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Sunday, January 26, 2014

40 Years of D&D - What Rules Did You Misinterpret?


My first (A)D&D session was run by my friend Kenny. He ran my fighter through a dungeon with skeletons and other stuff (which I don't recall, but the skeletons made me think of Jason and the Argonauts famous Skeleton Fight). At the end of the session, he had to call a friend to see if I leveled. You see, Kenny only owned the DMG ;)

This was back in late 1980. That summer, I received the Player's Handbook and the Dungeon Master's Guide (as well as a nice set of dice, perhaps Koplow). I dived right into my job as a DM and declared I didn't need a Monster Manual, as all the monster stats were in the back of the DMG anyhow.

I didn't quite understand the notation of 4+1 for HPs (such as an Ogre). Why write it as 4+1 when 5 would be so much simpler. I didn't realize my mistake (Hit Dice vs Hit Points)until I found other kids that were playing AD&D. It suddenly made sense why all my dragons were pushovers. I still picked up the Fiend Folio before I had a copy of the Monster Manual.

Never really understood weapon speed in AD&D, nor did anyone in any of the groups I played in - it was one of the first rules we ignore, but there were others. Adjustments vs armor by weapon type? Too much to look up. Casting of spells and counting segments lasted maybe the better part of a year, but when the group size went from 3-4 players to 8-12, it was just one less thing to track if it was ignored.

Then came Unearthed Arcana, and I was forced to house rule on the spot when new rules conflicted with old. The good old days ;)

So, what rules (if any) did you misinterpret when you started playing D&D?


28 comments:

  1. It's been a long time. But it's possible I got more rules wrong than right. ;)

    All kidding aside, there were lots of rules we ran very differently in different cases, and which different DMs ran very differently. Treasure types (is that by monster, or dungeon level? I'm still not clear on that), encounter sizes, and initiative - I thought I was running them correctly back in the day, but the more I read now the more I wonder. I know I didn't really know what to do with monster with only HP listed, not HD, but I rolled all of them as if they had 16+ HD.

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    1. I realixed our games were an amalgam of B/E and AD&D rules.. 1E was alot crunchier then I remember..

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    2. Same here. Another I'd forgotten about was that the AD&D players who taught me how to play my Basic Set D&D game also taught me that you could cast each of your "spells known" once per day. So my 1st level elf (er, F-MU/T) had like 5 spells he could cast every day. It was a while before we decided that couldn't be right.

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  2. We kinda misinterpreted the 'cast one spell a day' to 'memorize one spell a day' for M-Us. Needless to say, my first PC was the mightiest 1st level wizard ever, who started his first adventure by resting one month and then go Adventuring with 30 magic missiles. If i remember correctly, he killed 2 orcs and a black dragon. After that, we reread the rules.

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  3. I had some of the same experiences back in the day, with our group misreading and misinterpreting the rules, especially the HD vs HP for monsters situation. I know there were a few others, but I can't recall them off the top of my head. I do remember us always getting confused for a while on determining bonuses and penalties to attacks and armor class when they started stacking up so we house ruled a few things to simplify that.

    Ah the good times of mass confusion!

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  4. Being a 11-years old French-speaking newbie, almost EVERY rule was a challenge!
    My favorite: For a couple of years I thought a "shield" was a "magical force field" only available to magic-user! (because of the spell of the same name..) and then one day I realize it was a simple "bouclier" made of wood or metal that any fighter or cleric could use!!

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  5. I think my oldest AD&D mistake that I can recall was assuming that damage by weapon type for (IIRC) S/M and L had to do with the size of the weapon. So I remember thinking something like, well, I definitely want that 1d12 "Large" two-handed sword instead of the 1d8 Small/Medium one."

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  6. Mistaking monster hit dice for hit points seems to have been a common mistake; back when I first started with the Moldvay set and no adults to help, I too made that mistake; and like you, when I realized that my dragons were dying too easily, I read a bit deeper into the rules...

    With AD&D I did not realize until fairly recently that I, and most players, had been using the 0 HP and negative hit point rules completely wrong; we simply let characters who were magically healed up from 0 or negatives to jump right back into action, when according to the DMG they were in a coma for 1d6 turns then any activity other than rest for one full week... even with application of magic spells and cures (other than the nigh omnipotent heal spell).

    Heck, even now that I have noticed it, when I run AD&D, I still ignore it...

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  7. This is really more of a "lore" mistake rather than "rules" but, for years I thought a halfling was a half-human/half-dwarf. At the time had not read Tolkein yet and, though I was familiar with Hobbits, I didn't know that they were trademarked. And in fairness, D&D had half-elves and half-orcs, it never occured to me that halflings were a seperate race.

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  8. I thought that you had to actually put miniatures of all the monsters on the entire dungeon map when making the dungeon as DM.

