[Where I read] AD&D First Edition

brianm

Registered User
Validated User
#11
A great idea, and I look forward to hearing about the hidden gems I've missed. When my wife started DMing, I marked a few sections in my 1st edition DMG for her to read, especially Monsters and Organization (pp. 104-105), as extremely useful reads, even though we were not going to be playing 1st edition.

The Game: Here Gygax does state that AD&D is intended to fall more into the "Game" school of thought than the "Realism-Simulationism" school. However, his definitions of these schools of thought seem a bit different than our modern usages. He stresses that AD&D does not endeavor to simulate any kind of hard reality, but that it is a game for enjoyment. Nowhere does immersion enter into his estimation of simulationism vs. gamism, and indeed quite a few times throughout the text he's very explicit that players should become immersed in their characters.
Yep. Most of us assumed everyone was trying for immersion. If you weren't, you might as well play the Dungeon! boardgame, or maybe a bit of chess. The entire point of RPGs was the sense of "You are there!". Or, at least, it was for everyone I played with. The argument between gamism and simulationism back then was primarily about finding the golden mean between too little detail making the game feel fake, and too much detail getting in the way of immersion.

- Brian
 

blizack

ghostmode
Validated User
#12
So Gygax stresses getting into character and downplays miniatures? That doesn't match up with what's been written by people who actually played D&D with him:

...we struggled through a wilderness adventure in a looking-glass world of carnivorous plants, invisible terrain, breathable water, and so on. All of which Gygax presented with a minimum of fuss. The author of Dungeons & Dragons doesn’t much care for role-playing: “If I want to do that,” he said, “I’ll join an amateur theater group.” In fact, D&D, as DM’ed by E. Gary Gygax, is not unlike a miniatures combat game.
From here: http://www.believermag.com/issues/200609/?read=article_lafarge

Didn't he also argue in Dragon that you were free to change the rules, but that if you did, you were no longer playing D&D? Did I just dream that up?
 

(un)reason

Making the Legend
Validated User
#13
Man, I've really started something this time. People just love D&D's history, don't they. Have fun. I just hope there's enough room in my sig for everyone.
 
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The Grey Elf

is the Master!
Validated User
#15
CREATING THE PLAYER CHARACTER
Generation of Ability Scores: Not much to say about this section. Here we get options for those who don't like 3d6, straight down the line. Gygax himself implies that the system from the PHB isn't the best system, as it tends to generate mediocre characters with short life expectancies. Here we see four methods of character generation, which clearly lend themselves to four different styles of play. These include the standard 4d6, keep 3, arrange to taste; roll 12 times and keep the best six; roll each stat 6 times (in order), keeping the best individual 6 results; roll twelve sets of character stats and keep the best set. My feeling, not having tested these, is that method 3 is the most "munchkin" of the bunch, with method 4 a close second. Methods 1 and 2 seem somewhat balanced in terms of creating good characters without making ubermensch, but that's just a gut feeling.

Non-Player Characters: This section seems completely out of place here; it gives instruction for generating NPC stats...but the rest of the information on NPC generation isn't for another 99 pages. Advice for stat generation is standard fare: set the stats for important NPC's, use 3d6 for others.

Effect of Wishes on Character Ability Scores: Oh, and how this was needed back in the day! Everyone was itching for the Wish spell to turn their fighter into a powerhouse with 21 strength! However, it, too, feels out of place; it should be included in the "Character Spells" section with the rest of the spell restrictions, as the effect of a Wish spell has nothing to do with creating the player character.

We are now starting to see the first stirrings of problems that would later contribute to the "AD&D is complicated!" syndrome. The book, right from the beginning, has a tendency to read somewhat stream-of-consciousness, as though it is being compiled from reams of notes without a clear outline or organizational plan (which I am guessing isn't far from the truth).

Characteristics for Player Characters: Here we have a fun--if very brief--section involving creating the persona of PC's. It advises against using the NPC characteristic charts found later in the book (though I found those intriguing enough that a character could be randomly built from them) and encourages creativity on the part of the player. I feel a bit like this would've been better served in the Player's Handbook, one of several sections that left me with that feeling.

Player Character Non-Professional Skills: The first attempt to include a skills system into AD&D. Unfortunately, there's not much of an actual system to be found here. Rather, we have a list of medieval professions with a paragraph basically telling the DM to "Figure out how to use them yourself." A tad lazy, to be honest, given that all that was needed was brief writeups (to the tune of a few sentences) of each profession and a simple Ability Check roll-under system to complete it, say, "Roll under your Ability, using 1/2 character level as a bonus to the check"; such a system was later accomplished with the Nonweapon Proficiency system presented in the Wilderness and Dungeoneer's Survival Guides and Oriental Adventures and represents a superior skills system. Still, it's nice to see the bare bones introduced so early in the game.

