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Saturday, February 29, 2020

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day Sixty

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary of Blackmoor and of Role-Playing!

Today is Part 5 of my series of looks at OD&D starting with Men & Magic - Volume 1.

Today I am going to tackle Alignment, another contentious topic. This is the source of bitter disagreement from both extremes across the whole spectrum of opinion. Some people think it is a rigid construct that regulates every thought and action of a character while other just say it is impossible to use and do away with it.

Here is the original table with examples of the alignment of various creatures. In Volume 1 - Men & Magic, 

this is almost all of the information given, 99% in fact is just this table. Of the three classic character classes only Clerics are noted as having a penalty for changing alignment. As I noted here 
Note that Clerics are either “Law” or “Chaos,” and there is a sharp distinction between them. If a Patriarch receiving the above benefits changes sides, all the benefits will immediately be removed!
or the later version
Note that Clerics of 7th level and greater are either “Law” or “Chaos,” and there is a sharp distinction between them.  If a Patriarch receiving the above benefits changes sides, all the benefits will immediately be removed!
With the original version we assumed that Clerics chose “Law” or “Chaos,”at character creation and I still do that requiring "Law". However, many prefer to have them choose at 7th level. Also it is evident that 7th level for the choice was the original intent. How do we know this, because the penalty occurs if a Patriarch changes sides. Clerics become Patriarchs at 8th level, so they have to choose sides at 7th level before they become Patriarchs.

Back to the table, note that Men appear in all three columns while Ents are only Lawful. Elves are Lawful or Neutral, but not Chaotic. Dwarves and Gnomes are also Lawful or Neutral, while Hobbits are only Lawful. Goblins, Kobolds, Hobgoblins, Gnolls and Trolls are only Chaotic while Orcs, Ogres and Giant are Neutral or Chaotic. Centaurs were Lawful or Neutral, but Dragons, Minotaurs and Chimerae were Neutral or Chaotic. Yes, no Lawful Dragons in the original version. Lycanthropes were the only creatures in the original game, that like Men could be Lawful, Neutral or Chaotic.

Also note that Lawful is the smallest group and Chaotic is the largest group. Neutral also included all animals in general and all monstrous animals such as Purple Worms and Sea Monsters. Oddly enough Wyverns are only Neutral as are Hydrae. While to me this makes sense for Hydrae to have animal intelligence, I have always treated Wyverns as intelligent and sentient, just not as smart as Dragons.

So here are some of the changes that I made back in my first campaign:

  • Hobbits, Elves, and Dwarves could be any of the three alignments the same as Men. I specified which was the most common and least common extrapolated from the original specifications.
  • Giants and Dragons could also be Lawful.
  • Wyverns could be any of the three alignments.
  • Goblins, Kobolds, Hobgoblins and Gnolls could also be Neutral, although commonly Chaotic.
  • Trolls in my campaign are not sentient, they are mindless eating machines and are therefore Neutral. Trolls are also Immortal IMC, so proper destruction is a must. A piece of a Troll of two pounds or larger when separated can grow into a full sized Troll. A Troll of sufficient age and size (they never stop growing) will gradually develop sentience and at the point becomes Chaotic.
  • Gnomes were changed to be only Lawful as in extreme Lawful. They are the  bean counters of the world, the dot every i and cross every t, adhere to every line of a contract type of folk. They are by nature incapable of changing Alignment just as Undead are unbreakably Chaotic.

While I will look at Languages again when I get to them, I am going to jump ahead to look at them for a moment.
LANGUAGES: The “common tongue” spoken throughout the “continent” is known by most humans. All other creatures and monsters which can speak have their own language, although some (20%) also know the common one. Law, Chaos and Neutrality also have common languages spoken by each respectively. One can attempt to communicate through the common tongue, language particular to a creature class, or one of the divisional languages (law, etc.). While not understanding the language, creatures who speak a divisional tongue will recognize a hostile one and attack.
I made the change that the use of an Alignment Language would not automatically generate an Attack.

Now as to how I used Alignment in the game, I used alignment for characters as a rough template of how they usually behave but nothing rigid and the initial alignment could change based on consistent behavior as something other than what was originally claimed. This could result in magic items such as swords becoming unusable by a character due to alignment change. This also meant that some Monster could be induced over time to change alignment if they found a benefit in dealing with the party.

I gave/give feedback so that players know what behavior if continued could result in an alignment change. I give them an overview up front so that they have a good picture of how alignment is handled.

Alignment for Clerics as mentioned is more serious than for Fighting-Men or Magic-Users. Later when Paladins were added, Alignment was very serious for Paladins. For both there were the Neutral or Chaotic acts and then also the worst thing would be an Evil act. For example slitting the throats of sleeping opponents is an Evil act, leaving them bound without weapons or armor is a Neutral act and leaving them unbound without weapons or armor is a Lawful act and taking them as slaves is a Chaotic act.

The rational for this is that anything a sleep spell will work on is possibly Neutral or even Lawful, the Chaotic only creatures are either more than 4 HD or are Undead or are Chaotic with an Evil bent. Examples of the last would be Medusae, Manticores, Gargoyles and Gorgons. Even low HD Lycanthropes are not affected by Sleep.

More tomorrow.

Friday, February 28, 2020

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day Fifty-Nine

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary of Blackmoor and of Role-Playing!

Today is Part 4 of my series of looks at OD&D starting with Men & Magic - Volume 1.

OK, today I am going to talk further about the races. As noted there are four "official" races for player characters: Men, Dwarves, Elves and Hobbits.
Dwarves: Dwarves may opt only for the fighting class, and they may never progress beyond the 6th level (Myrmidon). Their advantages are: 1) they have a high level of magic resistance, and they thus add four levels when rolling saving throws (a 6th-level dwarf equals a 10th-level human); 2) they are the only characters able to fully employ the +3 Magic War Hammer (explained in Book II); 3) they note slanting passages, traps, shifting walls and new construction in underground settings; and 4) they are able to speak the languages of Gnomes, Kobolds and Goblins in addition to the usual tongues (see LANGUAGES in this book).
This brings us to level limits. Level limits have generated an enormous amount of heated arguments on the Internet and on forums specifically. I used level limits and not one player ever complained about level limits. Dwarves, elves and hobbits all have level limits and as we played we ran into those level limits. No complaints, not one. As the referee I appreciated that. So you know what I did as the referee? 

