some sort of "Franken-brew" game of your own devising, taking pieces you like from any number of editions of D&D (or other RPGs). You have tinkered to your heart's content, and built something functional for use at your own table. Yay!

      Some of us don't want to do that work...for LOTs of reasons.

      For those who don't (for ANY reason), I suggest running AD&D. For the reasons I outlined in the post.

      This isn't you, Lance. And that's fine. But I think that telling someone "Just read B/X, BECMI, AD&D, and OD&D, mix-n-match and add house rules and make your own thing." isn't very helpful. In fact, I think that would be the OPPOSITE of helpful.

      Which is why I wrote the post I did. Wanted to give folks a clear path, along with my reasoning. YOU have already established a path. Not everyone does.
      ; )

    2. I have to go with that, JB. I do have that Franken-brew you speak of ... but that came AFTER a good seven years of playing AD&D nearly as written, dumping things that didn't work. And after, too, many of the rules remained part of my traditional play for decades before I finally found the replacement that would work for that thing. I didn't "mix and match." I played a Theseus' ship sort of game, changing planks one at a time over a LONG period of time, until eventually a completely distinct ship appeared.

      I couldn't have done it all at the start without having prior knowledge of my present game; no one could. You can't just "invent a new version" from scratch. You've got to play the old one a long, long time, working first on your skills as a DM and later on reconsidering the parts of the game that used to work, but have ceased to work because of the game you're running now.

    3. Yeah I do think the Theseus ship metaphor is a better analogy. The thing is I feel Adnd is lacking just as much as "basic" but that includes what's in BECMI, yeah if you stick to BX purely then it can't really compare to Adnd. Both systems are lacking in some regards but in different areas in my opinion. And then there's parts of Adnd that I think are just bad game design . . .

      I guess you also have to take into account that I grew up with a deep familiarity of the rules. Before I ever considered dming I was more knew the books backwards and forwards and often my dad would turn to me to remember where something was in the books. I mean even in middle school(I didn't DM my first game till high school) I was already proposing rules tweaks for my dad's game right around the time when we got into baldurs gate(though I also was hanging around with my older sisters friends and playing other RPGs). I guess my point is my current set of rules wasn't born whole cloth from me. It developed over years of play and keeping what works like Alexis explained.

      But at this point to me it's all just D&D and I don't think advice for picking one or the other version is really helpful because over the years each DM will build his own game to suit his needs.

    4. I don't think I agree with this. B/X is more "moddable" than 1e. And that process of houseruling can be very incremental.

      I can't deny, at this point, that 1e is a more complete game. But if, like Lance (and me), you're not a huge fan of some of the decision that 1e makes, B/X is easier to tweak to your liking. And something like OSE Advanced is very welcome for me, because it ports all of the content that is sorely missing from a pure B/X framework.

      I'm not trying to argue that one is better than the other. What I'm arguing is that there's a place for things like B/X and OSE Advanced. Writing and participating in high-level D&D adventures has given me a lot more perspective on this conversation than I used to have, but I'm still not sold on 1e as the end-all/be-all. These other options have their place, which I why I continue to lean towards OSE-A in the D&D-o-sphere.

      That said, I'm still very glad that 1e exists, if for no other reason than to inform my own choices when houseruling. I think of it like a collection of carefully selected houserules that guide my own process.

    5. No one's arguing that one is better than the other, Edgewise. The "best" D&D is the one a DM builds for himself. The thing is, the text of the DMG accounts for hundreds more bits and pieces of information for the DM to build from than does B/X. This is what JB means (if I'm not stepping on his feet here) when he says that AD&D is better for the "campaign." B/X gives me rules if I want to adventure, fight, spend treasure and build my character. But AD&D also gives me rules for lycantrophy, hiring non-humans as an army, figuring out a good amount to charge for the toll of the bridge I've just built, which I can calculate from the general cost of fortifications. D&D gives me at least some basis for researching magic and other things, gives me some sense of how a kingdom is run and by whom, which events a town could offer vs. a dungeon, herbs and long lists of both dungeon and character dressing; rules for diseases, hirelings, drunkedness, insanity, shipbuilding and so, so much more.

      I get that maybe you just want to run adventures ... but if you have a player who wants to do more than that, who tries to push you to do more than that, than that player has to go elsewhere, right? Because you haven't got a premise for those other things without going to AD&D, right? And if AD&D offers that much more, then why not just play AD&D?

