The Frontier:
Milieu Integration in 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
   When 1st Edition AD&D originally came out, it was set in an imaginary medieval fantasy realm very like something from a Grimm fairy tale, or the works of J. R. R. Tolkein--the imagined history of Europe.  But after a few years, two other settings were released--Krynn and Oriental--each with its own races and classes, and nuances of rules.

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  This material covers information on how to integrate characters of different races and classes from the various worlds of 1st Ed. AD&D, expanded to include a few notes from second edition materials which are easily integrated with these.  Over the course of several pages, it will consider how the setting can be designed so that each milieu is adequately represented, how the races and classes from each milieu will initially view those from other settings unknown to them, and how to handle the specific problems of classes and races which require special game mechanics or are treated in a customary manner in their own world (whether respected, hated, or understood) which would not be presumed by those unfamiliar with those customs.  This page introduces the frontier concept used to explain the presence of characters from various settings in one place, and the reason player characters don't even know where the bathroom is at the beginning of the game, let alone how far it is to the nearest town.  Other pages are linked from the bottom of this one.
  I wasn't there at the beginning; I was playing board games, card games, and even simulation games.  I didn't discover RPG's until 1980.  But once I started my game, I began building a world in which adventures could occur, and also backwriting story to try to make it all make sense.  Who were these people, my player characters, and how was it that they didn't know anything about this part of the world?  What existed where, and why was it there, and how did it get there?  And then, just as everything was beginning to fit together, I had to readjust it all for the changes brought by the Arcana volume, with its new classes and the introduction of the Underdark races as player characters; and then, in case that was too easy, I had to work in the Oriental material--after all, I had a world well under construction, a character party busily exploring it, and no reason to scrap it all and begin something new.  So there was only one logical thing to do:  bring the new Oriental characters into the existing world.
  And then with the Krynn materials, the process repeated itself--how to make characters from the Dragonlance realm fit into the world I had created.  There were problems, certainly--but if I could make the Orientals fit in, the Krynners would be easy.  So when my players began giving me stuff from second edition, I had a pretty good idea how to make fit it.  The Viking and Psionicist materials soon became part of the game, and players began drawing characters from these books to use in MyWorld.
  The way this was accomplished sprang from the concept of the frontier.  MyWorld was a world in which peoples from other lands were converging to seek their fortunes and their futures.  Of course, they weren't all adventurers.  Some were entrepreneurs, some employees and agents of others, some sent on missions, some the children of any of these, now grown and separated from the ideas and ideals of their parents.  People had begun arriving at the frontier a couple hundred years before, and had established a few towns and fortresses, built some roads, cleared some farmland--but there was still much undiscovered and unexplored.  For various reasons, this new world was never claimed as colonial property of any of the old world nations or peoples, so it became a homogenous mix of new settlements and cities filled with an even more homogenous mix of races and classes.  Integration of the milieus became the norm in the new world.
  This created another problem, however.  How did one explain the remains of underground dungeon complexes in a new world?  After all, goblins, orcs, and other vermin of the untamed lands may dig, but they don't generally build anything, and prefer to inhabit diggings, caves, and dwellings built by others.  So the ruins of old castles, the vast stone-lined tunnels, the ancient fortresses which make for good adventure settings couldn't be there, and as they vanished so did the chance to use them in story development.
  But there was a solution to this as well.  After all, one of the key features of the new world was that it was a new continent of unknown proportions which had been populated by all of the monsters which inhabit our nightmares, now being driven back by the growing forces of invading settlers.  But what if this had all happened before, centuries before?  What if colonists had come to the new world from the old once before, but national interests and squabbling weakened them and left them easy prey for a strike from the more intelligent of the monsters.  Unprepared strongholds were overwhelmed, weakened castles were leveled, towns, villages, even cities overrun.  In MyWorld, three cities survived along the coast--one a vast walled haven of thieves and assassins who had struck a deal with the creatures, one a smaller walled city ruled by a valiant prince and defended by knights of great prowess, and one a small village protected by some mysterious magic understood by few if any of the residents (and offering an adventure motive for a character party).  For centuries, they had eked out a living by one means or another; the walled cities had actually reclaimed land around them for vital farm support, and the monsters had been driven back.
  Seeing the success of the surviving cities after a thousand years or so, interest in the new world returned--not by the old nations, but by individuals first, and then business interests and religious groups.  The old world was rather crowded; the new offered opportunities for expansion--a chance to explore new places, own your own land, increase your wealth and holdings, or convert others to the faith.  The civilized races began to return--the Occidentals (those of the original PH and UA) first, followed by groups of the others--and the civilized areas of the frontier began to grow and expand.  Monsters were driven back and more farmland cleared; forts were built along the edges of the frontier; old towns were rebuilt on their ruins and new ones founded at strategic locations.  Commerce resumed, life spread, and a few more quiet places emerged from the wild.
  Our player characters are part of this new influx of peoples.  They generally begin in one of the three coastal town areas--each has a port associated with it, and the two larger cities are near enough the edge of the civilized realm that Underdark characters wandering up through lost tunnels can easily be backgrounded with the notion that they've found their ways through the wilderness to the first signs of civilization, a walled city.  None of them know anything of this part of the world; all have just arrived, immigrants right off the boat (usually literally) seeking to gain familiarity with their new homes and find adventure within a short distance of safety.
  In MyWorld, there is a story background explanation for how it happens that so many begin together.  The holiday known as New Year (with the emphasis on the noun rather than the adjective, as if one were saying, "It's a new year.") is special on the calendar which has over time become universally accepted by all civilized peoples.  On this day, people make new starts, begin new lives, set new paths for themselves.  It is on this day that most apprentices have reached a point at which they will break with their teachers and step out on their own.  It is thus that most character parties are formed of a core of characters who met in a public place--usually a tavern, but even a dock has been used--and agreed for the first time to cast their lots together in search of adventure.
  Thus we have created a setting in which player characters from the original (Occidental) milieu are found in abundance, but are living alongside those from Oriental, Krynn, and Viking settings in close enough proximity that player characters have access to their own culture to some degree while having the opportunity to interact with those drawn from the other realms.  At the same time, player characters have little knowledge of these other realms, their customs and rules.  And the locals tend to live with those who are alike, often in separate villages, and at least no closer than isolated neighborhoods in the cities--thus keeping the flow of information between cultures minimal, and reducing the tendency of such communities to become "melting pots" in which cultural distinctions are expected to blend.  Assume that the trade language of the Orient is the common tongue of the rest of the world, and the language barriers are eliminated as well, so our adventurers are ready to begin together.
  There are still a few problems which need to be worked out--how do Samurai view Thieves, or Cavaliers treat Ninja?  What of the Krynn views on Gods, and the moon cycles of the Wizards of High Sorcery?  What is an Elf, or a Hengeyokai, or a Trolllborn, to a race who has neve heard of them?  Each of these aspects, and more, are addressed on other pages.  I hope that it helps enhance your role playing experience, almost as much as I believe it would be enhanced by the Multiverser game system--the first RPG which effectively allows players to enter any game world, any story world, any world of any kind, as the adventure continues.

