29 April 2013

Y is for Yesteryear

It is no secret that I am a fan of older versions of D&D. I'm fact, if I could convince my players, we'd all be playing second edition, maybe even first. Generally this preference stems from a distaste for rules, as the more modern the system, the more encyclopedic one's knowledge of the rules must be to play. But a large portion of this preference is due to nostalgia, and a desire to harken back to the good old days of yesteryear.

The first edition I learned to play was second. My older brother introduced me to the game and I remember taking hours crafting my first character. He was a dwarven fighter with an 18/86 Strength named Mad Gort. You may have read little excerpts of his adventures in previous entries. Ever since then I've had a soft spot for fighters, and dwarves. The game had a strange draw to it I couldn't explain. I felt immensely powerful, something that second edition I believe did very well; though still maintaining power in the DM's hands. It had its problems of course, who could forget the confusing system of THAC0, negative AC, and having to remember when rolling high was good and when rolling low was good? Monsters didn't have CR so it was up to the DM to craft his own encounters and hope it was enough to challenge the players but not overwhelm them.

I remember being totally enraptured in the game, to the point where I played until 3am any night we played. The adventures of the past will always be sacred to me. I think that companies have been capitalizing on nostalgia of late, specifically Wizards of the Coast re-releasing the 1st edition rulebook set. I hear the 2nd edition is in the works as well. I will no doubt buy them both.

In the older editions, I felt as if the world was more oppressive. More threatening and dangerous. Random encounter tables were more common then, and occasionally a die rolled an un-winnable encounter. What did the players do? It revolved more around the ability to think on their feet, do things the rules may not allow for, and most importantly encourage creativity in the players. I ran a game where partway through the story, the game switched from 2nd edition to 3rd edition, because most of my players joined in the era when 3rd edition was the primary version. They felt more comfortable using those rules. Almost immediately I saw a decline in the creativity of the solutions for problems, I saw a drop in the way in which they dictated their actions in combat. In went from "I run at the githyanki and make a downward chop to break his face open" to "I make a charge, moving double my speed to the githyanki and make an attack". The descriptive words were lost. All their solutions to problems somehow incorporate their abilities and powers now, not their minds. Lately I will admit I've purposely presented problems that can't be solved by powers and seen a return to the old form, so one could easily make the argument that the problem was me, but I find I am not the only person to have noticed this change in thinking between editions.

I dont want to sound like I don't like 3rd edition and Pathfinder and the OGL rules in general. They're great. I run two OGL games currently. I'll pick up 5th edition when it comes out and probably convert all my games to it. I'm in the beta currently and running a third game of that, just to try out rules and the like, with a party comprised of my wife, my sister, her boyfriend, my brother, and even my mom. It looks good, and if it holds to the old-school vibe I've been getting so far from it, I'll adopt it. But I'll talk more on that another time. Finally if you love old-school gaming, I encourage you to read a file I previously mentioned called "A Quick Primer For Old School Gaming". Tell me about your favorite editions, what edition you were introduced into the game with, and why you love it so much, then tell me about your favorite memories of yesteryear. Thanks for reading, stay tuned tomorrow for the last day of the A to Z challenge in "Z is for Zero Hour".

Relevant Links
A Quick Primer For Old School Gaming


  1. I'd agree that some of the rule systems are getting a bit much. We're running Skull and Shackles right now and all the rules regarding Infamy, Plunder, Sea Combat, etc., are a lot to take in. I'm lucky to have a group that doesn't have a rules lawyer and is willing to work with house rules.

    1. That must be nice to work without rules lawyers. Both my groups have a rules lawyer, but luckily they both back down when I tell them to drop the discussion. Gotta keep the game going!