Hack and slash
March 11, 2008 7:12 PM   Subscribe

Remember old D&D? What, 3rd edition? Pah! Not 2nd edition AD&D either, nor 1st edition. Not even "original" Basic/Expert/Companion/Master/Immortal. I'm talking really original D&D, based off of Chainmail wargaming rules. OD&D! Read about it at Delta's D&D Hotspot, which discusses the development of a game system that is almost 35 years old.

So you know, he really doesn't like what he's heard about 4th edition (and I think I agree with him).

Some of the more interesting OD&D posts: No thieves until the first supplement! Monotheistic clerics! The evolution of clerics from wholly defensive spellcasters to having lots of attack magic! The original intentions behind Stone To Mud and Silence '15 Radius! The strongest monsters! The good and bad of the system.

More information on the pre-Blue Box history of the game is at the Museum of Role-Playing Games' Review of White Box D&D. For use in starting a game is Philotomy's OD&D Musings, thought you'd have to turn to eBay or other sources for full rules.
posted by JHarris (23 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I did actually get part of the OD&D set at the first gaming convention I was at. I was disappointed because I realized that you needed to get all the books to play AND the rules were not at all complete!

I distinctly remember waiting for that first AD&D book. I still have a few copies of The Dragon lying around and some old dungeons.

I don't feel that old!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:21 PM on March 11, 2008

Oh, dear, the Greyhawk supplement. Oh, my lost youth.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:22 PM on March 11, 2008

Something I left out: Jeff's Gameblog's guide to the most "retro stupid," that is like classic D&D, games out at the moment.
posted by JHarris at 7:27 PM on March 11, 2008

The system wasn't really playable until Greyhawk came out.
posted by Class Goat at 7:31 PM on March 11, 2008

AD&D, sigh, good times, good times.
posted by oddman at 8:03 PM on March 11, 2008

Remember old D&D?

Why yes, yes I do.

Since penning that comment I have been musing on my lost, lamented 1978 copy of City-State of the Invincible Overlord, which I took to be somehow a channeling of Leiber's Lankhmar.
posted by mwhybark at 8:08 PM on March 11, 2008

Oh, and regarding the incompleteness of the brown books: my group would just make shit up, which seemed to work for us. We kept that up even after the AD&D stuff finally made it to the hobby shop. Still, I certainly recall that new-book smell when the DMG finally arrived. Too bad it was too late for me; I pretty much stopped playing after it came out. Oh well.
posted by mwhybark at 8:11 PM on March 11, 2008

Dungeon Master: The Life and Legacy of Gary Gygax (Wired, March 10, 08):
Editor's note: Wired contributing editor David Kushner visited Gary Gygax at the Lake Geneva Convention last June. We were preparing a package of articles about the father of Dungeons & Dragons and the upcoming revised edition of the game he created when we received the sad news of his death. We are running this story now in remembrance of Gygax and in celebration of his staggering achievements. Later this month, we will run the additional articles about D&D as well as excerpts from the extensive interviews used in reporting this story. We extend our deepest condolences to Gygax's family.
When the full set of articles are out it might be a good FPP. In any case this first one is pretty good.
posted by stbalbach at 8:13 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Buried in a box somewhere around here, I have a copy of Blackmoor, the second D&D supplement. This post inspired me to look it up (ok, ok...this post and greed inspired me to look it up) and I had no idea that Dave Arneson was finally getting to publish his campaign setting.

The original gave barely any details of the campaign world. If not for the introduction of the assassin class, it would have been the most useless D&D book ever printed.
posted by JaredSeth at 8:14 PM on March 11, 2008

mwhybark, those Judges Guild books were excellent resources. I see those are getting a reprint too.
posted by JaredSeth at 8:20 PM on March 11, 2008

That shirt Gygax is wearing in the Wired headshot is boss: Mayan rune 'Hawaiian.'
posted by mwhybark at 9:44 PM on March 11, 2008

OMG, Judges' Guild. Wow. That's a blast from the past.

Their production values weren't as good as the D&D modules, especially once D&D started going full-color module covers with beautiful artwork by Dee, Sutherland and Otus, among others. But there were some interesting adventures.

I remember DM'ing a group of eight through Judges' Guild's "Temple of Ra - Accursed by Set" back in our gaming club in '81. At the time, I was quite taken by the big boss creature, the "Gorgriffspidrascorp", a rather laughable (looking back) melange of four beasts.

I wish I had that old module. I lost it sometime in a move a couple of years later. Cool to see these reprints coming out, JaredSeth.
posted by darkstar at 10:34 PM on March 11, 2008

Hehehe...from the excellent Slate obit:

It was more important for me to know how to repel the undead or make a flesh golem than to watch baseball or learn karate.

Still is, for that matter. :)
posted by darkstar at 10:39 PM on March 11, 2008

It's also worth pointing out that players and enthusiasts of OD&D do have our own forum. It's actually really good reading, bringing a lot of different points of view together.

