Monday, November 10, 2014

Old D&D editions and clones - AD&D

Way back in the days, I got to take a peek at the game books used by the older brother of one of my class mates and gaming buddy. It was a hardcover volume, and I still remember to this very day that the illustrations struck me as very silly and amateurish. That book was the 1st ed AD&D Players Handbook.

Many years later and I talk to a guy who once he got that game started up a game, and the game is still running, even though the game sessions now are a year or so apart, was started in those early days. That coincided with WotC releasing 3rd ed. D&D and I felt inspired, and bought the game. So I guess AD&D has been a game that has influenced me, pushed me toward other games and coloured my perception of things.

Still, I have never played the game.

I tried to gather some players some years back when I scrounged up a bunch of Rob Kuntz modules, but never managed to get enough for a whole party. It stayed the un-played edition.

I took down one of my two copies of the PHB and perused it. Yeah, I have two copies of a game I've never played. I have three copies of the 2nd ed. DragonQuest and I haven't played that either. Why are you looking at me like that? Anyway. I took down my copy of the PHB, and decided to check it out. Fiddly bits. Dozens of fiddly bits. You come to the section on how to make a character, and it starts with how to roll up your stats. Is this power gaming or what? You are told you need superior stats, and oh do you need them. Multiple bizarre little things are calculated off those stats, like how good you are at lifting gates. Some stats are even rolled with both d6 and a percentile score. Involved is the word.

The thing is, much of this first saw the light of day in the OD&D Supplement I - Greyhawk, and you understand that Gary and Rob must have loved fiddly bits. In their campaign there were so many subsystems and extra house rules added on top of OD&D that the game beneath was barely visible. This is a game for people who love a game, not a tool for creating stories in secondary worlds.

I actually don't have a problem with lot of rules. I have played MERP, and own more than one edition of Rolemaster. I have both Burning Wheel and Burning Empires, and would even consider running them. But, then there are rules. Let's take a look at Surprise. That section of the rules begin by telling you what surprise is, and then suggests you roll a d6, or a d8 explains that then there's a 1 in 8 or a 1 in 6 chance. Then there's a nice table to show how many time increments difference there is in rolling difference sets of results on those dice. It's both simple and extremely convoluted at the same time. Say whatever you will about Rolemaster or Burning Empires, but they are far more consistent and thus handle the weight of those rules quite differently.

Sometimes I catch the wonder, the fantasy and the strange beneath the over- and under-explained rules. I see why some of this caught the imagination. There was arcane mysteries to be unlocked in this mysterious tome, and since I love Call of Cthulhu you can guess why that speaks to me. But, I still don't want to run this game. Playing D&D as a game - as a challenge for the players, not their characters -  would be a different challenge. Maybe one day, but I would probably chuck much of that Gygaxian cruft. It's just not my style.
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