Why Old School AD&D Offers a Richer Experience Than D&D 5E

I often find myself thinking about things that, at first glance, seem inconsequential. My mind races, trying to solve problems or ponder ideas that may not matter in the grand scheme of things. For those of you who share this relentless mental energy, you’ll understand where I’m coming from. It’s a constant battle to turn off the brain, even when the thoughts seem meaningless.

While working in the garage, I found myself contemplating why D&D 5E players and old school AD&D players are so different. Despite the similarities between the games, the playstyles and experiences differ vastly. In Wizards of the Coast’s version, the average campaign lasts about six weeks, with sessions averaging two hours. This brevity contrasts sharply with the depth and commitment seen in old school AD&D, where campaigns can span years, and sessions often last six hours or more.

Comparing it to popular media, D&D 5E players remind me of the characters in “Goblin Slayer.” They gather in the Guild Hall, go on missions to slay monsters, and return without significantly impacting the world. Their actions, while entertaining, have minimal long-term effects. In contrast, AD&D players engage in activities that alter the game world. High-level characters might build towers, establish towns, or even wage wars. Their actions have tangible consequences, shaping the world and creating a sense of immersion and lasting impact.

Old school AD&D fosters deep emotional connections. Players forge friendships, make enemies, and experience significant character development. The death of a long-played character can be genuinely emotional, reflecting the time and effort invested. On the other hand, the fleeting nature of D&D 5E campaigns makes it challenging to develop such deep connections. The short campaign durations and minimal world impact don’t allow for the same level of immersion.

Having run a heavily modified D&D 5E campaign for over a year, I realized it couldn’t provide the old school AD&D experience I craved. This sentiment is shared by many who find 5E lacking the depth and substance of its predecessors.

If we compare the two, old school AD&D is like a well-prepared steak dinner—satisfying and memorable. In contrast, D&D 5E is akin to candy—enjoyable in the moment but ultimately empty and forgettable. Years from now, people will still discuss their adventures in old school AD&D. These experiences create lasting memories and deep connections. Wizards of the Coast’s games, while fun, don’t offer the same lasting impact.

Enjoy your games, whether they are old school or new. But remember, for a more fulfilling and impactful experience, exploring the classics can provide a richness that modern games often lack.

This was just a random thought I had in the garage, but I believe it’s important enough to share. Feel free to share this with others who might appreciate a deeper dive into the differences between these gaming styles.

Until next time, peace, love, and good gaming.

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