Wednesday, 26 January 2022

A Look at OD&D

I love Fantasy Role-Playing Games. FRPGs. RPGs. More generically referred to as "D&D," like "Coke," "Pop," "Soda," "Kleenex," or "Xerox." It's simpler for a lot of people, many "uninitiated" and others that want to think you're just not "kink-shaming."

I've posted here on ACD for a "blog hop" in 2014 about my introductions to gaming, my lived experiences in the "Satanic Panic" of the 1980s, &tc. Please read those post for more details.

However, while very much aware of the origins of D&D and its creators, I've never really looked at the original D&D, sometimes called OD&D, 0e D&D, or "the wood-grain or white box" edition. It came as three digest sized books, US Letter folded in half, with the original, truly first edition, hand stapled and assembled originally by Gary Gygax and Don Kaye.

For Christmas, I got Game Wizards by Jon Peterson, author of Playing at the World, and a scholar on the origins and history of D&D. His video, A History of D&D in 12 Treasures, is a testament to his commitment to the hobby and its origins.

So, I picked up the PDFs of OD&D from Drivethru RPG and committed to reading them for my own education. And if the copies, while updated for modern digital publishing, honor even a late printing of the rules circa 1974, well, how this game was played is probably as diverse as the possible interpretations of the rules by the contemporaneous or modern reader.

In Game Wizards I'm currently in 1976 where Origins II is recounted, and as the year before, the game's creators are hosting events to talk about the game, running sample games for nascent "referees" and players alike, and running large elimination style tournaments for the convention. These kinds of events suggest that attendees were hungry for more understanding of the game as presented. I am particularly amused by the "example of play" in the third book of OD&D, The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures. We get something, but to a "Dungeon Master"  with now decades of experience with D&D and many other RPGs, I'm not sure WTF is going on in this "session," assuming it was inspired. Maybe it is a contrived example, but what happens to the "half-a-dozen" gnolls the players encounter in the room they shouldered into?

...
Caller: [We] listen at the east door
Referee: (After appropriate check) You hear shuffling.
Caller: Two of us (specifying which two) will throw our weight against the door to open it. All will be ready for combat.
Referee: (After rolling two dice:) The door opens! You can't be surprised, but the monsters—you see a half-a-dozen gnolls—can be. (Here a chance for surprise is made, melee conducted, and so on)
Caller: Okay, what does the room look like...
...

We can maybe hand-wave what happens with the parenthetical notes or just "use our imaginations," yet, we can certainly understand that how D&D was played in those heady days must have been quite a varied experience. I'll write more soon as I read, cover-to-cover, each book. There is a prescribed order presented by Gary in Book I, Men & Magic

Maybe I'll wax on about the idea of the referee rolling the character stats and consulting with the player as to picking a character class. Innocent editorial presentation for introducing new players, or an expectation of game play?

Posted by caffeinated at 9:12 PM in d10
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