Episode 6 (Part 2) AD&D RPG The Player’s Handbook


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So, after we’ve covered the Dungeon Masters Guide it’s time for us to get to the nitty-gritty of the core rules.


The story so far and a review from iTunes. Please review us too, if you haven’t already.


@dailydwarf makes his first, controversial, pick from his personal best AD&D scenarios in White Dwarf and lists the ‘also rans’.


We got a mention on the very entertaining Old School podcast SAVE OR DIE. They have an interview with Chris Holmes, son of Dr J. Eric Holmes, author of D&D Basic from back in the day.



Two wizards dual to the death on the blackened heath.



I’ve made a contribution to the Rolistes Podcast Foodie Special.

Last couple of tickets remain for Grog-Meet in November.

Become an honorary member of The Armchair Adventurers by putting a few coins in the beret as a tip, at the Patreon site. Watch the video I made too, I’m very proud of it.

Next Time: Monster Manual and our thoughts on 5e.

Author: Dirk

Host of The GROGNARD RPG Files podcast. Talking bobbins about Runequest, Traveller, Call of Cthulhu, T&T, AD&D and others from back in the day and today.

21 thoughts on “Episode 6 (Part 2) AD&D RPG The Player’s Handbook”

  1. I really enjoyed the episode…especially the shout out. Although I’m not a fan of Vancian magic, I really enjoyed your discussion of spells. I thought your creative use of “boring” spells was interesting. Maybe it’s not the spells that are boring…maybe it’s just me. Your point about the fire-and-forget system being more magical was interesting. Thanks for providing some grist for the thought-mill.

    1. Thanks for your review on iTunes, it really makes a difference and encourages us to continue. I’m now on a mission to persuade you that Vancian Magic is the best there is: mischievous, inventive, spectacular and has a strange logic of its own. We enjoyed doing the spell dual. We’re looking forward to covering the monsters next time too.

      1. I don’t think so as I’m not keen on listening to Actual Play Podcasts. I know there’s some good ones, but I just don’t think RPGs are a spectator sport. We will be doing a ‘special’ which will review the Traveller Adventure that we’ve been running online with participation from all the players.

  2. Hey guys (imagine the Texas twang),

    I’m at the spells myself and found the use of the Magic Mouth most interesting. That’s one we never thought of.

    I do hope you are taking my “Blythy’s wrong) comment as the LOL it was intended. On SoD, if I say “Bah!” its meant partially in jest. I do say partially, because while I do accept JB’s comment that when it comes to pure rules….with the exception of the combat/save/psionic/turn tables you don’t “need” the DMG; its got so much juicy advice and suggestions in there it’d be a shame not to reference it for more than tables. As you noted yourselves in the spell section, the DMG gives valuable suggestions on how to use or side-effect spells given in the PHB. Of course, you guys were kinda sidetracked, what with the Simon D&D-kinda-sorta games.

    DM Mike
    Save or Die podcast

    PS: Glad we could help with the ‘Save or Die’ bump! There’s never enough OS podcasts out there.


    1. Hey Mike – we knew it was fun and our outrage was for comic effect too. We thought it funny! The 1st edition DMG has lots of eccentric charms. I think what JB was suggesting is that it’s an attempt to grasp something that was being conjured in the writing, so it some times loses its way.

      Really enjoyed your Chris Holmes interview and I’m slowly working through your back catalogue. Keep up the good work guys!

  3. ‘lo again,

    Ok, I can see that. For its time, the 1E DMG was trying to do something nobody had really ever tried before; teaching how to DM in a text. With that in mind, its likely that there was to be a few missteps. Yet even today the DMG and the Holmes Basic books are my go-to’s for inspiration in CD&D.

    BTW, I *could* comment about you guys rolling initiative with a d10 when the 1E rules specifies d6s (rarely d4’s)…but I won’t. LOL!

    I was lucky enough to play AD&D around 2002 at a con, and the tournament’s final round was DMed by Gary Gygax himself. *HE* used a d10 for initiative though, and that’s good enough for me. 😉

    DM Mike

    1. I discovered the Grognard Files through the mention on Save or Die, which I’ve been listening to for a while, and I’m very grateful. Both very good podcasts.

  4. Really enjoyed the podcast, particularly the spellcasting duel – I have a newfound respect for the versatility of Enlarge / Reduce. It’s interesting though; I think Mike Mearls & co. must have got wind of the nefarious uses to which this spell was being put by Judge Blythy, since in 5th edition, it’s now a 2nd level spell (rather than 1st level), and it specifically states that the target cannot be an object that is worn or carried. No more shrinking a fighter’s armour or sword. Spoilsports!

