Friday, July 8, 2011

My Monk and Some Thoughts on AD&D


I recently got the chance to join a newly-started AD&D campaign on Wednesday nights at Lake Geneva Games. The game is run by a fine gentleman by the name of Ken, who is a current player in a campaign run by the renowned Frank Mentzer, and was also a player in past campaigns run by Gary Gygax.

Historically, I was never interested in AD&D. I always perceived it as being a nightmarish mess of a game, and had a difficult time understanding why anyone would want to be involved in it. However, after playing in a number of AD&D games at GaryCon III, I learned that in practice, the game is often much simpler than it looks to be on paper, with most choosing to ignore the less elegant rules such as Weapon vs. AC Adjustments and combat round segments. In every game I've played where combat round segments were used, the DM was able to utilize the rules (or adapt them) in an effective manner so that combat was still fast and furious.

Since GaryCon, I've purchased 3 copies of the PHB, 2 MMs, a DMG, a MMII, a UA, and a DDG. All of these books are full of Gygaxian flavor, and between taking a closer look at these books and experiencing the game through actual play, I've developed quite a fondness for AD&D. When I started buying the above-mentioned books, my hopes of being involved in a regular AD&D game were close to zero. My home gaming group showed little to no interest, and I wasn't aware of any other AD&D activity in the area, with the notable exception of ChicagoWiz's game. However, I viewed the location of his game, GamesPlus in Mount Prospect, as being a challenge. Later, I heard about Ken's game, and decided to make the trek to check it out. It's kind of a pain in the ass to get there, since I have to leave work 2 hours early and make an hour and a half trip up the tollway (paying $2.50 in tolls plus god knows how much in gas) to get there. As a result, I can't make it every week, but luckily Ken's game is casual-friendly, with each session consisting of an encapsulated mini-adventure in the 6:30-10:00 time frame. My goal is to make it twice a month, and so far I've been able to do that.

The first session, it was just me and one other guy, so ken let us roll 5d6, drop two lowest, and gave us each a ring of protection +1. We both took advantage of the good scores to play classes that would have been unlikely using a more standard rolling method. I made a monk and the other guy made a paladin.

Seppo the Sanctimonious
I got some pro tips concerning my monk from the fine gentlemen over at the K&K Alehouse, so I am dual-wielding daggers at the moment, as I wait patiently for my open-handed attacks and AC to get good enough to start using regularly. I only get one weapon proficiency to start out with, so I figured a weapon that could be used in melee or ranged would be a good choice. It's not the most damage possible, but daggers are flexible, easy to come by, and who doesn't like the idea of running around as a ninja, whipping daggers at peoples' faces? It is a really fun character to play, and being able to deflect missiles is very satisfying when it happens. I hope to be able to keep this guy around for a long time and play him into the higher levels.

Now, just so you know I'm not just a rainbows-and-unicorns, everything-gygax-did-was-perfect, brown-nosing asshole, I will tell you where AD&D and I don't see eye-to-eye (that was a lot of hyphenations!). First, the books are shit at the table as reference materials, unless you are already very intimate with them. There are a lot of rules buried in blocks of text and scattered all over the damn place. However, the book reads much better in a cover-to-cover fashion than do most modern game books, so I consider this a fair trade-off. Second, attack tables and saving throws are only in the DMG (unless I missed something). I mean WTF! That's nothing short of ridiculous. Lastly, I hate the heavy-handed way alignment is shoved down your throat. In my humble opinion, alignment is one of the stupidest things D&D is married to. No two people interpret alignment in the same way, so it ends up being nothing more than the source of never-ending bullshit arguments that suck the fun out of games. As a player, I want to be able to take actions based on the situation at hand, and once in a while perhaps do something out of character just because I am feeling goofy. This is a game after all, right? I don't want some bullshit alignment trying to tell me what I should and shouldn't do. Similarly, in the games I run, there is only the in-game rule of cause and effect. If you shit in someone's cereal in-game, they are likely to want to seek revenge. At the table, the rule is don't piss on your own party. Consult the other players, and make decisions as a group - especially if the whole group stands to potentially suffer as the result of your actions. As long as the group is deciding collectively what direction the game is going, who cares? The important thing is that everyone is having a good time. (Note: Even though I just used the word "collectively", I am NOT a communist!)

I've already gone too far down the path of alignment-bashing, so let's just leave it at that. It's just not my thing.

One last thought, and it's one that has been shared by many others before myself. The AD&D hardcover books are pretty much the epitome of what a gaming book should be in terms of it's physical makeup. The books are essentially bullet-proof, and are build for hard gaming use. Sure, some might like to collect them, but these things are just begging for use at the table. So if you have some, and they are collecting dust, bust 'em out and figure out a way to get a game going!