Friday, November 14, 2008

D&D Cover to Cover, part 2B

Being a series of articles in which the author reads the indelible words of Gygax and Arneson as presented the Original Collector's Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, published by Tactical Studies Rules. Beginning with Men & Magic, and concluding with The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures, the author will consider those earliest passages, adding elucidations and interpretations along the way for your consideration.

This post is being added in hindsight after I had already moved forward in my reading. I suspect I might add a few more like this as I have been scheduling some of these in groups of posts. I’d like to thank friendly reader and OD&D expert Will Douglas(aka Coffee) for prompting me to realize I had glossed over something he felt was noteworthy.

Men & Magic

I'm going to quote Will's comments here, along with his own quote of the passage in question:

"What strikes me is a section you didn't cover, which I'll reproduce here:

"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"."

In this section, Gary essentially establishes the rules lawyer. I'm not sure he meant to, but there it is."
I think this was Gygax going off on a tangent to make his point about house rules and about how the referee is in control of his own campaign. I have to agree with Will here in that I'm not sure Gygax meant to do so, but the above passage would certainly have been read that way by new players. They would have been sure to bring along their copies of D&D to each session after reading that, wanting to make sure they notated the relevant rules changes in pencil. It even encourages players to make quick checks of the rules in order to possibly save their character's life! Some might take this as an underlying message that every player should also own a copy of D&D; TSR's intent being to sell more boxes. I don't believe that this was the impetus here.

The most important elements I come away with after reading this passage is that:

1. Referees will make changes to the rules.
2. As a player, you will accept these changes.
3. Rules and alterations are subject to further change.

These are all fantastic lessons to learn early. I know as a referee/Dungeon Master basically from Day One, I often frustrated my own players by starting off game sessions with updates on house rules and changes. Such rules were accepted, and play commenced. Poorly thought out rules were expunged, and suggestions from the players themselves were considered and added for later adventuring dates, sometimes on the fly, mid-game! Sounds fairly 'old school', no? This passage, which I failed to read as noteworthy originally, is in fact, key to the elements of old school gaming; that the rules are guidelines only and meant to be molded; that the player must accept the rules of the campaign; that the referee can and will use judgment and see to future alterations; that the referee is in total control of his own games. Thank you, Will.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee


Matthew James Stanham said...

Yeah, that's pretty much the dynamic in the groups I have played with as well. What I have noted is that it doesn't often apply to our "one shot" games, only to ongoing campaigns.

Sham aka Dave said...

That's a good point. Normally for the one-shots we just try to keep everything confined to say the 1e DMG and PHB, no outside material and no 'fiddly' stuff.