Updated: 211230

AD&D has been around a long time. To its benefit (and detriment), AD&D can be played in myriad ways. I created a set of up-front ground rules to define my expectations for new players in the groups I GM. That way we can get the expectations out of the way before everyone starts to play.

There is one simple rule to D&D, above all rules, that is edition independent: you are there to create a fun experience for everyone (including the DM, which seems too often be forgotten).


As a player, your first role-playing obligation is to imagine a character who can cooperate with rest of the party to achieve the common goals of the game.

I view AD&D ™ as a group cooperative effort. Characters can have different goals, and characters can disagree, but as a general rule characters should be working together. Evil and particularly random or disruptive characters are disallowed. If members of the party cannot get along, I would expect one or more of the characters to leave the party (just like they would if they were real people, i.e. role-playing).

Equally, players should get along and work together in a cooperative fashion. Players who cannot get along will ALL be asked to leave (i.e., if players A & B argue constantly and in general hinder play, BOTH will be asked to leave). We are all friends here (and have all been to kindergarten).


Each player should pick a race and class they would like to play, as well as a secondary character (a spare if you will). I want everyone to be playing what they want, not what they feel they have to play, and will make every effort to let everyone play what they desire (within the rules), whether it’s a party of all thieves, all mages, or one of everything.

At some point after that, the players (individually or as a group) and the DM will have to get together to create basic character stats for their primary and secondary characters. One psionic check will be made (by the DM) at the session where characters are finalized. Players will later submit their primary characters with personality and loose motivation for adventuring before the initial gaming session; this will include a copy of the character sheet. One of the player responsibilities is to keep the DM’s copy of their character sheet up-to-date.

Players will be provided with a brief description of the country they are adventuring in, as well as a description of their home city, and an introduction to meeting with the other players. I will come up with a cohesive reason for this group to be together, and players will be filled in individually on any minor personal motivations.

All of these steps shall be repeated in the unfortunate circumstance that a character must be replaced (temporarily or permanently); thought and effort put into the secondary character will likely not be in vain.


Nope, not you; personality for your character. Each player should create a brief personal history for their character, as well as a list of character traits. There is a list of suggested character traits for NPC characters at the back of the DMG if you’re looking for ideas.

I hope for a majority of the conversation to be in 1st person to help foster role-playing. This means that general comments will be interpreted as character comments.  It’d be great if everyone could preface their actions with “I will …”, and their comments to the DM with “Can I …” or “What does …” to help tell comments apart. Everything else would then be things said by the character. Role-playing is encouraged.


Over the years I’ve noticed a number of things that slow down or hinder playing characters:

A. Character sheets

We use a default character sheet. Regardless of edits, each character sheet should have:

  • A neat and orderly format
  • A complete list of the class/race skills and talents
  • A list of skills with required rolls (including thieving abilities and Turn Undead Table)
  • A list of to hit/damage modifiers with THAC0
  • Weapon damage and speed next to the weapon, and range if req.
  • Number of spells able to cast each day for each spell level
  • Equipment (including location)
  • Current encumbrance

B. Mages

Mages are perhaps the most demanding characters in the game as far as player and DM knowledge goes, and they frequently slow down game play (“Hmm, what EXACTLY does that spell do *flip* *flip* *flip*, hmm.”).  Each mage should maintain a “spellbook” on 3×5 cards, with one spell per card, in essentially the same format as the PHB:

Spell Level: Spell Name
Range                                                  Duration
Casting Time                                       Saving throw and modifiers
Area of Effect                                      Unusual Spell Component
Brief complete spell description.

When the mage want to cast a spell, they can hand the card to the DM. This way: a) the DM doesn’t have to look it up, b) the player won’t have to look it up, c) everyone else does not know what you are casting (which has its own pluses and minuses).

