Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Why Of It All

All this talk of an old school renaissance and what it might mean in the broader scope of the RPG community has brought up many familiar issues that remind me why the genre is so segmented. I began to reflect a bit on my own theories and beliefs concerning D&D, and how exactly I came to be where I am today. I consider myself a Neo-Grognard. In other words, I worship at the altar of OD&D, but I tinker around with the rules quite a bit, and home brew to no end.

As I wrote in my first post here at the Grog ‘n Blog, I came to an epiphany several months back that shattered my own belief that I was an avid AD&D player. I never was. I was playing OD&D in spirit all these years, and was under the misconception that it was AD&D. It’s a realization that many of my fellow D&D fans have come to over the years, now that OD&D itself is more readily available. Many D&D players, myself included, have now discovered that collected wisdom of real OD&D players made possible by the internet.

I had all of the little OD&D books in my collection at one time or another in the past, but loaned them out, regrettably. I never bothered to read them until this year, after I got the PDF’s. Back in the 80’s, I knew all I needed was the three volume hard cover AD&D books, paper, pencil, and my creativity. That fueled my campaigns.

It wasn’t until this year that, in retrospect, I realized I didn’t actually need those hard covers at all. I had been using the wrong tool-kit to make my own games. It was like a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders when I discovered that the OD&D tool-kit was what I should have been using all along. It’s simply better for my approach to gaming. Easier to build upon, and much less cumbersome. AD&D is downright unwieldy in comparison.

Can one make AD&D work for rules tinkering and heavy home brewing? Sure. I did so for nearly 30 years. I’m still kicking myself for not reading and taking the time to decipher the LBB back when I really could have made them work for me. Perhaps the timing was never right for me, until now. It was nearly impossible to do anything BUT play AD&D in the 80’s.

I wonder if it’s a maturity thing, a nostalgia thing, or just a personal thing. Those little brown books always held a certain mystery for me. I never really understood them back then. Maybe I didn’t want to, but now when I see them, they just do something for me. Realizing that they are so malleable has attracted me, too. So, it’s a bit of nostalgia, and a bit of a personal thing, I suppose. I can’t say that it’s a maturity thing, really.

I will never, ever, decry AD&D. I still absolutely without reservation love those three books. From a purely nostalgic view, those ARE D&D to me. I’ve said it before, but the DMG by Mr. Gygax is still my favorite RPG book of all time. Bar none. If my old gaming crew could not embrace OD&D the way I have, we’d be whipping out those AD&D books in a heartbeat and using them. Although, I just wouldn’t tell them that, in fact, they were playing OD&D and just didn’t realize it yet. And maybe they never would. That would be just fine with this ‘Dungeon Master’.

So, what exactly do I like so much about OD&D, anyway? Why do I think others don’t share my appreciation of the LBB? How would I go about sharing my enthusiasm with others?

Updated Links:

Why OD&D, part 1
Why OD&D, part 2
Why OD&D, part 3
Why OD&D, part 4

~Sham, Quixotic Referee


trollsmyth said...


- Brian, who will be refreshing and refreshing and refreshing...

Mike D. said...

I love a good cliff-hanger. :)

--Mike D.

Sham aka Dave said...

It's almost as though I am setting the table again here at the Grog 'n Blog. I learned with my massive first post that people aren't going to typically read and comment on a four page article. My enthusiasm and attitude concerning OD&D has not changed since that first post, but I feel now is a good time to share more of it.


Scott said...

This is "driver" from the OD&D boards. I'm at work now, but I will be back. :)

trollsmyth said...

I learned with my massive first post that people aren't going to typically read and comment on a four page article.

*glances at his own blog*

That's a lesson I should probably take to heart.

- Brian

Robert said...

Yeah. You can mix-and-match system and style. It’s a lot less effort when you match more than you mix.

Sham aka Dave said...

Hi 99th/Driver. Welcome to my little hole in the wall.

~Sham aka Dave

Matthew James Stanham said...

Sometimes I wonder if a lot of people fall back on OD&D because they are sick of hearing "you're doing it wrong", but still want to feel as though they are part of a wider community.

I am not all that convinced that AD&D was primarily intended for tournament play, I think of it more as a collection of modifications for playing Dungeons & Dragons.

Still, there is no denying that AD&D is a more formalised rule set and implies a 'standard' game when invoked.

Brian Murphy said...

A promising start, and I'll be checking back for the next posts.

Like you I cut my teeth on AD&D (and actually the great Moldvay Basic), but never actually played OD&D. In fact, I still don't own the three brown books (don't stone me)! I'll be interested to hear about your discovery of the contents of these books.

Sham aka Dave said...

a collection of modifications for playing Dungeons & Dragons.

I agree with this. AD&D collected together many of the various house rules and supplemental add-ons, and compiled them into a much more narrow treatment of the D&D guidelines.

Once AD&D was published, the genre was becoing more defined, for better or worse.


Sham aka Dave said...

I'll be interested to hear about your discovery of the contents of these books.

Coming up shortly. It's more of a philosophical realization than anything, BUT, I might expound upon it with a treatment of specifically why I like the OD&D 'rules'.

We don't throw stones here. I like AD&D and Moldvay, too!