I created ways for those level limits to be bypassed without being asked or being lobbied to do it. I used the game feature called the Quest. It is useful for a lot of things. Unlike a Geas, where the player has no choice, with a Quest the player has the option of refusing and doing something else. Some powerful figure makes an offer that if the character(s) does some great deed, they will be granted the ability to grow more powerful at the expenditure of great effort. I always found that these Quests which happened at rare intervals were a player favorite and IMO were much better that just saying no level limits.

Another thing here is that dwarves may only be Fighting-Men. Later we added thieves to the mix. But I did not go hard and fast with limiting dwarves to the fighting class or rather what I did was gave dwarves magic that was only concerned with forging weapons of great power which gave them the ability to also identify magic weapons at 5th level. Dwarves are also very good at choosing the best of mundane weapons and excellent at caring for their weapons. 

Also Dwarves, Elves and Hobbits were referred to in OD&D as non-humans as the term "demi-humans" was still in the future.
Elves: Elves can begin as either Fighting-Men or Magic-Users and freely switch class whenever they choose, from adventure to adventure, but not during the course of a single game. Thus, they gain the benefits of both classes and may use both weaponry and spells. They may use magic armor and still act as Magic-Users. However, they may not progress beyond 4th level Fighting-Man (Hero) nor 8th level Magic-User (Warlock). Elves are more able to note secret and hidden doors. They also gain the advantages noted in the CHAINMAIL rules when fighting certain fantastic creatures. Finally, Elves are able to speak the languages of Orcs, Hobgoblins, and Gnolls in addition to their own (Elvish) and the other usual tongues.
A couple of things about elves, I allowed the player to run an elven character as a Fighting-Men or as a Magic-User or as both at the same time. Now the way this played out was an elf that did not have magic armor stayed out of the fighting, or at least tried to, unless at low levels they chose non-combat spells, in which case they went with armor. And unlike humans, they could freely use all bows as weapons. Once they gained magic armor, then they could freely function as both classes at the same time. 

I did this as my personal preference because for me I felt it was ridiculous to do it any other way. I am not aware of anyone else that did it that way which is fine. I also did the Quest thing with elves and hobbits the same as I did with dwarves. I will also note here that even being granted the ability to go up a level, went with requiring triple the XP to be earned too.
Hobbits: Should any player wish to be one, he will be limited to the Fighting-Men class as a hobbit. Hobbits cannot progress beyond the 4th level (Hero), but they will have magic-resistance equal to dwarves (add four levels for saving throws), and they will have deadly accuracy with missiles as detailed in CHAINMAIL.
If you look at Chainmail, you see that they can fire a stone as far as an archer shoots. So  I did not allow hobbits to use bows, but they could use slings. As for the deadly accuracy part I did not spend a lot of time trying to parse what that meant and how to implement that. I just eyeballed it and gave hobbits a +3 to hit with sling stones and have never changed it. This is another thing that generates Internet arguments. This is what I use and you may use whatever you want.

Now this next thing also tends to be contentious:
Other Character Types: There is no reason that players cannot be allowed to play as virtually anything, provided they begin relatively weak and work up to the top, i.e., a player wishing to be a Dragon would have to begin as, let us say, a “young” one and progress upwards in the usual manner, steps being predetermined by the campaign referee.
My impression is that very few people do this. IMO this is a very fun and beneficial part of the game and I recommend it. I have had players that wanted to play different things and I have always accommodated them. I have previously posted on my forum and in January of this year here on the blog with what I did for Dragons. This was a little more complicated because IMC Dragons are Immortal. To keep it short, I gave dragons a three phase life cycle with two chrysalis stages to separate them. At level 12, the window for adventuring closes and they go into chrysalis and when they come out of that they go off to find a mate and dragon adulthood. At that point they are retired and become an NPC or as we said bitd a Ref Character.

Doing these types of things early on lead to something else that I did and that is that all monsters IMCs have variable hit dice. Let us say that per the rules a monster is 4 HD, then some will be 1-3 HD, most will be 4 HD and some will be up to 7 HD. When the characters (I did not use PC bitd either) ran into this monster I might tell them that these monsters looked a lot more robust and a lot tougher than usual. I introduced this into my game very early on. I also invented a lot of monsters for my game that were not in the rules.

This was so that my fellow referee would be challenged as much as the other players. Plus I found that the uncertainty was very beneficial to the play of the game and that it made the players think more about what they were doing. Both myself and my fellow referee, played our monsters as valuing their own lives as much as the characters valued their own and we also played them as using tactics and strategy. Monsters made the most of their "home field" advantage as it were. Even goblins and kobolds should never be a pushover encounter IMO. In the wilderness monsters are often defending their turf. In a dungeon monsters might be serving for pay or they might be slaves. Sometimes the status of the monsters can be used to the players advantage.

Tomorrow I will tackle Alignment!

Thursday, February 27, 2020

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day Fifty-Eight

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary of Blackmoor and of Role-Playing!

Today we continue with Part 3 of our look at Dungeons & Dragons - Rules for Fantastic Medieval Wargames Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Miniature Figures. Men & Magic Volume 1 of Three Booklets.

Now we come to the section Characters:
There are three (3) main classes of characters:
Fighting-Men
Magic-Users
Clerics
Fighting-Men: includes the characters of elves and dwarves and even hobbits. 
Magic-Users includes only men and elves. Clerics are limited to men only. All non-human players are restricted in some aspects and gifted in others. This will be dealt with in the paragraphs pertaining to each non-human type.

