Friday, November 7, 2008

My Old Flame, 1st Edition

I have to admit, I still love 1st edition AD&D. Sure, the rules are whacky and labyrinthine, but there's an undeniable core of fun that beats at the heart of the game. Sure, I love 4e (duh!), but there's something nifty about 1e. Whether it's the art, Gygax's prose, or the fundamental simplicity of the game, I'm always drawn back to it.

The thing is, I've been playing D&D in its various forms for over 25 years now. There are things in AD&D that still really bug me. I have half a mind that, once I get a replacement laptop, I'm going to embark on my own, personal redesign of bits and pieces of the game. Not a redesign in the sense of adding a skill system or rebuilding things from scratch, but more from the perspective of having played a lot of (A)D&D and learned what I think works, and what I think doesn't.

Really, the list of things to change is short and almost entirely wrapped up in character classes. To whit:

  1. The fighter could use some other toy to play with. Rangers and paladins are strictly better, and that bugs me. I'd want to see something simple and in keeping with the spirit of AD&D, more like "+1 attack when using a weapon you are proficient with" than a feat or maneuver based approach of 3e or 4e.
  2. The thief, oh the poor thief. From those who curse its appearance in OD&D, to people like me who really want to play the Gray Mouser without feeling like a chump, I'm not sure this class really makes anyone happy. I'd look to do a radical revision, though I'm not sure exactly what I'd want. Remove the proto-skill system? Make it a fighter sub-class more in-line with a swashbuckler? I'm not 100% sure.
  3. The assassin is stuck in the same boat as the thief. This is the class I'd like to see embrace the backstab/assassination mechanic. To me, that's interesting, but I think the thief's backstab makes the assassin semi-pointless.
  4. The monk! OK, I love the concept of the monk, but I always disliked Gary's implementation of it. The monk falls into the same category as the magic-user, in that you have to manage to survive low-level in order to gain massive power at higher levels. However, the magic-user's fundamental weaknesses remain at all levels. Whether a lowly prestidigitator or a mighty wizard, the M-U breaks into a cold sweat when a nasty ogre shuffles up to him. The monk, on the other hand, carpets over his weaknesses with innate, constant abilities. Having played a monk at low and high levels, it is essentially two classes. That shift in playstyle bugs me, and is far too bald a filter between a weak and strong character. I'd seek to balance the monk, strengthening it at low levels and toning it down at upper levels.
I'm not sure I'd change much else. Sure, initiative needs to be fixed up, but that's not something I see as critical. After all, people have played the game for decades without that getting in the way. The class issues are more topics that, for me at least, make the game less enjoyable.


noisms said...

I think they fixed the fighter problem pretty well in 2nd edition by having it be the only class with weapon specialisation. That was a huge advantage over the paladin and ranger, especially at lower levels.

Unknown said...

What? The thief kept everyone happy. He leveled up faster than anyone else. It's intensely over-powered.

The Dungeon Delver said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Dungeon Delver said...

Look, everybody, Mike Mearles discovered 2e.

Rolling-of-the-eyes emoticon goes here.

There's nothing wrong with the thief. You have not quantified what might be wrong with the thief other than some vague comment about nobody wanting to play one. Or at least you not wanting to play one.

"Assassins should embrace the backstab and assassination mechanic" BUH? Mike, do you need a copy of the Players Handbook? I've got like a dozen, I'd be happy to give you one. There's this whole thing in there about assassins and backstab and the assassination tables and...

Rangers and Paladins are strictly better. It's also not easy to be a ranger or paladin so it isn't as though the bog standard fighter is being outshone at every turn to begin with, unless you're a "gimme" DM who just lets players cherry pick the class and press ahead. Fighters: get percentile strength increases, have the best to-hit table, get more weapon proficiencies, and on and on. There's more to being a fighter than having an awesome skillset. Indeed there's more to playing AD&D than having an awesome set of stats.

Mike, you don't want a new, tweaked version of AD&D, you want to play a 3eish game with power rampups, wrapped up in a feels like AD&D skin. It's one thing to tweak AD&D, to play around with it some, but there's a point at which you're not fixing the house, you're demolishing it and starting over and then trying to say "Hey! It's the same house!"

Mike Mearls said...

"There's nothing wrong with the thief."

Man, you need to check out the various and sundry OD&D forums out there.

StormBringer said...

OD&D forums that are populated by gamers that want to play Grey Mouser, instead of gamers that want to play a character like Grey Mouser. OD&D or AD&D later on weren't really designed for playing Conan or the Grey Mouser. They were designed for playing characters of that ilk. As I mention on theRPGsite, the game was meant for genre emulation not genre simulation.

Mike Mearls said...

True, but if I was happy with AD&D in that mode, I wouldn't have an urge to house rule it!

I'll freely admit to discovering Leiber's stories at a young age. They had a big impact on how I view fantasy. I didn't read REH until relatively later (teens), and at that point my tastes in D&D had solidified. I imagine that if my exposure to the two authors were reversed, I'd be poking at the UA barbarian, trying to bring it back into line with the PH classes.

Mighty Veil said...

I once asked EGG about the origins of the classes. Here's what he said about the thief:

Gray Mouser...or from contemporary stories of cat burglars such as Raffles. Also getting a strong mention is Zelazny's Jack of Shadows.