In light of a looming edition, others are giving older editions a shot, so I figured I might as well subject mine to them as well. Partially because I wanted to see if there really was anything about them that I actually liked, partially because the only edition that some had played before was 3rd. So scraping from the bottom barrel, we started with OD&D, including the adventure In Search of the Unknown.
They managed to get through the first hall, swing a left, and run into an auditorium where they were gang-raped by six kobolds. The game ran roughly a half hour, and most of that was me rummaging through pdfs trying to figure out descriptions and rules (I guess I had heard that doors had a variable chance of being stuck or some shit).
Ultimately, their final opinion was that they "fucking hated it", though I found elements of the play style to have some positive aspects. Let me break it down.
My complaints have largely not changed in execution: the classes are very cookie-cutter and "samey", and the premise of going through bizarre dungeons to loot the place for gold because it somehow gives you XP seems very "video-gamey". The rules were not really complete, and I found myself having to keep a copy of Swords & Wizardry on hand to compare and contrast rulings. Basically, it was a fucking hassle and I felt like that I could have done a much better job if I had just made up rules the game myself (which for all I knew I was).
The players were likewise displeased that their characters had changed from competent heroes to paranoid murder-hobos. When you are able to take a few hits before going down, the game is not as swingy; you can get hit by something and usually have a chance to react to it, as opposed to instantly dying. With the characters having between 2-3 hit points each, the odds were better than half that they were going to die in one hit (and almost certainly the first encounter).
The other downside was the rolled attributes. Having complete control of your character, being able to play what you want and how you want is appealing. Personally I would rather use the Gamma World system (rolling for not directly-important stats), or at least have rolled stats be an option rather than the standard.
For the first time since I ran D&D, one of the players used a mirror to peek around corners. He also used a 10-foot pole, a practice which largely well out of use at some point in 3rd Edition. I think it was more of a nostalgic kick than anything. The player didn't particularly care for it, stating that he only did it because he was afraid of getting randomly killed by...well, anything. To be fair that mind-set made things seem more immersive, I guess, as I would imagine people going to plunder their first trap- and monster-infested tomb being pretty damned paranoid.
The other perk was how quickly combat could start; you just roll a d6, highest goes first. Since everyone can really only make what amounts to a "basic melee attack" it is more of a factor of if the monster you want to hit is within hitting range. They largely did not care for this, as they felt it stripped away any variety and tactical decisions that could tip the odds in their favor; getting bonuses to hit, keeping the kobolds away from the magic-user, etc.
Something that was kind of a plus was the kind of a lack of minis. With no real tactical decisions to be made, terrain to be utilized, or opportunity attacks I could basically just describe the room, let them tell me what they want to do, and have them roll. The real plus was that if a monster popped in the room there was no delay between rolling initiative and setting things up, which in practice kind of drains the suspense.
Would I Play Again?
Heeell no. Not enough variety when making a character, not a lot of note in in terms of advancement. In its favor the lack of hit points helps lay on the paranoia really thick, but honestly I want players to make characters with backgrounds and personalities and go through a story. While I could tack on houserules to make it easier for them to survive, the end result would look more like 3rd Edition without feats, at which point I might as well be playing at least 2nd Edition. Hell, why cannot they re-release 2nd Edition instead of 1st?
Anyway, next week we are going to give 1st Edition and Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun a run. They will be 5th-level, so we'll see if we can eke out another 10 minutes of game time with this one. :-P