    I’ll second Dirk’s recommendation of the “Save or Die” podcast. The Chris Holmes interview was great, and I also really enjoyed the shows with Jon Peterson as the co-host; some great insight into the early OD&D books from Jon, DM Mike and the team.

  5. Great podcast again. I too am fond of DnD magic for it’s “character”. The spells from the Empire of the Petal Throne games had the same awesome flavor. When I run other games I steal the names of spells just to give flavor to my descriptions.
    The Judges insight about spells without saving throws being superior to ones that have saving throws was an eye opener. I had never thought of that. Even when I was young I realized that you could never polymorph a dragon because it would save, BUT I never took it to the next step and avoided even taking spells with saving throws. Brilliant.

    1. Thanks for that … I think it is our background in Runequest that has made us generally pessimistic: when there is a roll to be made, it will usually fail.

      I think it also comes from our preference for playing at the lower levels, which means that you have to think inventively about spells.

      I suppose, as a group, we are ‘tactically’ minded, again I think it comes from Runequest, where outright confrontation usually results in death.

      I’ve never played Empire of the Petal Throne, but it does appeal, I think I might seek it out. I think there are PDFs available … somewhere!

      1. There are limited PDFs if the old stuff. There is a new version of the game out called Bethorm that IS available on pdf (I used to collect books but I needed to down-size so now I only get PDFs).

  6. Thanks for the kind words Dirk and Daily Dwarf… Is that because I only went after Judge Blythy in ep 122? 😀

    Skyrivertitan, that’s a good point about

  7. Hey – you’re welcome. I’m sure Blythy would join in too if he checked these comments out, more often. We both enjoyed the interview with Chris Holmes. It’s part of the story that we didn’t really know until you covered it. Respect to you too, for playing with Mr Gygax!

  8. Hi Guys,

    I just wanted to drop you a quick line to say how much I’ve enjoyed listening to your podcasts, having discovered them only a couple of weeks ago, and now caught up with them all.

    My RPG history has many similarities, but a few differences too. I started playing D&D in 1979, and although I dabbled with a few other systems – T&T, RQ, Traveller, C&S, Bushido, Pendragon, I always found myself coming back to familiar ground with Holmes basic D&D and 1st ed. AD&D.

    I’m looking forward to Grog Meet later this year, and hope to get the chance to play one of those games that I never encountered back in the day – Stormbringer, maybe, although I always liked the Corum and Hawkmoon books more than the Elric stories.

    Anyway, keep up the good work, and I’m looking forward to your next (Monstrous) episode.

    Richard Scott
    Otherworld Miniatures

  9. Thanks Richard — good to know that you’ve found us! Look forward to meeting you at Grog-Meet where we can try an persuade you that Elric is the greatest!


  10. As grognard who comes very much from the Runequest camp, there was always something very enticing about the “other game” – AD&D. Although I didn’t get the chance to play AD&D much when i was younger, its appeal was still very strong. After all White Dwarf was full of articles and adventures for AD&D. It was very much at the centre (and still is) of RPG culture.
    I think in this podcast you’ve really hit the nail on the head as to what that thing/appeal was about AD&D. Its pop/pulp approach to fantasy roleplaying tapped into fantasy archetypes that grabbed the popular imagination. The Magic user class being a great example. Magic did feel intrinsically “magical” in AD&D. By contract the game which I enjoyed & played the most (Runequest) although full of magic, never felt as instinctually magical as AD&D. In Runequest everyone had access to some magic, which in a sense took away from the sense of awe and speciality of the magic user.
    In many ways I quite like the archetypes of D&D classes, because everyone has their distinct specialities, with appropriate colour. Theres not too much overlapping in the character classes. By contrast with Runequest 3 divorced from the Glorantha setting, the game could at times feel a little dry when establishing player characters.

    I find myself in agreement with the Armchair adventurers about the power gaming issue of AD&D. The increase in HP’s can lead to superhero/invincible characters, which grates a little with my Runequest background. I like a little vulnerability even at high levels. Having said that I’m very much enjoying D&D 5e we’ve started on roll20. I recently levelled up, and I’m still feeling good about it.

  11. I recall the ultra tiny font for Embertrees. Paul Vernon published a scenario, Starstone, which had Embertrees as one of the locations in it. Might actually run it now.

  12. Enjoyed this episode enormously. I just watched Ant Man & the Wasp and realized every action scene in that film is built around creative uses of your two favorite spells – Enlarge and Shrink.

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