Last article I covered the stuff in the Player’s Handbook of 1st Edition AD&D. That was just to get the ball rolling. This past Friday, less than an hour ago in fact, my group and I just finished up the first session of the adventure. It’s going to take several sessions, since we’re running online and that slows things down a lot, but I’ll be writing about it for as long as we continue. The first installment is a nice showcase of just how rough they had it back then.
For the example adventure, I chose Destiny of Kings, module N3 in the Novice series. Supposedly, this module is for 4-6 characters of levels 1-4. I laugh at this assessment, and you’ll see why. For the curious, here’s a quick summary.
The King of Dunador has been killed, and the Crown Prince is missing on a pilgrimage. The PCs have been recruited by the chief adviser to find the Prince and bring him back safely. The King’s brother has other plans, though, and has solicited the help of Duke Aimar to put forward his own claim to the throne. This leads the PCs right into a political mess, especially once they find one of their only allies has been killed before they’ve even started…
For the first session we had four players, who made up a pretty nice group of characters with one glaring weak spot.
- Rimia, the female human Ranger, who fights with long sword and long bow.
- Elrai the elf Thief.
- Copperfield the human Illusionist.
- Peng, the placid human Monk.
As you can see, the party lacks a Cleric… or any real healing ability at all. They do have an abundance of sneakiness and special abilities, though.
Elrai’s player didn’t realize I’d specified EST, apparently, so they were over an hour late. I’ll note the point that he came in, rather confusedly, but fortunately he didn’t miss any of the ‘action,’ just exposition.
The party first met Hollend, the King’s adviser. Copperfield’s master was an old friend of his, so he solicited help from the Illusionist, who sent his pupil guarded by some local friends. Thus the adventure begins at the Three Feathers Inn, where Hollend meets with the players and dumps about eight paragraphs of exposition on them describing the general situation. After dropping a map of the area and some portraits of the Prince and the Patriarch of the local Abbot on them, he gives them 200 gold and fresh horses – very generous!
It’s all just a set up, though.
Hollend suggested they begin their investigation at Montinelle, Duke Aimar’s stronghold and the local hub of civilization. There they could look for clues and resupply. However, if they were ever in trouble, he said they could go to the nearby Fontenmere Abbey and hide out with the Patriarch there, who was also a loyalist of the old king and the current prince.
The players, of course, would have none of that. Buying some rations at the inn, they immediately set out for the Abbey. Because following the scripted plot in a 1st Edition game is for chumps. This is the point where Elrai arrived, so they had no clue why we were out here and had to be provided some quick summaries.
The characters found the Abbey in shambles, and first investigated the outbuilding, which had been a kitchen. They found some treasure there, platinum in a box with a few applications of antitoxin that would prove useful, shortly. They also found a horse tethered nearby, indicating someone was at the Abbey. They chose to leave the horse unmolested.
Investigation of the burned kitchen and its half-dozen corpses was finished, so the party moved into the Abbey proper and started searching rooms. The first room had little of interest, but the second showed obvious signs of a violent search… and had two Huge Spiders in it.
Now we get to the messed up part of 1st Edition. First, Huge Spiders are 2+2 HD creatures with poison that, if you fail the save, kills you within six rounds unless neutralized. Since Slow Poison alone is a 2nd Level spell, this is pretty deadly to a ‘Novice’ group. In fact all the encounters in this book are ridiculously deadly for 1st level characters, which is one reason to laugh at the listed difficulty. One of the random encounters is 2 Perytons, which can only be harmed by magic weapons!
Of course the real issue is the fact that combat in 1st Edition is terrible.
Initiative is rolled with 1d6, highest goes first. Weapons have a Speed Factor that affects when you can go. Weapons with a high Speed Factor, when used against quick weapons, actually allow the fast weapon user multiple attacks. THAC0 and Base Attack Bonus hadn’t been invented yet, and instead the DM looks up the AC and level and class of the attacker/defender on a matrix to see if a roll hits. Firing into a melee involves math with dividing up the total of the body masses and… yeah, it’s complicated for the DM.
So, our party of four was nearly wiped out by these two spiders. After a valiant struggle that critically injured the Ranger and Monk, the party killed both and settled down to rest. And to heal, as the Ranger was poisoned. If they hadn’t found that antitoxin earlier – and if they hadn’t been able to identify it thanks to having a Monk in the party – the Ranger would have been dead right there. From the first encounter.
Since we were still adjusting to the system, had a late arrival, and were playing online(woo typing), they didn’t get that far. They decided to stop for the night and look into healing(1 HP per day of bed rest, and nowhere to rest, so that’s not going to work out well), as well as search the room. Finding 400 gold really helped things out, especially since gold gives XP directly in this system.
Total gains for one combat and a bit of exploration: 969 XP