Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Long Shadow of AD&D

In yesterday's Open Friday question, I asked people to cite the cover image that immediately springs to mind when they think of "Dungeons & Dragons." I'd like to thank everyone who took the time to respond. I found the comments really interesting, if only because I discovered that, for a great many old schoolers, the Erol Otus cover of the Basic Rules is hands-down the most iconic representation of Dungeons & Dragons. After that, it was a close race between Tramp's Players Handbook cover and Elmore's "red box" cover. The Holmes cover did well too, though it was cited less often than any of the other three already mentioned. Interesting too was that there were a very large number of commenters who chose none of these four popular options, instead citing other cover images.

Now, as everyone knows, I was introduced into the hobby through the Holmes "blue book," which is an edited and pared down version of OD&D, even though, for marketing reasons, it sometimes presents itself as if it were an introduction to AD&D (it's not). Despite that, my friends and I eventually "moved on" from Holmes to AD&D anyway, as it seemed to be the only way to go. In 1980, which was our first full year of roleplaying, getting the AD&D Players Handbook was the only pathway to levels above 3 that was readily available to us. The Moldvay/Cook/Marsh sets were still a year in the future and, though we knew of the existence of the LBBs and supplements, for some reason none of us ever considered the possibility of using them in conjunction with Holmes. Plus, the PHB was a 128-page hardcover book selling for (I think) $12.00 , while Greyhawk or Blackmoor was half that length, softcover, and $5.00 -- hardly worth it in our opinions.

And so it was that we all became AD&D players. Or, rather, we became users of AD&D books to play Dungeons & Dragons. I honestly don't think we ever played AD&D using all of the rules it presented. I'm not talking about stuff like weapon speed factors (which we never used) or weapon vs. AC adjustments (which we sometimes). I'm not even talking about psionics, bards, unarmed combat, weapon proficiencies, or any of a dozen other rules that, in my experience, lots of gamers ignored, then and now. I'm talking about really basic stuff like initiative (has anyone ever used AD&D's version?), armor types (I still have trouble with "unarmored" being AC 10, not AC 9), and damage vs. different-sized opponents. AD&D's peculiar (to us, anyway) divergences from Holmes were honored more in the breach than in the observance.

Yet, if someone had asked us back then, we would have unanimously claimed to be playing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, especially once Moldvay/Cook/Marsh was released, which we tended to look down on as "kiddie D&D," even as we bought them and the adventure modules associated with them. In our adolescent minds, AD&D was "a man's game," so to speak and we proudly carried about our Gygaxian tomes, even though we regularly ignored the man's actual words when it came to running our games. I don't imagine we were the only ones who did so. Indeed, as the years pass, I have become ever more convinced that very few people ever played AD&D as written, instead simply using Gary's books as source material to flavor games that were, in their essentials, far closer to the LBBs, Holmes, or Moldvay than what's presented in the three volumes released between 1977 and 1979.

I'd hazard a guess that more people entered the hobby through some "basic" version of D&D than directly through AD&D and yet it was AD&D that was the favored son at TSR. Some of this, I am sure, had to do with the disputes between Gygax and Arneson over OD&D, but that doesn't explain it all. As a younger person, when I thought of "D&D," I always thought of AD&D, an association I still haven't shaken to this day. It's not for nothing that I have an image from Dave Trampier's PHB cover on the masthead of this blog, for example. But, when I returned to old school gaming in late 2007, I never seriously considered playing AD&D despite my fondness for it. I found that I like a lot of the Gygaxian flavor of the game, but I preferred OD&D's presumed association with flexibility and open-endedness.

I don't think it can be denied, though, that, even amongst people who don't prefer AD&D over other versions of the game, it remains their mental "default" for imagining "Dungeons & Dragons." Why is it, for example, that we call WotC's current version "Fourth Edition?" That implies that AD&D is "First Edition" and that is what most people call it, including myself. Yet, in truth, AD&D isn't the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons and, to its credit, never claimed to be. The term "First Edition" arose only after the game's revision in 1989. Prior to its release in 2000, you might remember that there were references to "AD&D Third Edition." Even though WotC ultimately dropped the word "advanced" from the title, the company still called its new version "3e" or some variation thereof. The third edition of what? AD&D, of course.

