Monday, August 7, 2017

AD&D Companion update

Many folks reading this are probably already aware, but a few may not be, of the "AD&D Companion" document that I compiled last year and have updated a few times since. There's a link to it near the bottom of the list over on the side, and I've made occasional other references to it, but haven't drawn a lot of attention to it.

For those who don't already know, this document combines three things, in about equal measure:

First is a compilation of all of the AD&D material I know of written or explicitly approved by Gary Gygax that wasn't compiled into an official AD&D rulebook during his tenure at TSR - including new monsters that post-dated (or were left out of) the Monster Manual II, material from Dragon magazine that post-dated (or was left out of) Unearthed Arcana, assorted acknowledged-but-uncorrected errata for the rulebooks, and even an unofficial new AD&D class (the Hunter) that Gary published in New Infinities' short-lived "Realms of Adventure" newsletter in 1988.

Second is material that I adapted to AD&D from Gary's two post-TSR systems - Dangerous Journeys: Mythus (published by GDW in 1992) and Lejendary Adventure (published by Hekaforge Productions in 1999) - including joss, knacks and quirks, "spellsongs" for bards, new weapons, and several abilities for the jester and acrobat classes. There's a lot of interesting material in both of these games that showed that Gary was still actively creating and expanding his concept of fantasy role-playing in different (and, IMO, more interesting) directions than TSR was taking the official game, that when adapted to the AD&D paradigm can help bring new freshness and possibilities and remind us of the period in the 80s when AD&D was all about expansions and new material, and not the later eras when (due to lack of high-quality new material) it became increasingly hidebound and ossified.

Last are my own house rules and expansions compiled from several decades of play - including my preferred "fixes" to various problem-areas in the rules (like psionics, weapon specialization, and various under- or overpowered spells), my versions of some of Gary's proposed-but-never-detailed new AD&D classes (mystics and mountebanks), and various "cheat-sheet" documents I made for myself over the years covering topics like how to go about hiring mercenaries, what you can find at each type of shop in a typical town, all the rules for wilderness adventuring that are otherwise spread across tons of rulebooks and modules, a quick-reference for the relevant details on all of the World of Greyhawk deities, and so on.

This document is extremely unofficial. I don't have permission from the copyright owners for any of the reprinted or adapted material, and it doesn't comply with the terms of the Open Gaming License (because I wanted to directly refer to the AD&D rulebooks and World of Greyhawk and not have to speak in code or pretend I'm talking about some other game). That's why I've kept it low-key. My position is that this is an amateur fan-production, intended solely for the private and personal use of me and my friends, and the last thing I want is to receive a cease and desist letter from Wizards of the Coast of the Gygax Estate.

That said, despite this document's humble ambitions (and even more humble production values), for anybody who reads this blog and enjoys the same flavor of AD&D as I do - who doesn't think the game ended with the publication of the Dungeon Masters Guide in 1979 and everything that came out after that was a mistake - I think there's value in it. If nothing more, having the compiled articles from Dragon and the monsters and magic items from the late-era modules all in one place should be convenient. It doesn't cost anything to download the document and take a look!

Anyway, that long preamble out of the way, the reason I'm mentioning this now is because I've just uploaded a new "version 1.3" of the document - the third revision since I originally posted it last year. The changes between this version and the previous one are the notes on barbarians and cavaliers that I've already posted here, and some additional compiled material - a bunch of changes and additions to the creatures in the Monster Manual from TSR's Monster Cards that I'd previously overlooked, a previously-overlooked note on halfling stats from Dragon #95, and a few more monsters and magic items from modules that I hadn't previously included. I'd like to think this is the "final, final" version of this document (I say that every time I upload a new version), but I don't actually believe that to be true anymore. As proof, already since uploading this version I've realized there are several typos that a reader pointed out that I forgot to correct...

The link over on the side now goes to the updated version (EDIT: now with corrected typos!). Or you can click here:

I hope if you haven't seen it before that you get some useful material or inspiration out of it. And please don't do anything with it that will get me in trouble with Wizards of the Coast or the Gygax Estate!