This what we started with in OD&D in the original version. Note that anyone could be a Fighting-Man, but Magic-Users were limited to men and elves, and Clerics were limited to men only. While I always ignored these restrictions in the base classes, I have seen many Internet arguments about these restrictions between the by the book group and the purists who ignore the letter and go by the spirit of OD&D which is opened-ended, Do It Yourself (DIY)/(MIY) Make It Yourself run the game how you want group. I define a purist as those who run the game as intended and the opposition is the by the book rules lawyers. As per my previous post (2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day Fifty-Six):
The bottom line is that the rules, the guidelines tell you in no uncertain terms both explicitly and implicitly that OD&D is meant to be house-ruled, to be tweaked to suit you at your table. Every campaign should be unique and different - that is how the game was designed and intended. 
Again play any way you want, there is no bad wrong fun, just note that there is an intentional freedom in the rules to do whatever works for you. Some of us love that and others do not. That is why all of the hundreds of RPGs are derivatives of OD&D and in which various limits were imposed on the original freedom of the game. Yes, it is ironic that all of the added "options" are really added limits. In OD&D every character is unique if the player chooses to make it so.

I will note here that I am old enough to remember when it was never necessary to include disclaimers. Now some go over things with a fine tooth comb looking for something to be offended by. This is a very sad thing, I remember when a dozen people could argue about politics and religion for a couple of hours and then go out and have a drink together. Now such things lead to broken relationships, sadly this is what things have come to. It was much easier to do things in a large group back in the days when you only needed to agree on one or two things to go have fun together even if you disagreed about a lot of other things.
Fighting-Men: All magical weaponry is usable by fighters, and this in itself is a big advantage. In addition, they gain the advantage of more “hit dice” (the score of which determines how many points of damage can be taken before a character is killed). They can use only a very limited number of magical items of the nonweaponry variety, however, and they can use no spells. Top-level fighters (Lords and above) who build castles are considered “Barons,” and as such they may invest in their holdings in order to increase their income (see the INVESTMENTS section of Book III). Base income for a Baron is a tax rate of 10 Gold Pieces/inhabitant of the barony/game year.
Bitd it was obvious that Fighting-Men meant men and women. About half of the women (and men) in the group played fighters and it never occurred to anyone that women could not be fighters or that their stats should be adjusted. We invited men and women to the table, both came and played. It was a very long time later that I found out Gygax thought women would not be interested; however, his daughter(s) IIRC were part of the play-testers, this should have given him a clue. The different stat ranges and other odd things were not part of OD&D, those came about in AD&D and generated many Internet arguments, many of them quite bitter.
Magic-Users: Top level magic-users are perhaps the most powerful characters in the game, but it is a long, hard road to the top, and to begin with they are weak, so survival is often the question, unless fighters protect the low-level magical types until they have worked up. The whole plethora of enchanted items lies at the magic-user’s beck and call, save the arms and armor of the fighters (see, however, Elves); Magic-Users may arm themselves with daggers only. Wizards and above may manufacture for their own use (or for sale) such items as potions, scrolls, and just about anything else magical. Costs are commensurate with the value of the item, as is the amount of game time required to enchant it.
About half of the players (women and men) played Magic-Users. We allowed Magic-Users to use daggers and staff/quarterstaff and a crossbow as standard options. I did on occasion put in a magic sword geared towards a magic-user, but our magic-users as a rule did not want to join in combat.

Included in this section are rules for creating magic items and we heavily house-ruled this section, it also included rules for magical research which we also house-ruled. More information is provided in the Spells section. My more extensive house rules will be in a much later post in this series.
Clerics: Clerics gain some of the advantages from both of the other two classes (Fighting-Men and Magic-Users) in that they have the use of magic armor and all non-edged magic weapons (no arrows!), plus they have numbers of their own spells. In addition, they are able to use more of the magical items than are the Fighting-Men. When Clerics reach the top level (Patriarch) they may opt to build their own stronghold, and when doing so receive help from “above.” Thus, if they spend 100,000 Gold Pieces in castle construction, they may build a fortress of double that cost. Finally, “faithful” men will come to such a castle, being fanatically loyal, and they will serve at no cost. There will be from 10–60 heavy cavalry, 10–60 horsed crossbowmen (“Turcopole”-type), and 30–180 heavy foot.
Note that Clerics are either “Law” or “Chaos,” and there is a sharp distinction between them. If a Patriarch receiving the above benefits changes sides, all the benefits will immediately be removed!
Clerics with castles of their own will have control of a territory similar to the “Barony” of fighters, and they will receive “tithes” equal to 20 Gold Pieces/Inhabitant/year.
We only had one player that ever played a cleric in our games and he played nothing else. We also house-ruled in other people (besides troops) that would also come to such a castle for both Fighting Men and for Clerics. You will note that there is no mention of a Magic-User having a stronghold, I did construct house rules for a Tower. Those will be included later. I will note that the Tower could be off by itself or it could be allied with a "Barons" castle.

In the 5th print and later printings of the rules a change was added:
Note that Clerics of 7th level and greater are either “Law” or “Chaos,” and there is a sharp distinction between them.
I have never adopted this, Clerics in my campaigns are universally Lawful starting at 1st Level. All other classes in my campaigns are Lawful or Neutral. I have never run PCs as Chaotic.

These are the original three classes and we did not add any others until the last third of the school year. Over the four years of college, we used parts of all the supplements, things from The Strategic Review, things from The Dragon and eventually things from The Arduin Grimoire. We also had access to The Empire of the Petal Throne, Metamorphosis Alpha, and Gamma World which we dipped into. We did not see any other games during that time period. As I have noted before I did not see 1st Ed AD&D until a very long time later.

There is no section specifically for Men, but there is for Dwarves, Elves and Hobbits. Starting with the 6th printing Hobbits were removed from the rules, not by the Tolkien Estate itself. I have often felt sorry for the Tolkien Estate as they were taken to the cleaners long ago. I have zero respect for the sharks that take advantage of creative people and that trope continues to play out to this day.

Hobbits were replaced with Halflings, but I have always ignored that. After we started using the Greyhawk Supplement and we introduced thieves, then several people started playing Hobbits, before that, none did.

