So my archaeological roleplaying project has reached DragonLance. We have begun playing DL1 Dragons of Despair from 1984, and to do so we dusted off the AD&D-rulebooks and on purpose we have ignored any DragonLance-supplements deciding to play the module as it is written with no support from outside materials.
So far we have had our first session. First and foremost the AD&D 1st ed.-rules are a chaos. We have recently played a lot with the D&D becmi-rules, and they were efficient, though the spell descriptions often vague and problematic to interpret.
However the structuring of the rules in the AD&D PHB is a mess. Many rules or regulations are annoyingly hard to find, and there are many tiny rules, that just seems to be in the way, such as the stat-dependent level-caps or the gender-dependent stat-caps.
Then there all the information, that is hidden in the DMG, such as saving throw-tables, attack-tables and the secondary proficiency table. That is simply just annoying.
Another annoying thing is the variable modifier for weapons attacking different classes of armor. It may pretend to simulate the uselessness of a staff being used against plate mail and shield (-7 to hit), but the additional modifiers were confusing for my players and just added an extra layer complications.
Then there is the initiative-system. Naturally it is only described in the DMG like the rest of the combat rules. They are in the DM’s domain, and I guess it is part of the old school-tradition, that the GM alone knows the rules, but it also hides what a mess these rules are. The initiative-system begins simple enough, roll a d6 to determine, which groups begins a round, but then things get complicated, as this is adjusted by the type of action, that is chosen. So you may win initiative, but if you charge your opponent, the first to attack is the part with the longest weapon. Likewise things changes if your opponent has multiple attacks, and even further if the difference between two weapons’ speed is considerable, then the fast weapon gets an additional attack. And then there the rules for casting spells in combat.
This weirdly complex turn structure, which is confusingly described, works best, when the DM is allowed to make interpretations, “rulings”, rather than following the instructions as rules.
So there were confusing moments, when we tried using the rules, but at least things were fast and furious. The hobgoblins in the first encounter were quickly killed. In my next post I will cover the actual playing of module DL1 Dragons of Despair.