Never heard of it.
Until this past weekend, that is.
I was poking around locally last week for some B/X D&D to either join or start if need be, but really had no takers. I then decided to add 1st edition AD&D as a possible option too. That's when I got a bite. The local D&D Meetup around these parts seems to pull in mostly 3.5 and 4e players. I have met up with them at a couple past meetups and played 4e at both of those with other members of the meetup crew.
The bite came from one of the organizers of that meetup. He invited me to join their existing 1st edition AD&D game that gets together somewhat irregularly, which actually is a bonus for me. I'm already committed to one weekly gaming night, and I can't add another strict commitment to my calendar. So an irregular hookup for some 1st ed AD&D sounded very cool to me.
I was informed that the party consisted of 2 rangers (one of them multiclassed as a cleric), a fighter, a thief, and an every-once-in-a-while cleric. They would appreciate another caster, but I could play anything I wanted. I went with magic-user. I don't think I ever played one in 1st edition AD&D, so that would be fun.
I was told to that I could roll up a 5th level character either prior to the session or when I got there. This is where I was directed to Appendix P of the DMG. "Appendix P? WTF is that?"
Well, I haven't played in a true tabletop PnP 1st edition AD&D game since somewhere in the mid '80s. I'd say probably during the 1983-85 timeframe. That campaign was highly homebrewed, mixing in some B/X, some AD&D, and some of whatever our DM wanted. It was a blast back then, but it could possibly cause me some issues jumping into an existing game like this new one.
Now, I do occasionally play in a 2nd edition AD&D game, online using a chatroom with a built-in voice program, with some friends of mine around the country. We all met playing DDO (the D&D MMO) and make use of it's chat/voice/dice functions to play every few months. That game, however is very homebrewed, as the world, races, classes, etc have been customized if not altogether created from scratch in many ways. It's been a ton of fun and I should write a post about it soon as well.
At any rate, the point is I was a little out of touch with 1st ed AD&D, by-the-book.
So, I pulled out the old DMG and looked for Appendix P, whatever that is. If you don't know (you all probably do, but still) it's a quick way of creating a level X character or party. In fact it is officially stated as APPENDIX P: CREATING A PARTY ON THE SPUR OF THE MOMENT. You still roll 4d6, drop the lowest for abilities, arrange as you like, pick a class/race, adjust based on that if able, and then the fun comes in. You get to roll for magic items!
Seeing how my new M-U was 5th level, it is presumed that he may have come across some sweet loot in his 5 levels of smoothness. So I rolled the bones and got tons of cool stuff, right? Wrong. I will say that I felt very blessed to have rolled very good on the Ring of Protection in the armor section, as having succeeded on the initial roll (75% chance) to see if I got one, I also rolled good enough to bump it to a +2. That was a measily %5 chance, IIRC. Yay, me!
But sadly, that's where the yay ends. I did not get bracers (20% shot). No scrolls (75%). No weapons (75% for a +1 dagger). Not even a single freakin' potion (50%). Ah well, +2 Ring of Protection it is.
Now I understand that this method of generating a level X character isn't some massivively amazing finding, but it was something that I missed in all the years of owning a 1st ed DMG, and I think I got mine back in '81. Imagine that. Ok, maybe '82, but that kinda ruins the vibe, right?
Anyway, on to the play session...
The group was very friendly, very helpful, and very open to me jumping into their group, even it might be with very sporadic frequency. My character found employment with them while hanging out in a local tavern. Crazy, right? Skipping right along, off we went on a journey together.
I won't go all into the story, but I will tell you that the first day of adventuring was pretty hilarious. Reason I say that is the only spell-casting the party ever saw me do during that first day (and that's questionable if they actually saw me do it or not) was one shield spell. Ya' see the problem was that I memorized sleep (x2), shield (x2), web (x2), and a fireball. Sounded pretty good to me. Sadly, things didn't quite gel with that spell array. For one, the DM had originally (and admittedly) created this romp with no caster in mind, so many of the baddies were either immune or highly resistant to these selections. We faced zombies (they don't sleep very well), hell hounds (hit dice to high, and the whole flaming thing), a door mimic (again with the high HD, etc), more zombies, a few crab-like creatures with tentacles? (drawing a blank here and at work without my books to help me out - I'll find them and edit the post), more hell hounds, and finally a pair of Bone devils, IIRC (waaaaay to high HD, not to mention magic resistance).
Actually the last few there were in day 2 of the adventuring. Seeing how I was pretty useless with my original selection, I memorized a slightly different batch for that day's work. I went with one sleep ('cause, well, it's still sleep for Pete's sake), one shield (still a bit of a wuss M-U, and the AC bump is nice), one web (again, maybe they'll let me use it at least once, even if it's to help in our escape from the place), but threw in magic missle (x2), one ray of enfeeblement, and one lightning bolt. I was gambling that the fire-based baddies would continue to pop up, and maybe lightning would harm them better, and magic missle would be good for just about anything.
