Well, dismemberment isn’t really the likely result. Disintegration is probably more likely.
So, it’s not that I haven’t looked at, skimmed, and even read my AD&D 1e books and modules in the last 35+ years. It’s that they have low penetration because I’ve used so little of the game besides Polymorph Self followed by Invisibility in order to polymorph into a Storm Giant and backstab other giants. You know, compared to what you see in mods for optimal PC play, that actually seems reasonable.
The material is inspiring to some degree. Oh, not much of it. Most of it is boring as hell. Some of it is amusing if not quite to the same level as Temple of Set lunacy. Treasure locations and types are particularly bizarre.
Just to be positive because everyone knows I’m all about the positive, monsters, magic items, and locations are what I find most inspiring. I realize the intent of towns in mods is to provide adventure, which is why half of every town seems to be evil rather than just being people trying to live their lives in worlds where monsters can attack at any time from any direction. Still, towns are just so much more interesting than dungeons. Even when towns are treated like dungeons, where every location has stats and treasure notes.
While lots of monsters are absurd/silly, there are actually evocative monsters. Something about ghouls. I can’t stand level drain (should be attribute loss of some sort), but other undead are also more interesting. Not so much liches, at least not when a mod just throws a lich into a side passage.
Almost all DMG magic items just come across as insanely gamey, but, that’s probably because AD&D is a gamistfest of gamistness. Meanwhile, mod magic items or the odd stuff NPCs might have are more akin to the distinctive items folks in books might actually have.
Segue time …
I tried to think of what magic items book characters run in series I have taken seriously. Stormbringer is a special case, but, sure, magic swords are a thing. Elric even runs around with a magic ring, gets a magic shield at some point, and whatever. Actually, magic items are rather important in Moorcock’s other stuff.
I can think of cases where characters have special equipment that isn’t magical but is, uh, special. Jon-Tom has his staff and his cape. Actually, when trying to think of what sort of magic items are more likely (ignoring stuff like Arabian Nights’ style stories which tend more towards fairy tale style), cloaks are it. Cloaks totally get play. Corum had a magic cloak. Invisibility is super relatively common.
I have ideas I’m putting down for an adventure. Magic cloak for PC totally works for me in ways that so many other things don’t. I could buy a staff (not a wand or a rod, unless it was Egyptian style scepter or the like), I guess. Weapons, to a degree. Sting was fine because it fit, even though how the party got those swords was grade A dungeon crawl stuff. The big problem with weapons is that someone else can just take it from you and be that much more badass, whether someone who downs you in a fight or another party member who would use it better.
For example, you have two N level fighters. One has a higher STR to hit/damage bonus, otherwise their stats are essentially identical. One has a +1 shortsword and the other a +2 broadsword. Who should wield which weapon? It’s not like Mudge uses a shortsword because he’s compact and all about speed and Jon-Tom uses a long staff that gets longer because he’s unusually tall and not much of a weapons expert. In terms of team optimization, either balance things by giving better weapon to lower STR lass or unbalance things and make stronger lass just better. Same with armor. I was looking at one module where a multiclass character had much lower HP but had a Ring of Regeneration. Sure, that makes sense, but doesn’t it make more sense to just pass around the Ring tactically?
RuneQuest has you bind magic items a lot of the time. I find it to be a terrible mechanic, but it does address the problem that equipment is just, er, equipment. This is why I hate equipment that matters. My style of FRPG would see fighters do more damage based on things like level or based on skill level, with STR following, finally maybe care about your stuff (well, obviously, magic stuff is going to be better than non-magical stuff). I know games have done something like this. L5R, to an extent, does this sort of thing with techniques that add damage or attacks, though a k3 katana is way better than a k2 katana. Power Attack, et al, in d20 works this way, but, then, every fighter is going to have Power Attack, so back to being dependent upon equipment for differentiation.
Of course, it’s not just non-spellcasters. Even magic-users are frequently going to focus on using things like wands to supplement how few spells they cast. “I’ll whip out my Wand of Annoyances and do 1d2 damage. Hey, Gindalf, you have any charges left on your Rod of Explosive Decompression?”
Speaking of death … oh, I wasn’t?
Speaking of death, I didn’t use to pay much attention to HP for pregen PCs or monsters. I’m focusing more on that sort of thing because I realize that when you have a 12hp PC, it’s going to die young, unless it’s Neutral or Evil. Get it? Not just a joke, more likely the N or E PCs are going to split when the going gets dangerous. But, I’m also paying more attention to how many attacks it will take a PC to off a monster, which is basic stuff, I know, but I gloss over the dull ubiquity that is numbers in mods.
Speaking of deadliness, I do find it humorous when the module calls out how dumb highly intelligent monsters are for using weapons when their natural attacks are far more dangerous. But, go with it because you want to give the PCs some hope of surviving.
I’m anti-death. Oh, sure, there are compelling arguments around how it destroys any sense of narrative when you just replace one victim with another victim. But, that’s not my problem so much. I just don’t see the point of not caring about your characters and that’s what random death does. I’ve heard people talk about how much they loved certain characters for how they survived the massacrefest that is oD&D. Sure, but that’s in the style of playing something more akin to a boardgame (one might even say a … wargame). I’ve played way more RuneQuest than oD&D and I really couldn’t care less about any of my characters or anything they do because they are just waiting to die. Oh, I did more enjoy the troll I played because he wasn’t guaranteed to die in half the fights, though he still never lived beyond one dungeon (in campaign play that was mostly wilderness encounters). Even with ubiquitous resurrection so that you can keep playing the same PC, it’s just some numbers on a sheet of paper that gets murdered by numbers in a book.
On the other hand, if you play a game where death is as common as Rot Grubs, you are depriving people of the experience by allowing them to avoid falling for 20d6 damage. It’s like a different game. A weird game where monsters don’t devour you or turn your skin slimy … and then take your place in the party only to betray it later.
Maybe that’s the thing. Forget campaign play. It’s all about one-shots-in-the-head. Play it tournament style where you score points for how successful team looter is. Yes, that’s the model for various boardgames these days, but what sort of campaign do you have when the only continuity is Grog17, cousin to Grog16?
I still find parts of AD&D charming. It still entertains me to stat up a group of teenage “gang” members even if I have no idea whether any of their thief skill percentages are good enough to matter.
One way I’m different is I find Deities & Demigods to be quite inspiring. But, then, I like mythology. I’m not going to have PCs fight gods so I’m not terribly worried about what spells a god can cast 1/day, but somewhere, between the numerical nonsense, you get something. The art helps. I like AD&D 1e art, when it’s serious, and am not bothered when it’s cartoonish. I guess so does having some idea about who the various deities are besides what AC they have, what their Magic Resistances are, etc.
So, one can run something any which way but Chaotic Neutral. … What I meant to say was that it’s possible to steal small amounts of 1e and run something that interests me, 100% storyteller, more. In theory.
In practice, well, maybe I’ll generate enough interest to try it. And, if it doesn’t work, just switch systems to Fantasy Hero … then Stormbringer 1e … then The Fantasy Trip … then Weapons of the Gods … then Maelstrom … then 7th Sea 2e …