Monday, March 30, 2015

OD&D - "Purist" vs "Traditionalist" Styles of Play

IMO there are two groups in the OD&D camp and they are as different in their understanding of the game as it is possible for them to be. There are the OD&D "Purists" and the OD&D "Traditionalists."

An OD&D "Purist" adheres to the spirit of OD&D as expressed in the rules (guidelines) as evidenced in the following quotes with emphasis added by bolding the text:

These rules are as complete as possible within the limitations imposed by the space of three booklets. That is, they cover the major aspects of fantasy campaigns but still remain flexible. As with any other set of miniatures rules they are guidelines to follow in designing your own fantastic-medieval campaign. They provide the framework around which you will build a game of simplicity or tremendous complexity – your time and imagination are about the only limiting factors, and the fact that you have purchased these rules tends to indicate that there is no lack of imagination – the fascination of the game will tend to make participants find more and more time. We advise, however, that a campaign be begun slowly, following the steps outlined herein, so as to avoid becoming too bogged down with unfamiliar details at first. That way your campaign will build naturally, at the pace best suited to the referee and players, smoothing the way for all concerned. New details can be added and old "laws" altered so as to provide continually new and different situations. In addition, the players themselves will interact in such a way as to make the campaign variable and unique, and this is quite desirable.
If you are a player purchasing the DUNGEONS and DRAGONS rules in order to improve your situation in an existing campaign, you will find that there is a great advantage in knowing what is herein. If your referee has made changes in the rules and/or tables, simply note them in pencil (for who knows when some flux of the cosmos will make things shift once again!), and keep the rules nearby as you play. A quick check of some rule or table may bring hidden treasure or save your game "life".
 There are unquestionably areas which have been glossed over. While we deeply regret the necessity, space requires that we put in the essentials only, and the trimming will ofttimes have to be added by the referee and his players. We have attempted to furnish an ample framework, and building should be both easy and fun. In this light, we urge you to refrain from writing for rule interpretations or the like unless you are absolutely at a loss, for everything herein is fantastic, and the best way is to decide how you would like it to be, and then make it just that way! On the other hand, we are not loath to answer your questions, but why have us do any more of your imagining for you? Write to us and tell about your additions, ideas, and what have you. We could always do with a bit of improvement in our refereeing.
 An OD&D  "Purist" is one who follows the DIY spirit of the game and through house rulings makes each OD&D game uniquely theirs. As you can see above it is clear that house rulings are part and parcel of the makeup of OD&D. In addition, all reports of Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax as referees of OD&D agree that they did not follow all the rules as written but house ruled their own games and frequently winged it during games.

Now an OD&D "Traditionalist" on the other hand is someone who does not believe in house ruling the game and only in playing By the Book. In later versions of the game, these came to be referred to as rules lawyers. Two completely different styles of play and two completely different viewpoints with not much overlap. IMO that is the source of most old school arguments and also explains the disconnect many have with everything written after the version they started with. Back in the day, I don't remember ever playing with anyone like that out of the 30 people that I played OD&D with over the period of 1975-1979. 

One thing that strikes me as funny is that the BtB people have to ignore the things I have placed in bold in the rule quotes above and pretend that they are not there. I.E. OD&D is unique as a game in regards to the fact that to play BtB in reality requires you not to play BtB and to house rule the game and make it your own. In the case of OD&D the spirit of the game and the letter of the game are the same - both point to house ruling the game and making it uniquely your own.

BTW to be clear here: I am not saying OD&D Traditionalists are bad people - I am not, what I am saying is that OD&D was both explicitly and implicitly set forth as a game to be house-ruled and made your own; therefore a Purist house-rules and a Traditionalist goes BtB (in contravention to the rules themselves). I am not saying that you cannot play BtB or that you are somehow having wrong-bad fun if you play BtB. Please play anyway you want to. I am just pointing out that OD&D is the one game that was not designed or intended to be played BtB.

So how does this relate to the OSR and the clones? I consider all the clones/retro-clones/or whatever you want to call them (some clones claim not to be clones) to be a collection of each authors house-rules of OD&D or Holmes or B/X or BECMI or name the version. Since I am an OD&D player none of the clones fill a niche for me; however, I am always looking at them for good ideas and also to see if any of them succeed in capturing the spirit of OD&D.