We have a Microsoft Access database of all of the spells that can be used to print out 3×5 cards. Those entries include the DMG notes and any associated house rules. [Updated: From a player suggestion, I printed out the entire DB-worth as a PDF, so players can just print pages from the PDF]

C. Miniatures

Not using miniatures can lead to confusion, especially in combat. Miniatures greatly facilitate game play, and we’ll be using them. Everyone should have some sort of representation for their character, even if it’s an odd-colored die. Go to a hobby store and purchase an unpainted miniature of your character (or something close) for a couple of dollars. Although painting is best, even unpainted helps everyone distinguish who’s who on the board.

D. Log Book

It would be swell if each character kept a complete log of everything that happened.  I realize that this is unrealistic. However, each character keeping notes on what’s happened is a Good Idea ™. Because sessions are generally separated by several weeks, this should facilitate remembering what happened last time, as well as allowing you to look back and go, “What about what that shop keeper obscurely mentioned four weeks ago?”


The quality of the game is based on both the DM and the players, and their mutual agreement on exactly what the game is and should be. Frequently either the DM or player(s) is/are unhappy, but no one knows they’re unhappy. There’s only one way to change this—feedback.

All players are requested to submit at least one positive and one constructive comment after each gaming session. Please try to make negative comments as constructive as possible; for example, “I really hated ‘X’. It would have been much better if you had done ‘Y’.” Comments earn experience points.

Additionally, I am looking forward to character development. Include with your comments a brief note along the lines of what has your character gained?  What has he/she lost? Just something about how the character was affected.

These are hoped for within one week from when we play. I prefer not verbal, and off-list. Written comments allow me to track comments better, and people are more candid when not face-to-face. Written comments after the session are okay, but I prefer people have time to ruminate.


People are taking time from their busy schedules to play. It’s a matter of politeness and respect that if everyone agrees to be at a certain place at a certain time, that _everyone_ be there; otherwise the punctual ones have to sit around and wait. I plan to actually start game play within 15-30 minutes after START_TIME. This means you should arrive on time at START_TIME. The 15-30 minutes can be used for the inevitable organization of characters and books, and the inevitable “How are you doing” etc., catching each other up on current events, and updating the DM’s copy of their character sheet, so that play can begin promptly.

This type of delay occurs each time someone arrives. If everyone shows up on time, it will only happen once, instead of starting play an hour late (15 minutes for each person arriving late staggered over an hour—I’ve seen it happen). XP awards are tied to attendance. If you do show up late, try to fit yourself smoothly into game-play with minimal disruption.

If you plan on ordering food, please schedule accordingly and try to avoid disrupting play. If it helps to arrive early, that’s fine with me (just let me know).


I put a significant effort into game preparation, scheduling a good chunk of time for preparation in addition to play. I also try to maintain a consistent long-range schedule, so that people can plan. I expect people to show up consistently as well as on time. It is a real pain to catch up after one missed game, two is even more of a nuisance. Equally, gaming becomes a real disappointment when I expect everyone to be there, and then 90% of the players cancel at the last minute.

When a session gets canceled last minute, I (and other players) end up not being able to do things we otherwise would have enjoyed. Last-minute cancellations are aggravating to everyone; please provide notification in a timely manner when possible.

Anyone missing gaming sessions on a regular basis will be asked to leave the group. Unavoidable events just should not happen on a regular basis, when we have planned everything such that gaming should be on the schedule months in advance. Please provide at least a week’s advance notice for life’s events.

IX. Snacks.

It occurs to me that it’d be nice if everyone could make an effort to bring some snacks for the group, thereby not making that task routinely fall on a few individuals. The task of supplying food/drinks doesn’t fall on the GM.


Author: Rick

A DM for *mumble* years, I've been playing AD&D since junior high. I've currently got two separate campaigns running, both in Mystara. I've been told when they handed out hobbies, I stood in the short lines. I actively cycle tour, kayak, play board games, read, develop home automation software, play Stars!, volunteer with the International and National American Red Cross, and work on a never-ending stream of home repairs. In my wake I've left paintball, medieval full-contact combat (SCA), computer gaming, Heroclix, and kite construction.

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