Sections of this site will continue to address these areas:

Here-->The Frontier:  M. J. Young suggests how to explain the presence of characters from multiple AD&D settings in one place, and provide support structures for them, based on the concept of the New World.

Now You Look Human:  Some demi-human races will be perceived as human under certain circumstances; which ones, when, and by whom are all important questions, addressed here.

When Worlds Collide:  Each of the standard settings in AD&D contains cultural nuances which result in attitudes and perspectives which will come into play as the player characters interact with each other and those around them.

You Don't Look Elvish:  How races are perceived by those in other milieus is discussed in some detail.

A Nice Kid Like You:  Some races pose particular problems related to explaining their presence in a new land.  Those problems are addressed.

A Class Act:  Problems and motivations of particular classes are discussed and resolved.

All In the Mind:  Second Edition Psionics may be integrated into a First Edition campaign if desired, bringing the Psionicist class and the Wild Talent into play alongside Natural Psionics.

Books by the Author

Other Signficant Pages

M. J. Young's Dungeons & Dragons Materials:
The home page of this site, collected papers from the table of a gamer who began as a DM in 1980, including resource materials, special rules, articles, and BASIC programs to smooth both play and preparation.

Character Creation for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons First Edition:
Called a life saver by more than one DM, the materials M. J. Young has developed to enable players to create characters have been posted and expanded for others.  When a game is beginning or a player is joining, this site is the place to start.

Martial Arts Rules for Role Playing Games:
For Oriental characters, this site explains and expands the 1st Ed. AD&D martial arts materials, including a large and varied selection of compatible styles, and also presenting similar materials for the Multiverser game.

Multiverser Information Center:
The role playing game which truly integrates all milieus, all worlds, and all other role playing games is presented and described here.  It's worth a look.

Questions may be directed to the author of these pages.