AD&D 1e screens

How I make the most of inside covers

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Quick reference is invaluable during a D&D game. Even when you know the page numbern of important tables by heart, sometimes the book you need is in use by another player, or you're already elbows deep into 3 other books as it is, or you just don't have room on the table or your lap for another book. I love a good quick reference for things that either I can't seem to remember, or things I don't think about but players ask me about often. The easiest place to get to in a book is the inside front and back covers, and yet more often than not they're left empty.

Traditionally, of course, this problem was solved by a DM screen. I never played with a DM screen, and I think probably the first time I even discovered they existed was a conference game. I've been meaning to get a DM screen, but so far I guess I haven't found the right one because I haven't purchased one. And besides, with COVID-19 forcing me to play the bulk of my D&D games online, a DM screen feels less convenient (would it go behind my keyboard? off to the side? would it block my view of my monitor?)

What I've instead resorted to are placing important information in the inside front and back covers of game books. Sometimes I use a marker, other times I just print out tables and glue them in. It's an instant DM screen that I only have to have in front of me when I need it.

AD&D 1st edition

There are a lot of tables in 1st edition. I didn't get to play 1st edition when it was the current edition, so I have no insight into the unwritten rules, so maybe there were common shortcuts people took to avoid having to look at tables. To give you an idea of how many tables are in 1st edition: As far as I know, or can tell from reading the core rulebooks, there was no THAC0. During combat, you looked at a table, ranging from level 1 to 21+, that showed what was required to hit a creature with an armor class (AC) ranging from -10 to 10. There's not just one table, though. There's a table like that for each class. (Monsters were a little easier, actually, because their values were just based on hit die.)

I don't play 1st edition AD&D often, but it only takes one game for you to identify the tables you find yourself referencing time and time again. Phrases like "We just looked this up last week..." and "I don't know why I can't remember this. Let me look it up again..." are key indicators.

Here's what I pasted into the front cover of my rulebook:

  • Cleric/Druid/monk attack table for just AC 0.
  • Magic user attack table, simplified to just AC 0.
  • Fighter/Paladin/Ranger/Bard attack table for AC 0.
  • Thief/Assassin attack table for AC 0. I did not include the assassination table, because my players were all used to 5e or Pathfinder and didn't really know to use that mechanic.
  • Monster attack table, again just for AC 0.
  • Armor class adjustments based on armor type.
  • Saving throw targets, for each class, against paralyzation, poison, death magic, petrification, polymorph, rod, staff, wand, breath weapon, and spells.

Those were the tables I needed for the AD&D 1st edition game I ran, and even though they're almost all on either page 74 or 75, I found it easier to have them available with just one quick lift of the book cover.

Should I play more, there may be yet more tables to add.

As I've already done the typing and layout (such as it is), I figured I'd post them here in case you want a copy for yourself. It's nothing fancy. It's just some tables in LibreOffice, but at least you don't have to replicate the work (or it's a good start if you're determined to replicate the entire attack tables.) To extract the bundle, you may need to download and install the free and open source 7-zip archive tool (that's p7zip for Linux users, available from your software repository). To open the file, you must have LibreOffice (I use this instead of, for instance, Microsoft Office) or any word processor that reads .odt files.

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