“It’s your job to create events outside the standard sequence of ‘I roll to hit. They roll to hit. I roll to hit.'” — Matt Finch
“Playing the game as written removes an astounding number of the problems people had with AD&D.” — -C
It’s funny how things like this get started. A Dungeon Master doesn’t always get to pick what’s actually getting to going to get played. Someone might mention in passing how this or that ruleset or module is kind of cool. Then it starts coming up in conversation off and on until somebody else declares that they would totally do something like that. Before you know it you’ve got the required critical mass to trigger the sort of planning and coordination it takes to get a game off the ground.
That’s how is with the Eastern style campaign idea that’s currently getting kicked around. Certainly, first edition AD&D was never really at the top of my “want to run” list. I’ve always assumed it’s just too much game for what I’d normally want to do. In spite of how the old Oriental Adventures book as fallen out of fashion over the years, it nevertheless retains a surprising amount of cachet. And as long as I’ve had this volume in my collection, it does gall me that I couldn’t really tell you how its contents would work in actual play.
The biggest strike against it for me has always been the bewildering, incomprehensible, and fantastically Byzantine combat rules. I could never really make myself slog through them all, to tell you the truth. Taking a hard look at the Oriental Adventures rule book the past few days, I was surprised to see that it seems to tacitly repudiate the combat rules of its parent game while assuming that players will be doing something much closer to B/X in practice. It dawned on my that I could actually run the thing. Or large swaths of it, anyway.
At the very least, the summary of the combat sequence there in the Oriental Adventures rules is easy to understand. Using it as a starting point, it’s possible to flesh it out by dropping in portions of the Dungeon Masters Guide that make sense. Anything that seems missing or that is overly confusing can be patched up by interpolating rules of thumb from other, better edited variants of the game that I’ve played incorrectly for decades.
Here’s a summary of what I get doing just that:
You know, James Maliszewski said that most people “ignored weapon proficiencies, segment-based combat rounds, grappling/pummeling/overbearing, helmet rules, and a host of other distinctive elements of AD&D” back in the day. At this point, I have to wonder how much of of even the core combat sequence got used.
Or course, it’s kind of a running gag in the game blog scene that if you consult Gygax’s AD&D books for something, you always always ALWAYS end up stumbling across something that you’ve never seen before, so I expect this sort of thing, really. But it still kind of blows my mind!! I mean… when you think of all the complaints that have ever been levelled at old school D&D combat over the years, it’s just plain gobsmacking to think that there was plenty in the books that directly addressed so many of the commonly perceived issues with the game.
But there it is. The morale and reaction rules not only shorten the time it takes to resolve combat by having the monsters run away when it’s clear they’re outmatched… but they actually include a means to get the two sides talking and negotiating even after the trading of blows has ensued! And in a clash between two rival gangs, a combination of casualties and desertions can trigger a death spiral that rapidly causes an entire line of fighting men to disintegrate!
Given that role-playing originally grew out of miniatures wargames, it shouldn’t be that surprising to come across this sort of thing in one of Gygax’s books. Still, it’s hard to believe that this was right there all this time. (Granted, I was forbidden from looking inside the DM’s guide back when it ruled the roost. I’m naturally going to be somewhat late to the party….) While I tend to prefer the leaner, meaner rules of the Moldvay Basic set to the imposing tomes of AD&D, I have to admit that this is something I could stand to have in my game. Certainly, this sort of accurate modelling of a fighting force’s cohesiveness is not something I would think incorporate into a game where I am simply being as “imaginative” as possible!
He’s focusing on minis wargames these days, but Stelios V. Perdios had a pretty good 2e OSR blog called D20 Dark Ages.
“The mega-dungeon– which was not publishable until recently”
What is “the mega-dungeon”?
Why was it not publishable?
A public game is hard because you don’t know who is going to show up. We get some players with some legitimate difficulties in social settings, not awkward gamers, I mean people that have a state appointed handler. I rule the table with a much firmer hand than is necessary in most games, but it is done to make sure everyone gets to play, everyone gets to have fun, and it works. Oddly though, the wild west atmosphere frees me up to work on the thing, experiment, and really react to the players and riff off what they are wanting. The average home game you are playing with people you’ve known for years and ironically I think is a harder crowd. With my library game I am out there dancing, sweating, trying to keep this thing from running into a ditch. Thanks to the players it works. People show up desperate to play. I get away with a lot, probably more than I could with my jaded friends. Not that I wouldn’t love to sit down with my jaded friends and play if adulthood wasn’t constantly in the way.
There has been a lot of analysis of the Oriental Adventures hardcover which didn’t get much playtesting before it was released. Are you planning to run it by the book or do you intend to fix some of the disparities found in the rules. In particular some spells are lackluster for their level and the whole martial arts subsystem, while nifty, has some super-optimal builds.
The book is also more written for social and political themes and conflicts with court skills and family and birthright tables. The birthright table is another interesting subystem, the family table less so. The book implies you are running a political game with PCs having family responsibilities and a daimyo or other superior they work for as part of an ordered society. Rather than as mercenaries or adventurer outsiders who work as free agents.
I would be very curious to read how you end up running those games. And I mean the minutiae. I had the AD&D Player’s Guide and made a few characters and played a handful of games with my young friends back in the day. They were total crap, we were too young/stupid to do it right. I remember the rules being very intimidating, especially in comparison to my red box. I left gaming and came back in time for the tail end of 3.5. Always I wondered what AD&D was really like.
Anyone else hear the Comic Book Guy’s voice when you read the Dragon Forum piece? I can’t be alone.
Lastly, do people consider 2nd edition AD&D grist for the OSR mill? I am used to thinking about B/X, OD&D, BECMI, but AD&D is part of the whole thing too right? What about 3rd and 3.5 represents a dividing line between old school and new school? Who has two thumbs and is late to the discussion, THIS GUY!