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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

1st Edition AD&D Part I- A walk to remember

The Intro
No, not the book or movie of the same name, but this is the first part of a long ago campaign in the halcyon days of my youth and my gaming friends. And hands down it was one of the best gaming experiences I ever had.

I must first get the sappy stuff out of the way first. I have been blessed to play in some great games over the years and two in my mind stand out as truly exceptional. The common denominator for me? In both cases I was a player and playing a dark elf. Now before you switch off this post hear me out before you get images of drow rangers weilding scimitars in your head... The first one was nothing of the sort and predated 2nd edition by several years. Being that I started play in 1982 I was a late 1st edition player (as I call them here: hybrid players ). I played with other groups in my hometown, namely in the housing track where I lived before I joined my high school group. After all this I became friends primarily with Dave and Jeff. Looking back… it was probably a weird choice from the cliche perspective that still holds sway in High School. We were quite an eclectic mix in High School, all of us played sports, (I played Football), we were in advanced classes (the rest of my buddies more then I; I was a late bloomer ;) but still I gravitated to those guys more then I did my friends at the time whom I played football with (my wife who went to a different high school called me a closet nerd). For me, this would be fortuitous as Dave, Jeff and I became lifelong friends.

Enough of the sappy stuff. I can clearly remember one-day, way back, it would have been the Fall of 1987 when I approached them at lunch and sat down and started talking about AD&D. It was a very deliberate decision as I knew they all were better players then I and I wanted to game with them. All of us had been in the same classes since kindergarten and had obviously known each other, but Dave and Jeff had been friends since probably back then. But in short order I was invited to play on a Saturday night at Jeff's house. Don't judge, we were freshmen and all of the girls in our grade were dating the guys who were older and had cars. Zipping over on my BMX bike to Jeff's house we congregated in the basement where we would have some magical campaigns. Prior to this an older guy named Mike who gamed with us was running a high level 1st edition game where we were taking on a lich. It was more of a “one-off”that lasted a few sessions. Jeff ran a proto-game that was a prelude to the what I call THE CAMPAIGN. It had some of the same ideas, but petered out before it got too far as Jeff was planning this new campaign. We all agreed and came up with our character concept in a general sense. There would be other ones in my gaming career, but this one was and still is one of the best ones ever.

Part I- the Game
Now Jeff DMed quite a bit back in the day and his creativity was evident even back then. One thing that marked his style (and mine in later days when I look at it- for some reason I never DMed in that group) was a willingness to try out different ideas. One of the main things this time around for this campaign we wouldn't know our abilities or hit points, but with a range akin to intelligence listings in the Monster Manual. For instance on our character sheets (I'm scanning mine for the next post) it had descriptions on it like “Ok”, “Good”or “Exceptional” denoting the abilities. We had Sven stats with comeliness renamed to Appearance. Now being fairly smart guys we could figure it out, but you never knew quite for sure what they were, especially the hit points. Another interesting departure was that Jeff created the backstory for almost everyone's characters: we gave him the names; class (or classes) and he did the rest. In hindsight its one of the things that probably made everything so cohesive; the fact the group had a reason to adventure together beyond“you meet in a tavern”. It also worked because after this we played in a sandbox where we could wander as we wanted to, no rail roads but with overall character arcs that intersected with one another to some degree.

Rules were somewhat fluid with changes made as needed. For instance my character was specialized even though he was a multi-class fighter. Jeff also used some of the articles from a run of Dragon that I like from around #110-130. In fact in my hybrid 2nd edition game I use quite a few of these issues. I know this because clearly on my sheet is a notation for fighting abilities (aka Fighting Styles) that appeared in Dragon#127. I also have some memories that intersected with my collecting quest of Dungeon magazines #1-81 years later which he used on occasion that he didn't write out his adventures. I will cover those in later blog posts in detail as they were some very good adventures that he selected.

I think the other thing that helped make this such a great game was that we eager to play and had the time on our hands to do so. Every Saturday night for almost two years we played that campaign and had a riot doing it. I can remember heading over to play in the Fall right after football games because it was so much fun.

In general the rules as noted had some flex with Jeff's tinkering, but was 1st edition and included Unearthed Arcana from which I obviously got the idea to play a dark elf. I chose dark elf to change things up a bit as with my old groups I played fighter/magic users quite a bit and I liked the combination or I triple classed (I played a fighter/cleric/magic user in the L series) as the mood struck me.

Part II will discuss the players and their individual characters. In some cases if I can recall the names I'll add them. I didn't keep notes for my character like I do now when I play so I've got Jeff looking through his stuff as he has it written down. Fortunately I have identified the players and remember distinctly their characters and in some cases motivations. There were seven of us in the group and we were formidable.

I think this is a good first place to start as I'm pulling 99% of this from memory as all I have is that and an old character sheet. Until the next installment!

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