A monster on the verge of eating an adventurer.

Men and Magic

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on March 04, 2014

Tagged: od&d

It’s read an RPG in public week. That’s how I live every week of my life. Nevertheless I grabbed the first booklet from my fancy Original D&D boxed set to read on the train yesterday.

I’ve read Men and Magic before, but my bootlegged PDFs don’t do an actual copy of the book justice. It’s nice to be able to read a nicely printed copy of the booklet. As I mentioned when discussing Pits & Perils, the Original D&D books are pretty charming. Here is how they describe that infamous 6th attribute, Charisma:

In addition [to its other uses] the charisma score is usable to decide such things as whether or not a witch capturing a player will turn him into a swine or keep him enchanted as a lover.

There are lots of gems like that scattered through out the book. It also has a great introduction.

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. As with any other set of miniatures rules they are guidelines to follow in designing your own fantastic-medieval campaign. They provide the framework around which you will build a game of simplicity or tremendous complexity — your time and imagination are about the only limiting factors, and the fact that you have purchased these rules tends to indicate that there is no lack of imagination — the fascination of the game will tend to make participants find more and more time.

People often complain—rightly so, I suppose—that OD&D is incomplete. For someone like myself, who is revisiting the game knowing how to play its modern incarnations, this isn’t really that big an issue. I can fill in most holes in the game because I know how they were eventually filled in.

What is notable is that the creators of D&D were well aware that what they had published wasn’t ready to play out of the box, so to speak. There is an expectation from them that rules would be fleshed out by gaming groups. OD&D exists to help you build your own fantasy RPG.

We advise, however, that a campaign be begun slowly, following the steps outlined herein, so as to avoid becoming too bogged down with unfamiliar details at first. That way your campaign will build naturally, at the pace best suited to the referee and players, smoothing the way for all concerned. 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.

This is also great advice on how to approach developing a long-running D&D game. There is definitely a meta-game to D&D which is all about the things you do to prepare to play D&D: drawing dungeons, making up NPCs, house rules, etc. (Games like How to Host a Dungeon take that meta-game and make it explicit.) It’s easy to get sucked into doing far more than is needed when it comes to this sort of prep work. The authors tell you upfront that you need to watch out!

I read Monsters and Treasure today. Tomorrow I’ll probably read The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures. If you haven’t read the original D&D books they are well worth checking out. I think they are by my favourite edition of the game.

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