Skidoo, one of the regulars in our on-going Pendragon epic, wrote insanely awesome combat charts for how to play Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1e) “by the book,” near as he can figure out. Everything is explained in flowcharts. Because Skidoo has done this, and has spent session after session watching his knight’s agenda go down in flames before the titanic incompetence of my own Sir Carabad, I must conclude that Skidoo is a masochist. But a devilishly handsome one.
But the files are right here (36 meg PDF), and this is Skidoo’s explanation for what he’s done:
skidoo’s explanation for spending time away from his family
Hi.This is a combat flowchart for AD&D 1st Edition, by the book. It attempts to include all the rules in the three core rule books (PHB, DMG, MM).Everybody playing AD&D 1E ignores some of these rules. I wondered if it was possible to include all of them in a game, when I joined a campaign that attempted to play AD&D strictly by-the-book. I created this flowchart to see how all the combat rules fit together, to see if it’s possible to play through combat with all the rules, and what that might look like.I admit it looks nuts.This is not:
How to play AD&D.
How I play AD&D.
How you must play AD&D to play it right.One other point:Because a flowchart gives as much space to a rule that’s used 2% of the time as one that’s used 98% of the time, the format makes it look like there’s a lot of rules to deal with in every combat, when there aren’t. Many of the rules would only come into play at higher levels. Multiple attack routines are not an issue at low levels. BtB psionics will hardly ever happen.In a way, it reminds me of a heavily house-ruled Basic D&D game. I imagine many DM’s combat resolution systems would actually look just as crazy if you laid them out like this. It’s just that the decision points and sequences are so ingrained from years of play that they don’t have to think, “Okay now I’m noting all of the spells in order of # of segments” or whatever.I don’t have a big philosophical purpose for doing this. I did it just so I could get my head around how it (might) work. Kind of like dissecting a frog. Or drawing what I think the dissected frog looks like. Use it as you will. Please leave a message in the comments if you have a different reading of a rule, or know one that I missed.
Special thanks to DM Prata for his ADDICT document, to which this project owes a lot, especially the chart illustrating how multiple attack routines work. And to the makers of the game.
when you meet the buddha, kill him and take his flower sermon
(These are my opinions, not Skidoo’s.)
What I fucking love about this chart is that, at least for me, it ends the OSR as a rabbinical quest for The True Game Text. (I suppose the rabbinical quest to play the game “as Gary actually played it in the year ______” can go on indefinitely, until we get a bunch of people with Gygax Number 1 together to thrash out that beast.) This is Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Everything else is just monster descriptions, maps, and character classes, all of which are simply inputs to the engine which Skidoo has exploded out for study. And, uh, frankly it looks kind of un-fun.
This chart also ends the Edition Wars, at least for me. I never cared about that stuff as an adult, but as a kid, even though I was playing a game called “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons,” it was the Second Edition. I had this sneaking suspicion key things from 1e, such as demon tits, had been left out. But dugs of darkness aside, I think Skidoo has pretty much demonstrated why creating 2e was a good idea, even if you don’t like the specific game that emerged from that redesign process. It probably explains why the OSR seems to love Labyrinth Lord / BX and games derived from it so much.
Also, for me, this document kind of ends the OSR as an outlook. My earliest interest in the OSR came from the puzzling realization that, despite mucking around with it for years as a child and teenager, I had never actually played Dungeons & Dragons, to the extent that “playing Dungeons & Dragons” meant playing by the rules. But what these charts show is that, very likely, nobody has ever played Advanced Dungeons & Dragons by the rules. Back in 2008-2009, there was a lot of reminding ourselves about “rulings not rules” and “if the rules have gaps, fill them in yourself,” and that kind of thing, as a rebellion against the comparatively rigid styles of 3e and 4e play. But damn, man: the same problem of rigidity existed in 1979! And people solved it the way people always solve it: by making up their own stuff to route around the bullshit: the hell with level caps and encumbrance rules.
In other words, no one has played 1e, 2e, 3e, 4e, or (likely) 5e by the rules. Gaming didn’t need to be saved. It had been saved the whole time. (“Saved” here of course isn’t meant to be taken seriously.)
The other thing I wonder about, when looking at these charts, is about the design process in RPG’s. I am, despite playing D&D almost exclusively for 5 years, a Forge guy at heart, and I do believe that game design is important: it’s why I love B/X so much, for example. But these charts, man! When I was 9 years old, we had the super-simple Mentzer Basic rules, and we couldn’t be bothered to actually understand the text, or even read it. We made up our own rules as we needed them, and then broke them. Years earlier, however, poor Gary or Dave or Larry Schick or Mike Carr or Zeb Cook or whoever else, was slaving away on Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1e, with a zillion times more rules. What’s the ratio of design effort in Lake Geneva to fun at your table? I think us kids had a far better labor-to-fun payoff. No matter how old you are, nothing beats Super Awesome Let’s Pretend Time. And maybe that’s what, in practice, the players of 1e figured out too.