      Look. Let's say that after high school you got yourself a cute little two seater MG. Great, marvelous car, a little troublesome enginewise but awfully fun to drive and you absolutely love the feel of the road when you're in it.

      But then, you go and have a family. You need a bigger car; and that's money you don't have, unless you sell the MG. You gotta ask yourself at that point - is it worth keeping the MG anyway? You can't go anywhere in it, except with your partner, but one of you has to stay with the kids ... which have to be delivered in a larger car to their grandmothers so you can get a night off. What are you gonna do? Drive to your mom's, drop off the kids, then go home and get your old MG?

      Comes a time you just have to break with the past and move on ... and realise, honestly, in the end, that little SUV you have is actually a bit more fun than your MG ever was, because its full of family all the time.

    6. Sure is. Now I feel a little better about selling my Miata.

    7. Very poetically stated, Alexis. I can't not like your analogy, even if it doesn't quite fit my situation. Because it's a lot easier to mod out B/X than it is to build an SUV. And it's also something I can do incrementally, whereas good luck adding a new seat to your sports car every time you're expecting.

      If my players want to stretch the system, they don't have to leave my table. We'll make it work. I mean, no system is complete enough to accommodate any and all such digressions. What if my players want to invent gunpowder and start a business?

      That said, I completely understand and respect the fact that 1e can be perfect for certain tables, and is an awesome work in game design. Whereas I previously thought it was pretty crappy (and I still think that certain parts of it are).

    8. I was just perusing my DMG last night and came upon GG's discussion of gunpowder and how to handle it. :-)

  9. What's your opinions on OSRIC? There's a lot of material written for that game. A worthy vat clone or just use AD&D?

    1. I have a PDF of OSRIC on my laptop; I have never taken the time to do more than skim it. It seems well done, though it IS different from 1E and I dislike some of the changes (energy drain, in particular seems far more punitive than in standard AD&D).

      Regardless, I don't use it because I already know (and own the books for) AD&D. OSRIC was written to allow adventure writers to continue writing for AD&D (at a time when AD&D was out-of-print), so the OSRIC material is all compatible with the version I play.

      But the honest answer is: I don't know if it is a "worthy vat clone." For me, it is superfluous. For someone who's never been exposed to 1E? It may be better laid out and easier to follow/understand. But there WILL be some differences between the two versions.

      FWIW, I thought the original HackMaster was a pretty good clone.
      ; )

    2. Never looked at the original Hackmaster but HM 5th made me want to snort rat poison after making a character.

      I'm too young to have enjoyed 1E when it came out and never looked at it beyond getting a free copy of the PHB from my work. I'm tempted to read them now. See if I like AD&D or OSRIC more. Tempted by OSRIC cause a buddy just bitched about S&W so much after only one session it ruined my hatchling campaign.

    3. I really hope I get to give original HM a try some day. It looks like so much fun!

    4. @ Hench:

      You can get the OSRIC PDF for free at DriveThru. There is no reason not to give it a try.

      @ Baron:

      HM is made for stereotype-gonzo D&D of a type I don't play these days. Plus, not terribly interested in tracking "honor." But there's a lot of cool stuff in it.

    5. Oh I've got the PDF on my tablet lol. just haven't dived into it yet.

  10. If I wanted to convert B/X material to OSRIC/AD&D what's the main thing I need to be aware of? Monster stats change but I could just reference the beastie in the rules I use. Does coin treasure change drastically?

    1. IMO, the greatest differences are Basic's "Race as Class," and 1st level Clerics not getting a spell. Also, top of my head, Basic Clerics don't get bonus spells for Wisdom. But here's the advice from TSR's Gaz #9 about converting from Basic to 1e AD&D:

  11. Ah, but you haven't answered the real question - why play 1e over 2e?

    1. YES! I just made a comment here saying the same thing and then saw your comment haha.

      JB is correct about AD&D vs B/X, but he should be looking at AD&D2e.

  12. Yes, you are correct about everything you mention in this post except one thing..

    You don't take it far enough, it's obvious why someone should stay away from crap like 3e, 4e, and 5e.. but why would you chose AD&D1e over AD&D2e?

    1e and 2e are almost the same game, they are so similar that they are almost entirely portable without changes. However, 2e has a vastly cleaned up and better organized PHB/DMG in the form of AD&D2e Revised. 2e also has extra features like Magic-User specialization, Cleric domains, thief skill allocations, a clearer cleaner initiative system, not to mention THE best monster manual in any version of D&D to date.

