Budget-Friendly Nostalgia: AD&D Books

This is the second post in a series on responsible and affordable AD&D shopping.

So we’ve talked about the nostalgia of tactile gaming.  You’ve got your new dice on the way.  Your DM Screen is hot off the laminating presses.  But we’ve gotten ahead of ourselves, haven’t we?  Yes we have.  You need…


I’m one of those neanderthals who doesn’t have an iPad or a Kindle.  I believe in paper too much.  I love the way paper smells, feels, sounds.  Heck, I probably like the way it tastes too.

Now I’ve got nothing against PDFs.  Well, except a few things:

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Seeking a Quest in Hommlet

And we’re off!  Session 1 of Chasing the Dragon is on the books.  My home group began playing T1 – The Village of Hommlet.  As I’ve said about the module before, this introductory setting is just that: a setting.  It’s a very good setting, but a setting nonetheless.

I’ve been spoiled by more recent adventure books, where the whole story is laid out for the GM step-by-step.  Even more sandboxy ones, like D&D 4e’s The Slaying Stone or FFG’s Star Wars: The Jewel of Yavin, still had a general plotline to which the GM was supposed to draw the players back.

Not so with Hommlet!  Instead, Mr. Gygax has put remarkably painstaking detail into his setting.  Vivid characters–beautiful buildings–interest-provoking details–all of these with no plot hooks.  Now you could imagine that the details are themselves the plot hooks, but the dots are left for the DM to connect.


My players were curious what kind of workout these guys did on a daily basis.

Now that I’m one session in, I’m fine with it.  The players are enjoying the intricacies of the adventure thus far.  They like the characters, the village, and the process.  But here are the two things I wished I’d known as a first-time AD&D DM: Continue reading

Budget-Friendly Nostalgia: DM Screen and Dice

If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m really trying to experience the nostalgia of playing AD&D.  But as you know, nostalgia ain’t always cheap.  There are whole industries rooted in this idea of recapturing the experience of the past.

One part of the nostalgia for me is the tactile experience.  I want to hold the dice, smell the books, and hear the pencils scribble.  Pencils are cheap.  And the books can be had at a reasonable price.  But there are two items out there that are not so easy to get at a reasonable price: Dungeon Masters Screens and original D&D dice.


Dungeon Masters Screens

I will not think less of you if you want to buy one on Ebay.  But the best price (as of the time of this writing) is $45 for an original 1e DM Screen.  Now that’s actually not a bad price.  I’ve watched them for about two months now and they trend toward a hundred bucks.  But if you’re like me and you’re trying to keep a budget, there are other options out there for you.

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Gygax’s AD&D Modules

So we all know who Gary Gygax was.  We know that he wrote the core rulebooks for 1e AD&D.  But what about the modules?  After all, that’s the goal of my project: to play through all of Gygax’s AD&D modules!  So which ones would that be?  Let’s review all seventeen of them in chronological order according to their publication:


1978 was a prolific year for Gygax.  The AD&D Monster Manual had been published in December 1977 with the Players Handbook to follow in June 1978.  So in 1978, Gygax released seven modules in conjuntion with the release of the game:

The Giant Series

G1: Steading of the Hill Giant Chief
G2: The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl
G3: Hall of the Fire

This series was released at Origins ’78, each module intended for “tournament play.”  The adventure was run for players at the convention and then it was released for sale.  Intended for characters levels 8-12, these modules were no walk in the park.

The Descent Series

D1: Descent into the Depths of the Earth
D2: Shrine of the Kuo-Toa
D3: Vault of the Drow

This series was released at GenCon XI, again for “tournament play,” which again means most parties died.  Players needed characters between levels 9-14 to endure this difficult road.  These modules introduce the drow to the D&D universe.

The Special Series

S1: Tomb of Horrors

That’s right!  The infamous TPKing slaughterhouse was released in AD&D’s first year of existence.  Gygax had actually been using an unpublished version of it for a few years to test players’ skill and acumen.  Many self-professed heroes perished in the halls of that tomb.  It was a bloodbath.

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CtD Podcast, Episode 5: Character Creation

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For our fifth episode, I sat down with my brother in Memphis, TN to discuss character creation for AD&D.  We hear about both of our experiences creating characters for other games and how AD&D contrasts with them.

