New D&D == Munchkin RPing becomes the system

A friend that plays 4th ed emailed this to me. It is from quite a few years back, which would place the author in the 4e era of ‘D&D for those that never wish to lose.’  Read the blog post at THIS LINK, then my responses.


To the preface paragraph: Convoluted?  Perhaps by the falling educational standards of today.  Can you read and comprehend above junior-high level? Remember facts?  Look things up in a book if unsure? Then you can learn AD&D 1e! It is not some difficult ‘rite of passage’ that the author seems to think it is.  It just takes a wee bit more patience and effort than the Facebook / X-bone / PS4 generation are willing to put into it, hence the watered-down later editions.  Sit down, read the damned book, look over the tables…you’ll get it.  No ‘rites’ needed.

Now on to the points…

10) Without Treasure Types, how do you KNOW what a creature carries? Based on the last line of this point, I say we have a ‘Monty Haul’ player here (for the newbies, there was a game show called Let’s Make a Deal, hosted by Monty Hall that gave away tons and tons of prizes, more than most game shows of the era, so its a play on words…Hall – haul). No one I knew that played 1e ever even KNEW what type of treasure a monster had, let alone ignored alignment to kill for it..most DM’s had to look it up.

9) Nothing wrong with the level titles. This whole point is rather…confusing. At one point, its PC as hell about the mixing of religious titles being insulting THEN it goes non-PC / stereotypical munchkin with’kick-ass monk’ and the macho crack about ‘Grand Master of Flowers’ being a title.

8) Magic-users. Makes perfect sense. They have NOT progressed enough to BE a wizard, let alone MAGE. Since the game was based off high fantasy, not Harry Potter, Wizards and Mages were POWERS. And later in the levels, magic-users BECOME Powers and then the title fits.

As to ‘One shot and done’…this is pure Munchkin talking. You knew the drill when you signed up as a magic-user. You start out weaker than everyone in the party and by mid-levels, you are their equal..and saving their asses on a regular basis with a well-placed sleep, slow or fireball. At higher levels you are the heavy artillery…YOU soften the enemy up for the guys in steel to mop up. Starting magic-users out as powers is a big mistake of the later editions. If you start them strong, then you have to cap their upper power limits or you end up with a class that attracts munchkins from the start.

7) Here, I half-agree. The level limits for demi-humans was strictly because Gygax preferred a mostly human party (it will eventually consign the campaign as a whole to one in which the only races will be non-human.- EGG) so these rules were to encourage playing humans. I agree this is pointless..if the players want to be non-humans, who the hell am I to FORCE them to be a race they do not want to be?  Most 1e DM’s dropped this limitation since it was personal preference (of Gygax) rather than an issue of game balance.

Weapon wielding – Disagree totally. More munchkin by the author. Clerics fight ALMOST as good as fighters, can wear the same armor, use shields AND have some offensive spells. The weapons limit their overall damage output to mitigate for their spell use. To non-munchkins, this is called balance.  How many vorpal maces you seen floating around?  Holy Avenger morning-stars are not too common either.  

6) Incoherent point. First the original author whines about how hard it is to become a bard, then segues into a rant on level progression not handing out prizes past level 10-ish, then calls Bards a prestige class. Uhm, prestige classes should be hard, not handed out like candy like in the later editions.

5) Agreed 100%.  UA was a steaming pile of crap filled with overpowered classes and, with the exception of the cantrips and a FEW of the spells, unbalanced.   Though I do find it incredibly humorous he refers to it as ‘Munchkin’ and ‘Risk-lite’ gaming when those terms describe 3e, 4e (especially) and 5e to perfection. Pot, meet Kettle.

4) Didn’t use this book very often.  Mostly made-up gods of my own, or after the actual Greyhawk gods were released in Dragon and later in the newer Greyhawk supplements, used those (All hail the Sun-Father Pelor, though he was technically a late 2e or early 3e god, perhaps Hieronius would be more appropriate to hail?). As far as killing gods goes, there is some precedent for it in High Fantasy literature. And pre-avatar, most DM’s used the same rule as a demons…killing it on prime just sends it home for X time. Killing it in the home plane kills it…ala, Lloth as the author mentioned.

3) Agreed, not the best implemented of ideas, but I see the reasoning. Classical magic-users in books (with the notable exception of Gandalf) tended to use ‘eye of newt’ and other things when casting spells. So they included it in the rules.  It also gives a way to semi-disarm a wizard…get his reagent bag and he’s down to Verbal and Somatic spells. Most 1e DM’s just treated it as ‘you have them in your bag, replenish in the next town for X GP (Where X depended on time in field and spells cast).

2) ‘It’s a dumb real-life rule that gets in the way of, you know, having fun’. Munchkin, pure munchkin this author. Again, for all you New-D&D kiddies, most 1e DM’s did not rigorously enforce this, unless a player went overboard and decided to carry a kiloton of stuff…THEN the DM would gently remind the player of the encumbrance rules and point out that they clearly were carrying too much.  

My current local group, for example, hired a horse and a wagon and a few guards to watch over it.  When they loot a dungeon, they stash things in some cleared room, then before moving on they move their stash to the wagon.   1e gamers do not find encumbrance rules unfun…they behave realistically and make it part of the experience!

1) Agreed. Needlessly complex. But then again, not a big issue since in most barroom brawls SOME NPC has a dagger or a club then out come the swords and maces. Besides, if it wasn’t required by the module, barroom brawls are so ‘cliche’ no DM I knew ever purposely staged one.

While I can agree on a couple points, most of what the poster says is filtered through the lens of pure weapons-grade Munchkin gaming that AD&D has morphed into starting with 3e and the Wizards of the Clueless takeover of TSR.  I guess modern role-playing has become lazy – slavishly following every rule in the simplified ruleset to the letter as DM and this makes 1e hard for newer gamers. It was never intended to be graven in stone, but guidelines. From the Introduction in the DMG, pg 9.

‘The final word then, is the game. Read how and why the systems is as it is, follow the parameters, and then cut portions as needed to maintain excitement’.

‘Know the game systems, and you will know how and when to take upon yourself the ultimate power. To become the final arbiter. rather than the interpreter of the rules, can be a difficult and demanding task, and it cannot be undertaken lightly.’

Sadly, DMs of ‘D&D Lite’ (that is 3e+) do not seem to be able to take on the responsibility of tailoring their games within the rules framework as encouraged in the DMG. They point to rules that no sane DM would run (grappling) and their inner munchkin kicks into high gear. 1e is not suited to the unimaginative DM, or the DM not willing to tailor to his campaign. It is easier to play a watered down version of the original while sitting around a table and laughing like idiots at anything and everything.

Author: The Gamemaster

A role-playing gamer and game master since AD&D 1e back in my high school days. Took a ‘brief’ hiatus from gaming starting in the late 80’s (as in around 28 years) and just recently started to get back into the hobby.

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