Also removed at the same time were Ents which were replaced by Treants and Balrogs which were just removed but not replaced until a little later. Again I ignored these changes.

More on these races in the next post.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day Fifty-Seven

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary of Blackmoor and of Role-Playing!

Today we continue with Part 2 of our look at Dungeons & Dragons - Rules for Fantastic Medieval Wargames Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Miniature Figures. Men & Magic Volume 1 of Three Booklets.

Next up is the Scope of which the most relevant part is:
With the various equipage listed in the following section, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS will provide a basically complete, nearly endless campaign of all levels of fantastic-medieval wargame play. Actually, the scope need not be restricted to the medieval; it can stretch from the prehistoric to the imagined future, but such expansion is recommended only at such time as the possibilities in the medieval aspect have been thoroughly explored.
The point here is that you can play anything with OD&D. For instance, I like Gamma World and if I had the opportunity I would run a Gamma World mashup game that used stuff from several other apocalyptic games, but I would use the OD&D mechanics with some tweaks. Similarly, Classic Traveller looks like a lot of fun and if I had the opportunity I would also run it with OD&D mechanics with some tweaks. I am a big science fiction fan and space travel/adventure/exploration is a huge draw for me. I am also a huge apocalyptic fantasy/science fiction fan (and yes it is a mixture of both, they are inseparable IMO). I am also a fan of the lost world genre with dinosaurs (thank you Jules Verne and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle).

Age Level is given as 12 years and up. Personally I have refereed 9 and 10 year olds and it worked really well, even younger a few times with good results.

Now here is the part that people usually freak out over:
Number of Players: At least one referee and from four to fifty players can be handled in any single campaign, but the referee to player ratio should be about 1:20 or thereabouts.
First Gygax ran games with usually IIRC about 3-6 people at a time or at least that is my impression. But he was running multiple adventuring parties through the same dungeon. During the play tests he was running many different groups all the time with varied overlap among players. He also ran games for Rob Kuntz for solo treks. As for Arneson, I am under the impression that his groups of players tended to be larger than what Gygax ran. The Braunsteins had some sizable groups in those games.

I have heard from many people that think that three or four players are the minimum and maximum sizes to go with and for some it is up to six. Apparently very few people want to referee a group larger than six. When I was in college we started with a referee and twelve players (6 men & 6 women) and that is the smallest group that we played with. Over the four years we averaged about 16-18 players at a time and the maximum was 30 players. We rarely had anything other than equal numbers of men and women. IMO an all guy game is not nearly as much fun. Sadly I have never had the opportunity to play in a game refereed by a woman. 

For me 12-20 players was the sweet spot for the group size, 30 was a real stretch, but in college with those young ears and eyes, I could do it. Now at 63, about 8-10 is ideal and the largest I have run over the last 10 years was 16 and that was a stretch. Now granted in college we were all the same age and the most recent time I ran 16, half the group was between 10-14 years old, so that is a little more difficult. 

Next we move on to Recommended Equipment and in the 2013 printing they have dropped the recommendation for Outdoor Survival. Why did they do that, well they bought up the company that made it and then buried it as they have so many other great games. There are hundreds of great games that are out of print and will likely remain that way. Shame on Hasbro/WotC!

But to be fair you really do not need Outdoor Survival. However, it is quite handy and there is an easy simple solution. Go to the blog Semper Initiativus Unum to On OD&D's Setting and to OD&D Setting Posts in PDF. The second post says:
I've made a single PDF file out of all the posts from my Original D&D setting series. It's available as a publicly accessible Google document...
Kudos to James Mishler for the excellent map that is on the first page.
I'd really like to hear stories from referees who use any of these ideas in their games, and how it goes - should be a fair sight different from "vanilla" Dungeons & Dragons! Thanks to all the people who've had kind words as this series went on, it was a lot of fun.
Follow the link to this blog post for the link to the file and while you are there save the link to the blog so that you can go back and read this blog for it has a lot of great stuff.

The author who is identified on the blog is Wayne Rossi. This pdf that he freely shares is IMO the best play aid that has ever been published for OD&D. I do not say that lightly nor do I insult anyone who has produced a lot of the other great play aids for OD&D and there are quite a few.

I have always been fascinated with time travel. This document should have been included in the OD&D books as part of the text IMO. Mr. Rossi has not blogged since 2017, it is to be hoped that he will resume as his is one of the very best blogs.

But back to the equipment. There is a whole list which includes Chainmail which is not really required but is handy for mass combat. Both OD&D and Chainmail are available in PDF here:


This last one is not really a supplement, but is kinda sorta a partial rewrite of Chainmail with the attempt at more compatibility with OD&D. There are a number of useful things in it that I will get to at a future time when I take a look at it for this series. But I will give you a teaser, it contains the duration of a sleep spell. What do you think that might be. Write down your guess and then at the end of this I will print the answer.

The blurbs that WotC provided for each of these products does unfortunately contain information that is known to be inaccurate, something that I will address at some future date, but not anytime soon.

Next up is Preparation For The Campaign:
The referee bears the entire burden here, but if care and thought are used, the reward will more than repay him. First, the referee must draw out a minimum of half a dozen maps of the levels of his “underworld,” people them with monsters of various horrid aspect, distribute treasures accordingly, and note the location of the latter two on keys, each corresponding to the appropriate level. This operation will be more fully described in the third book of these rules. When this task is completed the participants can then be allowed to make their first descent into the dungeons beneath the “huge ruined pile, a vast castle built by generations of mad wizards and insane geniuses.” Before they begin, players must decide what role they will play in the campaign, human or otherwise, fighter, cleric, or magic-user. Thereafter they will work upwards — if they survive — as they gain “experience.” First, however, it is necessary to describe fully the roles possible.
As noted this (dungeon design) is covered more fully in Volume 3. However, the players have to get to the dungeon, well at least in my world they have to travel to where a dungeon is. But if you use the linked document by Wayne Rossi above you can get an idea of the world building and go from there and you can work on the dungeon (assuming your players want to do that) as they travel to that location. My players find interesting things when traveling and make many detours. I will get into world design and dungeon design later on. The preparation for a campaign does not have to be daunting.