EDIT (12/8/17): New version uploaded:

I added one small but significant paragraph on page 7, regarding barbarians:
Barbarians able to harm creatures only normally affected by magic weapons (as described in UA) gain an actual bonus to hit and damage on melee attacks (i.e. +1 at 4th level, +2 at 6th, etc.). Furthermore, any melee hit by a barbarian that totals 21 or better after adjustments scores double damage. Both of these advantages are, of course, lost should the barbarian ever deign to wield an actual magical weapon.
Both of these additions come from Gary's write-up of Conan in The Dragon #36 (which obviously formed the conceptual baseline for the barbarian class), but were dropped from the class write-up itself in Dragon #63. Presumably that was done because they were felt to be too powerful, but doing so ironically made the class too weak at higher levels (as noted by Gary in Dragon #67) which UA "solved" by gradually lifting their restriction on magic item use, which is lame (since it undermines one of the core conceptual hooks of the class and contradicts Gary's claim (also in Dragon 67) that barbarians don't change and become more sophisticated as they increase in level, they just get tougher). By reverting to the original Conan write-up and extending these two abilities to all barbarians, balance is restored - high-level barbarians remain comparable in combat ability to other fighter-types without having to debase themselves by relying on witchcraft and magic like a coward or weakling ;)

EDIT (1/1/18): Another new link to the latest new revision (version 1.4) - Various changes from the last version are on pp. 32 and 73-77

EDIT (7/15/18): Another new revision (1.5): Various minor changes and corrections plus one significant modification to weapon specialization (which now includes an extra XP cost and additional training requirements to increase levels, which I think finally accomplishes what I've been trying to get to for years - make choosing whether or not to specialize feel like a meaningful choice with pros and cons rather than a no-brainer choice and de facto straight power-boost)


  1. I'm looking forward to reading this. I scrolled through it and love the layout. You must have put quite a bit of work into this. I'm impressed with what I've seen.

  2. I was too out of it yesterday to see this. Looks good. Whats the background on the monetary system? Is it from your campaign?

    1. The values for bronze, mithral, and adamantine come from AD&D modules (bronze pieces are in WG4, mithral and adamantine ingots are in D1-2), the others I took the names from Gary's later games but made up values that matched the established values (which are already different than the values he gave in the later games - and, for the low value coins, in the Gord novels). I would've just gone completely with the exchange rates from the Gord novels, but that would mess with backwards compatibility and make me have to recalculate the treasure in modules and all the price lists in the rulebooks (and probably even the XP system - 1 XP to 1 silver noble, perhaps).

  3. Now you need to write an adventure that assumes the Companion as baseline AD&D. :)

    1. An excellent idea, Zach!: an urban and/or courtly (and perhaps planar?) diplomatic-/spying-mission adventure---or whatever works best in your brain, Trent!

      Then of course you need to come back to NTX #10 to run it for us! :D


    2. A few months ago I did a sketch/outline of an adventure that wasn't intentionally designed to show off all of the additions from the Companion but managed to include a lot of them anyway (because that's what was at the top of my mind at the time): I had mountebank, mystic, hunter, and half-ogre NPCs, lots of in-town stuff where social class matters (so upper and lower class characters will have different opportunities and interact with different sets of NPCs), joss awards, etc.

      I've got about a dozen pages of handwritten notes (4-5K words?) covering 4 town areas, 3 dungeon areas, and 20 or so NPCs in a low-level sandboxy setting. I could probably pull it into something playable pretty quickly (the biggest thing would be drawing maps for the dungeon areas) but haven't felt the urge to do so yet - I've sort of got it stored in my back pocket in case anyone ever asks me to run a D&D game for them.

    3. I concur with grodog - a module and an appearance at GC or Texas seems in order.

      I like the way you fleshed out the idea sketches for the the proposed new classes - they look different but not "better" than the existing classes, which is hard to do when the enthusiasm sets in.

  4. I love this compendium. I have found fascinating your general take on the UA, and the trajectory of Gygax's thinking about AD&D in his final period of TSR (and beyond) for a long time.

    1. Thanks! It sometimes feels like I'm the only fan of this particular flavor of D&D (most "1E grognards" seem to draw the line somewhere around 1982) so on the one hand it feels like an uphill battle to get people to even give this stuff a chance, but on the other this era at least to me doesn't feel quite as trodden into the ground as 1974-82, where every syllable of text has already been analyzed to death a million times

  5. Along with Ken-do-nim's house rules document, I will definitely use some of this, and may use a lot. Thank you for a relevant contribution to the body of 1e work.

    My only question: what font are you using?

  6. Thanks a lot for this nice document. I've recently had my interest in AD&D rekindled after having ditched the game in 1989 for other games and other versions of D&D/OSR clones. Feels good to be back in the fold and with the game that started my interest in RPGs.

