Let's roll some dice, watch some movies, or generally just geek out. New posts at 6:30 pm ET but only if I have something to say. Menu at the top. firstname.lastname@example.org on Mastodon and @gsllc on Twitter.
I’ve written about how poorly written (technically speaking) 1st Edition AD&D (“1e”)is written. The rules are often vague and sometimes even contradictory. Here is another article with a pretty good summary of some of the errors and omissions, and it links to a couple of other items expanding on specific issues.
I get it. Gary was a groundbreaker, and his profession was that of an insurance salesman or a cobbler. We all forgive how poorly organized and written the books are because, under the circumstances, what he did was remarkable. However, that’s no reason to deny how poorly organized and written the books are. If you don’t admit that, you’ll be of no help to people trying to return to, or try out, 1e. It’s a game with a lot of good in it. I, for one, would like to see more people playing it. They’ll need some help.
I’ve been focusing on gaming lately, with many more gaming posts queued up. Let’s take a short break. Some time ago, I wrote about Tuvix in Star Trek Voyager. That may have been a bit heavy. Here’s a visual representation of that episode.
Good gravy, the rules. No matter how much you’ve read, you can’t possibly be prepared unless 1) you’ve been playing for a long time; or 2) you bullshit. As to #1, none of us have played in well over a decade. As for #2, I’ve always found that to be, well, bullshit. Hence; calling it bullshit.
Everyone should know what to expect, and that’s best accomplished by having a published ruleset to which everyone has access. And therein lies the rub. 1e is published, but the rules are so poorly organized that it’s a stretch to say we truly have access. Moreover, even though all of us are established gamers, rules questions come up constantly, but looking up the rules on the spot takes far longer than with any well-organized ruleset. On movement in combat, one of my friends said, “Just wing it,” but again, that doesn’t sit well with me.
I reminded everyone of our ignorance, and that we should just play the rules as I understand them, then revisit the rules after the session so that we wouldn’t make the same mistakes next time. That doesn’t work with this group. I was challenged constantly, even when there wasn’t actually a disagreement. Their concerns sometimes went to the hypothetical. I don’t think this was dickish behavior on their part. As I said, the rules should be open to the players, it’s within their personalities to want to know what they were, and they should know what they are. Besides, one of their corrections was fairly important. In short, I was shortchanging the Ranger on his to-hit rolls, imposing a -1 to his hits because I misread the attack matrix. I’ll say this, though: The only reason they realized what I was doing was because I was open with the rules. If I hadn’t said anything, the Ranger would have missed on a fairly important attack roll.
The bottom line is this: These rules are unclear due both to complexity and disorganization, so there’s going to be a huge learning curve.
Was It Fun?
As we were wrapping up the game, one of the players asked me, “Did you have fun?” I paused to think about how I was going to answer, and he interrupted with, “Oh, that doesn’t sound good.” The thing is, I’m playing for two reasons. First, this ruleset carries tremendous nostalgia for me (as it probably does for many of you). Second, and actually far more important, it’s an exercise in game theory. There are a lot of aspects to game design that modern game designers have abandoned. For many aspects, I find that crazy because those aspects seem to have a tremendous value to them. But that’s just theory. I need to actually play them to confirm that. One of those aspects is that 1e seems to better represent the chaos of real battle. For example, if A strikes twice per round, and B strikes once per round, then A gets the first strike even if B won initiative. A gets the first strike, B the second, and A the third. At first level, this doesn’t come up (most characters hit 1/round), so I wanted to start the players at higher levels. However, it makes sense for a variety of reasons to start at first level, and as long as enough people stick with it, I’ll get to conduct my experiments. All of the players that have commented have said they had fun, so it looks like this experiment will continue.
But back to the question. I’m having fun, but not in the way you’d expect when playing games. It’s more an academic exercise for me. The only “fun” at this point is hanging out with my friends. That’s fun, but the game itself doesn’t need to be fun at this point. Once we shake out the rules and develop a flow to the game, I’ll revisit that question. For now, though, I don’t need to be having fun in the traditional sense. I just need to run it. Make no mistake about it though; I’m in this for the long haul. I want to run this for a couple of years, and maybe longer.
This has nothing to do with gaming. I’m a new homeowner, and I haven’t entertained people in a very long time. I sort of did in 2007 or so, but I haven’t really done so since the spring of 2000 (my last semester of law school). That was weird. As my friends and I aren’t in our 20s, I didn’t expect them to trash the place, but clean up was a breeze, and I’m sure it was complete before any of them got home.
Sundays now are lazy days for me. I either post something silly or other people’s work. Usually both. Today, it’s (loosely) using science to imagine a D&D creature. I did that with the Ixitxachitl and now do it with the pufferfish. Behold the pufferfish lich!
I don’t care what spells it casts. I’m not afraid.
Today’s the day! I’m playing 1st Edition D&D for the first time in almost a decade and running it for the first time since 1982. (I’m old.) I’m starting them out with B2: The Keep on the Borderlands, and it’s Caturday, so I thought I’d give you something on mountain lions today. No particular reason. 🙂
Here’s a video comparing them to yeti. They’re so mysterious that they almost qualify as cryptids. They don’t because, well, they’re real.
Okay, it’s kind of dumb to compare them to a yeti, but everyone likes to be dramatic. Don’t shoot the messenger. Here’s a completely unrelated cat video from the DoDo that hit my stream today.
Over a week ago — I’m waaaaay ahead of schedule on writing my posts — I finished a massive and tedious binging of Boston Legal. I had never seen the show before, but considering my love of so many of those actors, and the occasional scene hitting my social media streams, that’s surprising, but I’ve remedied it.
