Thursday, August 2, 2012

RPG Week: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

AD&D was my first D&D. I probably played a few times in Basic as a young kid, but middle school brought me into the world of AD&D, as that is what everyone played. I don't know if the "advanced" monicker had something to do with that. I loved playing, and had memorized the ability score charts (a fact that bothered my father, as I was a lousy student who couldn't remember his schoolwork). I loved pouring over the modules, and the rulebooks were the only things I read. Now that Wizards of the Coast has reissued the three core rulebooks, I have to ask myself, was it really that great of a game, and why would anyone these days be interested in such a thing?

Well, when you look at the Basic and Expert rules, it was certainly more complicated, and there were a few more options. Your dwarf did not have to be just another dwarf, nor did your elf or halfling. New races arose with the gnome, half-elf, and half-orc. Classes expanded as well, bringing us two of the most legendary classes in the game; the paladin and ranger. It is also the first time (as far as I know) that we see the bard, though it was ridiculously difficult to become one. Other new classes included the druid, assassin, and monk.

The problem with the game is that almost everything had limits, unless you were a human. I don't know about your gaming table, but in my current game (Fourth Edition), no one plays a human. Demi-humans get so much cool stuff, so why bother? They got cool stuff in AD&D as well, but had serious limitations on how powerful they could be. Humans had no limit on what level they could achieve (save where the class had a level limit) and could be of any class. Demi-humans got to be very few of the special classes, most being limited to fighter, thief, and assassin. Elves could be any of those as well as magic-users, half-elves and half-orcs could be clerics, and gnomes could be illusionists; all of which had fairly severe level restrictions. I think this might be the hardest sell to current players. Third Edition did away with these restrictions, and D&D never went back. Many DMs just ignored these rules anyway, which is likely a big part of why they went away.

So, why the re-release? To be positive about it, it is a way to introduce more players to the game's history. To be cynical, they want to make a buck on us old guys who will buy the reprints even though we have our originals still (I certainly do). The investigator in me thinks it is to maintain the copyright on the originals. If you do not use a property for a certain amount to time, you lose it to the public domain. This may be why there are so many Basic/Expert clones out there, though WotC might have included B/X in the open gaming license. AD&D, however, is the old TSR flag ship. It is the rock D&D was built upon. Releasing the books with revamped covers probably protects their rights to them; and that I do not mind.

So, take this as a pseudo-warning. While I loved AD&D, when I go over some of the rules now it seems a tad complicated in an unnecessary way. The books are wonderful, but I think I will stick with my nostalgia, and with Basic D&D.

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