When you take OD&D and try to "fix" all of its "faults" and try to make it "perfect and complete" the more you lose the charm of OD&D. A lot of the so-called faults of OD&D are what make it special and when you clean those things up the "special" may (not will, but may) be gone as well.  My hope is that each clone will have its own idiosyncrasies that will make it unique and special in the same way that OD&D is unique and special.

IMO if you take OD&D and house rule it your way then you are perfectly representing the 0E experience as you see it. IMO OD&D consists of the 3LBBs, Chainmail, and Outdoor Survival. Everything else is house-rules - all of the supplements (official and unofficial), The Strategic Review, The Dragon and all other sources of inspiration, monsters, spells and treasure are house-rules from which you can use as little or as much as you like. And as I have said before, I don't really think of non-mechanical things like monsters, spells and treasure as being house rules. You are also free to subtract from this as well as add. Is there a point at which it is no longer OD&D, IMO yes and I know it when I see it. ;) :)

That means that I consider all of the OE clones to be house-ruled OE. My quibbles usually fall under the heading of "if I wrote something and wanted to claim compatibility with your clone do you force me to include something I do not want to". If you don't do that then I usually have no quibbles. Personally I hope many more clones are written (of high quality and I can not think of any so far that I would consider of poor quality) and many materials to support them. So I don't care if there is a gap or not. Keep them coming!

OD&D - 3LBBs vs 3LBBS + Supplements

A number of people all over the web have made the assertion that 

3LBB gaming is really an artifact of the OSR movement rather than something that actually happened at the time.
As I have noted elsewhere, I don't buy this assertion. People certainly used only the 3LBBs with or without Chainmail until Greyhawk first came out 14 months after OD&D was published (Blackmoor came out 20 months later). The ref that brought OD&D to college in the fall of '75 started us out with just the 3LBBs even though he had Greyhawk and I started reffing with just the 3LBBs. After I had reffed a for quite while then he brought out Greyhawk and we jointly decided what to try and keep and what to try and not keep. Perhaps I am wrong, but the vast majority of OD&D players the first few years were adults or young adults and I find it hard to believe that the majority adopted each supplement in toto as it arrived. 

The main things our group adopted were monsters, spells and treasure (which I don't to some extent view as house rules since they are non-mechanical in nature.. The new mechanical things are what we carefully considered before trying. He used more of the mechanical things than I did. My preference has always been the 3LBBs plus house ruled spells, monsters and treasure from where ever I found them or created them. I have always preferred to limit the mechanics to the 3LLBs or to tweak those mechanics and try different things. IMO the stat bonuses introduced in Greyhawk are a slippery slope and while I have used them from time to time they are not my preference. I have a hard time believing that bitd I was completely unique in that regard. Perhaps the percentage of people who preferred the 3LBB mechanics to Greyhawk mechanics were not the majority over the period running up to 78-79, but we were certainly not non-existent either.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

OD&D and Taking a Look at Other Peoples Blogs 017

A new blog titled My Two Copper Pieces by Phillip Riley in which he notes that 
After almost a decade away from roleplaying, I'm starting to get back to it.
He also says:
In past times I've ran a few websites. You may have known me as Lord Eadric, The Wandering Bard, or just Phillip Riley. I've ran a variety of websites and a blog at one time. If you've ever run across the Oriental Adventures Project, that was me. I still get emails about my online name generators. All links will be at the bottom of this post.
I remember him as Lord Eadric and I liked his name generators. So just this little post to welcome him back.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

OD&D - Magical Items 001 - Artifacts

Does your campaign have any Artifacts? If so, how do you handle them? I have occasionally introduced Artifacts into my campaigns and the one of the twists that Artifacts have IMC is that many, if not most, are restless. That is they were created in circumstances that resulted in almost all Artifacts having a purpose. 

When and if a player finds an Artifact, if the player is aligned (not alignment) with the purpose of the Artifact a little the Artifact may stick around for a short time or if a lot, then the Artifact may stick around quite a while, possibly for the adventuring life of the player. If not at all, then the Artifact, will just disappear in a very short time as they seek someone who will use them to fulfill their purpose. 

All Artifacts IMC are sentient to one degree or another. In addition, when Artifacts are used they create a magical signature that can be detected and to some degree traced by certain powerful mages and magical creatures.