Friday, January 16, 2009

D&D Cover to Cover, part 36

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.

Monsters & Treasure

When I wrapped up my conclusions on the re-read of Volume I, I wrote that the 20 posts I had made while going through Men & Magic would amount to more posts than Volumes II and III combined. I guess I missed the mark with that statement. I ended up with 15 posts regarding Monsters & Treasure, so unless I skim through The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures, I will certainly surpass my original estimation.

As I did with Volume I, I will be looking back at the posts and comments for Volume II in order to highlight some of the noteworthy observations from readers which I think will help me realize different angles or views on the topics I covered and speculated on. I have definitely altered my view on a number of elements.

The following words, written in the Volume I Conclusion, bear repeating here as well:

“This exercise began on a whim for me, as I thought it might be fun to try and uncover some passages here and there which I felt were noteworthy, or perhaps I had been implementing incorrectly. It has now become more or less a challenge to see if I can actually read and consider each passage in the famous White Box, or LBB.

I know many will scratch their heads, and wonder why in the world anyone would want to actually undertake such a project. The joy of OD&D for many, myself included, is to treat the books as a guide; one which is a pleasure to use for playing D&D precisely due to the vagaries inherent in the books. Here’s the thing, though. Many of us spend an inordinate amount of time debating various topics within these volumes. Many of these subjects are simply rehashed theories and assertions, but others are more or less glossed over; as if some authority through the years has ‘shown’ us how to play. I blame AD&D 1e for many of the assumptions I make when looking at these rules. I am trying to distance myself from those opinions formed over nearly 30 years of gaming.

In addition, given the amount of time many of us spend considering and speculating the matters in these volumes, and the sheer collective value the originals now hold, I feel it is important to make these distinctions. This IS the Holy Grail of RPGs, and it deserves attention and its truths need to be brought forth, that they might stand on their own merits. Once we understand as much as we can about OD&D, then we can still go on our merry ways and house rule, home brew and customize ad nauseum.

By no means is this meant to be some ‘by the book’ essay or thesis which attempts to tell players that there is one right way to play OD&D. As all of you know by now, you could very well toss all three volumes in the trash bin and wing an entire campaign using just paper and pencil, and maybe some dice. I value these books more than that, so while I might end up home brewing a game that is very clearly NOT OD&D, I will always cherish and respect the words found within the LBB; those words of Gygax and Arneson written 35 years ago.”

With that I invite you to return soon for the follow-up post which will quote many of the insightful comments left by readers.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee


James Maliszewski said...

This is a terrific series, Sham. Like Philotomy's musings, it's done more to educate and illuminate OD&D than almost anything I've read. And if I'm still learning a thing or two from examinations, I can only imagine the impact on gamers who don't know OD&D at all.

This is great stuff. Keep it up.

Sham aka Dave said...

Thanks James! Hopefully I'll be able to compile the important parts of the series into something as useful as Philotomy's Musings.