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The day has finally passed. I ran 1st Edition AD&D (“1e“) for the first time since 1982. Because I was asked, I’ll say that I think the last game I ran was S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. Last Saturday, it was B2: The Keep on the Borderlands, or, to be more specific, a conversion of B2 from basic to 1e. I have several observations.
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.
I’m still not holding a housewarming.
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[…] forward to today, and I’m running my first 1st Edition Dungeons & Dragons game in 40 years and am on the cusp of returning to 4th Edition. I’m actually getting to play what I want because […]