In this post I want to direct readers and potential OD&D players to the Essentials section at Philotomy’s Musings. Philotomy made a very valid point in that OD&D is not limited in scope to Vol.s I-III and the supplemental brown books, and that there are other excellent sources of gaming information that many players of the original edition have found invaluable.
My reason for initially pointing players new to OD&D to the Vol.s I-III of the original edition is because at only six bucks for the PDF, you can decide if OD&D’s for you, and not feel as though you wasted a sizable amount of coin. On the other hand, RPGNow does offer all of the OD&D books, plus Chainmail, bundled together for thirty bucks (a savings of about $6.00).
Now, since Dave Arneson still has rights to Supplement 2, Blackmoor, he is able to offer it in PDF form, for FREE. So, there’s several dollars saved right there, anyway.
Nothing in this anthology of printed material, other than the Original Edition of LBB, is in fact essential. I prefer the idea of just using the original game as is, and building from there in the tradition of the old home brewers from those halcyon days. As Philotomy points out, the supplements are inspirational, if nothing else. Remember, though, if you end up actually using all of the material and rules presented, you are almost to the point of simply playing a disorganized version of AD&D.
Personally, I already owned a copy of Supplement I, Greyhawk, which I found several years back at a used book store for $3.00, and I had Best of the Dragon Vol. I in my gaming closet. I picked up the LBB, Chainmail, as well as the Judge’s Guild Ready Ref Sheets and the Monster & Treasure Assortment collection, all in PDF. I’ll comment a bit on these, since I’ve read them.
Original Edition, the LBB: Essential, this is OD&D.
Supplement I, Greyhawk: Radical rules changes. The Thief is added. You can see how Greyhawk, Mr. Gygax’s campaign setting, was the precursor to AD&D. I’ll use the Monsters and Treasure, but not much else.
Supplement II, Blackmoor: Luckily this one’s free. I find no use for this publication, other than the Monsters and Treasure, although it’s interesting to read Temple of the Frog.
Chainmail: I’m glad I have it because I was very curious, but it’s not needed. Philotomy does a good job explaining how it might be useful.
JG Ready Ref Sheets: I love and heartily recommend this. Even if you don’t use any of the various house rules presented, it still has some very handy reference sheets of the collected tables from the LBB. Oh, and it’s a $3.00 PDF.
Monster & Treasure Assortment: A collection of tables which a prospective referee might find very useful for randomly stocking dungeons, rolling encounters on the fly, or just as inspiration.
These are all linked at Philotomy’s musing, so follow those links and judge for yourself. I’d start with simply the LBB and build from there. Getting everything at once will likely bog down the process of sorting out the original edition information.
Kudos to Philotomy for compiling all of this information and linking it.
Personally, the OD&D material I am currently most interested in is Dave Arneson's First Fantasy Campaign, as well as some other long out of print Judge's Guild modules that I missed back in the late 70's and early 80's.
Remember that all you need to get going on some serious old school gaming is Vol.s I-III, those LBB. As Mr. Gygax said,
"...why have us do anymore of your imagining for you?"
~Sham, Quixotic Referee