Tomorrow we will look at the roles that you can play in OD&D.

Oh, I almost forgot to add this, the duration given for a sleep spell is 4-16 turns. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day Fifty-Six

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary of Blackmoor and of Role-Playing!

Today I am going to start looking at Dungeons & Dragons - Rules for Fantastic Medieval Wargames Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Miniature Figures. Men & Magic Volume 1 of Three Booklets.

The latest 2013 version makes several changes, Gygax & Arneson is replaced with Gary Gygax & Dave Arneson. That is a good change IMO. It also replaces Volume 1 of Three Booklets with Book I. the statement Published by Tactical Studies Rules is deleted, but not replaced with anything.

Some want to make a big deal about the the use of the word Wargames in the sub-title and about the Miniature Figures part of the sub-title. When OD&D was written the term Role-Playing Game was still in the future and at the time Gygax thought the market would be his fellow wargamers, it never occurred to anyone that the game would have a much wider appeal. Reading too much in the term Wargames in more than a generic sense is IMO a mistake. A lot of people also insist that you must use Miniature Figures; however, the rules/guidelines make it clear that miniatures are optional and you may use or not use them according to what works for you. I have never used them as a referee, I have used them as a player.

The changes on the title page inside is the removal of the copyright statement replaced by a Wizards of the Coast logo. and the changing of Volume 1 to Book I. The statement about where to send rules inquiries was also removed, which makes sense because TSR at the Lake Geneva address is long gone.

Even though directions for sending in rules inquiries was provided, no one in my group ever corresponded with TSR in Lake Geneva. We were never stuck or unsure about what to do, we made decisions and went on with the game. I will revisit this when I get to the Afterword in Volume 3.

The Table of Contents is labeled Index and is reasonably complete. A lot is made by some about how poorly organized these booklets are. I have never agreed with that. But then I came to OD&D with fresh eyes, not from eyes that are used to highly polished and highly edited modern games. I think OD&D gets a very bad rap that is undeserved. 

No one ever wants to consider the context of the writing of OD&D. This was written for a specific audience - other wargamers. A lot of common knowledge in the hobby was left out, simply because it was indeed common knowledge. Had Gygax realized that OD&D would have had such a wide appeal, it is very likely that more of those details would have been included IMO.  Be that as it may, we figured it out and did not have any trouble picking up the three slim volumes and playing the game. Anecdotal evidence says that a lot of other people were the same as my group, they figured it out and ran with it. Very few of the earliest adopters are on the internet today, very few. Many of the earliest adopters have already passed away. 

Next we come to the Forward corrected to Foreward in the 2013 edition. Interestingly in the 1st print through the 4th print it says "Forward..." and in the 5th print it is "Forward" and in my copy of the 6th print the title is missing and it goes right into the text.

The only change in the text is the addition of the registered trademark symbol has been added when Chainmail and Dungeons & Dragons are first mentioned, but still not included for all mentions. The complete text sets the table for telling you that Dave Arneson created a complex and exciting game, that he showed it to Gygax and the result is in your hands.

He says that:
Its possibilities go far beyond any previous offerings anywhere!
The section of this booklet entitled Scope will provide an idea of just how many possibilities are inherent in DUNGEONS & DRAGONS.
These rules are strictly fantasy. Those wargamers who lack imagination, those who don’t care for Burroughs’ Martian adventures where John Carter is groping through black pits, who feel no thrill upon reading Howard’s Conan saga, who do not enjoy the de Camp & Pratt fantasies or Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser pitting their swords against evil sorceries will not be likely to find DUNGEONS & DRAGONS to their taste. But those whose imaginations know no bounds will find that these rules are the answer to their prayers. With this last bit of advice we invite you to read on and enjoy a “world” where the fantastic is fact and magic really works!
E. Gary Gygax 1 November 1973
A lot is made of Appendix N in 1st Ed AD&D. Some want to study those books to find the origin of every single idea in OD&D. But that is doomed to failure and it did not happen that way. Arneson and Gygax did not set down and create D&D that way. They each had different influences from all manner of books, folk and fairy tales, mythology, movies, wargames and a lot of other things. Many things they thought of they were not even aware of where the ideas came from and they also used ideas from their players, from their play-testers. On the other hand there are those people who hate Appendix N and openly mock fans of Appendix N. Those people IMO miss the mark by an even wider margin, by the false claim that it is not useful to read those books, when reading those books is useful as a resource of ideas. You might as well claim reading history is not useful in creating your own countries or that studying geography is not useful in designing your own maps.

Gygax right in the Foreward mentions Burroughs and John Carter, Howard and Conan, de Camp & Pratt and their fantasies, and Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. It is undeniable that there are some specific inspirations for D&D. Appendix N is actually rather limited, it is a curated list made by Gygax and Tim Kask, it is not even a complete list of the books they thought to be useful and inspiring. There are many other books that could be on that list. 

IMO Burroughs, Howard and Fritz Leiber are the ones that really capture the spirit of OD&D. Many people come to D&D these days having not read any of the foundational fiction, even to the extent of being ignorant of mythology and fairy tales to say nothing of history and geography. Because of this it is IMO not possible for new people these days to approach D&D the way myself and others did, as they belong to a culture that is alien in many ways to the culture of the '50s, '60s and early '70s which still retained a lot of the older culture of the pre-TV and even pre-radio days.. I am not making a value judgement here, just making an observation. 

You cannot fault younger players for not having the deep fantasy background that many of us old folks had when we were young. My family obtained its first TV in 1963 when I was 7, a few months before JFK was assassinated. TV was limited to 1-2 hours per day in the winter(at most) and none during heavy farm work times during the summer for the first few years and only gradually increased. There was a lot of talking around the kitchen table and a lot of reading and story-telling. Quite a bit different from kids and adults texting people sitting next to them. I know 20-somethings who can hardly bear it to look away from their phone. I cannot identify with that.

