Monday, December 5, 2011

1st edition

So, this weekend I'm running a 1st edition AD&D game. My thinking was: it's been too long since I played my favorite game, which I also happen to believe is the finest roleplaying game ever published: 1st edition AD&D. CALL OF CTHULHU is a fine game, and it's my game of choice these days, but that's mainly because I didn't make the jump from Third to Fourth Edition. I've played Fourth Edition, and enjoyed it, but it was the camraderie around the table I was enjoying and not the rules system. Even after a year or so of occasional gaming in 4e it never really came together for me: it felt like a miniatures game with a card game overlaid on it, with an optional roleplaying veneer on top of that. Third Edition, for all its faults, was still recognizably D&D. Fourth Edition, for all its virtues, feels more like an attempt to re-create the experience of playing a computer game. It's kind of like a novelization to a movie: a reminder of something you enjoyed rather than something to enjoy in its own right.

So why first edition? Well, consider that it's the most successful roleplaying game of all time. Millions of people played it obsessively for years. And while a good deal of time has passed since then, there's no reason to think the rules won't still work as well as they ever did. Just as there are some books I loved to read back in the day that are just as good as they ever were when I pull them off the shelf now, there are some old classic games that I still enjoy as much as ever when I get the chance to play them. Which isn't nearly often enough.

Of course, it's also true that there are some things that don't age well; once-favorite books that no longer have the same appeal. When I occasionally mention my enduring fondness for the classic game, I'm often told in response that it's just nostalgia speaking, with the implication that the game only gets better with every new edition.

So, let's see. I've got a group of a half-dozen or so who've expressed an interest in playing. I've picked the adventure and am jotting down notes as to monsters, traps, and treasures they may encounter. And I'm immersed in skimming through the PH and DMG to remind myself of the rules, rather than just rely on my memory (it has after all been a few years). Come Saturday they'll bring the characters they rolled up and we'll see how it goes.

--John R.

Oh, and The Wife Says: What's Up with all that Tiny Print?* We must have all had better eyesight back then. --JDR

*i.e., in the orignal PH, DMG, and MM.


grodog said...

That sounds awesome, John! :D If you have some rules Qs you want to vette, or you're just looking for 1e inspiration, I recommend the Knighs & Knaves boards @, and Dragonsfoot @ I happen to prefer K&K, but many folks like the broader and more inclusive DF take on the game (K&K is more AD&D focused vs. DF with AD&D 1e and 2e + Basic in several flavors + OD&D, etc.).

K&K is also the home for the OSRIC retroclone, which may be a good way for your players to reconnect to the AD&D rules if they don't own the books any longer (and, if they want the physical book, Black Blade publishes a very nice 400 page hardcover for $26: basically the PHB+ DMG + MM under one cover).

What are you planning to run---a published adventure, or one of your own?


Zenopus Archives said...

Great news! Let us know how it goes.

Could you share a bit about how/when you originally started playing D&D?

Joel said...

Hi, I came across your site and wasn’t able to get an email address to contact you. Would you please consider adding a link to my website on your page. Please email me.


Joel Houston

John D. Rateliff said...

Dear Grodog:
Thanks for the information. I hadn't known about the OSRIC movement, nor Knights & Knaves, though I had heard in passing about Dragonsfoot (a friend of mine having recently expressed an intent to run it sometime early in the new year).
The thing is, having the 1st ed. PH, MM, & DMG on my shelves means I don't need anyone's re-creation of the 1st edition rules: I have the game itself, right there on my shelf, ready to play as is. I'll no doubt check out some of these modern-day retro variants out of curiosity, but it'll be 1st ed. itself that I play, given the choice.

Dear Zenopus:
I started playing while working on my Master's at Fayetteville in February 1980 at the local hobby shop. The first version of the game I played turned out to be something called the Cal-Tech Rules, which I still have a (photo-)copy of somewhere. But I wasn't able to get a steady group going until my second semester at Marquette (spring 1982). I think I told a simplified version of the story in an interview on Monte Cook's website, but that's quite some time ago.

--John R.

grodog said...


Even as an OSRIC publisher, that's what we do: play with our AD&D books. So, no worries there. I know that many folks no longer have their old books, although I didn't expect that you'd fall into that category (given your historian/scholar/librarian nature :D ).


Zenopus Archives said...

Thanks for the info, John. I found the Monte Cook interview: lots of info there!

Interesting and atypical ruleset to have started with. I assume these were a version of the rules published as Warlock (later Complete Warlock) by the Caltech group in the 70s? J Eric Holmes used an early version of Warlock when he started playing to help him understand the original D&D rules.