Staring Level of Experience for Player Characters: This is an interesting section. It deals with the idea that games should start at first level, because part of the fun is actually surviving to second, third, and fourth. I've always agreed with this sentiment and newer games that have tried to make characters "more survivable" at lower levels leave a bad taste in my mouth exactly because they lose the fun of making it to second level, the sense of accomplishment that comes from advancing a character through those weak, formative stages. In AD&D, actually surviving to Level 2 gave you an investment in your character that, IMHO, later games with their powered-up low-level characters just don't provide.

Also interesting in this section is an assumption (largely lost in modern games) that a DM will be running more than one group in his world, and that all such gaming groups are part of the same campaign, just adventuring separately. I wonder if the world is that different, if we really have that much less time on our hands these days, that this doesn't happen anymore, or if Gygax and his cohorts were just that much more invested in role playing than the average player back then. I have vague memories in the 80's, though, of playing with DMs who ran multiple groups simultaneously in their worlds. It's been a very, very long time since then, though.
 

The Grey Elf

is the Master!
Validated User
#16
So Gygax stresses getting into character and downplays miniatures? That doesn't match up with what's been written by people who actually played D&D with him:

From here: http://www.believermag.com/issues/200609/?read=article_lafarge

Didn't he also argue in Dragon that you were free to change the rules, but that if you did, you were no longer playing D&D? Did I just dream that up?
And Tolkien, over the course of his life, gave three or four contradictory reasons for writing Lord of the Rings.

George Lucas once claimed he wanted Star Wars to be 12 movies. Then 9. Then claimed he never wanted more than 6. Now he's working on the 7th.

C.S. Lewis once claimed Narnia wasn't about Christ at all. The he said it was. Then he said it just wasn't an allegory (this after Tolkien lit into him for being too brash with his intent).

I've also seen reports that Gygax was very into role playing in his sessions.

I'm only dealing with the intent of the game as written in the rulebooks. Whether he later changed his mind once, twice, or ten times is moot. The game is what it is, and what's written between those covers is what's written.

I'm sure (un)reason will deal with the Dragon Magazine article when that thread reaches the appropriate issue, though.
 
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g026r

I'm a boat
Validated User
#18
I feel a bit like this would've been better served in the Player's Handbook, one of several sections that left me with that feeling.
On this one, I most definitely agree: there are several sections in the DMG that I read and go "Why is this here and not in the PHB?".

Personally, I think it has something to do with the semi-stream-of-conscious style and the fact that the DMG was the last of the three books to be completed. In other words, everything that they realised should have been in the PHB following its publication but wasn't probably got tossed in.

(All just IMO, of course.)
 

The Grey Elf

is the Master!
Validated User
#19
On this one, I most definitely agree: there are several sections in the DMG that I read and go "Why is this here and not in the PHB?".

Personally, I think it has something to do with the semi-stream-of-conscious style and the fact that the DMG was the last of the three books to be completed. In other words, everything that they realised should have been in the PHB following its publication but wasn't probably got tossed in.

(All just IMO, of course.)
That's a good thought, and more than likely close to the truth. I know Gygax, before he was unceremoniously ousted from his own company (a bitter justice after what went down with Arneson?) was intending on a second edition of his own. It's possible that some of those issues would've been rectified, but we'll never know for sure.

Later, when I get to combat, I'll discuss why miniatures, the way they are at the core of 3.x, cannot have been the intent of AD&D, but in short: there are no miniatures-based rules in AD&D; only movement scales.
 

blizack

ghostmode
Validated User
#20
I'm only dealing with the intent of the game as written in the rulebooks. Whether he later changed his mind once, twice, or ten times is moot. The game is what it is, and what's written between those covers is what's written.

I'm sure (un)reason will deal with the Dragon Magazine article when that thread reaches the appropriate issue, though.
My intent wasn't to derail the thread, but it sounds as though you intend to use it, at least partially, to argue that miniatures weren't a major part of Gygax's conception of the game, and that rules flexibility and deep roleplaying were foremost among his priorities. I mean, you essentially accuse Skip Williams of betraying his vision. I just wanted to point out that there is quite a bit of evidence to the contrary.
 
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