  7. Thanks, look forward to browsing through this.


  8. It is a great document - thanks for putting it out there. I wish, if I can complain about something that is free, that there was a way to distinguish your houserules from Gygax derived material. I wonder, for example, about the "Miscellaneous Weapon and Combat Notes", whether those are Gygax's ideas from various sources, or yours. It would be nice to know that.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. You’re not the only one to raise that issue. If I ever do a large-scale revision (like if I ever decide to upgrade to include art) I’ll be more careful to differentiate what’s all Gary (I identified this pretty well), what I derived/adapted from Gary, and what’s all me.

      On that particular page, let’s see. The stuff about which weapons require two hands, minimum strength requirements, and which weapons can be used while mounted is adapted from Dangerous Journeys. The bonus for spears and daggers against prone opponents comes from Chainmail’s Man to Man charts. The new rules for bows and crossbows were mine. The net rules were mine, possibly extrapolated from a module or monster description. Using shields as cover is extrapolated from the cover rules in the DMG. Indirect missile fire comes from Chainmail. Individual missile targeting is mine.

      Hope that helps :)

  9. So, following up on the above, here's (the first part of) a section-by-section guide for what material in the Companion is adapted from Gary and what came solely from me:

    Demi-human movement rates: implicit in the AD&D rules (see movement rates for pre-gen characters in various modules); giving them the same rate as humans at the two heaviest levels (instead of 3" when wearing plate and 1.5" when fully encumbered) was my addition (because the alternative seemed too harsh to the little folks)

    Halfling bonuses - To Hit bonus with missiles is from the AD&D MM (and I think was left out of the PH by accident rather than by deliberate choice); giving halflings the same AC bonus against large humanoids as gnomes was a suggested change by Gary in the foreword to the Unerathed Arcania AD&D netbook in the 90s; the stat bonuses for hairfeet and stouts are also by Gary, from Dragon #95 (and likely left out of UA by accident)

    Cavalier (& paladin) level limits for elves & half-elves come from Gary in Dragon #96 (and really should have been included in UA!)

    The half-ogre is, as noted, from Gary in Dragon #29 (Roger Moore did an expanded/revised version in Dragon #73 but I didn't take much from it)

    Allowing bo sticks and jo sticks to be included under "staff" is my addition

    Allowing NG and NE druids up to 6th level is me. Denying bonus spells for high Wisdom to druids is implicit per Gary in Dragon #92 (where he describes a special sect of druids who receive that bonus in exchange for giving up other things)

    Barbarians never being psionic comes from the original class write-up in Dragon #63; not requiring training and the mini-essay on their feelings about spellcasters and magic items come from Gary in Dragon #67; losing 0-90% of their cash and not getting XP for selling magic items is me; the bonus to hit & damage at higher levels & double damage on rolls of 21+ are me, but inspired by Gary's write-up of Conan in Dragon #36 (which obviously inspired the class, as mentioned in the main post above)

    The weapon specialization limits are me, inspired by the way weapon specialization is treated in Dangerous Journeys

    Bonus cantrips for high Int is me

    The restriction on dual-classed monks is Gary, from Dragon #96 (FWIW that article also limited paladins the same way, which was rendered moot when they became a sub-class of cavaliers, who are not allowed to dual-class)

    Items 1-5 under cavaliers are reversions to the original write-up of the class in Dragon #72; items 6 & 7 are me

    The mystic is me, inspired by Gary's description in Dragon #65

    The hunter is Gary, from the New Infinities "Realms of Adventure" newsletter, lightly edited by me

    Items 3-5 under the thief-acrobat are from the official UA errata in Dragon #103; the other modifications are by me, inspired by the Acrobatics skill description in Dangerous Journeys

    The mountebank is me, inspired by Gary in Dragon #65; the flimflam ability is derived from Dangerous Journeys, the makeup of gypsy caravans is from Gary's The Canting Crew

    The monk changes are me, inspired by the original version of the class in the OD&D Blackmoor supplement

    The revised bard is me

    The jester is me, inspired by Gary in Dragon #65; many of the class abilities (buffoonery and pranks) are adapted from the Buffoonery skill description in Dangerous Journeys

  10. (Part 2)

    The SEC expansions are me, with some of the notes under Changes to SEC adapated from Dangerous Journeys

    The "7th child" birth table is adapted from Dangerous Journeys

    The Appearance table is me; the lists of adjectives to describe characters is from Gary in Dragon #65 (and yeah it seems kind of lame and pointless, which is probably why they didn't bother to include it in UA, but I wanted to be as thorough as possible...)

