Revising AD&D – Finished! (Part 3)

My revision (home-brew) of AD&D is complete. I have four documents that cover changes to Ability Scores, Class & Race, Saving Throws and General Rules.

My aim was to keep as much as possible from AD&D, but include things I liked from AD&D 2. The 2nd edition dropped a race, and bunch of classes (mostly those from Unearthed Arcana and Dragon magazine). They added: Wizard Specialisation, some spells got better, initiative and surprise being a d10 was a better design, etc. (These are my opinions, you may not agree.)

TSR later went nuts adding race and class “kits” to add variety. I used a few kits in my game, and a future project may be looking at those and making a revised subset of kits that I’m happy with. My players and I weren’t keen on any kit (or anything else) that meant you earned less XP, so some of the better ideas would need rewriting to work around that in some other way.

I’ve learnt a lot about 2nd edition that I’d originally missed. When I first bought the 2nd edition Players Handbook (and DMG, revised 1995), I would have mostly read the race and class stuff, then skimmed over combat, etc. Only now, decades later, have I found rules and detail that I wasn’t aware of then. Most changes were minor, but there were some bigger ones and I’d missed some of both.

I also realised that as much as I loved Unearthed Arcana (1985), I’d missed stuff there too! My main AD&D campaign included a Cavalier and a Barbarian. The Thief-Acrobat sounded interesting, but it seemed like you lost a lot of the good stuff about a thief and were replacing it with different jumping abilities. As part of this, and also separately writing a one-off AD&D adventure that utilised the characters from the AD&D cartoon, I realised that I’d misread some parts (about what Thief abilities didn’t progress) and overlooked other detail. The tumbling abilities given are quite powerful – bonus to-hit, chance to completely evade attacks, reduce falling damage. The end effect is somewhat like a Thief-Monk.

I’ve really enjoyed going through all of this. I’ve revisited D&D history, and had a more patient & thorough read of large chunks of many rule books. I’ll be using this to rework some PC’s in a one-off game, but apart from that, I might not use it again. I don’t care… the process was both satisfying and a lot of fun!

The pdf files are up on my Resources page. Download if you are interested. I’m happy to get comments or suggestions!

Revising AD&D – Part 2

My revision (home-brew) of AD&D has been slowly progressing in between gaming (PC and tabletop), reading and life in general. I’d thought I’d post an update because there’s been a bit of interest in my first post, and it encourages me to continue.

What am I actually doing? I loved AD&D, and “Unearthed Arcana” is one of my favourite books. Second edition sorted out spells quite nicely (and added specialist Magic-Users) to my delight, but dumped almost all the early class additions from Dragon Magazine and UA. My group was already using some of the extra classes and we simply kept using them. My “revision” is primarily aimed at keeping all the race and class detail from 1st edition, but also drawing on some of the rules from 2nd edition to complement or simplify the stuff that complicated by the writing style of the first PH and DMG. I’m also drawing on my knowledge of later versions that helped balance out some of the stuff that hindered the early versions or that people simply ignored or reworked themselves.

I started by listing all the important info from the AD&D Players Handbook, Unearthed Arcana, and some notes from the DMG and Tome of Magic. Then I went through the second edition rulebooks for the same detail, and worked out what I felt was best, and made notes of any related gaming rules that I wanted to keep or change. I’m now at the point of compiling all my notes into proper tables and forms to put into booklet form.

Races: Dwarves (Hill, Mountain), Elves (High, Grey, Wood), Gnomes (Deep, Forest, Rock), Halflings (Hairfeet, Stout, Tallfellow), Half-Elves, Half-Orcs (which were dropped from 2nd), and Humans. In all cases I’ve kept the basics of the race abilities from 1st, with % rolls rather than x in 6 (or 8, 12, etc) and stat bonuses more based on 2nd edition. Humans get some enhancements to make them more playable.

Classes: Cleric, Druid, Fighter (Archer, Barbarian, Cavalier, Paladin, Ranger), Magic-User, Monk, Thief, Acrobat, Bard. (Archer & Monk are from Dragon, Bard based on both Dragon & 2nd Ed.) I’ve greatly simplified the Ability Score requirements, and many of the XP tables are from 2nd Edn. Class abilities are also % based, with any class that has a thief (or acrobat) ability getting bonuses and/or penalties (from race, dexterity, armor) in the same way a thief does. I’m thinking of using 2nd edition’s level caps. I’ve got a basic weapon proficiency system for the cleric that is based on their deities favoured weapon instead of the blunt weapons only of AD&D. Magic Users allow Specialist, Elemental and Wild Mages (AD&D Tome of Magic, 2nd Edn PH and PO: Spells & Magic.) My rangers will start with 2d8 HD, and gain both limited Clerical and MU spells.