A few affiliate links to works referenced in the show:

And now, the podcast:



Modules for Learning to DM AD&D

New DM for AD&D?  Want to know where to start?  Me too.  I’ve never DMed this system, let alone played it.  So I may be getting ahead of myself.  Regardless, I took everyone’s advice and started at square one:

T1 – The Village of Hommlet

For many players, this was their first experience of AD&D.  A very sandboxy Gygax module featuring a sleepy town with more than meets the eye.  And, of course, a dungeon.  What sets this module apart from others that I have read is this: there is no quest, no storyline, no plot.  Only very detailed and interesting setting.  For a beginner DM, this could be very challenging.

But what other options are out there that support new DMs and new players?  A challenging question, to be sure.  Hommlet is Gygax’s only introductory AD&D module.  But there are a few out there that I’ve tracked down.


N1 – Against the Cult of the Reptile God

Another village.  With yet more secrets.  I think a pattern may be forming.  This module was actually written specifically for new DMs, so it might actually be my first recommendation for those looking to learn.  If I were not trying to go through all of Gygax’s work, this module would probably be the one I started with as a DM.

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Who is the Mad Cleric?

Who is the Mad Cleric?  Good question.

I am a learner.

I am addicted to information.  And that addiction is beneficial when it comes to gaming, for there are more games than could ever be learned.  As soon as I get the grasp of one game, I’ve got another book on my bedside table to consume.  I know I’m not the only learner out there!

I want to learn with you.

I am a connector.  I connect with people.  I connect people with others.  And I connect the dots with people.  As a person energized by relationships, I learn best in community with others.  Thus, when it comes to games, I don’t want to learn them in isolation.  I want you to learn as I learn.

I am a communicator.

As a collector of information, I have learned to process, repackage, and redistribute that information.  And this goes hand-in-hand with my desire for you to learn.  I don’t aim to be the end-all, be-all expert.  No, I want to pass along what I’m learning, so that you can learn too!

I enjoy the game.

It’s not one specific game–it’s the process of gaming itself.  Thus, I am perpetually open to a new possibility.  Always looking for that new game, that new experience, that new process of learning.  As a result, I find it easy to see the good in most games.  Because in the end, I love the game.

I am a mad cleric.

I’m not mad, as in angry.  I’m just kind of strange–mad like a hatter.  How so?  I’m a husband and father of two, who still hangs out at the comic shop.  I’m a pastor (a cleric, if you like), who loves the honesty and openness of the gaming community.  I love to break stereotypes, wherever able.  You might even call me mad.

I hope this strikes a chord with you, O gamer who has stumbled upon my site.  I’d like you to join me on a quest to learn a new game.  Or perhaps a new way of gaming.  After all, that’s what I’m all about: learning the game together.

CtD Podcast, Episode 4: The Nostalgia Factor

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For our fourth episode, I invited my gaming buddy, Jason Rush, to join me for a conversation about how 1980s nostalgia is bringing back games like AD&D.  We get deep into his experiences as a 12-year-old gamer and how those memories are coming back in spades today, as we prepare for our AD&D campaign beginning this Friday!

A few links to sites referenced in the show:

And now, the podcast:



Progressive Revelation of AD&D

Within orthodox Christianity, there’s a concept called “progressive revelation,” which means that God did not reveal everything about Himself at once to humankind.  Otherwise, who knows what would’ve happened?  Maybe our heads would have exploded, a lá Dogma.

Dogma-Bethany-and-friendsRegardless, the Christian God chose to reveal Himself in baby steps.  And I like to think that Gary Gygax did the same.

As I have mentioned before, AD&D was released in this order:

Monster Manual (December 1977)
Players Handbook (June 1978)
Dungeon Masters Guide (August 1979)
[These dates come from this unbelievably helpful site]

As a result, the ruleset was somewhat incomplete until all three books were released.  Nowhere is this more apparent than in combat and character creation.  Since I wrote at length about combat and initiative order last week, let’s focus on character creation this week. Continue reading

CtD Podcast, Episode 3: The Gygaxian Tone

Subscribe to the CtD podcast on iTunes!

For our third episode, we commemorate the birthday of the late Gary Gygax, Dungeon Master par excellence!  In an effort to remember him well, we explore a number of quotes that I’ve chosen that accentuate his personality and role in relation to the roleplayers.

A few links to sites referenced in the show:

And without further adieu, the podcast: