Building a Better D&D
Send Lawyers, Guns, and Money
What truly "fits" with AD&D? There are three things that I see are repeatedly decried as "not belonging" with an AD&D game, and EVERY time they are brought up I see just as many people saying they love them. These three things are monks, guns, and psionics. [Okay, just to get this out of the way, the title of this post just popped into my head. I decided to use it because it would catch attention but it really has no relationship to the discussion other than including Guns.]
Now, a lot of people object to 1E monks saying they don't “fit the mold” of proper D&D fantasy. A lot of people object to psionics and guns for the same reason. They'll claim that psionics belong in a sci-fi setting (for now, just ignore the fact that the 1E AD&D psionics system itself totally sucks) and guns belong in some other genre than AD&D's version of a fantasy world. I think they're missing the point. Monks were incorporated into AD&D (and have been enjoyed by players) because they are oddities – a mixing of genres, a fish out of water. Monks were supposed to be "foreigners", outsiders. And dammit - the very fact that they are THERE in the PH says that a default D&D fantasy setting DOES include monks. Make 'em as rare as you like, isolate their monasteries on the other side of the world, make the PC the last monk in the world - make him the first monk in the world - whatever. People don't like Gnomes either but you rarely, if ever, see anyone whining that they don't belong in AD&D. I've never played a gnome. Nobody I've gamed with has ever played a gnome. We don't give a shit about gnomes - but we don't shout from the mountaintops that they don't belong in D&D.
Okay, so you personally don't like monks in your AD&D fantasy worlds. I have no issue with that. Some people just have problems imagining X with Y. Couldn't give you a personal example right off the top of my head but I'm sure I could come up with one for myself. But this is not a big deal. You want to keep your monks in an oriental setting you go right ahead and excise them from YOUR campaign world. You much prefer the Oriental Adventures' more shaolin or ninja flavor of monk then use that instead. Who are we to tell you you're wrong? But who are you to tell us that Gary was any more or less wrong in having them in AD&D in the first place than he was dead wrong for having such a botched up surprise/initiative system, broken spells and spell combinations, imbalanced races and classes, save-or-die effects, or any of a dozen other things that could - and SHOULD - have been handled better or not included at all? The argument that X "doesn't belong" in AD&D when it IS in AD&D right there in print just does not hold water. As the saying goes, "That dog won't hunt". State your personal preference and implement whatever accommodation you care to in order to suit your preferences. That's what Gary as much as TOLD you to do with the game in the introduction/preface.
Personally I LIKE monks. I've always thought they were underpowered at low levels. I never ran one by the book at high levels but I'm given to believe that much like the Magic-User they become dominant at later levels by dint of having many attacks with high damage and finally effective AC that doesn't require magic items. I've made any number of attempts at redesigning the class. My players used to laugh at me when every new campaign I started featured yet another take on the monk. But I still like them and in any "default" AD&D game I run some flavor of the monk will be in it and it won't even be a very "oriental" take on them. They will simply be what they were presented as in the PH as far as fluff goes - monastic aesthetics with a somewhat scattered assortment of abilities.
What does this mean for my project? It means that monks will be altered to reflect my opinions. They'll have better combat abilities at low level and reduced ability to horn in on the thief's territory as a class. That means better hit dice, better ability to do damage, better ability to avoid damage despite being prevented from using armor, loss of the thief lock and trap abilities, and in a nod to "orientalism" some other additions/alterations. At the upper end they'll have their combat abilities brought more into line with how they ought to stack up against a vanilla fighter. They'll lose the requirement of advancement by combat (though it'll be mentioned as optional), their xp will be brought into line, and though they will not be listed as optional, it will be mentioned even in the PH that not every campaign setting will feature every class and race as-written; players should check with the DM.
Frankly, if AD&D psionics worked better (read: at ALL) I'd be all over it. I certainly have players that have always enjoyed the idea of psionics mixed into the game and from 2E onward (when we had systems that at least worked sensibly even if they were still not all that great... okay, they only sucked a lot less) I've been willing to let psionics into the mix. Early D&D seems to me to have been rife with genre blending and bending. For myself, I LIKE a little taste of sci-fi in my D&D. Not quite steampunk, but certainly closer to Renaissance than the true Medieval or Dark Ages that other people seem to insist that D&D must be true to. I don't mind that the ubiquitous "they" want a set of ingredients for their game settings that strikes them as "purer" – they should all game and be happy. Like monks it is quite acceptable that they're not for everyone, but just because some don't like it doesn't mean it has no place in the game for anyone else and any rules covering those topics should be excised. At least Psionics was firmly positioned as optional (perhaps not by completely deliberate intent) when it was made the first of the appendices. Anyway, what I'm getting around to is that I think Gary was way off on this general area. He so adamantly rejected guns, for example, while simultaneously embracing monks and letting someone talk him into including a version of psionics which by his own admission was inadequately developed. Heck, modern fantasy literature and game settings thrive on this kind of mashup even if the fantasy upon which AD&D was heavily based often did not. It is quite undeniable that at the very least the rules were being used for such mix-and-mismatch exercises even if not everyone wanted peanut butter with their chocolate.
As I said, Gary quite clearly found the idea of guns in AD&D to be distasteful. Oh there were some rules for applying AD&D to other genres entirely with the small sections discussing Boot Hill and Gamma World adaptations. You could bring the AD&D to the guns but the idea of guns brought into AD&D fantasy was met with advice on how the DM should be rudely disabusing players of the thought of trying to go there. Dwarves in particular can, I believe, nonetheless fit a terrific fantasy mold while still using anachronistic steam and gunpowder technology. Guns WILL be featured in my version of 1E to some extent, even if only as an option for DM's to think about for worldbuilding or as artifacts to find. They will be clearly indicated as optional equipment, however, there is no reason that they cannot be skinned as missile weapons whose capabilities would not by their mere presence knock an otherwise "standard" fantasy setting into a cocked hat any more than would ANY missile weapon.
Monks will certainly be featured though in the DMG there will be clear mention that the DM can treat ANY class as an optional class if he doesn't think it fits the fantasy setting he wants to create and run. I think Psionics will be positioned as a PH add-on when/if I find or create a system that I like. I've sussed out some important stuff about how psionics operates AS-IS, but it still glows blindingly with alpha-stage rules failings. If nothing else they'll be moved from a PHB appendix to an appropriate DMG section mentioning or discussing the concept but leaving the original rules out.
As a couple of side notes, the section in the DMG giving rules for adapting to Boot Hill and Gamma World (or vice versa) will be summarily dropped as simply being unsuitable material to include as part of the rules books. That sort of topic is better suited to a magazine article or (these days) a free download of some sort, besides which those rule systems are now also 30 years out of date. As I mentioned, guns will be present on equipment lists but will likely be too expensive for purchase by 1st level characters in any case just as plate armor is. Though it wouldn't be part of the straight-up re-edit of the rules I may be cooking up a gun-toting class for inclusion as an option for the other more intrusive treatments of the rules in this project.
Return to 1E Project Page
Return to D&D Page
Return to Home Page