04 August 2008

What was D&D?

What separated D&D from other games, thereby spawning a new category—role-playing games?

Now, this can be a bit tricky because whatever elements you come up with, you can likely find pre-D&D examples of. But here it goes anyway.

  1. Non-zero-sum. One player “winning” doesn’t mean another player “loses”. Players can—and typically do—coöperate.
  2. A referee who—instead of moderating between the players—provides flexibility that no set of written rules can. The scope of the game becomes limited only by imagination.
  3. Open ended. There are no victory conditions.
  4. One player plays one “figure” that represents one character.

One was definitely something (according to Heroic Worlds) Wesely was going for with the Braunsteins.

Two seemed to be a tool he discovered—from Strategos—to help make it happen. (It has been said that Strategos got it from Free Kreigspiel.)

Three seems to have developed in Arneson’s Blackmoor campaign.

And again, these things are kind of tricky. I’m sure things weren’t nearly that clear-cut.

Four seems to have occurred in the Braunsteins as well. Although it seems essential to list it, I’m tempted not to. I’m not sure why.


Max said...

RE: 4. Perhaps because playing multiple PCs or a PC and coterie of henchmen was common from very near the start of it all (or so I understand it, anyway)?

Robert said...

My impression is that—in Gary’s campaign—it definitely started out with one PC per player, both in the 20-player sessions and the 1–3 player sessions. Though, in the latter case, important henchmen did begin to appear and become more and more secondary PCs. But that evolved.

My impression is that “one PC per player” was standard in the Braunsteins and Blackmoor. (Though it wouldn’t have yet been phrased that way.)

But I only have Heroic Worlds and what online posts of the old-timers I’ve read to go on.