    Sure, you might say, 1e had monks, assassins, cavaliers, barbarians, and acrobats. 1e had uncensored demons and devils and art work. Just add that stuff missing stuff into 2e and your good to go.

    1. @ Zanth (and Anders):

      You are asking me to get into the weeds on this…and also asking for me to spill a lot of bile and negativity. Tis the Christmas season! Do you really want me to go down the dark road of comparisons?

      Because (of course) I will.
      ; )

      However, 1E vs. 2E is a whole post in itself. Perhaps I’ll whip something up to ring out the old year.

  13. I disagree. Not that I begrudge you your fun with AD&D ... but the tyranny of tiny differences and all that...

    I like the LBBs - no Greyhawk. no messy 1D8's and 1D4s for HD. AC capped at 18. Simple classes and fast messy combat. It's easy to modify as needed or where something is missing, and it's easy to adjust until it fits the setting and kind of play one wants.

    AD&D was amazing when I was 12 in the 1980's - and it's still inspiring in many ways - the implied world building: magic items, monsters, random tables ... but these days that's not something that I need for my games and the rules underneath have the same issues as B/X but compounded by a lack of coherent goal (it's thankfully not even the "tournament D&D" Gygax sometimes claimed) and more trifling additions that don't add enough for the time they take.

    For the good parts, the feat of worldbuilding in the spell, monster, treasure, and other lists - we've had a half century of D&D fantasy and D&D itself to show how its done. I agree the B/X teaches the game well, but for me once it's learned it's time to get simpler and more creative rather then add more crunch. The few innovations that AD&D makes - the plane walking endgame for example, don't necessitate it's peculiarities. E.G. one doesn't need to be 27th level to wander into hell at the end of a 12 year campaign - one just needs to have a hell that works for 8th level PCs at the end of a three year campaign.

    I know I won't convince you, but I do hope that someone outside a particular Post-OSR echo chamber will at least offer some food for thought.

    1. Hey, man: I appreciate you dropping by and speaking your piece.

      YOUR game is not the same as mine: you use OD&D and tinker with it, creating the system that works for you. That’s cool. I am not the ambitious (that is, I am LAZIER)…I’d rather run 1E with minimal changes then build my own system.

      Now, a practical question (with no snark intended): how’s your campaign going? Does it satisfy your players? Does it satisfy you? Does it make you want to run your game, even when (perhaps) you can’t?

      I spent a lot of time, a lot of years, tinkering. Both with B/X and OD&D. Heck…with my own “versions” of the game as well. Little things, big things, campaign things…lots of tinkering. Lots of (personal) dissatisfaction…even when my players were enjoying the game.

      I don’t have that anymore.

      I should have probably started my blog post with that. Playing the game is a choice; running the game is a choice. And the version of D&D a DM decides to run is a choice.

      Are you satisfied with your choice? I am…finally…satisfied with mine.

    2. My players seem pretty happy with it - I'm pretty happy with it. It does almost exactly what I want - which is a pretty tight focus on dungeon expeditions, but as you say I'm happy to tinker. I think the key here and the point I want to make is that one have to both know the game we want and also adapt ourselves to the rules or adapt the rules to ourselves. It can take a long time to figure that out.

      For me I've gotten OD&D to a place where I'm good, but I've also adapted my game to the rule set. Some of this is choice and making changes or finding rules that support it (I want my setting to be high medieval myth full of knights and dragons with no goblins, or I want a ruleset that focuses on mounted combat between knights etc.) ... but a lot of it is also the material conditions one plays under as well. I only have so many hours to run games these days, and I gotta do it online. This imposes conditions on me that I don't mind - but it's something that requires more tinkering, and for me that means OD&D with skills, different cleric magic, abstracted movement, and better encumbrance rules.

      If you've found a way to make AD&D work for you - thumbs up - I'm interested in how you make it work, and also where you see the distinctions between it and something like B/X or perhaps even more BECMI lay because to me any D&D with negative AC and variable damage/HD seems quite similar (at least until 3E and then it gets weird) -- beyond a big list on monsters and spells of course (which BECMI certainly also has).

      More, my understanding of AD&D from reading through the rules several times, talking to fans, and playing AD&D several different ways over the past decades (none RAW - like AD&D I don't know that it really does RAW in the modern sense) is that it has both specific play style goals and specific expectation about the material conditions it's played under. How have you had to adapt to them or adapt the rules to your life?