The Best Game

My paper copy for 5th Edition Player’s Handbook

Whenever someone asks me about Dungeons and Dragons (and sometimes even when they don’t) I tell them, “It’s the best game, ever.”

And I mean that, sincerely, truthfully, wholeheartedly. There are so many parts to love about D&D, and I would be hard pressed to name a single one. At any given moment, it might be the collaboration, or the storytelling, or the randomness, or the strategy. Or maybe the friendships, the laughter, the gripping moments of uncertainty for a character’s fate.

I didn’t own my own copy of the AD&D handbook. I had to borrow Jim’s

I first played Dungeons and Dragons (technically Advanced Dungeons and Dragons) in 1982. I was a junior in high school, and my friend Jim Law introduced me to the game. We played at his house and then later at school, under the watchful eye of our history teacher, Mr. Gaines.

Jim was the DM. I played a fighter. We had a rogue and a ranger. Later, when Mr. Gaines joined for a few sessions, we had a wizard.

We were all pretty new at it. The game had been around about 10 years at that point, and it was about to get an overhaul with a 2nd edition of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragon rule set.

AD&D dragon kin

And the rules, as I remember them, were pretty complicated. It makes sense in a math geek sort of way, but you figured out if you hit a monster by using a probability chart. What’s the probability that you, a 1st level fighter, are going to hit that lizard creature? It’s low, right? The probability is low, and to calculate it, you have to do math.*

*I mean, you have to do math now, too. The monster has its armor class (AC) and you have your combat modifiers – your attack and damage numbers. So you roll the 20-sided dice (d20) and add your attack number – the number that modifies the dice roll, and if it exceeds the monsters AC, you hit them!

With Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, you had a formula called THAC0. That stands for “To Hit Armor Class 0” The formula is your THAC0 score MINUS the monster’s AC = the number you need to roll to hit a given monster. Your THAC0 — character level and class (and sometimes race) — against the monster’s literal armor. But it’s backwards. Because: probability. How likely is it that your level 3 fighter is going to hit the boss monster? Not very. Which means….

From an AD&D Monster Manual supplement

….. A super hard to hit monster could have an AC of say -5. Negative armor? What? And you, as a level 3 fighter, will have to roll a 20 on the 20-sided dice to hit that monster.

My three D&D versions

Flash forward to 2019, and I’m still playing, playing a fighter again, as fate would have it, although I spent most of my 3.5 years as a healer. I didn’t think that any system could surpass 3.5 in my heart. That’s where I really fell in love with the possibilities within D&D, and yet the 5th edition retooling took the best of 3.5, tempered it with the best of 4th edition and made a system that just purrs along, allowing the story, the players, and the DM to come together and make true story magic.


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