    The concept of Joss Factors is from Dangerous Journeys; the adaptation to AD&D is me

    The concept of Knacks & Quirks is from Dangerous Journeys and Lejendary Adventure; the actual table entries are all by me

    The expanded secondary skill table is me

    The decreased starting money for barbarians and wild elves is me

    The expanded currency table is from Gary modules (WG4 for the value of bronze, D1-3 for the value of mithral and adamantine), expanded with additional currency types from Dangerous Journeys (and Gary's Gord novels) with values modified to match the established AD&D values where necessary

    The expanded equipment list comes mostly from Dangerous Journeys and Lejendary Adventure; I think there may be some stuff from AD&D 2E on there, and some of my own additions - this is probably the oldest thing in the document

    Some of the carrying capacities come from the AD&D Player Character Record Sheets or were derived or collected from other sources (the ship cargoes come from the DMG, I think)

    The new weapons were all adapted from Dangerous Journeys (for those that were also included in TSR's Oriental Adventures I looked at those versions, but for the most part didn't use them, preferring my own)

    I already covered the combat additions above

    The Men-at-arms hiring rules are my expansion/extrapolation of the material in the DMG and the mercenary hiring rules in module T1-4)

    The spell house rules are all mine (in some cases inspired by rules discussions on forums - Dragonsfoot, Knights & Knaves, etc.)

    The new spells are credited in the document - where they're not credited (i.e. most of the new mystic spells), I made them up

    The psionics house rules are all me

    The wilderness adventuring section collects lots of ad-hoc rules from modules (especially S4, WG4, and WG6 - though the swimming rules come from C2 and he climbing stuff from G2) along with some stuff from OD&D vol. 3 and the D&D Expert Rules that got sort of glossed over in the AD&D DMG and some essayish advice that's me

    The revised falling damage table was adapted from Lejendary Adventure by someone on the Dragonsfoot forums (whose forum-handle I don't recall and should probably look up so I can credit him/her)

    The common establishments list is mostly drawn from the list in TSR's Outdoor Geomorphs; the functions are mostly collected or extrapolated from the AD&D rules, as noted

    The World of Greyhawk homelands table is me

    The World of Greyhawk deities stuff is collected and reorganized from the WOG boxed set and the Suel Deities series in Dragon magazine, with light edits by me

    The monster changes are all over the map. The AC, alignment, and psionic strength changes are me; some things are obvious errata (whether officially acknowledged by TSR or not); most of the other changes come from TSR's Monster Cards; the dragon damage tables come from articles by Len Carpenter in Dragon #98 for the MM1 dragons (which Gary endorsed in a letter to the editor in Dragon #101) & #110 for the FF and MM2 dragons; the details about gargoyles and marlgoyles came from articles by Gary in Polyherdon #21 & 22

    Everything in the Appendices is directly from pre-existing sources, and is all individually credited in the document

    With that, now all of you who want to use all of Gary's additions to AD&D but don't want them cluttered up with all of my stuff know what to use and what to ignore :)

    1. OK, I checked: the LA-derived falling damage table was originally posted on the Dragonsfoot forum by a user going by "Chevalier" on 7/28/2015 - I don't know this poster's real name, alas

    2. Wow Trent, thanks, that answer really went the extra mile. I want to also say that I think it was super cool to cull such usefull stuff from DJ and LA, where it otherwise languishes in obscurity.

    3. I played DJ for a couple years back when it first came out, and though it was unquestionably way too complex there was a lot that I really liked about it and missed when I returned to D&D, so I decided to bring those things in, because flavor and feel-wise they all fit Gygax's AD&D like a glove and I think make a compelling alternative vision of where the game might have gone had Gary remained in charge longer.

      I never played LA and don't think it was as good as DJ - I think his well-meaning desire to have something simple drained away too much of the flavor and made the whole enterprise seem kind of flat and half-hearted - but I did own and read all of the books and there were a few things I liked well enough, and felt retained enough of that distinctive "Gary spark," to want to incorporate them. One thing I forgot to mention above is that the idea in the common establishments list of which goods are sold in different types of shops comes from LA, where the equipment list is differentiated by the type of shop that sells it (with some items sold in multiple shops, sometimes at different prices), which I really like, since it makes it easier to visualize the characters going from shop to shop and turns the process of equipment-buying into its own little preliminary mini-adventure where all the DM has to do is personify the shop-keepers and add some random encounters.