Monday, May 28, 2012

My Least Favorite Edition of D&D

[Using a broad definition of D&D to include all editions, retro-clones, etc.]

I started with the blue dragon, had the white box LBB, but really grew up on AD&D Efreeti and Gem Eyes.   Played some in highschool and college. Then 2ed splat mania + too many crap products + (in retrospect) the shift in style, structure, and substance of those products as compared to 1ed era drove me from D&D (into other RPGs).

Time passes...

I returned to D&D a little after 3.5 release.  I've since run and played enough of OD&D(Swords & Wizardry), Basic(Labyrinth Lord), AD&D(OSRIC), 3.5, and 4ed to arrive at the following opinion.

AD&D including (and even more so) 2ed is my least favorite edition of D&D to run/play.  This was news to me as it's the edition I've played and run the most.  The DMG is still a good resource and many of the classic modules I'll try to weave into campaigns.  But, I won't be using AD&D rules to run them.

AD&D and it's clones are just so horribly fiddly, filled with wildly inconsistent levels of simulation and detail.  Baroque were simple would suffice, vague or abstract were a little more is needed.  Too many "broken" classes, combos and rules. It's the shored up, chronically patched half-way house between the wild and loose "earlier" systems and the mechanistic edifices to game theory of later editions.

There's a reason we have sayings along the lines of "right tool for the right job", "do one thing and do it well", "don't try to be all things to all people".  It's cause of people like me.

I enjoy the ends of the spectrum. Where games, successful or not at getting there, at least know what they want to be. Sometimes I crave a fine dark chocolate. Sometimes an oily, 100% natural nut butter, the type that requires stirring. But, my desire for a waxy chocolate covered peanut like fudge thing is quite low.

Sorry, dudes.

18 comments:

  1. AD&D is my favourite edition, precisely because it's a shored up, chronically patched half-way house between the wild and loose and the mechanistic. I never assumed anything in any of the rulebooks was anything other than optional: we run a seat-of-the-pants game, and if we decide we needed more in depth rules on casting spells underwater or getting lost in the desert we may or may not call upon the DMG and its myriad guidelines. Later editions I find too "unified" to easily use or discard rules at my leisure.

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  2. Reminds me of a story.

    I was hanging out with my Community College Computer Science club members. They were working on the robot for a maze solving competition. I made a joke wondering what the robot dreamed about to my friend brought me there. She didn't get it. Her boyfriend did and responded appropriately. Annoyed, she said loudly, "I don't really like classic Science Fiction."
    At that point someone dropped a pin on the floor. I know, because I heard it hit the carpet. Finally, after the better part of a minute (which as everyone knows is the first 5 seconds or so, before the mind wanders) a voice from the corner, "And so, the Shunning begins."

    Not sure why I thought that was relevant. Oh wait...

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  3. 1e has some unique good points and bad points. On the plus side there assumption that the PCs will have a mega-dungeon to run around in and the wisdom of Gygax in the books. The downside is the actual rules themselves. There's some failed experiments tacked onto oD&D.

    I think the key to appreciating 1e is to play it like a 10 year old would: skimming it and ignoring most. What you're left with is a lot like oD&D with more monsters and classes. What does one really need to play beyond monster stats, spell descriptions and a few charts?

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    1. Yeah, I think that's really good advice. I didn't have nearly so many problems with AD&D when I was playing it as a kid. Then when I analysed it I identified a whole bunch of problems, but I was analysing the rules as written, not the game I was playing.

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  5. Thanks for saying this. I've always been afraid to publicly express my dislike of AD&D. I love the MM and the PHB, but the DMG is way too fiddly and difficult to use without selectively ignoring or revising large portions of the text.

    The DMG almost scared me away from gaming when I was a kid. Luckily in the mid-1980s I made a conscious decision to switch back to D&D and stop worrying about disease tables, weapon size to hit modifiers, etc. Whew... It's much easier to add material to stable framework than to subtract material from a fragile and complicated mess.

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  6. Yeah, I can see where you are coming from. When I was playing "AD&D" alot in junior high I only had the Players Guide and was getting all my DM rules from the Moldvay basic set. Playing that way worked really well for me but I think I would have run into alot of trouble if I had the Dungeon Masters Guide at that point. Although it is great reading material I would never want to play AD&D as is straight from the book.

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    1. I've always felt the AD&D DMG never created any good DMs, but it sure created some bad ones.

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  7. I would love to see something as simple as Basic with all the class and race options of 3rd edition on. Heck as simple as basic with a simplified 4th edition power scheme and LOWER Hit Point might even be cool.

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    1. Something like what's in the D&D Next playtest document you mean?

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    2. +1, they said they were trying to bring together the best of all the editions, and so far they seem to be delivering

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  8. What? I thought all D&D bloggers were required to proclaim that 4e is worse than the rapture, global warming, and the zombie apocalypse rolled into one. You admit that some people enjoy the game? Inconceivable!

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  9. @ Norm: I completely grok where you're coming from, though I'd still rank 2E lower than 1E (more style in original version).

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  10. "AD&D including (and even more so) 2ed is my least favorite edition of D&D to run/play. This was news to me as it's the edition I've played and run the most."

    Funny, I came to the same conclusion at NTRPG Con two years ago.

    I now like to play the extreme opposites of Pathfinder and Swords & Wizardry. I know exactly what I am getting with each and each fits the bill nicely for the type of games I want to play.

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  11. Over the past 2 years of reading OSR blogs I've come to realise that I never did play ADnD: I played b/x with a few extra classes and monsters. Now I play Searchers of the Unknown in Carcosa. That's about all the rules I can stand.

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  12. Thanks for all the commentary and not the knee-jerk flames I feared. Seems this topic (both sides) struck a chord with many.


    @leadjunkie "...the extreme opposites of Pathfinder and Swords & Wizardry. I know exactly what I am getting with each and each fits the bill nicely for the type of games I want to play."

    Exactly.

    @JB
    Definitely 2e is worse. Raw (PHB/DMG) AD&D can be stripped down to something close. 2e has too much baggage and expectation from players.

    @Anonymous "What you're left with is a lot like oD&D with more monsters and classes"

    Yeah. Myself (and others apparently) find it better to sart with OD&D (or LL) and add the monsters, magic, maybe classes (I'm kind of against niche classes) rather than other way round.

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  13. OD&D plus 1975's GREYHAWK supplement has 90% of what is cool in AD&D, with less than 10% of what sucks in AD&D.

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  14. 2E is perhaps the perfect edition of D&D, because it can be anything you want it to be, and it fixed most of what was wrong with 1E (which we had houseruled the crap out of anyway before we moved to 2E). I often wonder if people complaining about all the fiddly parts and supplements didn't realize they don't need to use any of them....I guess not because people are always bitching about them.

    My dislike of OD&D starts with the horribly written rules set and goes from there. I'd rather play chutes and ladders than anything approximating OD&D (Not including Swords & Wizardry, which actually makes OD&D a playable game and fixes most of it).

    4E isn't really a roleplaying game so it's really hard to include it in the discussion. Total Fail as an RPG, perhaps fun as a miniature combat game.

    The game I am really warming up to is B/X D&D, because it's so darn easy to set up and play and really requires very little out of either players or DMs.

    Sorry Norman it was too sweet and friendly in here, had to drop a few hand grenades!!!

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