Having considered D&D conceptually or by name only, and explained labels, titles and expectations with the past three posts, I thought it might be interesting to actually put more emphasis on the lists I threw together along the way. Tomorrow Sham’s Essentials of D&D, and today Sham’s OD&D Truths.
Readers will certainly disagree with my lists, that’s a given. The point of compiling the Truths is not to identify what is or what isn’t OD&D. It’s an effort to share what I think the average devotee expects when a game is labeled OD&D. The missing Truth is of course that the Concept trumps the guidelines, and that everything is open for tinkering. If we push that missing Truth too far, there is no point in labeling our games at all. They’re just D&D then. Therefore Concept is not an OD&D Truth. Concept is the motivating force behind the Essentials. For that matter, the lists could be renamed. Truths could be Expectations, and Essentials could be Concept.
If I merge the lists, in other words if I maintain the Truths and pursue the Essentials, I can end up with a heavily tinkered game of D&D which I can proudly declare to newcomers is in fact OD&D. If I begin by designing my game or campaign with the Essentials first but follow the Truths I’d probably refer to the game as D&D using OD&D as a foundation. If I ignore the Truths and combine the Essentials, it’s pure D&D.
Sham’s OD&D Truths
1. Class and Level based Characters
2. Six Cardinal 3d6 Ability Scores
3. Combat Model (including RTH, HD, HP, AC)
4. Saving Throws
5. Spells and Spell Levels
6. Fantasy Milieu (the world and features)
7. "Fill-in-the-Blanks" Design
One of the Truths, the one added in hindsight, creates an interesting dilemma. Around the gaming table, in your personal game, you will organically grow house rules and features unique to your game. This is a feature of OD&D, that the flexibility of the rules allows the players to define them further. You are fleshing out the skeleton as you play. If you compile all of your tinkering and homebrew, even if you maintain the other six Truths, and publish your campaign, it is no longer OD&D. Why? You’ve filled in the blanks over the years. Around the table, it is OD&D. To an outsider, it is no longer OD&D.
From a purist standpoint, and really there shouldn’t be any purism associated with D&D to begin with, anything you change or add makes OD&D something else when taken away from the game table. All bets are off. For example, I create a complex system to handle something not covered in OD&D, but I continue to maintain the Truths. Perhaps I made a six page tactical Combat Procedure. I still used the Combat Model, with RTH, HD, HP and AC, but I went into great depth and homebrewed many unique, complicated rules.
As far as I’m concerned, this is the height of the D&D concept. I relish seeing other referees’ own house rules and tinkering methods. They can call it OD&D around their own gaming table, but if the envelope is pushed too far, from a (cringe) purist standpoint, it is no longer OD&D. BUT, it IS D&D.
It’s amazing what that little O means to many people. And, admittedly, to me at times.
~Sham, Quixotic Referee