How I almost chose the LBB’s…

About three years ago, close to when I first started this blog, I decided to restart my Greyhawk campaign.

I was, at the time, faced with a decision as to which version of the rules to use. I had played the game with the little brown books, “the box with the red dragon on it” (Holmes), AD&D, and 2nd Edition. Honestly, the system I knew the best, by virtue of simply having spent time playing it, was AD&D. To this day, I can run a game of AD&D off the top of my head with no problem. I might get an armor class off by 1, or forget some trivia about a spell’s duration or something, but really, I know it inside and out. 2nd edition is a close second; I completely bought into the idea of kits, and I bought every single damn one of those “Complete Player’s” books. I ate them up.

But when it came time to restart my campaign, I agonized for weeks over whether to use the original LBB’s (plus Greyhawk, Blackmoor, and Eldritch Wizardry) or AD&D. As far as I can tell, from a practical standpoint, they are pretty much identical. Oh, sure, there are a couple of differences in particulars, but on the whole they are functionally the same, if you include the supplements to the LBB’s. AD&D is better organized in some respects, but in others it is very much as a clugey set of rules as OD&D ever was.

And here I was, making my choice for my own game. If the rules themselves were pretty much the same, what made the difference? Honestly, I had two points of contention:

I knew AD&D inside and out. I can play it without the books if needed. I know how to house-rule it without even batting an eye. I still had my books. It was an old lover to whom I could come back in perfect comfort, and I knew all her tricks, and she knew mine, and we loved that fact. On the other hand…

I like to play in my FLGS. Playing with the LBB’s would just make all the 4E-playing drooling slacktards’ jaws drop even more than seeing the DM screen from AD&D. I honestly didn’t care about the mutability and “rules lite” sense of D&D, since I can make rules changes to AD&D just as easily.

So it came down to what I knew better. I could get as much of a “wow– they’re still playing that!” factor out of AD&D, with the added bonus of not having to re-familiarize myself with the rules. I know; I’m a petty, petty man. But I’m having a BLAST running my game!

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.

4 thoughts on “How I almost chose the LBB’s…

  1. There's a lot I like about "first three books" AD&D 1e – the physical quality of the books, the art, the High Gygaxian, the overall feel – but there are a few things that put me off it every time.

    Initiative and segments. Can't get my head around the system as written.

    Weapon complexity. Variable weapon damage, rate of fire, speed factor, range, and modifiers vs. armor type are all important balancing factors for individual weapons, and scrapping one or a couple makes some weapons completely insane and others completely crap.

    Missile weapons in general. Especially with the surprise system as written, missile weapons with high rates of fire become *extremely* powerful. Combats start looking like the popular conception of Agincourt rather than pulp fantasy, and low-level Magic-users end up killing more humanoids through dart-spamming than the Fighters do in melee.

    Not trying to start an edition war here, just my personal reasons for preferring OD&D to AD&D. There is an undeniable appeal to me in playing AD&D with the first three books, and obviously lots of people either do fine with the rules as written or have found elegant workarounds.

    For me, it comes down to it being easier to add the things I like from Greyhawk or AD&D to the OD&D skeleton than to clumsily hack things off of AD&D and then tell players that some of the options in the books aren't available to them.

  2. Every chef likes to control his own kitchen.

    Gygax commented about how the rules would likely never be written in stone anytime soon. And, in a way, they can't. Different styles for different players.

    Even the OD&D supplements for Blackmoor & Greyhawk reflected the differences of Arneson's & Gygax's style. Part of the "D&D-ness" is in its customization.

    With new players, I attempt to stick to the rules, gaging them for how much flexibility or change they can deal with.

    Overall, I try to keep the rules in the background of the actual play when its possible.


  3. I like your reasons, and there's certainly nothing wrong with them. For me, I play using Labyrinth Lord because it looks, feels, and smells the most like the game that I first fell in love with. I can't blame you for taking the exact same steps I did.

    All I need now is an FLGS…

  4. The important thing is that you play what you love. Sure, there's times to try things that are new and interesting, but I think everyone will have an old favorite.

    The chance to actually play that old favorite doesn't come along nearly often enough, but speaking for myself (and possibly the wife-who-also-plays), I'm certainly glad we got this one.

    Carry on!

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