So let us look at the Introduction:
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.
The vast majority claims that the rules of OD&D are incomplete - too incomplete to be playable. I disagree with those claims. He says that the major aspects are covered, but flexibility is retained. I fully agree with that. This is a long standing disagreement which boils down to this - do you place high value on the game being open-ended and flexible or do you place a high value on having a rule for everything and no flexibility. If you are in the open-ended and flexible camp, then OD&D is the game for you and it is complete enough for you to play.

Further these days the alleged incompleteness of OD&D is a moot point. There are numerous clones of OD&D and there are all the other games that have been written over the last 46 years. If you are a referee (or DM) you have virtually infinite resources to help you fill in any holes that you think need filled in. Bitd we took filling in certain holes with house rules as part of the fun of the game and I still view it that way. We came up with our own house rules as we did not have these current infinite resources, I did not need them then, but I will from time to time use them now since they are commonly available.

In the 3rd sentence he spells out that as with any set of rules, these are guidelines to designing your own campaign. That should forever put an end to the loud voices of the rabid by the book crowd. But sadly it will not. The rules/guidelines provide a framework around which you build a game of simplicity or tremendous complexity. He says time and imagination are the only limits. He advises you to start slow and to follow the guidelines so that you do not get bogged down. 

He says your campaign will build naturally at a pace best suited to you. This mean there is no ONE TRUE WAY  to build your campaign. The rules, the guidelines tell you to go at your own pace and do what works for you.

He continues:
If you are a player purchasing the DUNGEONS & 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.”
Contrary to some, I do not believe that Gygax was giving encouragement to rules lawyers here. Dave Arneson is known to have said that he, "regards rules lawyers as the enemy." Fortunately I have never had to contend with rules lawyers at my table, which is a very good thing for both myself and for them. The important thing here is to note that the referee making changes in the rules and then changing them again is considered to be a normal thing in the game. Again this should forever put an end to the loud voices of the rabid by the book crowd. But sadly it will not. 

But how anyone who comes away from reading the three OD&D booklets and claims that it should be played by the book, well that is incomprehensible to me. But hey play anyway you want to, if that is fun for you, find some like minded people go for it. But please do not go around telling people that is the way Gygax and Arneson played the game. In fact for all of the Gygax Up On a Soapbox rants, he did not even play AD&D by the book, even while he was telling everyone that was the only thing that was acceptable. Yes, Gygax had feet of clay, he was human, but you do not get to use him to support by the book play. Is playing by the book bad wrong fun? No, not at all! Is it in accordance with the original spirit of the rules/guidelines, no it is not. Not a judgement, just an observation of the facts.

But I speak as someone who does not play any game by the book, any  game I play where I am the host has house rules. That has been true since I was a very small child well before I started school. I believe that any game you play you should make it your own.

The bottom line is that the rules, the guidelines tell you in no uncertain terms both explicitly and implicitly that OD&D is meant to be house-ruled, to be tweaked to suit you at your table. Every campaign should be unique and different - that is how the game was designed and intended. The text is clear and about that there can be no valid debate. The text says what it says.

One more thing he says on this page:
Read through the entire work in the order presented before you attempt to play.
That is good advice for any game.

Tomorrow we will continue.

The Promise Town Gazette - An RPG Zine Quest - Old West Kickstarter

I just ran across this Kickstarter and it looks to me like it is setup for success they just need to be funded. See my comments at the bottom. If you are a fan of Old West RPGs, I am of the opinion that you will like this a lot.
The Promise Town Gazette - An RPG Zine Quest
A 24 page Wild West RPG Zine with adventure hooks, NPC's, items, puzzles, maps, and more delivered in the form of a frontier paper.
Project image for The Promise Town Gazette - An RPG Zine Quest
BackgroundMy RPG experience began in 1981 with Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, but soon spread to other types of role-playing games. One of my favorites from my teenage years was Boot Hill. I bought every edition and every module of this wild west game from TSR. In the summer of 1984, I ran a Boot Hill campaign for my gaming group. I printed up a 4-page "newspaper" with articles and advertisements for my players filled with adventure hooks for them to investigate. My parents did our church's Sunday bulletin, so I had the skills, the tools, and the time to make a game aid that was the start of numerous wild west adventures. We all had a lot of fun that summer. Oh, to be 17 again. . .
The Promise Town GazetteThe Promise Town Gazette will be a 5½" x  8½", 24 page, saddle-stitched zine printed in black ink on high-quality parchment-like paper. Each issue of the Gazette will contain 5 NPC's, 3 Maps, 5 Tables, 1 Logic Puzzle, Numerous Adventure Hooks, Cool Art, and Numerous stories of the Weird/Wild West happenings around the fictional setting of Promise Town in Jefferson County Arizona. Oh, and it will look something like this:


Note: These pictures are mock ups to give an idea of the final product.
Overfunding Goals The true goal is to make not just 1, but 4 issues of the Zine. The first, as stated above, would be dated 1868. The second would be dated 1876, after Custer's Defeat at Little Big Horn and it would be sent out in August of 2020. The third would be dated 1880, during the rise of the native-american leader Geronimo and it would be sent out in October of 2020. The fourth would be dated 1903, during the first trans-continental automobile trip and it will be sent out in December of 2020. Every issue will have 5 NPC's, 3 Maps, 5 Tables, 1 Logic Puzzle, Numerous Adventure Hooks, Cool Art, and Numerous stories about the goings on around Promise Town.
If we reach $1000, there will be two issues.
If we reach $1250, there will be three issues.
If we reach $1500, there will be 4 issues.
If we reach $2000, everybody backing at $12 and above will receive 1 Wanted Poster / Mini Adventure PDF.
If we reach $2500, everybody backing at $12 and above will receive ALL 5 Wanted Poster / Mini Adventure PDF's.
Risks and challengesWhile I have worked on two successfully-funded Kickstarter gaming projects (Welcome to Mortiston, USA and The Seas of Vodari), I've never run my own Kickstarter. I am familiar with the concept of hard deadlines and I've overestimated how long everything should take. I believe we should have plenty of buffer time to face any potential setbacks without pushing back the delivery dates.
In terms of shipping experience, I have in the past been an active seller on both eBay and Board Game Geek. I am familiar with the USPS and the requirements of preparing large numbers of packages.
At the bottom of their KS is extensive information about the staff (with pictures of these people) that is putting this together. It looks like a professional team. Check out their bonafides. Help me ramp this Kickstarter up in the last few hours that remain.

