I recently started a D&D group at my local library. I am the Dungeon Master for a collection of individuals who have either never played D&D before or were only briefly exposed to it. One played “back in the day” (early 1980s) and has just a smattering of recent experience. Only two of these players know each other, otherwise they are all strangers.

Many of these players responded to printed flyers I posted around town on corkboard bulletin boards in local coffee shops and grocery stores. One responded to a free ad I posted on craigslist.

What’s really cool about this group, however, is that we’re going old school. We’ll be playing Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy, published by Necrotic Gnome. This is essentially a mashup of the late 1970s 1st edition AD&D and early 1980s Basic/Expert rules published by TSR.

We’ve held our first Session 0. The format of the evening was in three parts.

First, we discussed how D&D works and how it’s played. We covered some broad level rules and debated between following the Basic rules, which are based on the early 1980s Basic boxed set (“Moldvay Basic” as it’s commonly called), or the Advanced rules. The group voted to go with the Advanced rules, primarily so they had access to a broader range of classes and races.

We did decide, however, not to follow “race as class” — you’re a dwarven fighter or elven magic-user, rather than just a “dwarf” or just an “elf.”

Furthermore, the group decided to follow the rules as written (RAW) as much as possible, with only a few minor exceptions.

Here are the table rules we’ve decided on so far:

  • Natural 20’s cause double damage; natural 1’s cause a deleterious effect. This applies to monsters as well as characters.
  • No race-as-class (mentioned above).
  • No drow player-characters.
  • No multi-class characters.

Second, we spent some time rolling up characters. This took the bulk of the evening because the process was brand new to the players and we had only one copy of the Old-School Essentials Player’s Tome (Advanced).

Stats were generated by each player rolling 3d6 six times, then arranging those numbers in the desired order based on the class they preferred. (I ruled that if the average of their six stats was less than 12, they could re-roll all six stats again.) Point buys were then implemented to raise prime requisites. Finally, we went around the table setting secondary stats like bonuses and then bought some basic equipment, etc.

Last, we spent a half hour going through a mini-combat where the party encountered three hobgoblins in a room. Only one character took damage before all three monsters were dispatched.

The players quickly picked up on the need to balance risk and reward and even started to think about combat tactics, playing to their characters’ strengths and weaknesses.

Session 1, the first day of actual game play, will take place a week later, with the ongoing play schedule set to every-other week.

So far the group has been enthused and excited about the process and prospects of some great old-school roll-playing action. I am, too.

I began playing D&D back in 1980 with the purchase of the Moldvay “purple box” Basic Set, and subsequent purchases of the original three 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons core rule books (Dungeon Masters Guide, Players Handbook, and Monster Manual). I’ve been a Dungeon Master 95% of the time since then.

It is great to not only get back to playing AD&D-slash-Basic/Expert rules, but to have the opportunity to teach a group of people the joys of Dungeons & Dragons essentially from scratch.