Now, I actually think the name "Third Edition" is an accurate one. For all the ways in which D&D III differs from its TSR ancestors, it still retains a lot of ideas and even verbiage that can be traced directly back to Gygax's manuals (take a look at many of the spell and monster descriptions, if you doubt this). D&D IV, so far as I can detect, can make the claim far more tenuously (especially when it comes to verbiage), but WotC still promotes it as "Fourth Edition." Again, fourth edition of what? The game implicitly presents itself as a successor to Gary Gygax's Advanced D&D, not any other version of the game, even though it's now employing imagery not derived from it.

AD&D casts a long shadow over the subsequent history of Dungeons & Dragons. Every version of the game that has been released in its wake, from Moldvay/Cook/Marsh down to WotC's latest offering, is, to varying degrees, influenced by or reacting against it. It's a testament to its enduring power that, more than three decades on, AD&D remains as iconic as it does. I'm far from certain that that's a wholly good thing (I'm pretty sure it isn't), but there's no denying it. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons is the proverbial elephant in the old school living room; it simply can't be ignored.


  1. Yep, I started with Holmes and quickly moved on to AD&D. And we did not implement the majority of the rules.

  2. I confess, back in the day we'd say we were "playing AD&D". And when I got back into the hobby myself in a big way, there really wasn't all that much of a choice, because even after all the intervening time, I could still run a game of AD&D off the top of my head, without cracking open a book. So, yes, I would agree; AD&D does indeed cast a long shadow, if for no other reason than it was the game of choice for so many years.

    Although I did play a TON of 2nd edition when it came out, and I am ashamed to say I had completely forgotten how the armor class system worked until I had occasion to check something. So 2nd edition didn't make nearly as much of an impression on me, detail-wise.

  3. I have problems with AC starting at 9, no doubt because I started playing with AD&D. We used Weapon Prof. and Dmg vs. Large, but ignored weapon speed and weapon vs. ac. We used the ever popular d10 for initiative and casting times & segments were an important part of our combat rounds. The AD&D unarmed combat rules were never even attempted.:)

  4. I started with Moldvay Basic, but I've definitely played more AD&D (or, as you said, with AD&D stuff grafted onto a very basic D&D engine) than any other game, probably by a double-digit factor.

  5. My introduction to D&D was through the basic boxed set (the one with the Erol Otus art), but we quickly acquired the AD&D books. Early on we played a mish-mash of basic and AD&D, but in later years used primarily AD&D, dropping any rules we thought were too cumbersome or confusing to use. But deep down I've always preferred the lighter rules set of basic D&D.

  6. I may be in the minority, but I actually started with BECMI and then moved directly to 3e, which I played with varying degrees of satisfaction for a while. I never so much as touched an AD&D book until I picked one up at a junk store once.

    C'est la vie!

  7. I have the problem of never having really encountered the Holmes/Metzer editions until long after I'd started on the original LBB. And then, given that AD&D came out next (as far as we were concerned*), simply because it gathered a lot of the necessary information in one place (characteristic bonuses, price list, classes, and spells in the PH, monsters in the MM, and treasure in the DMG, and that was all anyone I knew really used). We didn't differentiate between the various means of getting your hit. It was all D&D if it had levels and rolled a d20, although some people, myself included, were infamous of having folders of house rules. Or in at least one case, a filing cabinet.

    The only time we had to hew directly to what was written was when running a tournament, and even then we still used the same limited sections of the "rules" (we just actually read the spell descriptions a little more carefully). <grin>

    And that's the thing I like about D&D. Everyone knew how to play the game. But I think that if you went back and examined everyone, you'd discover that they were all playing different games that they thought was D&D. There weren't just 7 or so "editions;" There was one for every group.

    [* Mostly this was because of how the games were distributed in Australia at the time (generally through general game and puzzle stores, or having to be ordered directly from the local distributor's fairly incompetent (at the time) retail arm). So why make a special effort to get something that was portrayed as a set of introductory sets of rules when you already had the full game?]

  8. We used the AD&D books and some of the rules, but always just called it "D&D." I think if Moldvay or Mentzer allowed you to mix and match race and class, even if if were just in the Expert set, AD&D might not have held onto the title belt. :)

    I suppose it's also possible that the implications of a royalties settlement led TS to push the Advanced line as "The real D&D."

  9. Played basic D&D for a while, but after me, my brother and our friends got a hold of AD&D we read those books cover to cover and tried use everything we could (even encumbrance). To our 12 year old minds, it was great being able to play the "Advanced" version of D&D. Although I don't think we ever tried the grapple rules...

