I am an unabashed AD&D 1e enthusiast, but I certainly appreciate this game isn’t for everyone. For me 1e is as beautifuly complex and powerful as a formula 1 race car. Like a like a race car it needs a number of specialized tools and training to operate.
As a player one of the key tools is the classic character sheet, which was originally designed to capture as much detail any player could need for play without referring to the core books. In all my plays over these past few years I immediately returned to this familiar tool. However, this sheet requires a sharp pencil, a good eraser, and keen eyesight; all of which fail me in one way or another from time to time.
I have been playing in a regular bi-weekly game, but with our astral plane adventures I realized that my careful scribblings were an inefficient nod to the past. Casting around online for a cloud based AD&D 1e character sheet I found a number of Google Sheets that approached what I was looking for, and using one of these as a baseline I tweaked it for my own needs.
If you have an interest in playing AD&D 1e I can suggest two additional resources.
1. Anthony Huso has written extensively on playing 1e RAW on his blog: The Blue Bard
2. Allan Grohe my 1e DM also keeps a blog with plenty of interesting content on this topic: From Kuroth’s Quill
September 18 Update – Spell Cards
Print & Play spell cards, should be just shy of 2.5” x 3.5” that is the standard for CCGs. Get them here.
While crawling the web for an old school D&D mystery I stumbled on a pdf of Different Worlds No. 4 from 1978. In those pages are plenty of insights of the early days of the hobby. Most exciting to me was an article by J. Sapienza with many d1000 tables to “produce interesting and unique magical weapons”
To the Google Sheets! We now have a tool to quickly produce magic weapons in-line with Sapienza’s original ideas. Find that tool here.
Some examples of the tools output follow and while the formatting is a bit rough the text can be easily captured and modified to suit any need.
Finally, Sapienza mentions that his article was originally published in issue 32 of “The Wild Hunt”. Another old school D&D mystery that requires investigation – RPG Geek gives a clue here, but I’m no closer to reading those ancient pages.
If you can help with digital scans of The Wild Hunt I would be most interested.
Wizards, Magic-Users, Sorcerers, and Spell Casters – what clearly makes them unique are the spells cast, enchantments woven, sorceries worked, and mysteries unlocked. Though many magic-users are painfully similar to any other when it comes to the spell book itself. Level 1 is more than likely to contain tried and true favorites: sleep, detect magic, protection from evil perhaps.
Campbell has already written eloquently on the subject and there is perhaps little I can offer when compared to this opus.
No Wizard is happy.
Imagine a doctor, years of study. Chooses to become a proctologist. There’s a reason. Yes: money, job security, comfort. Still, to devote so much time to assholes, looking at asses of mostly older men and women, thinking about what the health of a colon really means, nobody that has the opportunity to become a doctor would choose something like that if it didn’t resonate with them at least a little.
What I can offer is a tool that will provide access to over 2000 magic-user spells compiled over a 20 year period from a variety of AD&D resources. 254 level 1 spells alone, astonishing. Certain to bring some variation to any spell book.
…Motorhead toured England, but more importantly for me White Dwarf No. 9 was published. This issue of a “new” bi-annual British tabletop game magazine included (as far as I can tell) the first ever dungeon published in a periodical: The Lichway by Albie Fiore. The Dragon magazine would follow suit a few months later in the a US. However, that dungeon offering would pale in comparisons to the White Dwarf material.
Fiore’s Lichway is a remarkable piece of work: multiple factions in a strange environment, well scaled for low level play, while offering useful awards, and a challenging puzzle. More importantly this a is an excellent example of how the game was played in earliest days. I knew that when I first glanced at the hand drawn map I had to run this this dungeon and share it with as many people as possible.
To that end I spun up a roll20 session: importing the map, laying out the dynamic lighting, sketching in a few key details for the rooms, adding monster tokens, and preparing both DM & PC handouts. For about a month a group of old school enthusiasts have on a near weekly basis to plunge the depths of the lichway. As the DM I have greatly enjoyed the process of studying the dungeon and considering the best way to present it to my players.
The bigger challenge has been how to share this with a broader audience. 1) the roll20 marketplace is a bit complex to setup and doesn’t fit with my personal model of “free” content. 2) could invite other DMs to use my existing roll20, but that could restrict the number of games and could result in unintended changes to the roll20 module. 3) publish an asset pack that would allow other DMs to setup their own lichway session, you can get that asset pack here.
a player map, with the room numbers removed
PC handouts for a boat, inscription, and demon
DM handouts covering an introduction, wandering monster table, a monster index, and an NPC index
a collection of VTT tokens to support online play, these sourced from game-icons.net
What’s not included – the dungeon key from White Dwarf No. 9. Hopefully that shouldn’t prove too difficult to locate on the internet.
Some notes about running the dungeon:
the interior of the dungeon does not include grid marks, which may be confusing for some players
the hand drawn nature of the grid makes alignment within roll20 challenging, I would suggest close enough is good enough
use tokens on the GM layer to indicate areas with strong or weak dronesong
the wandering monster table is my own creation, as the original key calls only for wandering monsters outside the the temple
the key itself is leaves plenty of room for DM interpretation & improv moments – go for it!
I’ll ask some of my players to leave their thoughts on the lichway here. I’d also be interested to hear your own group’s experience in playing this classic.
January 2021 Update
Have just finished laying out Albie Fiore’s “The Lichway” in Dungeon Scrawl. Dungeon Scrawl is an excellent online map making tool. Features include infinite canvas, infinite layers, and tools designed for dungeon mapping. Circles & arches are a bit tough but a creative approach can yield some useful result.
Zip package linked above provides a new player map suitable for use in your favorite Virtual Tabletop.
RPGs & Improv – isn’t that all about sitting around and talking in funny voices? Maybe, but not always. Talking in funny voices is one way for some players to feel more “in-character”, but that’s not really improv.
I believe that improv at the game table is more about not being constrained to one way of thinking about a scene in the story. In RPGs we all become, to some extent, actors in a scene. Many scenes are linked together and these scenes become stories.
Improv is more about principals; listening to your partners, respecting their choices & building upon previously established fiction. Doing this in such a way that allows smooth transitions from one to the other. At least that’s what I “think” it is…
Improv in RPGs provide for the holy grail of “emergent play” where the story is shaped and grows based on contributions from everyone at the table. Pre-conceived plots or story arcs are relegated to subordinate roles, allowing all players (PCs & DM alike) to be surprised & delighted in how the story takes shape around everyone’s contributions.
“Great!”, you say “How do I add improv to my RPGs?”
A good starting pointing is listening to my friend Glenn talk about this subject. For years Glenn has been part of a theater company with a strong tradition in improv. He also has a love of RPGs, and in August of 2020 he agreed to record the type of talk he would give at an RPG convention. Take it away Glenn…