Monday, February 24, 2020

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day Fifty-Five

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary of Blackmoor and of Role-Playing!

So here is where I am going next with this in honor of and in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Blackmoor and of Role-Playing! Something I have been working on for quite a while is putting all of OD&D into a text file. When I say OD&D I mean the entire text of all of the different printing of the three volumes: Men & Magic, Monsters & Treasure, and The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures. I started with grabbing the text from the 2013 so-called premium edition. (IMO you cannot call something premium when it has a lot of the original text deleted) 

I am adding back the missing text from the 1st-3rd print, the 4th print and the 5th print. Then I will check to see if anything is to be added from the 6th print, the so-called collectors addition. Same criticism applies that applied to the premium edition. In the 6th print, which sells much higher than a 5th print, hobbits, ents and balrogs are missing as they were removed and replaced with halflings, treants and nothing. So in the compiled text both will be included as halflings and hobbits are different creatures as are ents and treants.  

In the process of doing this, I am also compiling a document of how to turn a 6th print or 2013 print into a complete 5th print for those that would like to know what is missing. I will likely be working on this through the end of the year as I am also trying to eliminate all typos and other editing (or lack thereof) errors.

The next step is to create supplements which extract the things that I like(all the IMO good parts) and sometimes use from the three supplements: Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardy. A second supplement which draws from the seven issues of The Strategic Review. The third supplement will draw from the first several issues of The Dragon. Yes, Dragon Magazine was originally named The Dragon and for reasons unknown to me they dropped the "The" from the name. A fourth supplement will draw from The First Fantasy Campaign, Adventures in Fantasy and other Dave Arneson and Blackmoor related materials. A fifth supplement will draw from my own stuff that has accumulated over the last 45 years. This will also include all of the things that I like from Arduin and other rule-sets.

The next step will be to combine all of these documents into a final tweaked and reorganized document that represents OD&D as I use it - except for one thing, I very seldom refer to the rules during play. It will also have blank space every few pages so that I can write things in with pencil as they occur. The reason for this is that like Arneson, I never stop tweaking the rules and trying new stuff - new to me at any rate.

There is one final step that may take years to complete and that is to rewrite the whole into an original document (sans the OGL) that will be shareable and for free distribution to anyone (if any) that might want to see it. My working title is "Perilous Dreams - The Game." I have another name for it that I am keeping under wraps. 

All but the final step are about 30% complete, the final step is more of a dream than anything else at this point. 

So why am I telling you about this, mainly because as I have been working on this and reading what other people have to say about Original Dungeons & Dragons and Blackmoor, reading and hearing what Arneson's players say about Blackmoor in the Secrets of Blackmoor Research and other books that range from historical works such as Playing at the World (and others) on one hand to tell all tabloid style TMI character assassinations on the other hand. So I am going to do a reading OD&D of the first three books a little at a time and comment on how I did it back in the day and how I interpreted the rules at my game table.

Starting tomorrow I will start looking at Men & Magic and talking about it from the beginning to the end. When that is complete I will move on to Monsters & Treasure, followed by The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures. This will let you peer into my mind and see how I think about things and also serve as a source document for me for the next to last step of my above noted projects. The other purpose this will serve is to help me create a Table of Contents and an Index for my future documents.

All of this will be filtered through the lens of how I see Dave Arneson style gaming and how I see Blackmoor. Not as a point of direct imitation, but as inspiration. IMO neither Dave Arneson nor Gary Gygax back in the beginning had any desire for anyone to just import Blackmoor or Greyhawk to their own table and try to recreate it (not that these is anything wrong with that, I fully understand why other fans would find that to be a lot of fun), no back at the beginning they thought creating your own world was an immense part of the fun and they thought everyone would see it that way and from the beginning for me (Sept '75) until now, that is how I personally did and do see it. I am completely fine with anyone who sees it otherwise. Personal taste and all that is cool.

At some point in this proposed very long series of posts I will probably spend quite a few posts on world creation and do some world creating on the fly as I post. But I will not get to that part of the series for quite a while.

Hope to see you all back tomorrow and every day after that.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day Fifty-Four

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary of Blackmoor and of  Role-Playing!

Today I am going to link to a few blogs that IMO are very useful to someone that is interested in Blackmoor and Dave Arneson. These blog are IMO quite old school in their approach, I read them regularly and enjoy them greatly. I think you will too.

First up is Swords & Stitchery - Old Time Sewing & Table Top Rpg Blog which describes itself this way:
A blog about sewing machine repairs,but mainly my hobbies which include old school role playing games, science fiction,  films, horror, and general geekery. Sit down and stay a spell.
It is always a good read and well worth your time.

Next up is Zenopus Archives which is about:
Exploring the Underworld of Holmes Basic
This blog is jam packed with useful stuff, including downloads. Quite a resource.

Then there is Dreams in the Lich House which is: 
A blog about Dungeons & Dragons, Call of Cthulhu, and fantasy and horror gaming
He points out that he is a 5E adopter, but he also is very useful to those of us who stick with OD&D.

His most recent post is titled "Open World Building - Arbitrate Your Sandbox" dated 2/18/2020. I mention it for a reason:
Last year I picked up a kindle book written by Alexander Macris called Arbiter of Worlds, a general collection of essays on how to build and run an old school campaign, and why this is the most satisfying and memorable approach to adventure gaming due to emergent story. 
Both ACKS and Arbiter of Worlds suggest a campaign building approach called "top down, zoom in" that mirrors how I like to approach campaign building, so I'm going to give the methodology a try as I start working on "Erda".  Like it says in the name, you start with the world concept, develop a large area map, establish some broad brushstrokes around the history of the setting, and craft some notes on culture.  Then switch to the local area where adventures will start for the "zoom in" portion, creating a small area hex map, points of interest, settlements, dungeons - the detailed sandbox area.
I mention this because "Top Down, Zoom In" is the only world building method I have ever used. I do the "TopDown"  part pretty much just like he indicates. Where I differ is that I do the "Zoom In" part at the table on the fly. I have always done it that way. Whether I am running a four hour game or a 14 hour game, I do it all on the fly. I create my dungeons on the fly too.