    I still remember breaking the news to one of the kids in our neighborhood that his PC could no longer run around with a magical ring on each finger! I think that was a rule introduced with AD&D, right?

    Anyway, good times...


  10. Yep, started with Holmes and moved on to AD&D. But how can you blame us when Holmes repeatedly refers readers to the "more complete rules" in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons?

  11. I'm like James. I started with AD&D, dropped the same rules he did and used the same rules he did, which seemed to be the way my groups in NYC and PA played at the time.

  12. I wonder if it's because the AD&D books were what thrust D&D (and roleplaying in general) into the public mainstream. I hadn't heard of the game in 1980, and most of my friends were not the type who could have told a Conan from a Gray Mouser. In fact, two of the first three people I saw talking about playing it were on our football team with otherwise little interest in the genre (for a brief moment, there was no stigma attached to the game).

    By about 1982/1983, everyone seemed to be playing it. It was on TV, on the News, Pat Roberston waving the books around. And when they did talk about it or show pictures, it was the AD&D books they showed. When I first saw a group of kids playing in the basement of a local bank in February 1983, it was the "1st Ed." books. True, the name suggested some form of D&D that wasn't advanced, but since everyone appeared to be using the 'Advanced' rules, why go back?

    Yes, the first version I got was a boxed basic/expert set (on sale) at a Walden's Books. But the books I first saw at school and in Christmas catalogues and on the news were the 1st Ed. MM, DMG, and PH. Those were the ones that introduced the concept to the world at large. Maybe that's why they're the icons.

  13. I remember "moving up" to AD&D with a sense of resignation, actually. I had started with Menzter and quite liked it, but everyone else was playing AD&D, every article in Dragon was for AD&D, so I jumped on the bandwagon.

  14. Yep, we viewed other forms as kiddie D&D, albeit minus the label. We dropped the same rules, although we played with weapon damage vs size most of the time.

  15. "has anyone ever used AD&D's version?"

    Yup. It's not really difficult at all, just very poorly explained.

  16. I started with the Tom Moldvay version, although my classroom at school had a copy of the blue box Holmes edition (which had the amazing third level magic user spells). I did buy copies of AD&D but it was quite a while before I ever played that version (and never with the full range of rules). We did play 2nd edition almost exclusively when it showed up, though.

    So I definitely fit the typical entry criterion that you describe.

  17. Other than that:

    Psionics: Sometimes. As per my recent "Defending Psionics", I rather like AD&D's system.

    Weapon proficiencies: Yup.

    Bards: Yup. They're essentially just very hard to qualify for dual class characters with lots of HP. Nothing game breaking in practice. Players very rarely even decide that they're worth the time and trouble to work toward anyway.

    Weapon speed: Yup. Really make melee a lot more strategic for fighter types.

    Weapon vs. armor: No. In effect, these rules just make what are already the best armors downright godlike by giving them big extra bonuses against most weapons. Having a great AC in the first place ought to be all the reward one needs for wearing plate mail.

    Unarmed combat: Too slow. I just wing it. Unarmed damage might be 1d3 or 1d4 with 75% of it being temporary (unless you're trying something silly like punching an ooze or a stone golem, I guess). Overbearing might be an attack roll followed by a save modified by the attacker's strength/bulk relative to the defender's. And so on.

    Overall, I guess I prefer AD&D because I'd rather have these rules there to pick or choose from as I please than not.

  18. And that's the thing I like about D&D. Everyone knew how to play the game. But I think that if you went back and examined everyone, you'd discover that they were all playing different games that they thought was D&D. There weren't just 7 or so "editions;" There was one for every group.

    I think that's still probably true. I also think it's a good thing.

  19. But how can you blame us when Holmes repeatedly refers readers to the "more complete rules" in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons?

    Not at all. It'd be many years before I discovered that those references to AD&D were pure marketing nonsense inserted ex post facto and didn't reflect the reality of what Holmes was and was intended to be: a well-written, edited, and organized intro to OD&D.

  20. I wonder if it's because the AD&D books were what thrust D&D (and roleplaying in general) into the public mainstream.

    It's a chicken and egg type question, but, yes, there's no question that those AD&D hardcovers were the books that everyone saw back then, especially during the years of the "Satanic panic," since the PHB and DMG both offered much better "proof" of the game's dark intentions than did, say the Holmes or Moldvay covers.

  21. "there's no question that those AD&D hardcovers were the books that everyone saw back then, especially during the years of the 'Satanic panic,'"

    Exactly, and that mystique made them just about the coolest nerd-targeted products ever.

