Sunday, May 1, 2011

AD&D, using just the PHB

I have been thinking about games I want to run for a while now. Since I listen to Roll For Initiative podcast, which is all about AD&D, one candidate have been AD&D. For many, probably for many of my dear readers, it is a familiar game. Not so for me.

Way back when I started playing, one of my school mates talked about the games his older brother played. I had the opportunity to visit them, and got to browse the AD&D PHB, that game for "older guys". What I remember most clearly where the illustrations. I thought they looked like doodles made by ball point on a pad of paper while sitting chatting on the phone. Ugly game, not for me.

Later I started to buy some 2nd ed game books, since there were dozens of game worlds and some was actually pretty cool. I still abhorred the game, now for the rules.

So, since I now own two [sic!] copies of the PHB, I feel like I should give this game a chance. Having played B/X and S&W it feels a lot more familiar than it did way back then.

Everyone who have read the AD&D rules knows how much quirks they hide within those pages, and I intended to limit some of them. My first move was to decide that I'd play with the PHB, only!

All those old hands now shake their heads, since they know that there are no combat tables in the PHB. That I knew, but had forgotten. What I didn't knew, was that there are no saving throws in the PHB! All the rules on how to make a character, but not a word about saves!?

Since these rules are organized in a quite eccentric way, I might have missed the saves. Please tell me where they are in that case! But, how would the game work without saves?

When I had realized that they were missing, I suddenly thought that maybe it would be an interesting experiment to just disallow saves, since they are not in the PHB. Disallowing combat it more problematic, but AD&D without saves sounds like it could work.

What do you think?


  1. The weapon tables are in the PHB, as are the HD for the Classes. It would likely look something like Tunnels & Trolls:

    Roll your weapon di(c)e and add or subtract any Strength modifiers to a d20, subtract your opponent's value (as above), and then read the AC as follows:

    Subtract (Dex-Modified AC#) from 10 and apply the result as HP of damage stopped.
    --Thus, AC02 = 08 Hits Protection, AC05 = 05 Hits Protection, AC09 = 01 Hit stopped.

    As far as Saves:

    Roll Ability Score or less on d20, reading the governing Ability Score on the Defensive Adjustment modifier, and subtracting it from the d20 roll.
    --For example, an Int-based Save with a Int 15 provides an Adjustment of -1 to the d20 Roll.

  2. Thanks. :)

    I goofed on the original post. I intended for only the dice of damage roll to be modified and compared.

  3. Of course, what really happened was that EGG saw the role of the DM as mysterium tremendum, keeper of the rules and laws, and forbade players to peek within the DMG. It's more than an organizational quirk - the players were not supposed to know the rules!

    Thus, I guess the logically absurd conclusion would be to play without a DM ... Or, to give the players only the character sheets, and DM tells them everything else.

  4. Depending on how strict you want to be with the "PHB only" rule, you could use Target 20 to replace attacks and saves:

    It's a one-page PDF, but you could actually scribble the formula in the margins of the PHB and dispense with the PDF. Unarmored opponents will be a little easier to hit, but it's not too big a difference.

    Monsters are trickier, butyou can just make up the stats.

  5. I'd claim it's quirky even if taking that into account, Roger! :)

  6. Talysman,

    Good suggestion! I'm posting more of my ideas of how to fill the gaps. Love hearing other ideas!

  7. I really think saving throws are meant to be *examples* of commonly used saves, not the only saves a DM would ever call for. So if someone is trying to avoid being killed by falling rocks and the DM chooses (for example) Save vs. Petrification to roll against, he should actually have told them to Save vs. Falling Rocks and give them a number. That's the route I'd go. That said, ever since we started playing AD&D and in all the years since, saving throws have very rarely been used, typically only if directed to do so by a module, so I would say they aren;t needed. Just make an ability check of some kind if a situation like that comes up.

  8. This is really interesting. I think if you are going to go with running the game using ONLY the PHB, then run the game with only the PHB and DON'T allow anything else and extrapolate the rules based on what is actually written there. Timeshadow's ideas above sound good. What about even running without a DM? That sounds very New School/Indie and would be a great experiment. Don't know how it would actually work though.

    I also, however, REALLY like the idea of saying, no combat tables? OK then, no combat: or at least no combat in a recognisable D&D form. Maybe just description and airy-fairy freeforming perhaps? One way or the other it would be a brilliant experiment.

  9. My Anonymous friend is onto something, as you'll see later...

  10. Richard,

    Yeah, I also like the DM less idea, but I'm not sure how.

    I like the idea of a no combat D&D, but only as an idea. Timeshadow way is the path best taken, I think.

  11. I recently did a post on The Chamber Generator, which I'm about to modify slightly and elaborate on. It's derived from ideas I used in a solo RPG; there's really no reason you couldn't use it in a GM-less game to map and stock a dungeon as you play.


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