Mixing & Matching Dungeons & Dragons


Aaaaand... we're back. This time, I'm joined by my now 12 year old daughter in our discussion of mixing versions of D&D to get a more interesting game. Yes I know, we just committed heresy. Here we are, on the eve on a brand, spanking new edition of D&D (4th, for those of you keeping track) and we're talking about mixing 1st, 2nd & 3rd all into one big game. I've had people ask me how I do that and as "Newbie" (as my daughter has decided to be called) thinks this is completely normal, it makes sense for us to walk you through how we do this and why.

I started playing D&D back in pre-first edition days. That’d be before the boxed sets. Before the brown books. Back when it was being developed in the early-mid ‘70’s. When the 1/2 size books finally started seeing print, a lot of us had already built our own tables for things like monsters and treasures and shopping. As a result, we used the books when they made sense or augmented each GM’s self-created “Manual” (paper in a notebook). With that start, I was never going to be a “normal player” and when I got married, the husband and a bunch of friends asked me to GM for them. As this was some 5 years before 2nd edition, it was a largely 1st edition based game. Except for the parts that were from the old manila backed 1/2 sized books. And the parts that were from other sources, like Elfquest ‘cause we really liked their take on how magic worked for elves.

...this sort of “bring your own” worked just fine.

As we continued playing, 2nd edition came out. Of course we were in grad school by then and couldn’t afford all those fancy new books. So we continued using mostly 1st edition, but added some 2nd edition flavor from the Player’s handbook (we could afford 1 or 2 of those fancy new books). We added the new info for wizards and clerics (spells and schools and such as players wanted to use them) as well as the THACO (for earlier characters, we translated their characters to THACO stats) and Non-Weapon’s proficiencies. They gave a character a more rounded set of skills and the GM more things to play with. We continued, however, to use Demons and Devils as we were unimpressed with the whitewashing TSR was doing for sales purposes. We kept the treasure and shopping tables from 1st edition. And anyone that wished to make their mage or cleric from the 1st edition was more than welcome to. Since this was a regular group of players with a few new folks every now and then, this sort of “bring your own” worked just fine.

By the time 3rd edition came out, we had a child and had started exposing her to this mish mash of D&D. We had all the books from 1st edition, both DMG and PH from 2nd edition and were able to acquire most of the 3rd ed. books at 50% off (or better) when WOTC closed so many of their games stores, just shortly after 3E came out. We completely ignored the reversal of AC, as we’d been playing to long for that silliness. So we continued using the older THACO rules as well as monster manuals from 1st and 2nd Ed. As we’d never really observed the non-human class limitations, we fit right into 3rd Ed. in that sense. Since most of us playing were real users of armor and weapons, we also chose to allow both strength and dexterity bonuses for both sword-like weapons and bow-like weapons. The idea that greater strength didn’t actually help shoot a heavier bow or let that arrow fly either farther or with greater force was just downright silly. The idea that a dexterous person wouldn’t hit with a sword more often than a klutz also made no sense to those of us who swung a sword or shot bow & arrow. If the players hit the monsters too often or too easily, it’s always been easy enough to increase the number of hit die or the AC on the monster, whether during planning or on the fly.

The idea has always been to make the game fun.

The idea has always been to make the game fun. If that means finding an old Dragon magazine with Witch Class so Newbie can create a character class she likes, so be it. If that means using tables from 1st edition, non-weapon’s proficiencies from 2nd edition, skills & feats and removal of class limitations for non-human races from 3rd edition, so be it. We do tend to confuse rules lawyers, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We use monsters from all 3 versions, leaning, I have to admit, on the more familiar (to us) 1st Ed. style of stats for all monsters. But we’re as likely to describe one monster (visually) and use a completely different monster’s stats as not. No – it’s not all random. Each world tends to its own consistency. But my world has different rules from the Husband’s world and, I suspect, from Newbie’s world. Though we’ve not gotten to play there yet, she tells me “Any Day Now, mom.” We’ve never really adopted the d20 system – but who knows, Newbie may just teach it to us all.

Anyways, that sounds cool, good idea.

I came in with 3.0 and so couldn't mix them like you have unless I spent a lot of time looking back for stuff. However, it's still really cool and a good idea. I've got a question, though. Is there anything from 4th that you want to add to your current game?

Amen and more power to you. At a certain point in most people's gaming career, they realize that the people who write these things aren't necessarily smarter or more creative than they. They take ownership of their gaming experience, take the rules thay like, discard the ones they don't and make up the ones they need but don't exist, all to fulfill gamin's #1 objective: to do what makes it fun and immersive and maningful /for you/. Way to stick it to the Man!

Haven't look closely enough at 4th yet -- tho I suspect I'll be interested in some of the new classes -- whether i take any of the new rules will take a little more investigation :>.