Mar 192011

Yes, advanced dungeons and dragons. The old one, by Gygax (or the 2nd edition by Cook if you will).
Although Runequest and Rolemaster are games we play more, I do have a soft spot for the original AD&D. I think it has a lot of scope and potential, and people usually respond to it very well, once they are at the table.
So since I am bored, here’s a few different musings on running AD&D games. These are things more specific to AD&D, than broad, generic gaming advice.
1: What do I roll for this?

Its a common complaint that dice rolls are all over the place, but in a lot of ways, that can be a strength. As the GM, you have a lot of options available to you. Some ways to have a player resolve an action can be: An ability check. A straight percentage chance. A saving throw. Use the “spell learn” or “bend bars” rolls. etc etc.There’s a lot of mechanics in there, and they can be used for a lot of interesting results.
2: Say no to skills.

Skills have been standard in RPG’s since Traveller and Runequest. For AD&D, I’d stay clear of them.Look at the character and judge the situation. A ranger should never be rolling dice to see if he can find shelter, and a cleric knows about ancient religions. No hero should roll dice to ride a horse.When you factor in race, class and their background, you’ll know if they can do it or not. Bring out the dice if the situation is truly challenging.
3: Dont roll dice constantly

Rolling dice can be fun, but it can also break the game if everything comes down it.If you look through the AD&D rules, dice rolls are not actually all that common. The implication is certainly that they are rarely rolled, unless the rules specifically bring it up.There’s really two paradigms here: Roll often or roll rarely. A lot of games assume that you’ll roll dice frequently, and that you’ll have a high chance of success. For AD&D, I find it fits the game better if you roll fairly rarely, and with average or even low chances of success. The player should in most cases have a chance to solve the situation without resorting to dice. Think of them as the saving throw. Your plan didn’t work out, so we’ll give you a chance to bail.
4: Thief skills.

A few simple pointers: The thief should never be punished more than another character would, just for attempting his skills.The thief should never be punished simply for being a thief. Examine the situation. If any character could attempt it, the thief can roll for his thief skill to do it faster, better etc. If he fails, he still gets the same chance everyone else would get.
5: Hit points.

Yes, hit points are a mess. They still are. That being said, exploit the fact that they don’t all represent physical punishment in your descriptions. A 5 damage hit when the fighter is at 30 HP is a staggering blow he barely parried. The same hit when he is down to his last 8 HP is a deep gash in his arm, with blood flowing everywhere.”Hitting” does not mean you wounded them until the very end. Until then, you are just wearing down their defenses.
6: Saving throws.

Same deal. Let the players determine how their character resisted. A fighter might just shrug off the spell through determination, while the magic user knew intricate counter measures. As saving throws are based on threat, not defense (reverse of post-AD&D editions) use the freedom.

7: Morale.

Whether you use the morale checks or not, the GM should always play creatures intelligently. Nothing saps suspension of disbelief faster than the heroes murdering 20 goblins, and the last 2 obligingly march up to get killed, just for the chance of inflicting 3 more HP of damage.When intelligent creatures are cut down, have them retreat, surrender, negotiate, etc. If the world seems to be a living, interesting place, the players will invest more in it, and may keep themselves alive longer.

8: Dont fudge dice.

Personal policy and some GMs hate this, so use if you please.All dice rolls I make are plainly visible to the players. If they know you will save them, the dramatic tension goes out of the scene. A little fear never hurt anyone in a game.On the flip side, don’t make impossible situations. Most fights should have alternate solutions, ways to improve the situation etc.Make them work for it.