Thursday, March 1, 2012

Welcome to my table - and my world

You can call me Moth and this blog will focus on pre-AD&D versions of TSR's Dungeons & Dragons, mostly from my own POV and experience. Though I have played every version of the game up to 3.5/Pathfinder, I find myself drawn back to the earlier editions and days of the game as opposed to continuing further forward.

This is not to say I do not enjoy more recent editions of the game (though I do not intend to support 4E or any version that follows), but this blog is about what I like to call OD&D. When I use the term OD&D, I am essentially referring to everything from the little brown books up to Rules Cyclopedia.

My personal favorite among the various OD&D
editions and releases has to be the Moldvay Basic Set and the Cook-Marsh Expert Set. My preference is probably based largely upon nostalgia as these are the editions of the games I started with...back in those misty days of yore when gaming was new and every session was an adventure. Remember - this is as seen through my eyes.

Someone asked me recently what I thought was a defining difference between OD&D and the later editions and, after a moment's consideration, I replied, "Running away." I say this because that's what I remember as the most exciting part of the early game - the genuine possibility and fear of death. What is heroic fantasy adventure without that visceral thrill of danger? Why - it is the D20 system.

Maybe it is my general dislike of math that turns me off to the more recent editions of the D&D game. It could be that I am just lazy. Maybe I've gotten old. Whatever the case, I find 21st Century D&D to be less and less about adventure and more about planning for the future. I understand it's a long way from jotting down a character on an index card that has a life expectancy of a few hours to taking an entire afternoon to craft and cherry-pick a four-page hero where every skill point and feat selection will have a bearing on the future career options of the character - but:

Heroes are made to face death. To me, that is the core of adventure. Not that I am in the habit of, as a DM, killing characters. PCs in my game enjoy a rather favorable survival rate, actually - but there has to be the genuine fear of failure to forge a hero. I've yet to see a D20 game where running away was considered an option.

I'm here to tell you - it is okay to run away.


  1. Moth, I am still not sure I agree that the edition or version of the game is the real culprit here (jury still out on 4th Ed). I think the REAL problem is the gaming culture of the day is not the same as when we 'Old Timers' were getting started. I lame videogames. Now, I love videogames. I ahve since I was feeding quarters into Pac-Man, or trying to figure out Adventure on my Atari. The thing is, when I was starting out gaming, you couldn't save games. You played til your quarters ran out, or you died, and then you had to start over from the beginning the next time. Today, kids are cutting their teeth on savable games. There are no permanent consequences for characters in savable games, you just lose a little bit of progress, and and can go right back into the game. I think that mentality has carried over into the RPG culture as well. I'm not sure that it can be 'fixed' en mass. I believe that it has to be addressed gamer-by-gamer at the table, by more experienced players and DMs.

    1. Jim, you make some good points. I will simply cite my own experiences with gamers of my own age and background. We have tried the various editions of the D&D game and found each to have a specific area of focus when it comes to structure and organization - which is as it should be. Still, if I feel more like a "fun adventure," I will look to OD&D first. If I want an involved gaming experience designed to feel more realistic and somewhat cinematic, I might go for Pathfinder. Many old-timers lament the loss of DM control with later editions of the game. While this is a point I've never really agreed with, I can sympathize with the idea that the later editions of the D&D game took some of the trust and dependance upon the DM to run an exciting adventures where the PCs were heroes in a tale unfolding before them. Later editions of the game go for a more cooperative experience where the characters enjoy more equality - and that can be a fine thing. But I feel it also removes some of the wonder and sense of danger. It dilutes the adventure for me. I work very hard as a DM to provide the players with an immersive experience that they can share as we game. I don't need an entire rules system to tell me how to present a cooperative and satisfying adventure. I did that from the start...before I even knew what it was. Later editions seem to cater to the LCD of the hobby. Those who have neither the will nor the inclination to join in the adventure as equals. Those who want merely to be entertained, rather than participate in a shared gaming experience where everyone benefits. But that is one gamer's opinion.

    2. Still, I don't think it is necessary to read "a need to fix" into what I have to say. Just because I prefer one edition of D&D over another does not mean it is "broken." I've enjoyed every edition I've played, but I find myself wanting one over others. Certain editions suit my needs for the game more than others. I'm not asking for a "single great game" at this point. I am acknowledging the validity of the different offerings and expressing my personal preference(s). Evolving RPG culture does not interest me. If I want to participate in current RPG culture, I will play Pathfinder. If not, I will go to OD&D. Simple - and everyone wins.