Saturday, November 29, 2008

D&D Cover to Cover, part 19

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.

Men & Magic

A look back at a dozen and a half posts from my re-read of Men & Magic follows. One thing’s for sure, a break is in order before I dive in with Volumes 2 and 3. I have a feeling Men & Magic will yield the largest amount of posts, but I could be wrong.

I’m going to take my time as I consider some of the topics or nuggets which I think are most noteworthy in regard to past assumptions. Philosophy and theory aside, I’ll be looking specifically at those things I missed before, or I’ve altered my opinion on, and how they might change the way I play or think about OD&D.

In other words, this will serve as a recap as I attempt to encapsulate the most significant observations. I’ve you had the intestinal fortitude to have made it this far, I congratulate you on your resolve. 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 is deserving of such attention. 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.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

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