27 May 2008

Misconceptions about early D&D

There are a couple of misconceptions I see expressed about early Dungeons & Dragons.

  1. It was little more than Dungeon!
  2. It needed additional rules to make it go much beyond Dungeon!

Based on the things I’ve read about Arneson’s Blackmoor campaign and Gygax’s Greyhawk campaign, the first one would seem quite false. This is probably why I felt the quote from Tim Kask worth posting.

When you look at the actual rules, it can seem to be little more than Dungeon!—though hints of more are there. As Mike Mornard said...

There were no rules about it because nobody thought they were needed; the rules were just for the “nuts and bolts” mechanicals.

The night Ernie (Gygax) talked the chimera out of attacking us, it depended on how well Ernie talked, not any rules. The night my 3rd level Balrog pretended to be a photographer for Balrog Times magazine, our success depended on how well we amused the referee.

The rules were written with an “Everything not forbidden is permitted” attitude.

That’s not to say adding rules to support such things would be wrong. (That’s a whole ’nother discussion. (^_^)) In that same thread, Mike agrees with Fute when he says...

I further posit that the decision of what to codify with resolution mechanics and what to leave fuzzy is not based on some logical analysis of mediating factors, but on what the designers think is fun to roll dice for, and what they think is fun to improvise.

The point is that the lack of a rule does not indicate the lack of something at the table. (Because the referee’s role had been expanded from interpreter of the rules to living rulebook.)

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