Ability Scores: Since 9-12 is average (mean) of the 3d6 stat roll, my aim was to have penalties for <8, and bonuses for 13+. (AD&D didn’t give a bonus until a stat was 15+) In most cases I’ve compressed the 3-8 results and stretched out the bonuses given at higher stat’s. I’ve made small changes to the INT and WIS tables, with a max spell level castable for both clerics and MUs, and removed maximum spells learnt for MUs.

Surprise and Initiative use a d10 (2nd), searching (secret doors, etc) uses a custom % roll. Spells are likely based out of the 2nd edition PH, using schools and domains.

I’m working through each class now listing the XP tables, abilities, restrictions and so on. It’s still a work in progress but getting closer to something playable.

A new project – Revising AD&D

I really don’t need to start a new project… I’m part-way through writing three different one-off adventures, would like to get a few more miniatures painted before the end of the year, and have a back-log of TV series and movies to watch.

Why AD&D? Why now, after two decades of playing 3rd, 3.5 and PF?

Over the last year or two I’ve read a lot of blog & forum posts about playing AD&D and how people still play or used to play the game. What rules they followed, what they ignored, how they interpreted some stuff that wasn’t straight forward, and what they changed… The original AD&D Players Handbook and DMG were really badly written, and/or edited. You needed both books to understand how spells and combat worked. You had to look all over the books to check how different parts of races, classes, combat, encounters, etc all worked. You really had to read a lot to get a thorough knowledge of the game, which still left you with questions. Looking for detail on how something worked meant you found a rule for something else you hadn’t seen before. You got used to doing certain things without realising the rule was something slightly different than what you thought it was, played using weapon speeds, or encumbrance, and then gave up when it all got complex, and so on.  Stuff on player races in the Monster Manual was different from the Race info in the PH. Gygax himself was answering questions, giving explanations and errata for the rest of his life!

Just recently I’ve been reading “How to read the AD&D Rulesbooks” series by ‘Cave of the Dice Chucker. His look at how to play the game comes down to some simply ideas:

1 – If it’s not clear in a table, or concise paragraph of text – ignore it.

2 – If it defies common sense – use common sense.

3 – If its too complex, impractical, or irrelevant – ignore it.

There’s lots of stuff in AD&D that everyone complained about – demi-human level limits, unbalanced classes, weak humans, different rules for the same types of abilities… It WAS a mess – but we all enjoyed it anyway. I played and ran AD&D all through High School and University, and beyond. (About two decades… yes, I’m that old!) We took a break from AD&D (1st and 2nd) and played some other games. I finished putting together a whole bunch of tables of ability scores, races, experience, saving throws, non-weapon proficiencies, weapons, armour and general equipment… and then 3rd edition came out, and I started up a new campaign using that. We really haven’t gone back.

Over the last 1-2 years of Covid, I’ve worked on a heap of one-off adventures using many different game systems, I’ve done an adventure using AD&D (based on the AD&D cartoon), and written part of another based on 2nd edition. I really liked going back through the books. It got me to finally revise the saving throw table that I’d been planning to do forever.

My most recent reading has found me remembering all the little tweaks that I’ve considered over the years… adjustments to the ability score tables, simplifying class Stat requirements, converting all the different race and class abilities to a standard form, etc.

Consider surprise… it’s a basic, very simple rule, isn’t it: PC’s are surprised, and surprise opponents 2 in 6.

Then you recall that Elves & Halflings can potentially surprise opponents 4 in 6. A Ranger surprises 3 in 6, and is only surprised on a 1. A Monk is only surprised 32% of the time at 2nd level, and 2% less each level afterwards. Gray Dwarfs surprise others 3 in 6, and are only surprised 1 in 10. Deep gnome PCs surprise others 9 in 10, and are only surprised 1 in 12 chance. We won’t look at the monsters!

I want to start expanding my AD&D booklet, revising Ability Scores, Races, and Classes and abilities. Then likely look at surprise, initiative, and weapon & non-weapon proficiency. I want to include some of the things that 2nd edition introduced, use 2nd edition spell descriptions, etc. I want to rewrite Dual-class for Humans, and give Humans something to raise them up compared to demi-humans and all their racial abilities. This will be fun, as well as exploring a game that I’ve forgotten a lot of.

Will my RPG group play it with my rules… who knows! I’m doing it for me, because it’s caught my interest again.