Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Thoughts of AD&D
As enamored as I am of the marvelous array of recent Retros, I can't help (more and more lately) but miss the big boy of my misspent youth, AD&D (1E). Despite all it's sometimes inscrutable and conflicting rules, there remains nonetheless an undeniable baroque charm about the whole glorious mess. Certainly, some of that is the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia, which I will freely admit (despite it being not particularly "trendy" to admit), but its just a damn good game, which should be obvious as, anecdotally at least, it would seem to have the largest uninterrupted following. That is to say, more people have been playing AD&D 1E since it first came out and simply never stopped (despite the release of several editions, and versions of editions, since) playing and still play, than any other older edition. OD&D, B/X, and Rules Cyclopedia certainly have their followings, but I can't find much evidence that there are large uninterrupted followings.
And those clunky 1E rules? Who really noticed them, back in say, 1985 or so? You just played around them, or ignored them, or in my case at least, had no idea you weren't really using a lot of those rules to begin with: it seems to me a lot of us were really using B/X combat rules, with a lot of weird stuff from Dragon magazine thrown in for good measure. AD&D, in actual practice, to me and I suspect many others, was three very cool books full of stuff to tack on to the B/X basic core structure we had already pretty much subsumed from those first few introductory games. Sure, we adopted the new ability score bonuses (more about those later), but we had to figure out ways to min-max our ability generation a bit better to accommodate that - and lo and behold the DMG gave us several ways to do so! That's just one example of how AD&D may have introduced some, shall we say, less efficient ways of doing things, but seemed to recognize that and provide some rules-relief (though perhaps buried in the middle of an unrelated paragraph on aerial combat rules somewhere in the DMG!).
Perhaps I'm not being clear here; its not particularly easy to put into words, but I'll try and sum it up if you'll forgive some generalization: AD&D, when broken into little pieces, has some almost unforgivably bizarre idiosyncrasies. But when taken as the sum of its parts, its really an admirable achievement, and highly unlikely ever to be repeated, or reproduced.
Lets take an in-depth look at the system, piece by piece, and the differences between it and the earlier (and later) versions of the game.
More to follow...