Do Not Read This Blog!

Seriously, don’t do it!

Credit: Richard

Well, OK, you can read this particular post.  But I’m getting at a much larger issue, which is: for whic readers is, this blog, intended?

And my answer begins with a story…

Last Sunday, I got the kind of text I love to receive.  An old friend with whom I never gamed asking the question, “What do I need to get so me and my friends can learn D&D?”  And instantly, I was faced with a conundrum:

Do I direct him to AD&D 1e or to the shiny new 5th edition?

And with a weight of guilt upon my shoulders, I texted back, “You should definitely get the 5th edition Starter Set.”  And I hung my head in defeat.  How could this be?!  I’m the Mad Cleric!  The defender and proponent of AD&D 1e against detractors everywhere!  I’m the guy that’s bringing it back!

And then I had a realization: my journey is not for this particular friend.  He’s a first time tabletop roleplayer.  His friends are in the same category.  And what do they need?  A good, solid, clear, and fun high fantasy roleplaying game.  And, dammit, that’s fifth edition Dungeons & Dragons.  There’s no buts about it.  In the end, he’s chasing a different dragon than I am.

The dragon I’m chasing is a much more elusive dragon.  A dragon from the darkest hidden dungeons of the late seventies and early eighties.  I’m seeking the dragon of nostalgia.  I’m seeking to recreate the uncreatable.  I’m wanting to peer into the past and experience what they experienced.  It’s not that my friend couldn’t handle AD&D 1e.  But it’s not the game (or dragon) that he’s looking for.  Which leads to a question:

Who’s looking for the same dragon that I am?

Here’s who’s looking for the same dragon: the people that should be reading this blog twice a week.  Here they are!

  1. Gamers who haven’t been playing and want to experience something of yesteryear
  2. Gamers who have played the spectrum of modern RPGs, but have never gone back to the beginning
  3. D&D players who’ve never dabbled with first edition
  4. People who are simply interested in AD&D 1e or my journey in it
  5. Of course, experienced AD&D DMs/players who can help direct me on this journey

So if you’re one of these five people, please continue reading this blog.  And pass it on to your friends.  I’d love to see a community of gamers gathering around this idea of going back and experiencing what AD&D 1e offered so gloriously to the gamers of the past.

So please, dear friends, keep passing on your gaming questions, even if they lead to other games and other systems.  And of course, keep on chasing that dragon…whatever your dragon may be.

What’s your gaming dragon right now?  Are you digging into AD&D 1e with me?  Or do you have something else right now that’s got your goat?  Let me know in the comments or on Twitter!

Satanic Panic

The topic has come up in almost every Chasing the Dragon podcast we’ve had: Satanic panic.  That period in the eighties when good, virtuous mothers and churchgoers were warned against the dangers of Dungeons & Dragons.  And the edition that brought on these accusations most powerfully was the exact edition that I’ve been reading, re-reading, playing, and podcasting about: First Edition AD&D.

Some of you may not know this about me, but I am a Protestant pastor in the Southern United States.  I’ve been accused of being too conservative…and also accused of being too liberal, which is probably a good place to be.  But as a Protestant pastor in a denomination that uses the word “evangelical” to describe itself, rest assured I lean right compared to a more liberal, mainstream Protestantism.

Why does that matter?  Well, it seems that if anybody would be sympathetic to the Satanic panic of the ’80s, it would be this guy:

Yep, there he is. That evil gamer type again.

Yep, there he is. That evil gamer type again.

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Experienced AD&Ders Needed!

If you’re new to my project, Chasing the Dragon, you may want to read an introduction here.

I need your input on my first house rule.

Now this may surprise you, as I’ve never even played a session of AD&D yet.  Not as a GM.  Not as a player.  Never.

Now I’ve played 4e extensively and the 5e playtest.  I’ve played the FFG Star Wars RPG extensively, as well as FIASCO, Pathfinder, and the Mouse Guard RPG.  I’ve played an RPG or two, but I’m certainly no expert.

So please answer my question, oh experienced grognards of the first edition!

