AD&D, But the “A” is Not What You Think. (Part 1.)

I realize that not everyone is going to see eye-to-eye regarding the “best” elements of each edition. I certainly don’t want to start another round of Edition Wars. Trust me. Nobody wants that. I’m going to put out my opinion and if you have a better take on it, great.

How about “Amalgam” Dungeons & Dragons?

I was recently listening to Table Top Taproom you YouTube. Tom wasn’t engaging in Edition Wars, but he was talking about the various editions of the game over the years and his experiences with them. It got me thinking. What if we merged the best parts of all editions?

Now, I realize that not everyone is going to see eye-to-eye regarding the “best” elements of each edition. I certainly don’t want to start another round of Edition Wars. Trust me. Nobody wants that. I’m going to put out my opinion and if you have a better take on it, great.

I’m going to list various key elements from the game and which edition they would best come from (in my opinion)

Attribute Generation: AD&D 1E. So many diverse options! You almost always had stats that were super happy. Unearthed Arcana- love that book so much. We could even relabel the methods to make them sound more exciting and modern. I.E. 3d6 in order is now Hardcore, 4d6 drop the lowest is now Standard. Reroll 1’s is now Gentle and so on.

Races: I feel like they’re all the right answer here. 5E had the most amazingly diverse selection of any game. Oddly enough, the races resembling those in World of Warcraft is kind of a fun idea. [Actually a 3.5E Setting Sourcebook from Sword & Sorcery/Arthaus/(White Wolf.)] The only things I think should be avoided are attribute penalties and races as classes (As in Basic or B/X.)

I know races have become a touchy subject in the community and I don’t want to specifically point out any keepers or omissions. I think there needs to be a lot of leeway for the DM and the setting writers to include or exclude whatever they see fit. Personally, I have about a dozen I would recommend and I’ll work with just about anything after that. I believe WotC has some other ideas they’re going to implement down the road.

Classes: Okay, this is actually a tough call. Honestly, my favorite version is the Player’s Option: Skills & Powers in AD&D 2E. However, point buy doesn’t work for everyone- especially new players. So in to remedy this, I would recommend a return to AD&D 2E with Kits. New to the game? Here’s your basic class.

I know there are D&D fans who would probably pillory me for suggesting that insanity, but there’s a method to my madness. The beauty of Kits was the ability to plug-n-play character options. Samurai? Make a Warrior, add Samurai. Benefits are always an upward gain on top of the class. Very few penalties/adjustments to the base class. Good times.

I would also go so far as to roll in the Sage, the Shaman, and the Warlock as either base classes or sample builds in the PHB. For pretty much everything else there are kits. Of course, sourcebooks and 3rd party supplements would expand the base class list. Artificer, Blood Hunter and Gunslinger are floating around out there, too. Psionics are always a hot topic in any edition. (I still have nightmares from 1E AD&D psionics…)

I think it would also be fun to really dig into classes such as Monk. Let them create their own martial arts options/maneuvers from a menu as they progress. Give them weapon katas outside of the usual martial arts d6 damage salad.

The things to be avoided here would be any return to Prestige Classes, Epic Tier Classes, etc. I’m also not a big fan of Subclasses, although it’s pretty much what Kits are. The only noticeable difference between Kits and 5E subclasses are that Kits only modify the base class. Subclasses are a branch choice that alters everything about the character thereafter.

Advancement: I’ve always been an Experience Point guy. Milestones work, too. Honestly it’s not a big deal to me. Do what works for you and your group.

The main reason I mention advancement is because we have the issue of attribute gains and/or Feats. Feats are a sticky wicket. I like the 5E choice of attribute gain OR a Feat. I feel like Feats overwhelmed the game in 3rd/3.5E. They’re a great game mechanic in moderation.

I also think +1/+1 Attribute bonuses or +1/Feat every other level would be pretty okay. I like it when the players have something to look forward to at pretty much each level. Otherwise TTRPGs suffer the same fate as MMOs where some levels feel very grindy. Like, why bother? Maybe it’s time to spread the level bonuses a bit more evenly?

Skills: Here’s where we turn the entire thing sideways. I like 5E for skills. The only exception to class building is Rogue/Thief skills. Everyone gets access to Stealth. Overall skill advancement would work the same as 5E. Less record keeping is better.

Weapon Skills: My craziness continues. Any character may pick ONE weapon of choice and earn a +1 To Hit with said weapon. However, Fighters/Warriors get Mastery. This would track with Proficiency bonus. +1/+1 at first level. The rest of this mirrors the weapon mastery from Basic D&D including additional attacks. Now fighters are a really awesome character choice.

I also think allowing fighters to choose a fighting style early on would be of great benefit to the class. Sort of similar to the way 5E has it. You can be a sword and board tanky type, a great 2H weapon fighter, dual wield dps like a champ, a polearm warrior, or possibly a generalist soldier/commander.

Rangers would probably get to keep their free dual wield, but it wouldn’t be as amazing as the Fighter version. Feats would modify the varying degrees/forms of weapon mastery.

Feats: Okay, I picture rabid players showing up at my door with torches and pitchforks. I would actually espouse the idea of allowing an extensively edited version of 3.5E feats. There are some pretty worthwhile feats that have been since removed that I’m sure many of us would like to see again.

Again, not trying to restart the Edition Wars. Your mileage may vary with this homebrew. I’ll continue the rest of the conceptualizing in the next article. It’s a lot to wrap my head around. I’ve also realized while reading back through this that much of what I’m talking about sounds similar to Pathfinder. We may be exploring that further down the road, too.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a great day! I appreciate you.

Author: Jeff Craigmile

I'm a tabletop role-playing game writer and designer from Des Moines, Iowa. I'm the father of four boys and human to three cats.

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