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The dice can kill you: Why first edition AD&D is king

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I still run AD&D or Basic/Expert D&D. The last adventure I ran with that system ended in a TPK. I've been running Castle Falkenstein lately, but maybe I'll present my players an AD&D game soon. 

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A game like AD&D 1st edition must seem very alien to a generation of gamers raised on a steady diet of video games where character death merely results in respawning back at home base with little or no consequences.

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A game like AD&D 1st edition must seem very alien to a generation of gamers raised on a steady diet of video games where character death merely results in respawning back at home base with little or no consequences.

 

I dunno. There is a sub-set of video gamer that makes claims like; "I beat Dark Souls* with just a dagger in 14 minutes."  I mean, you know they are lying but there are some power gamers out there that play everything as hard as they can. If there is a Dead is Dead mode, they go for that. The trick is getting them away from all the sound effects and colorful pixels. I say this, being somebody that has to be pried out of whatever game I am in. :)

 

 

* For those not in the know, Dark Souls is a series of video games that prides itself on killing characters. It can be beat but it is often frustrating (if my son is any indication) and requires multiple attempts to beat some of the bosses. About as OSR as  you are going to get in a video game.

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Well, I was mostly referring to MMORPG players since that form of video gaming is the closest we have to tabletop group play.

 

Good point. I should have thought of that but I have recently signed out of any MMORPG that was once playing. There are reasons that are not germane to this topic. 

 

 

This is where I learned, cut my teeth in gaming. One of the reasons I don't like things like HAPs. The dice tell the story.

 

The dice can tell a story but it is not the only story that can be told. Dice-driven stories can become random to the point of nonsensical. We've all seen a few bad dice rolls completely ruin what should have been a perfect ambush or plan of attack. That tells a story, but it can be such a frustrating one. Sometimes there is an amusement in that but, for me, that kind of frustration can get older that cheddar cheese left out on 100 degree day.

 

And for all that, I still sort of want to throw together a 1st Edition AD&D (PHB, DMG, and MM only) game. Except I don't own any of those books any longer. I think I have the second edition Core Rules CD around here somewhere, or at least a backup of it. Probably the closest I will ever get to the first edition without finding a pirate PDF scan online somewhere.

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You can buy legitimate PDFs of most versions of D&D now, all the way back to the original. :)

 

http://drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/44/Wizards-of-the-Coast?filters=0_2140_0_0_0

 

 

Awesome!  Of course now there is another sink for my rarely seen disposable income. Hero Games books are going to come first, then I will take a gander at D&D.

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Dice-driven stories can become random to the point of nonsensical. We've all seen a few bad dice rolls completely ruin what should have been a perfect ambush or plan of attack. That tells a story, but it can be such a frustrating one. Sometimes there is an amusement in that but, for me, that kind of frustration can get older that cheddar cheese left out on 100 degree day.

 

It probably depends on how you view the events of the game. Are they (a priori) pieces of a dramatically satisfying story, or are they merely outcomes produced by a simulation engine? Players who don't have fun unless the events adhere to a meta-desire for the game to produce a dramatically satisfying story would be very unhappy in a traditional 1st ed AD&D campaign (and by "traditional" I mean one in which the DM doesn't fudge anything and everyone lives [or dies] with the dice results). However, if players like the idea of recounting the tales of their adventures, even when the dice don't go their way and the perfect ambush doesn't work out as planned, then the more purely simulational character of 1st ed AD&D will suit them well. After all, the Battle of Thermopylae is still an epic story (as might be told by a sole survivor) even though it ends in what basically amounts to a TPK.

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Ps - I'm at work and I'll double check name and company. Still it's only $5!. Pps someone on there site made a character sheet that you print to look like the sample rules notebook paper in the book. Lol.

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Nolgroth sorry but it's called Basic Fantasy. You can go to basicfantasy.org and check it out. It does have races separate from classes though not all classes are available to all races. The elf is the only race that can multi class as either fighter/ magic user or magic user/thief.

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There were all kinds of things that I hated about AD&D 1st edition - rolling up a character with three dice in the order of the stats was at the top of the list.  I want to play a character I came up with in my 'head' not something I was forced to play because some *#@)@^ dice rolls. 

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Yeah. Wasn't a big fan of that either. On the other hand, part of that nostalgia-blurred charm was the sheer challenge of playing the stats that chance gave you.

