Wednesday, November 12, 2008

D&D Cover to Cover, part 2

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

"These rules are as complete as possible within the limitations imposed by the space of three booklets. That is, they cover the major aspects of fantasy campaigns but still remain flexible."
Not only is this a comment on the boundless opportunities and creative potential of the game, that not all possibilities can be covered in print, let alone three booklets, but is also the first specific reference to flexibility in the game.

"As with any other set of miniatures rules they are guidelines to follow…They provide the framework…your time and imagination are about the only limiting factors…"
The inherent flexibility of D&D and the campaign concept is outlined in brief here. Terms which will characterize D&D and its concept are presented in these fragments; guidelines, framework, imagination. These terms refer not only to the malleability of the D&D rules (which are appropriately called guidelines in many places), but also to the creative potential in the campaign concept.

"We advise, however, that a campaign be begun slowly…That way your campaign will build naturally…New details can be added and old “laws” altered so as to provide continually new and different situations. In addition, the players themselves will interact in such a way as to make the campaign variable and unique, and this is quite desirable."
The term campaign is clearly a holdover from the wargaming roots of D&D. The fact that the campaign is a series of related adventures and events necessitates the time investment by the referee. With time, a campaign might indeed encompass large areas of a fantastic world, provided the sessions build upon one another and allow the referee to continually define and flesh out the setting as play progresses. House rules are to be added as the campaign unfolds and develops, and the actions of the players will produce a desirable campaign which is ultimately influenced by its own participants. A referee who built a D&D setting and a collection of house rules through continued sessions might also have a milieu, ala Blackmoor or Greyhawk, to call his own campaign. Such a campaign could host future sessions and new players, but it is suggested here that prospective referees not bite off too much in their world building efforts. This sentiment supports a sand-box approach to early play. So then, although the term campaign is a wargaming holdover, it means so much more in the context of D&D. In wargaming terms, it is a series of battles played out over multiple sessions. In D&D terms, the campaign concept is that, AND the world which grows out of those gaming sessions.

"Read through the entire work in the order presented before you attempt to play."
I wonder how many players honestly ever did this? I know I didn’t. I would assume that if one took the time to read the entire three volume series before sitting down to play, the concept described within might be much easier to grasp. Being a preteen and starting out with Basic D&D (Holmes) excludes me from that small group of early players who perhaps actually followed this advice.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee


Will Douglas said...

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.

Sham aka Dave said...

Yes, very good point Will. That statement is a double-edged sword, though, in my opinion.

At one point he is stating that the referee will likely make changes (good), accept and notate these in pencil (good), because they are subject to change in the future (good)...and then check the rules, it might save your 'game life' (not so good). And you're right, I think this was Gary going off on a tangent to make his point about house rules and using pencil to make changes...but it comes off sounding like advice about checking rules just as easily.

I know that even after this exercise in reading and covering select tidbits and passages, I will invariably miss an awesome one like this very one you have pointed out.

Thank You!