    I didn't have miniatures so I cut out paper markers and laid them out on my dungeon map, so they could be moved around as wandering monsters, etc.

    More careful perusing of the rules suggested it was unnecessary.




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  9. That hit dice thing was my big bugaboo as well. I could not figure out how a goblin could have 1-1 HD, since that would mean it was already dead when you met it. Confused the heck out of me...

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  10. We misinterpreted how to add hit points as we leveled. Instead of adding an additional HD at level two, we rolled two more and then three more at level three, etc. We learned of our mistake when we finally played with people outside my family. We literally had hundreds of hit points more than other characters of the same level. We were really embarrassed.

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  11. I also confused HD with HP. Used AD&D PHB with Mentzer Basic combat since my introduction to the game was those two books and Dieties & Demigods. Used that as a monster manual. LOL

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    1. Someday I'm gonna run that "Deities & Demigods as Monster Manual" campaign. Someday... that will be an awesome day. Even discounting the gods themselves, there are some really cool monsters in there...

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    2. I don't recall what grade it was, but I did an entire mythology report out of Dieties and Demigods, and did well. Maybe, um, 7th or 8th grade.

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  12. Glad I'm not the only person who bought the Fiend Folio before the Monster Manual.

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  13. I started playing when the Monster Manual had already come out, the Players Handbook was about to come out and the DMG was still a year away (so the combat tables, etc. were taken from that "preview" of the DMG in The Dragon and the Judges Guild Ready Ref sheets). I don't think I misinterpreted any rules, partly because there were plenty of game stores and game get togethers where you could observe play by veteran players. My mistake, I suppose, was treating the rules as Gospel pronouncements that you were NOT free to change, though you could ignore the complicated or fussy ones like weapon speeds, etc. And of course I didn't realize that some rules, such as the Judges Guild OD&D charts and the preview DMG tables somewhat contradicted each other. My first act of rebellion was when, in a bout of 18-year old anti-science fiction and anti-low fantasy prudery, I methodically went through the Monster Manual annotating many entries with "this doesn't exist," "this doesn't exist," etc.

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  14. Not a rule thing, but we played AD&D for a good solid nine months before my mother caught us mispronouncing "paladin" to rhyme with Aladdin. Mortifying.

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    1. That's how we pronounced it, for the first... decade... We also pronounced "attribute" with the emphasis on the second syllable. I was probably in fifth or sixth grade. :)

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  15. My first AD&D DM didn't need the Monster Manual either. I remember the experience point entry for monsters was written something like 200 + 5/hp or something to that effect. He took that to mean if you killed the monster, you gained 5 permanent hp. So we had 5th level characters with hundreds of hit points. Pretty funny really. :)

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  16. To me, that HD: 4+1 meant 'add 1hp to each HD'. Therefore the monster had 4 extra hit points. Other rules were ignored just because they would bog down the game.

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  17. To me, that HD: 4+1 meant 'add 1hp to each HD'. Therefore the monster had 4 extra hit points. Other rules were ignored just because they would bog down the game.

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  19. We has exactly same rules misunderstanding of thinking monster hit dice meant hit points. My friend Mikko started running Mentzer Redbox games and I learned the rules from him rather than reading them myself. Those truly were days of high adventure, heroes of old could lob off a dragons head with one lucky and well-aimed strike and even hill giants fell when they had 3 feet of cold steel inserted between their ribs. Our PC's were more like Conan, Fafrd and Gray Mouser, daring heroes who might live or die rather than these nervous little wretches that poke eveything with 10 feet poles and send henchmen to die before them.

    Now that I think of it... Crom! Why did I ever learn the rules properly?

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  20. You know spell descriptions used to give range and area in inches? And an inch could be 10 feet indoors or 10 yards outdoors? So 11 year-old me never quite grasped that. I spent a lot of time holding my finger and thumb three inches apart and thinking 'Fireballs are *really small*...’

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  21. Mispronunciations were the bane of my earliest D&D experiences:

    My very first game, the other players wanted me to be "the Clerk". I was rather confused why a paper shuffler would be adventuring. I wanted to be a hero!

    The, we ran into a lone "Org" (pronounced like the first part of Organization). Turns out that "Org" (or "Ogre" as other people might have pronounce it) was the toughest damn orc we ever fought.

    But once we got the hang of things (including the HD/HP thing, and the strange usage of inches) I don't think we did TOO many things completely incorrectly. We ignored a lot of stuff though, like weapon speeds and weapon/armor interactions. And training costs.

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  22. I assumed the " and ' characters, even though I had always thought they were inches and feet, must be feet and yards. It was the only thing I could figure out that made sense. Because of that I also thought Gary Gygax must be British or something and that must be a thing they do in Britain.

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