As for me — it's really funny that this post pops up on MetaFilter less than two days before my first game that's going to be run with the 1974 rules. It's experiencing something of a revival these days, as players who want to play D&D without either the sheer mechanical complexity of the latest iteration or the overly-familiar feel of first edition AD&D are re-evaluating it. One of the most interesting cases is Mike Mearls, the lead designer of 4th edition, who plays it during lunch.
posted by graymouser at 3:37 AM on March 12, 2008

It's good, I suppose, that the designer of 4th edition is playing OD&D. But one of the big reasons I'm interested in the original game is because I so hate what I see of 4th edition!

Taking so much of the over-grindy, plexiglass-covered, highly-level-dependent design of Emmorpeggers* and remaking the original RPG in their image? Actually having classes named like City of Heroes archetypes (Defender? Controller)? Boiling down all Bad Stuff into HP damage? Do not want!

*Yahtzee's term, doin' my best to see it spread....
posted by JHarris at 4:09 AM on March 12, 2008

And if I MUST justify my complaints about MMORPGs:

Over-grindy: A good RPG is about the journey, not the destination. So much fighting in an MMORPG comes down to killing to build experience. It doesn't feel like it "matters" because....

Plexiglass-covered: There is no real long-term impact of any decision, either for one's self or for the environment. Characters can't really "die." There are rarely permanent consequences for one's actions. Many games even hand out loads of respecs so nearly every decision other than basic class can be undone. I'm not saying that there aren't reasons for MMORPGs to do these things, what I'm saying is that when other games decide to be more like them, they'll copy these things without realizing why most MMORPGs do it that way to begin with. Also, the roles have become so standardized between MMORPGs, with tanks, damage-doers, crowd control and healers, that people are actually starting to think they can't be designed any other way. D&D would do ill to limit its thinking this way.

Highly-level-dependent: Finally, in D&D, there is at least the opportunity to use the environment, or allies, or magic items, or other stuff to affect battles. If a monster is three levels above the players, hits still do damage, and magic spells might still work. The numbers will be against the players but there's still that chance. Rolling a natural 20 is still a critical hit. Too many times, a monster X levels above the player is utterly untouchable.

There, my rant is done. Sorry.
posted by JHarris at 4:19 AM on March 12, 2008


The beautiful thing about RPGs is that there's no such thing as obsolescence. Wizards of the Coast can do anything they like to D&D, but I'm still gonna run it with three little brown books (and occasional reference to the supplements, particularly when I want different monsters) as long as I can find players. You can do the same.

I'm not a fan of the changes to 4th edition, but I'd rather spend energy getting players for OD&D than getting into the nitty-gritty of what's wrong with it. By my lights, 3rd edition was a completely different game, let alone 4th.
posted by graymouser at 6:43 AM on March 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

I started to read up about 4th edition after the Gygax obit. Man, I am unsure about that game. Not only does my poor gnomish bard get sent out into the cornfield, but it feels like the whole game is being tweaked to maximize accessory purchase. And this is D&D we're talking about, so to shift the game to require even more accessories is turning the knobs way up past 11.

But I guess we should have seen the MMORPG-shift a'comin. I remember when 3rd ed came out people were talking about cleric spells in terms of being "buffs" and were remarking about how it was possible for the party cleric to make sure everyone was +4 strong, all the time. So I guess it makes sense that the game evolve to think the same way its players have evolved, that is, to go for maximum efficiency in all things.

Reading about some of the changes in 4th, though? Warlock and "Warlord" being in the core books? No more schools of magic? No gnomes or bards in the core? Paladins no longer needing to be lawful good? I furl my cat-piss smelling neckbeard incredulously! That's not D&D!

While I appreciate the intent to make the game simpler, I'm not sure they really are doing that. To me, making the game simpler means that I can have a few friends over, say "Hey, wanna play D&D?" and then be playing 15 minutes later. All this stuff about grids and figures and the rules thereof seems horribly off-putting to casual players.

Maybe it's just how I was brought up (80s era Basic leading to hybrid 1st and 2nd), but we never really dealt with grid paper unless we were mapping something out or drawing badass Spelljammer ships.

I really wish I bought a bunch of those mini-AD&D books when they came out years ago. Those suckers would be like the microfiche of my wasted youth.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:20 AM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Judges Guild was the only modules I could afford. They saved the game for me.
posted by Senator at 7:37 AM on March 12, 2008

I read that as OCD&D, which would be pretty funny, if you think about it.
posted by Eideteker at 7:38 AM on March 12, 2008

There was actually a cool game called Tunnels and Trolls that was a much simpler dungeon system that was quite playable. It had a bit of a vogue.

There was also "Chainmail", which had an incredibly detailed combat system with damage in specific physical areas.

I frankly spent more time reading and plotting than I did playing, though I played quite a bit. Getting a good dungeon to last was hard.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:44 AM on March 12, 2008

Hey, I owe my inheritance of the original materials to their incompleteness. It was a "if you can figure it out you can have it" gesture.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:20 PM on March 12, 2008

Hmm, it seems there's been a little row over an article on Slate.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 4:28 PM on March 13, 2008

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