Wednesday, April 2, 2008

What is OD&D?

I find myself spending way too much time of late over at Finarvyn's awesome OD&D Discussion site. Fin himself recently started a thread addressing the question of at what point does OD&D become custmoized so much that it morphs into something else. The thread itself has evolved into a discussion of home brewing rather than stay with what I think is the original intent. We all agree that OD&D, as published in 1974, is designed for customization, house ruling, home brewing, etc. The original topic, though, was explaining, in one man's opinion, a handful of cornerstones, foundations that are unmistakably 'OD&D' and should be considered immutable, otherwise one might be crossing into the realm of 'Not OD&D'.

I think these identified foundations, or 'OD&D Truths' end up being somewhat different for many of us. I find that I am in agreement for the most part with Fin's observations on the subject, though. In a nut shell, as best as I could identify them myself, here are Fin's OD&D Truths:

1. Class based Character progression
2. d20 Combat Model
3. Rules as a 'skeleton'
4. Six Cardinal Character Abilities

I find that I am in agreement with these truths. Rather than delve into each item, I would direct the reader to the thread itself.

In my response, I added:

"I might be tempted to add a few further definitions, but I'd have to think long and hard about what exactly those would be. Simple aspects that are not only OD&D conventions, but D&D in general, could be included and defined."

In other words, there are other, basic D&D conventions that further define the scope of D&D, regardless of edition. Things like Dungeon Masters, Saving Throws, Monsters, etc. These conventions, though, are all a part of item 3. Rules as a 'skeleton'. This is truly what makes OD&D specifically NOT AD&D or any of the later editions. The later editions go the opposite direction and flesh out the skeleton, filling in all of the gaps for the players and DM.

Now, I house rule and home brew quite a bit, and do flesh out the skeleton, maybe much more than most for my OD&D version. I am starting with OD&D, and using the rules as intended in so much that they are a tool-kit for such endeavors. To this end, I feel it necessary to have a clear reference for my players to see exactly how I have defined these additions. Hence the Solstice tiddlywiki.

Is this OD&D to others? I'm not sure now. It's not Arduin. It's not Greyhawk. It's...well, it's Solstice.

I can run thorugh Finarvyn's checklist to see if it is OD&D:

1. Class based Character progression - Yes.
2. d20 Combat Model - Yes.
3. Rules as a 'skeleton' - Not really, I've filled in gaps.
4. Six Cardinal Character Abilities - Yes.

As you can see, for the most part it IS OD&D. I think the question at hand now, then, is at what point does house ruling or filling in the gaps define the OD&D rules to the point that it is no longer OD&D?

In the end, I further interpret item 3 to mean that an individual DM is using the LBB, Vol.s I - III as the starting point for their camgaign setting. As long as one is simply filling in the gaps, and not actually changing or ignoring too much, it is still OD&D. I'm still not entirely satisfied with this answer or conclusion, though.

For now, I will pat myself on the back and continue to call Solstice an OD&D setting.



finarvyn said...

Nice to see that your visit to my boards bleeds over to your blog. I think that OD&D can have a lot of variations and that's the way G&A intended it in 1974. (Notice that they sold us a game with no setting.) So you can make many alterations and still end up with OD&D. I haven't looked at your Solstice stuff, but it sounds very much in the spirit of OD&D!

Sham aka Dave said...

I noticed that this topic came up again recently over at your forum, a year later. I couldn't find the thread which covered this theme in and wanted to read it again. Thanks for posting here, I see I linked it here!

This is a topic I am going to revisit in an upcoming blog article.

Hell, I owe this my interest in OD&D and this very blog to ODD74 forums. Thanks Fin!