  22. The majority of the modules (even though we didn't use them - modules were a 'cop-out' for the dm) were said to be for AD&D. They were hardback books. They had tiny printing, and brooked no distracted off-hand reading. They had a proliferation of tables and.. mathematical theory! AD&D demanded to be taken seriously. You were truly in it now, kid!

    I had started out dm'ing with Moldvay, and we had a great time. Then a couple years later one of our older friends, who had originally heard about D&D from us, came home from the university and had been playing the Advanced game. Our characters were older, but one of us had only just gotten close to demanding the Expert rules for the arcane secrets of 4th level. Pfft.. 4th level? Our friend from college played a character with over 100 hit points! He shared tales of battling scores of orcs at once! Trolls! Giants!

    Clearly, we had been outclassed and surpassed. He agreed to usher us into Advanced fun. We borrowed his book around, astounded at the degree of Advancement evident in rolling up characters. You even rolled your height and weight! It was clearly.. well.. advanced.

    We played AD&D that summer, and I promptly got very enamored with buying books I wasn't going to use (since I wasn't the dm for AD&D, and since that group of friends didn't play after that summer.) But my decided impression then, and in the many AD&D groups I played in afterward, was that, in fact, NO one knew all the AD&D rules.. let alone used them.

  23. I am slowly coming around to the conclusion--despite the fact that my current game is Microlite 74 plus house rules--that AD&D is the One True D&D.

    And by that I mean: all houseruled other D&Ds converge on it. Look at Microlite 75, or indeed, OD&D+Supplements 1-3. Note that at last year's GaryCon, Frank Mentzer was running, you guessed it, AD&D.

    Except that, of course, the One True D&D is AD&D with the clunky and non-working bits omitted.

  24. Yeah, I started with Basic and moved onto AD&D along with my cohorts, mostly because of the ability to mix classes with different races, and we didn't use all the rules, but I don't think Gary did either.

  25. In fact I would say the the spirit of D&D (all early versions, never played 2e or higher) was to use and customize what you will.

  26. "Exactly, and that mystique made them just about the coolest nerd-targeted products ever."

    And yet it's funny. The ones I first saw playing weren't 'nerds', and it really didn't click as something that only 'nerds' would play. Remember Elliott's brother Michael? He was set up to be the cool kid, the jock, the football player who picked on his uncool younger brother. Yet what are they all playing when young Elliott discovers E.T.? That's right, at least a D&D knock-off (and if it had been universally seen as just for nerds, a crack cultural connoisseur like Spielberg c. 1981 wouldn't have used it to establish the characters who were supposed to be cool). Just like it was a combination of kids that weren't the most popular, along with some of the school jocks who were, that I noticed playing.

    Oh, it didn't take long. Especially after that movie with Tom Hanks in it. I seem to remember the number of kids who had been playing it drop like my bank accounts a day after that. But if there was some stigma ahead of time, it seemed to be more in the minds of those already playing. Those of us who stumbled in during the 'craze' time didn't see it as any different than Trivial Pursuit. Just different in that parents and others were making a big fuss about it - which made it a guaranteed kid magnet.

    I know that's a little off topic, but I find it interesting that there's a sense that D&D was, alpha and omega, for nerds only, when I remember it differently when I first discovered the game (heck, the quarterback on our junior varsity football team was one of the three I first heard discussing it all those years ago).

  27. "I know that's a little off topic, but I find it interesting that there's a sense that D&D was, alpha and omega, for nerds only, when I remember it differently when I first discovered the game"

    Maybe because I first started playing circa 1991-1992 sometime.

  28. Agreed. To a great extent AD&D is D&D for me a many gamers, even though we started with Holmes or Moldvary. I suspect that it's due in large part to the standardization/marketing push in Dragon Magazine. There was a lot of pressure to play "the right way".

    You see this today in software markets (the analogy with which I am most familiar)--a homogeneous user base makes for a broad user base and lower support costs.

  29. I started with AD&D (Player's Handbook checked out from the library) and then found the Moldvay version of Basic D&D and Expert in a bargain bin of my FLGS.

    I never had much of an issue with "Race as Class" since "Class" simply means a group of something with similar traits. It also has roots in math and biology.

    Moldvay's & Cook's D&D seemed to streamline the process of making a character, and with one set of attribute bonuses for everything, which made more sense game-wise.
    13-15 +1
    16-17 +2
    18 +3
    The great thing is that the similarity of AD&D to D&D meant that elements could be ported over easily, and my Monster Manual and Fiend Folio found pretty steady use during our BECM campaigns.