 

Unless you literally rolled a character with low enough stats that they could not qualify for any classes. Even then we had a "loser" class that progressed on the Thieves table, rolled on the Mages Hit Points, had no special abilities and used Mage weapon proficiency / thief weapon tables. It was literally the worst of both classes with the benefits of neither. We had one player try it. He made it to level 6-7, had accrued some magic items to increase viability, and was killed by a wyvern. It was interesting watching that develop.

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There were all kinds of things that I hated about AD&D 1st edition - rolling up a character with three dice in the order of the stats was at the top of the list.  I want to play a character I came up with in my 'head' not something I was forced to play because some *#@)@^ dice rolls. 

It always struck me that first edition AD&D was designed for people to roll up their characters 3d6 in order oc characteristics . . . at home. The night before.

 

-"So this is your character."

-"Yes."

-"Some pretty lucky dice rolling here."

-"What? He's got a 12 and two 11s."

-"Looks like he qualifies for some pretty exclusive classes, but--"

-"A monk."

-"-I have some concerns. Did you roll any others --Wait. What did you say?"

-"I want to play a monk."

-"Seriously?"

-"You do have psionics in your campaign, right?"

-"Yes, but any class qualifies for--"

"Monk."

-"Okay then. Next player."

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Awesome!  Of course now there is another sink for my rarely seen disposable income. Hero Games books are going to come first, then I will take a gander at D&D.

 

DriveThru runs a lot of sales. If you make an account, you can make a wishlist. I think they'll send out alert e-mails if something on your list goes on sale. I have a small pile of B/E D&D stuff that I snagged on sale for pretty cheap. I also have that itch, but too distracted to scratch it at the moment.

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I want to play a character I came up with in my 'head' not something I was forced to play because some *#@)@^ dice rolls. 

 

Yeah, I'm with you on that score. Of course, when I first learned how to play RPGs, that notion didn't really exist yet. And without that early experience with 1st ed. AD&D, I don't think I would have appreciated (or understood) the DIY architecture of Champions.

 

Let's face it, the Hero System is really for advanced players who not only want to design their own characters, but are comfortable with the complex task of coming up with a design and building it using the dizzying array of options available in the game. Most RPGers are not designers, and would rather spend their time watching their character get built by a few random dice rolls and a small handful of decisions on their part, than designing and building every bit of the character themselves.

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I found each method has its strength and weaknesses. Each can be fun and each can be abused. I still remember rolling 3 for STR and my brother wouldn't let me change it and he was a dwarf! However even though I can't remember his name, after 30+ years, I remember the character. Ymmv naturally.

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The dice can tell a story but it is not the only story that can be told. Dice-driven stories can become random to the point of nonsensical. We've all seen a few bad dice rolls completely ruin what should have been a perfect ambush or plan of attack. That tells a story, but it can be such a frustrating one. Sometimes there is an amusement in that but, for me, that kind of frustration can get older that cheddar cheese left out on 100 degree day.

 

Remember when Han Solo's player decided to chase the stormtroopers down the hall? How about when he failed his stealth roll when moving towards the shield generator bunker?

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Remember when Han Solo's player decided to chase the stormtroopers down the hall? How about when he failed his stealth roll when moving towards the shield generator bunker?

He rolled a one on the Force die! Seriously it's in WEGs rules.

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Remember when Han Solo's player decided to chase the stormtroopers down the hall? How about when he failed his stealth roll when moving towards the shield generator bunker?

 

What I should have said was dice-driven character creation.  Dice will always, to one extent or another define the actual story being told. It wouldn't be a "game" otherwise. It would be cooperative narrative. Mind you, there can be a lot of that in a game, but the existence of rules and random chance of success or failure will always define the game element. That is a positive thing in my estimation.

 

Dice driven character creation has its allure, but it also has its drawbacks. If you want to run a fighter, for example, and roll a 6 on Strength, you are (as I recall) disqualified from that class because your primary ability score is very low. Also, the 1st Ed AD&D artifact of having maximum levels based upon your primary ability can also limit the high-end of a character's career. The allure, or flip-side of that argument, is that if you have no idea of a character type to run, random rolls can set you on a path. Roll high on Int, bam!, instant magic-user. Get that lucky high enough Wisdom and nigh-impossible Charisma roll, you can be a Paladin. 

 

So your point is taken but unnecessarily so because I should have been more clear in my initial post.

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