To start, I’ll say that I’m most certainly not one of those people that complains how badly movies and TV shows get things wrong. I have a physics degree. I’ve worked in software engineering for almost a decade. I have a law degree, and have worked as an attorney for more than twice that time. Some of you have medical degrees. Many of us have practical, professional experience that makes us experts in our respective fields. Every single expertise seems downright ridiculed by entertainment media, and sometimes experts get uptight about that. I don’t. I get it. Most people are not experts in any given area, so most people don’t notice the ridiculousness in any given show. That means that, even if what’s presented is utterly ridiculous, most viewers won’t know or won’t care. Moreover, experts in one area will be annoyed by only those shows getting their expertise wrong, meaning that they’ll usually wind up in the category of not knowing or caring. It’s about playing the odds, and the odds are stacked in favor of drama over reality. That makes sense. There’s nothing wrong with it.
But c’mon! Sneaking firearms into court and firing them off, and not getting disbarred and thrown in jail!? Are non-attorneys not annoyed by that?! Really?! There were just so many insane things that happened that would land these “lawyers” in jail long before the state bars could disbar them, though that would happen eventually.
But okay, okay! It’s fine. It was a fun show. The political pontificating was annoying at times, but it helped me relive the emotion of those days which are over a decade behind us. It genuinely triggered my nostalgia. Having my favorite actor, William Shatner, as one of the main characters certainly helped.
I’ve done a lot of lists on this blog. A lot of people have done lists of the greatest D&D mods*** ever. So, I’m going to do a list of my favorite D&D mods. One comes from 3rdEdition D&D (“3e”), but the rest come from 1st Edition D&D (“1e”). However, unlike most people, I’m not going to attempt to give you an objective analysis as to why these are the best mods. This is a purely subjective topic, and I’m not one to deny my lizard brain nature. I fully admit that the reason a mod is going to appear on this list is emotional in nature. Still, you should consider running them in whatever system you’re using. If for no other reason, you’ll witness the inspiration for your favorite adventures. In terms of the 1st Edition D&D (“1e”) mods on this list, these were the pioneers.
*** I once used the word, “mod,” for what others call adventure or module and received an odd amount of pushback. One person even accused me of lying that it’s what I called them growing up, as if there could possibly be a motivation for something like that. I grew up in Montgomery County, MD, and every single person I gamed with called it mod. We also occasionally used the terms adventure and module, but the point is that “mod” was the standard term. Your regional dialect, or even your specific gaming group, may have a different experience. I don’t care. I shouldn’t have had to write this aside, but if I didn’t, I might receive the same pushback over something that shouldn’t matter at all.
I left RPGs in 1982 due to the Satanic Panic. I returned in 2005 during the days of 3e. The first homebrew campaign I ran started with an adaptation of this mod. For what it’s worth, several of the players told me they enjoyed it quite a bit. It was nothing groundbreaking, so my sentimental attachment can get it only so high on this list, but it was very good, and it was written by one of the best DMs in the business.
Starts with a puzzle, which we got right, and I’ve had to change ever since. Then you’re given three paths to take, each of which leads you to one of three magic weapons you’re tasked to retrieve. These three weapons have maintained their iconic status in every edition of D&D since. There are more puzzles, both direct and logical (easily modified for repeat players), and some iconic monsters. The mod was the first one I played or ran that made great use of hindering terrain. Acknowledging that aspect of the writing, I was particularly proud of my conversion of the kelpie encounter to 4th Edition D&D.
D&D didn’t get me into mythology. Mythology got me into D&D. I wasn’t terribly familiar with Central American mythology, and even less familiar with other aspects of the culture. According to Jeff (who I spoke with through Facebook), Harold was the one that did research on the cultural aspects of the mod. He did a decent job, sprinkling in appropriate imagery and language. I used his work as a springboard to provide even more immersion. As I mentioned previously, I acquired sound files of Nahuatl phrases, both common and specifically used in the mod. I love this mod so much, I own two physical copies, one of each version. I’m always prepared to run it.
I loved Star Trek. I loved D&D. If it weren’t for the next entry on my list, this would be my favorite adventure ever. It was hard for me to run as a kid because there are a lot of rooms to prepare, and it was essentially a hack-and-slash dungeon crawl, but what a “dungeon” it was. Malfunctioning androids and robots, strange natural creatures from other worlds, but also an intellect devourer, a mind flayer (with what effectively amounted to a phaser), and a bulette to keep it grounded in fantasy. Love it.
This is my favorite mod ever, in no small part because of the artwork of Jeff Dee, which always makes mods more memorable to me. However, the mod’s content stands on its own. As a competition mod, it was designed to kill off everyone to assure that there was a clear winner at the end of the adventure. Sure, there were hack-and-slash encounters amounting to nothing more than resource drains, but there were also puzzles, which I love. The tower itself had a clever theme, with each level (before the last) representing a different element: air, earth, fire, and water. The water level has a nice twist to it as well, and the earth level has one of my favorite monsters from mythology.
By the way, this arrived today.
It’s not in the best of shape, but you should expect that from something so old. Note, though that it was reasonably priced, and I haven’t found any coffee stains yet. Will this make it into the top 5? Probably not, but I hear it’s really good, and it’s next on my scheduled mods to run after Keep on the Borderlands.
There are a bunch of other mods I love, but I’m not going to make a top 50 list.
This was a timely question to ask me because this Saturday I’m going to run 1st Edition AD&D for the first time since 1982. I’m going to suck, but I don’t think anyone’s going to care. This is not only their chance to play a game, but also their chance to play an edition (relatively) rarely played today.