When I create a world I visualize it floating in space. I think about how big it is, what kind of world it is, I see the continents and islands as it rotates, mountains, forests, deserts, plains etc. I write this stuff down and then as I watch the world rotating in space I can mentally "zoom in" anywhere I want and look at it. That is what I do at the table, I "zoom in" and just tell the players what I see. I do the same thing with a dungeon, as the players proceed, I describe to them what I see, what I hear, what I smell, what I touch, and what I taste. 

Right now as I write this I see a dungeon room with four inches of dust on the floor and on top of some broken furniture, some old rugs and other items strewn across the floor, it has a musty smell, the walls are bare except for a large mirror on the back wall, it is floor to ceiling and about 10 feet wide. Oddly it has not a trace of dust on its surface. You and your comrades tell me you will enter the room and check it out. As you look at the mirror you see a clearing in a wooded area with you and your comrades standing just behind a small campfire, looking back at you, a completely accurate reflection of you, but somehow you are in this different place. A large hulking creature comes out of the woods behind you, somewhat in the shadows and therefore indistinct. You interject to tell me that you quickly look behind yourselves in the room, but you only see the wall and door of the room behind you. You look back at the mirror and see the creature raise a large sword that it grasps in both hands as it steps closer. What do you do?

Or

You enter what looks like a throne room, the room is both long and wide, the ceiling is high. Beautiful tapestries decorate the walls, columns are in two rows the length of the room with their surfaces craved with images from top to bottom. Rich colorful carpets adorn the floors. The room is immaculate, looking like it is in constant use. From the door that you entered there is a long continuous carpet that runs all the way to the foot of the throne. Both sides are lined with statues of armored, armed men standing at attention. They look extremely realistic and the workmanship is exquisite. But there is nothing moving anywhere in the room and you see nothing living. The entire room is decorated with gold and silver items, rich purple cloth, gem encrusted items galore. You tell me that you want to check out  the throne and the area around it first. As you approach you smell food that makes your mouths water and when you get closer you see this elevated large throne make of gold, highly decorated and ornate. It is draped with a robes made of bear skins, with cushions that are covered with the skins of many different creatures all with rich dark fur. beside the throne is a table with a large golden pitcher and a large good cup. There are a dozen platters covered with food, all richly prepared and the odors from the food are reminding you of how long it has been since you last ate. As you approach a little closer music begins to play with an eerie sound. Suddenly every statue raises its spear and slams the butt of the spear back down on the floor and it makes a thundering sound, followed by total silence. What do you do?

Saturday, February 22, 2020

2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary - Day Fifty-Three

Celebrating 2020 - The Year of Blackmoor - 50th Anniversary of Blackmoor and of  Role-Playing!

Time to share some more great links with you! These links are to blog posts over at the Hidden in Shadows blog by DHBoggs. This is not a high volume blog, but it is a very high quality blog. It started in July of 2011 and has a total of 149 posts to date. The focus of the blog is RPG history especially as it applies to Dave Arneson, Blackmoor and OD&D. This is one of my favorite blogs, not only for the content, but also because the author is honest, ethical and a great guy to boot.

Here are a few representative posts to introduce you to the blog.

His first post is titled Zero Edition Dungeoneering - a beginning and he says:
This first weblog entry is something of an experiment as I've never 'blogged before.  So we shall see how it goes.  I'll begin by reposting and expanding on a post I left on the ODD74 forum...
Here is his third post titled The Game Board of OD&D which I greatly enjoyed. He starts with a couple of references to the OD&D rules:
"Off-hand adventures in the wilderness are made on the OUTDOOR SURVIVAL playing board (explained below). Exploratory journies(sic), such as expeditions to find land suitable for a castle or in search of some legendary treasure are handled in an entirely different manner.” Underworld and Wilderness Adventures, P. 15
“REFEREE'S MAP is a wilderness map unknown to the players. It should be for the territory around the dungeon location. When players venture into this area they should have a blank hexagon map, and as they move over each hex the referee will inform them as to what kind of terrain is in that hex. This form of exploring will eventually enable players to know the lay of the land in their immediate area and thus be able to select a site upon which to build their castles. (Castle building and its attendent requirements will be covered hereafter.) Exploratory adventures are likely to be the most exciting, and their incorporation into the campaign is most desirable.”
UWA, p 16  (insert UWA is Underworld and Wilderness Adventures)
After which he says some very important things here are a couple:
...but the statement that “exploratory adventures are likely to be the most exciting.” definitely encourages the hexcrawl exploration on a tabletop map and tells us that wilderness travel wasn't intended just to be hops between dungeons, but an exploratory expedition itself.
This is what we did bitd before my first dungeon made its appearance about 3 months in. He goes on to say:
The underlying assumption throughout OD&D is that the” wilderness” will be created as the game progresses, dens and lairs will be fleshed out, castles and towns will appear, distant kingdoms will be named and so on, and there will always be more to see just over the horizon. 
This is the game that I fell in love with and the game that I play to this day.

Another post from 2011 was titled Dragon Economics. This is a great post and he compares the historical cost of Fort Frederick (MD), a frontier fort at the time, to building a similar structure in OD&D a "borderlands" stronghold. I have been to Fort Frederick in Maryland back in the early 1980s so this post was of high interest to me.

That is enough to get you started. I highly encourage that if you are interested in Blackmoor, Arneson and OD&D to spend time reading this entire blog. It will be well worth your time. Also in early posts he makes some conclusion, later when more information comes to light he addresses that and adjusts his conclusion to fit the new evidence. Like I said, honest. Enjoy!