  30. @Dave G:
    "[I]f it had been universally seen as just for nerds, a crack cultural connoisseur like Spielberg c. 1981 wouldn't have used it to establish the characters who were supposed to be cool."

    There are arguments to be made that Spielberg, especially in the 70s and early 80s, was just a geek as well, not a cultural connoisseur. To wit, this post from an old-schooler:

    But overall, I think you're right. However geeky I was at that time, the people who introduced me to D&D were stoners, listened to metal, had water-beds and smoked at high-school, which was both scary and unfathomably cool to me. They taught me how to TP houses in 3rd grade, which gave me a mystique through junior high that could not be drowned out my own nerdiness.

  31. red box for a few months and then AD&D (the player's handbook with the mage) and we used the full set of rules for at least an year :)

  32. On a completely unrelated note - have you seen what the cover of that player's handbook has inspired?


  33. "On a completely unrelated note - have you seen what the cover of that player's handbook has inspired?"

    Some of the most stupid looking people imaginable standing around making me swear that I would do anything to be able to magically jump into their illustrated world and beat their insufferable asses to a pulp like some kind of ultraviolent A-Ha video? :)

  34. I find it interesting that there's a sense that D&D was, alpha and omega, for nerds only

    Our group was introduced to D&D by an older brother who was in the army. In the early days, some of the first D&D players were soldiers who came to it through war gaming.

  35. "There are arguments to be made that Spielberg, especially in the 70s and early 80s, was just a geek as well, not a cultural connoisseur."

    He appears to have been both. Quite the geek (and one who to this day enjoys the fact that he can rub it in the face of those who treated him like one), but also one with a keen sense of what was happening in the culture of the time - hence his ability in those days to hit one after another out of the ball park. I think it's likely he was right to portray the game as he did, because again - for a brief, maybe very brief moment - playing D&D was the latest cool thing to do, not the bastion of all things nerd it became portrayed as in subsequent years. Just why and how that happened, of course, is probably worth it's own study.

  36. Similar - started with Holmes, quickly purchased all the AD&D books as they were released, used what we liked & houseruled the others, mixed in a healthy dose of Arduin, Judges Guild and whatever was shiny in Dragon at the time & just called it all "D&D".

  37. the Erol Otus covers are up there for me just because they were the first thing i seen, but also around that time the Fiend Folio was a book my brother had and it scared the hell out of me. the Githyanki invaded my imagination with crazy crap as a young child since it was like a proto-undead looking creature with the ability to sort of dust into invisibility from the art work. later on the cover of the PHB creeped me out too because of the idol. all good stuff.

  38. I grew up in rural Ohio and it took a family vacation to upstate New York in early 80's for me to discover D&D. My cousins got me into a game. Like James, I got my books at the local Sears -- which was kinda surreal given that the only products on display were washing machines and sofas. You went to counter and looked up what you wanted in the mighty Wish Book (I knew the page by heart) and the clerk disappeared into storage either to return with your prize or the the dreaded phrase, 'we'll have to order it.' The juxtaposition of obtaining these magical, exotic tomes from Sears!? It was like finding a tomb behind a corkboard at the DMV.

    I started with Moldvay because of two misconceptions; First, I honestly thought that one acquired mastery by learning basic, then expert, THEN advanced. It wasn't until a few years ago that I learned that BX came out after AD&D.

    Secondly, I had no idea where else to get polygonal dice other than the box sets. They even gave you a little crayon to color in the numbers with.

  39. Several observations/recollections:

    I recall at the time throughout the 80s, regular D&D was for not-too-serious RPGers, meaning that it didn't present much depth in it's game mechanics and character development/creation (race as class). Not that any of this is true, but D&D had this reputation of being "generic".

    AD&D OTOH, was just the opposite: rich in depth of game mechanic (at the time) and PC creation was a little more complex (i.e. race and class separate).

    Another appeal to AD&D me was that, quite frankly, I thought D&D was just too easy to grasp. I wanted something a little more complex and esoteric (am I using the word right?)to learn and play.

    AD&D had rules for everything: unarmed combat, poison types, rules for siege warfare,(IMO) many more interesting magic items, etc.

    But one of the beauties of the game is that if you didn't want a set of rules (like the aforementioned unarmed combat), the system didn't break down. IT still worked. Even if you used your own version, or someone else's (Dragon Magazine was THE place to look), the game still worked.

