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275647 Posts in 27717 Topics by 4283 Members Latest Member: - otto Most online today: 88 - most online ever: 429 (November 03, 2007, 04:35:43 AM)
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Author Topic: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted  (Read 30759 times)
Rob MacDougall
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Posts: 160


« Reply #30 on: February 20, 2003, 02:48:54 PM »

Ron (et al):

Has anyone here seen this?

It seems to be a scan of a review of original D&D from some wargaming publication in the 1970s. (Warning: the link is a large GIF.) Makes many of the points made here about early proto D&D better than almost anything else could.

Highlights:

Play in person is usually impossible, since the referee can only show the adventurer the terrain he is crossing in that instant, plus whatever is in his sight ... The optimal solution seems to be play by phone, or when distances are too great, play by mail.

In general, the concept and imagination involved is stunning. However, much more work, refinement, and especially regulation and simplification is necessary before the game is managable. The scope is just too grand, while the referee is expected to do too much in relation to the players.

Link via Forge member Bryant's blog Population: One.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #31 on: February 20, 2003, 02:53:33 PM »

Hi Rob,

Judd gave me the heads-up about this earlier - I think the whole text is fascinating.

The review illustrates two things:

1. Wargamer context - specifically that "tabletop," to these guys, meant a large-scale terrain map. The reviewer cannot fathom that a player should "see" the terrain that his character wouldn't see, and the ideas (a) of removing the map-terrain in the first place or (b) not worrying about "what the player sees" are beyond him.

It's hard to describe to people who entered the hobby in 1989 or later how important all those hexes and grids seemed to us at the time. The notion that movement across space wasn't accounted for in effort or time would have horrified 99% of the role-players back then.

2. How totally impenetrable the rules are, and how obvious it was even to a casual glance that the rules-system was far too deadly for the individualized medium of play. The guy isn't objecting to Gamism at all, but rather to the killer-GM over-empowered with deadly rules

Best,
Ron
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Rob MacDougall
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Posts: 160


« Reply #32 on: February 20, 2003, 03:00:53 PM »

Yes, it's absolutely dripping with wargamer assumptions, and yet:

... these booklets attempt to outline a system for "playing" the kind of fantasy adventures one previously read about in paperbacks. The concept is remarkably interesting, since the same person interested in matching himself against Napoleon or Manstein might also find comparisons with Conan or John Carter enjoyable.

Interesting that the idea of "playing a story" is right in there at the beginning too.
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Jack Spencer Jr
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« Reply #33 on: February 20, 2003, 04:31:00 PM »

Quote from: Rob MacDougall
Interesting that the idea of "playing a story" is right in there at the beginning too.

I have long been laboring under the notion that "playing a story" has often been the initial hook into roleplaying for many people although the methods eventually used or even desired would not at all be what we call Narrativism. There is a difference between creating a story and playing one, I imagine.
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b_bankhead
Member

Posts: 259


« Reply #34 on: February 22, 2003, 08:32:54 PM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards


The review illustrates two things:

 How totally impenetrable the rules are, and how obvious it was even to a casual glance that the rules-system was far too deadly for the individualized medium of play. The guy isn't objecting to Gamism at all, but rather to the killer-GM over-empowered with deadly rules


   You know this is one of the things I hated about early D&D, how deadly it was at lower levels. In strictly run games the death rate could be quite high and advancing out of the boring lower levels could be difficult.  Ironically for all its reputation I found Call of Cthulhu to be actually less deadly than D&D.

    This lead to various type of compensatory behaiour, the 'Monty Haul' DM an oft derided specimen I now see as an attempt to soften the risk/benefit ratios at lower levels, likewise a lot of the boring filler behaviour I found so grating in the game (checking every GD door for traps, etc,etc, ad nauseum)  is an obvious reaction to the deadliness of the strictly run game.
    In some games a character might be expected to actually roll a single dice for hit points. A character with 4 hit point I low level D&D is exceedingly vulnerable, In retrospect I would say MOST DMs were 'killer'DMs ,the nature of the game makes it so.
Other types of compensation were to just start the game at highter levels,or add a bunch of chrome to increase the power of low level characters (the3EAD&D answer,back then the source was usually Arduin Grimiore).
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b_bankhead
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Posts: 259


« Reply #35 on: February 22, 2003, 08:41:43 PM »

Quote from: Rob MacDougall

Interesting that the idea of "playing a story" is right in there at the beginning too.


It was the prospect of playing a story that hooked me in after I turned away in boredom and disgust from miniatures and most board(bored) wargames.  But what I got was little that resembled the antics of Cugel and Elric but more like more of the damn miniatures games, only underground, and more pointless and baroque than the historical miniatures games (elaborate underground armies waiting in the dark for the purpose of waylaying player characters).  I began to wonder if fantasy role playing wasnt a big bait and switch,(at that time the separation of wargaming from story oriented rpgs was just starting to jell). Everybody talks about their wonderful story oriented D&D game but then Id join and there I was sitting around for half and hour to roll to hit on some interminable miniatures battle.  I was onlly when I vowed to stay away from the game forever that I began to see any improvement.
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M. J. Young
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« Reply #36 on: February 22, 2003, 10:31:41 PM »

It's a funny thing. I've known very few people who were playing AD&D around 1980. Of those I've known face to face, all seem to be agreed that Gamma World was the killer game. Some refused to play or run it because it was so deadly, and others who did maintained it was the most depressing RPG they'd played.

D&D, by contrast, was a very upbeat cakewalk.

--M. J. Young
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b_bankhead
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Posts: 259


« Reply #37 on: February 23, 2003, 12:30:27 AM »

Quote from: M. J. Young
It's a funny thing. I've known very few people who were playing AD&D around 1980. Of those I've known face to face, all seem to be agreed that Gamma World was the killer game. --M. J. Young


Yeah ,Gamma world could be bad.  They threw zap guns into a game modeled on D&D without the games mechanism for segregating danger (the level mechanic and encounter chart), a serious set of design mistakes.

   But no one can say that Gamma world every domintated, even monopolized the rpg world like D&D. Its HARD to not play D&D in the role playing world.....
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