Is the following rule going to work well, while keeping the spirit of the game in tact?

So here we go.

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CtD Podcast, Episode 2: Which Edition Now?

Subscribe to the CtD podcast on iTunes!

In my sophomore episode, I am joined by Daniel Fisher, podcaster for Innroads Ministries and owner of  I enlisted him to help me sort out the early history of Dungeons and Dragons, as well as why we call AD&D “first edition,” when it wasn’t actually the first D&D.

A few links to sites referenced in the show:


And without further adieu, the podcast:



AD&D Players Handbook: The Best

If you’re looking for the AD&D podcast, subscribe here!  For the history of this project (Chasing the Dragon), start here.

The 1e AD&D Players Handbook is the best RPG rulebook that I’ve ever read.  I say that without any qualification whatsoever.  Here are my reasons why:

  1. This picture on the title page.  It sums up  the very essence of the book and the game. is seeking to harness the Tolkienesque ambiance of the Lord of the Rings with the help of a die.  I actually didn’t even notice the die in the picture until my third or fourth time looking at it.  And really, the game should function the same way.  The fantasy is primary–the dice, secondary.  Whether or not that is how it turns out still waits to be shown (to me).
  2. I actually read the whole thing in one sitting.  And I enjoyed every second of it.  Now granted, it’s only 126 pages and I may have skimmed a bit here and there, but it was an absolute blast to read.  It’s just plain fun.
  3. The organization is pretty remarkable.  I commented previously on the shoddy organization of the Dungeon Masters Guide…not the case with the PHB.  Basically, the book takes the player step-by-step through character creation, reserving some of the more space-intensive matters (spells) for later.Additionally, the way that Gygax references items that would come later or had come before really showed that he had a command of this book’s organization.  It is well thought-out, easy to process, and if something is going to be left unexplained for a time, he tells you.
  4. How blatantly Gygax is ripping off Tolkien.  On the ranger table (pg. 25), a level three Ranger is called “Strider” and levels 10-12 are called “Ranger Lord.”  This theme continues in the Dungeon Masters Guide.
  5. This explanation of hit points, which makes more sense than any other RPG (whether print, or video):It is ridiculous to assume that even a fantastic fighter can take [85 hit points, the equivalent of four huge warhorses]. … Thus, the majority of hit points are symbolic of combat skill, luck (bestowed by supernatural powers), and magical forces.So every hit point is not actually physical damage, but rather it represents the gradual wearing down of the character, as it battles and expends its energy and skills to survive.
  6. Hirelings and henchmen.  Players are straight-up encouraged to get NPCs to help them.  I could see this getting old as a DM, but as a player it sounds like a hoot.
  7. There are 60 pages of spells.  Saves you from buying a second book and I appreciate this.
  8. The optional appendices: as much as I want to play rules-as-written, psionics seems a bit complex to add to a first-time campaign.  I’m glad to feel like it’s an optional bit.

The things you might not like

Just because it’s the best RPG rulebook I’ve read doesn’t mean that it’s flawless.  I’m trying my best to reserve criticism or negative judgments until I’ve played.  And I do plan to play (at first) rules as written.  But here are a few things I can tell might be less-than-preferable:

  1. Determining characteristic scores randomly, but then limiting the races, classes, and even genders on those randomly chosen numbers.  Seems like it could be cumbersome for the player who came to the table with a clear character concept beforehand.
  2. It does seem pretty apparent that a lot of classes are squishy, especially the Magic-User (which has only 1d4 Hit dice, meaning a possibility of 1-4 hp at Level 1).  Heaven help you if you start with 1 hp.  With this game, it seems apparent that you really do need to start with at least 4-5 characters created, because characters will die.

All in all, this book may have absolutely sold me on the system.  I got into a conversation with some guys the other night who were lauding 5th Edition.  My only response was, “I don’t know, 1st Edition AD&D seems to have captured by curiosity.  It could even be the best…”

What do you think?  Am I crazy?  Have you read it?  What would you add?  Sound off in the comments below!