    AD&D was as complex or simple as you wanted it, because it was modular. Not that it was intended that way, but that's how it turned out.

    Then you get into the various home or game club games with "house rules" for AD&D. Another beautiful aspect of the game: by it being unintentionally modular, a DM could make it his own by creating "house rules" for the game. Therefore each game/campaign was unique and personal.

    How many of us went into a new game at a game club/convention and asked "Are there any house rules?"

    IT was AD&D at it core (basic combat resolution, Vancian magic system, saving throws, race and class mixtures), but some little bits and pieces in the periphery of the core could be fiddle with and given a personality which is a direct reflection of the DM and his players.

    Another aspect that appealed to me was the modules: most of the best modules were written for AD&D. The whole GDQ campaign was epic. So was ToEE. How about the S-series of modules or the Saltmarsh series?

    With the exception of B2, X1, and the Desert Nomads series of D&D modules, no others IMO stand out as particularly exciting.

    Again, this is just my opinion of what I thought in the past. Through the OSR and many more years of gaming, I see both AD&D and D&D can be as complex and simple as you want it to be.

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  41. I just starting running a group through AD&D's "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks" this past Friday, using the original AD&D rules (somewhat mixed with OSRIC).

    And, I pretty much dropped or changed the exact same things that James mentioned. I found from reading the rules 25+ years later with "fresh eyes" that we never played the game "by the book" back in the day. I learned to play from friends, versus from reading the books, and I always assumed they had taught me the right way. But, like most people, we played either a simplified version of AD&D, or else an "expanded" edition of Moldvay Basic.

    Just trying to read through the Surprise, Initiative, and Unarmed Combat rules in the PHB and DMG was giving me a headache on Friday, so we just make some house-rules on the spot and moved on.

  42. I think that a big reason AD&D was "D&D" was, as others mentioned, that the balance of the published material was for AD&D. Even more so when 2ed rolled in. I'm not sure if TSR would have put it this way, but it certainly seemed to be the flagship game. That probably was the case orignally because Gygax wanted to reduce the royalty payments to Arneson (Gygax pretty much admitted to that in at least one interview). However, I don't doubt that a lot of folks bought AD&D because it was more complex, and thus seen as having more depth.

    On a side note, while I probably would have agreed at the time that D&D was a nerdy pastime, the group I was playing with in late high school included a member of the wrestling team, a member of the tennis team (myself), a member of the baseball team and a kid who played baseball in one of the local leagues. Another kid was also a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. All in all, we had more folks who played at least one sport than those who did not. And this was well into the 2ed. era.

  43. Like Jim, I thought you had to go in order of Basic, Expert, then Advanced. Like nearly everyone else, I ended up with a hodge podge that Labyrinth Lord's Advanced Edtition Companion nails right on the head.

    Interestingly enough, I added many of the ignored combat rules after I started using the combat computer wheel that came in an issue of Dragon (anyone else remember that one?). It had the AC modifiers for weapons printed right on it.

    As far as the coolness factor, every single kid in my high school gaming group from '83-'87 would have been considered in the "cool" group. This was also at a large urban high school (2500 students). We all played multiple sports, had girlfriends (some of whom tried to play), and were considered popular. There was definitely a window then where the nerd stigma had not completely plagued the game.

  44. We started with the blue book that was, I guess Second Edition at the time...that is the one with the people fighting a dragon in a cave on top of a heap of gold on the cover. You could only get to level 3, so when we became very excited about the whole thing and had a lot of fun with it over a 1980/1981 winter's weekend (with the Dio version of Black Sabbath blaring an accompaniment) we >had< to get AD&D. We used all the rules we could figure out. None of us were nerds, really. Except maybe the guy who was in the high school band. I was a cheerleader for heaven's sake... ^^

  45. As near as I can tell, I found this post 14 years after all the cool kids, but it super resonated with me. My group of 12 year old proto-nerds definitely thought AD&D was "grown up" D&D, and Basic was just training wheels. When I went to the local library to play on Saturdays, all the college kids had the AD&D books, so for sure that's what I ran out and bought.

    I also have to admit we were just playing Basic with some AD&D flavor all along, but I wouldn't have realized that had I not read this post. Anyway, I'm an OG gamer who's spent the last few years trying to claw his way back into the hobby - big thanks to you and all the guys who kept the lights on while I was away.