See, I originally went with a more controlling approach to my magic-user, making him lawful neutral and RPing him a little on the "there must be order in this crazy world", "I'll put you where I want you and keep you there", stuff like that. Well, the party was kinda used to a little more of an offensive night out, and they must have had some bad experience with web before, as they really didn't want me to cast that...ha!
They were basically all frontline fighters (save the thief, who tried to do his thieving tasks and then get the heck back - smart man), so firing offensive spells into the mix was very risky. The melee folks dished out a real nice wallop when needed, and actually for most of the encounters they really didn't have much trouble. Fire damage from the hell hounds' breath weapon attack was probably the most trouble early on. The mimic was a little touchy as he grabbed the thief during his find/remove traps and open locks checks on the door. Still, not too bad of a fight for the rest of the thugs in our party. The zombies were a pushover for our cleric/ranger, even though they did come back from turning quite quickly.
There was a clue to the last fight, that I guess my character was supposed to pick up on. Although in this case, it would seem that I the player would have to pick up on it, using some knowledge that I just don't have: a symbol for sulfur. Originally, the party thought it was a directional, as it did look a bit like an arrow pointing which way to go. However, I was later told by the DM that my character recognizes it as a symbol for sulfur. Ok, well we had been discussing salt, and how it might affect certain creatures (undead?), but still none of us had any on us. I recalled some bags and boxes that we had not checked yet in some rooms earlier in the crawl. In the end, we were told that that mark also symbolizes demon or devil. I'm not sure if I was supposed to have known that or surmised it, but if I had we might have known what was luring behind that final doorway. Ah well.
Regardless, I was still having a blast playing with them, even though they were worried that I was bored, as I hadn't really been able to contribute much. The thief actually RP'd some "I'm beginning to wonder if we really did hire a wizard." To which my guy replied "well I have this pointy hat, these robes, and this staff...isn't that the right getup?" (muttering "that costume shop back in town better not have steered me wrong...")
My big, bright shining moment came (or would have came) when we reached the big bad devils. I could be wrong on the type of devil, I just recall the size, the hooked weapon, the wall-of-ice (I'll get to that), etc...so I'm thinking they were Bone Devils. Anyway, they had just suggested (possibly part of their fear attack?) our main damage dealer into joining their team or at least siding with them to some degree, and feared our other frontliner (who also happened to be our healer - multiclassed cleric/ranger) into running away. So that left our thief, who doesn't dig the up-close-and-personal, another party member PC who was basically mapping for us as an intern (ha!), and me the wuss magic-user. Well, I got an idea. They were basically lined up for me, one in the doorway and the other back inside the room a bit, with a nice wall right behind him. So I let loose a lightning bolt hoping to hit one, then the next, then the back wall them back through those two again for max damage (60 hp to each of them), of course, right? RIGHT?!?!?
Everyone was geeked for this uber spell to save the day. I rolled those 5d6 down through the old dice boot/tower, and stared down at a whopping 13 damage....ugh. Ah well, 26 hp to each of them with that backlash double strike would still be ok. Certainly they would both fail their saves and had no magic resistance to speak of, right? RIGHT?!?!?!? Well they both saved, both times, and even with half damage, their 40% MR basically said...nope, sorry, try again sir. Sadly that was the only shot I had, with only one level 3 spell in the aresnal.
There went my shining moment. The only good thing to come out of the attempt was that the thief became a believer. He witnessed electricity arch from my fingertips and blast across the room. Ok, so it didn't seem to do anything to the big baddies, at least he felt confident in his hiring procedures, believing me to at least be the magic-user I claimed to be. I think.
At this point our main frontliner shook off the suggestion/fear so she started to engage them, along with the thief. Yes, I said the thief. See, he happened to notice that the fleeing cleric/ranger dropped his nice sunblade when he decided to run away. This looked like a nice choice for a weapon (shortsword, IIRC), so he decided to demo it on these devils. I readied a magic missle (well, 3 missles actually, being 5th level), and was about to let them fly, when the devils threw up a wall of ice on the doorway, blocking me out and our fighter and our thief in. The good guys put the fatal smack down on the baddies, with the thief stealing a 1 hp kill shot on the last one...ha! Awesome, but that's kinda what a thief does...steals. Our intern cartographer had tackled our cleric/ranger to hold him down until he shook the fear effect, and we all began picking away at the wall of ice. Man, sure could use a fireball right about now. Ugh.
In summary, I had a blast! It has been far too long since I've played 1st edition, especially in person, across the table from the rest of the crew. Even though my magic-user was fairly useless this time around, I still had a ton of fun, and I really appreciate the gaming group for allowing me to join them. It turns out that they actually try to meet up more frequently than I can commit to, but they often have issues with that anyway, as others in the group have other RL conflicts too. Hopefully I can join them at least once a month dust off the old books, as well as the old skills, all from back in .... errr ... close enough.