My first time playing AD&D

Last Friday, I played AD&D for the first time.

Well, kind of.  You know I’ve been the DM before.  But this time, I was a player…you know, controlling a player character.  One of the players from Hommlet offered to run us through U1: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, which is proving to be a mysterious and very fun module after only a first session.


It can be hard for a GM to slip into the player’s seat and allow someone else to take over.  So what did I learn from this experience, which I’ve had a few times before?  How can a GM become a player with ease?

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How to beat Gary Gygax

This post will likely be the first of a few post-mortem reflections on T1: The Village of Hommlet, as my local gaming group just completed our tenth and final session in this classic Gygax module.

As this is my first AD&D adventure, I’m struck by a number of things:

  1. I love AD&D.  Yes, it’s clunky fairly often.  Yes, we have to flip through the books to find rules fairly consistently.  And, yes, more modern systems tend to make a little more sense.  But you simply can’t say that AD&D is not fun, challenging, and exciting.
  2. AD&D really is advanced.  For less seasoned gamers, who had not already played RPGs, I could see this game being the death knell for their roleplaying.  There’s a bit of a learning curve here.
  3. The nostalgia is real.  You really do get a taste of a different era and a different kind of gaming when you go back and play AD&D.But my fourth observation is where I’d like to dwell in this post:
  4. To overcome this module, you really have to beat Gary Gygax.  You’re not simply solving a puzzle or overcoming a challenge.  You have to figure out Gygax’s gameplan, metagame a bit, and beat him!
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The Gamers 2: Dorkness Rising

And to think, I would’ve known this already if I’d thought back to that modern classic gaming film, The Gamers 2: Dorkness RisingHaven’t seen it?  Read on…

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How to not ruin your RPG session

You know what ruins an RPG session?  When the rulebooks get opened up.  You know what ruins it the most?  When the GM is the one opening the book.

While my point could be applied to “rules lawyering,” I’m actually hitting at a more present problem at my gaming table: lack of familiarity with core rules.  As you know, I’ve embarked on a quest to play through many of the classic 1st Edition AD&D modules.  We have one session remaining in T1: The Village of Hommlet by Gary Gygax.  That means after a solid ten sessions, we’re still having to look at rules.  Why is that?

Of course, there is the charge that 1st Edition is too complicated, contradictory, and clunky.  Granted, it is complicated.  There are moments of fuzziness to the point of possible contradiction.  But there’s a charm and personality about the system that helps me to overlook all that.  I’m enamored by the tone of the game.

Beyond the quirks of 1st Ed. AD&D, I think that there are some rules that are simply hard to remember when you first begin playing any game.  They’re not on the GM screen–they’re not readily available–nobody remembers!  And, as a result, you can find yourself digging through your books at the gaming table more than is necessary.

So here’s my solution!

Photo by Dean Hochman

Photo by Dean Hochman

Post-it notes!  That’s right.  It’s simple, it’s easy, find those finicky rules quickly if they’re absolutely needed at the table.  The problem is less the books and more the fifteen minutes finding the rules.

So grab a pack of post-its, whatever RPG book you’re learning right now, and let’s mark our pages together.  Ready?  Here are the top pages that you need to mark right now:

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Breathe life into that boring dungeon crawl!

They call it a dungeon grind. 

Not a dungeon frolic, a dungeon jaunt, or even a dungeon struggle.

It’s a grind.  It’s a slog.  An encounter-by-encounter, gear-grinding endeavor that makes even the most experienced player and GM tremble.

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My second session of D&D as a GM was a dungeon freaking grind.  Why?  Well, I had a really big playmat, lots of new miniatures, and I wanted to use it all!  But I learned very quickly that fight after fight after trap after fight can not only kill character, but also bore players.  Is it possible to have a complex dungeon without boring the spit out of our players?  I think you can.  And I’m learning how to do it from Gary Gygax himself:

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Secrets Soon to Be Revealed

The holidays are upon us here in the United States, which means family visits, time off work, and…you guessed it…gaming!

But there’s something more going on beneath the surface.  A secret which, left unaddressed, may cause great distress to many.  Well, at least to three of us.  Here’s what I’m getting at:

I’ve got a hard deadline on a super-secret MadCleric.com project that needs more of my time.  That is, time that I typically spend writing these blogs.  So I’m going to be pausing the new blog content for two weeks, to return on December 5th!

But what can you expect between now and then?

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How gamers can become readers…which they should!

Reading is an absolute necessity for creators.  And that applies to Game Masters and game players as much as it does to any other creative!

But if you’re like me, a grown-up gamer who is already juggling family, work, and gaming, it can be hard to find the time to read.  And therein lies the problem.  My creative juices flow better when I read.  I feel more engaged and “in touch” with the world when I read.  But when I don’t read?  Well, let’s say it leaves the creative fields of my mind fallow.

Shouldn’t it be easier to develop ourselves intellectually?  Shouldn’t regular reading be a simple discipline to develop?  You will develop a healthy habit of reading if you follow the process that I followed.  I read every day at work (that’s not a discipline…that’s work).  But I also read for myself at home.  And you can too!  Here’s how you can develop the same practice: Continue reading

Should game masters threaten player characters?

It appears that I struck a real chord with Tuesday’s article on player character death.  Why did so many GMs and players respond so passionately to my post?  Because players sometimes get mad at GMs when their characters die.

Not all players and not always.  But it does happen and it creates tension at the tabletop, when players are angry over their characters’ deaths.

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Another final shot of our fallen comrade. RIP Elder Cunningham.  FWIW, the beholder there is actually a giant snake.  I wouldn’t do that to Level 2 adventurers!

One particular response (from @theTinyGM on Twitter) took exception to my use of the word “threat” in relation to PC death.  Her concern was that the language of a threat might set up a confrontational relationship between GM and player.  Of course, nothing could be further from my intention.

But it raises the question: can GMs create conflict and challenges for PCs–can they “threaten” the livelihood of adventurers–without creating a confrontational atmosphere?  I’m convinced you can!  If I can pull it off, you can too!

Here are the three steps you can take to create a challenging situation that will end in nothing but fun and mutual respect at your gaming table:

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