So I’m starting a subblog about Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition (AD&D1e) and the Old School Renaissance (OSR). This is it, right here. It’s called “3d34-2.”
I started playing D&D in 1979, with the Blue Box Basic Set, although I also got a boxed set of the three original brown D&D booklets (what’s now called Original D&D, or OD&D) just to be completist. I bought everything at a store called Fantasy Castle, at 20037 Ventura Blvd., in the suburb I grew up in, Woodland Hills in Southern California’s beautiful San Fernando Valley. I think this blog post is now the only evidence on Earth that the store existed.
But soon I somehow came up with enough money to buy the three initial AD&D1e hardcovers, and eventually every book released for that edition. In 1986 I discovered a specialty game store called Dragonbyte, located near Ventura Blvd. and Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Woodland Hills. There I joined a giant, regular AD&D game with at least a dozen players (which was about as slow and boring as you could expect. Also, the Dungeon Master, Mike Soto, was one of those DMs who thought the players were his enemies and he “won” if he killed them off. On the other hand, it was really easy to cheat amidst the chaos of twelve or more players. And you had to cheat, because Mike was miserly with the Experience Points, and you’d never level up otherwise. End of extended aside.)
I brought one friend with me, and I met another nine guys and we all formed a gaming group. There was attrition as problematic people were slowly expelled, until there were six of us. We also had a girl in the group for a while, because yes, girls played D&D in the 80s.
Dragonbyte eventually moved to Van Nuys, and we moved with it. But by then most of our games were our own homebrews with one of us, often me, DMing. When Dragonbyte finally folded we didn’t really miss it.
Through the late 80s we spend about 20 hours a week playing AD&D, along with games like Paranoia (my favorite), Gamma World, Top Secret, Call of Cthulhu, Rolemaster, Palladium, Marvel Super Heroes, Toon, DC Heroes, GURPS, Mechwarrior, Teenagers from Outer Space, Cyberpunk 2013, Champions, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the Hero System. Later most of us got heavily into World of Darkness tabletop and LARPs. We did a lot of roleplaying.
But AD&D was the old standby. Other members of the group eventually moved on to later editions, but I never really did. I did play some Pathfinder, but that was about it.
Early in the pandemic, after a long roleplaying hiatus, I started a GURPS Steampunk game with friends. I did so much worldbuilding for that game, literally hundreds of pages, that I plan to put together and publish a sourcebook. My main impediment is art—you gotta have good art, and I don’t have money to pay an artist. I won’t use AI art, and I’m not going to ask an artist to work for free. If you’re an artist who’d like to work on a Steampunk/Gaslamp Fantasy sourcebook and be half owner, contact me.
I also incorporated a recent rules-light campaign setting called Ultraviolet Grasslands into that campaign, because I wanted a location with a Jean “Moebius” Giraud Airtight Garage feel. It’s a great book, check it out.
This was followed by a GURPS Camelot/Lovecraft hybrid campaign we called the Lovethurian game. That game ended due to personal drama but I’m thinking it could be resurrected if I could only find a high-level cleric.
Anyway, the friend who ran the Pathfinder game asked me to run a D&D game. I told him it would have to be AD&D1e, and he agreed. The game started a couple of months ago, and he’s not playing in it. But I have four players, two women, one man (who’s part of my original Dragonbyte friends group—I’m still close friends with them), and one non-binary. We’re all Generation X except the non-binary player, who’s in their twenties. One of the women is new to roleplaying.
Researching for this game I discovered OSR, a community of people of all ages using the non-copyrighted parts of AD&D to produce new games. I’m a copyleftist, and always happy to use anything that’s public domain, open source, or Creative Commons. This current game uses Wizards of the Coast property like beholders and displacer beasts, but I bought the damn books back in the 80s and I’m going to use them!
So to finally get to the point of this blog, I’m going to share what I learn about AD&D1e and OSR, talk about my attempts to use ChatGPT without putting human content creators out of business, post nostalgic takes about the Golden Age of RPGs, and probably write about any ongoing campaigns I’m running or playing in.
This blog loves AD&D1e, but will take a rather wry look, because the system was kind of objectively terrible by modern standards. The TSR crew was inventing an entire genre, and they didn’t always make the best choices. Players spent a decade basically ignoring rules like spell components, henchmen, and encumbrance. Also, TSR put out a book called Oriental Adventures and that shit does not go down well today. (I’m using OA in my current campaign, and I have the permission of our one Asian-American player, who’s infusing his characters with a lot of real-world Japanese culture.)
So stay tuned for some cool content from a certified paleogamer (I think to be a “grognard” you had to be middle-aged miniatures wargamer in the 70s).
And yes, d34s were a thing.