Boom! Giant exaggerated boast from someone who didn’t really know what B/X was until eight years ago and who never understood or played AD&D to this day.
But hear me out. The common narrative that I’ve always seen being discussed about oldschool roleplaying, classic dungeon crawling, and how the game was originally played in the 70s and 80s has it that the game is really all about going in and out of big dungeons, outsmarting and slaying monsters, and coming back out with huge hauls of treasures to piss away for ale and wenches. And then do it again until your number comes up. All like Conan, and Fafrad and Grey Mouser. Don’t fight the monsters. That’s really a fail state. Just be smart and grab as much gold as you can. That’s where all the XP come from and how you stay alive while doing it. That’s how Gygax meant the game to be played the right way.
And that all seemed fine and great. Easy to understand all makes sense.
But also clearly can’t be true.
Having decided to try my hands on a 1st edition Forgotten Realms campaign with Old School Essential Advanced rules rather than AD&D (because I have no clue how to decipher that editorial train wreck), but otherwise trying to stay true to the campaign setting as players would have received it before the 2nd edition overhaul, I checked the 1st edition Player’s Handbook to see if paladins and druids could possibly work as PCs in my campaign concept with all their weird special rules. And yeah, druids could be viable PCs, as are rangers, but paladins really seem incompatible with a wandering band of mercenaries.
The main reason I checked is because I wanted to be sure if the special rules for paladins in 1988 had already been as weird and convoluted like they’ve been discussed on the internet since I got into D&D, or if perhaps they were more sensible and paladins just made way more sense back then. After all, it’s second edition that turned the grim Forgotten Realms into a cloying dystopia of quaint and pastoral happiness. It would make sense that they go all overboard with paladins and making them Lawful Stupid. But to my surprise, no. The rules for paladin’s were already very restrictive even back in 1978. They are not too bad, and actually pretty clear and straightforward. But they include such thing as “a paladin will only associate with Good PCs” and “a paladin may only join a group with Neutral PCs as a one-time exception if the adventure is for a holy cause”. Also, paladins must give 10% of their treasure to charity, and may not take a greater share than what they need to make ends meet.
Wait a minute? Isn’t this the game about wild groups of rogues and scoundrels being motivated by their greed for gold to drink and whore away? Sure, campaigns in which player’s aren’t allowed to play Evil PCs would probably have been the most common. But parties in which everyone plays only Good PCs should be extremely rare. But the PHB seems to assume that this is a perfectly reasonable expectation for a campaign of AD&D. Also, why do rangers have to be Good? And characters who are not allowed to have wealth in a game that is all about hoarding wealth? And again, this is 1st edition, which came out in 1978, just four year after the first release of D&D. But the paladin goes back even further to the Supplement 1: Greyhawk, which came out even back in 1975, pretty much right on the heels of the main game.
Clearly, Gygax was having something very different in mind what D&D is than I’ve always been told for the last 10 years.