Since the numerous HASBRO/WOTC debacles of late, a great deal of you are starting to move away from D&D 5e. Some are choosing heavily ruled games such as Pathfinder and others have begun a long journey into the older play style which goes all the way back to when Dave Arneson began running his Blackmoor campaign in 1971.
To all of you D&D 5e players - Welcome to the wider community of RPG gamers!
For me, it is wonderful to see a new exploration of older games. The simpler game systems that are not heavily mechanized to the point that referees have little space to individualize have a lot to offer.
I also really want to avoid any kind of edition war sentiment. Whatever system was available to you when you started gaming is going to be your 'comfort food' game system. You know it inside out and it is easier for you to use than anything else. Keep playing what you know, but also consider other RPG games.
I always urge gamers to go back to the older games for inspiration by finding a copy of Original Dungeons & Dragons, Tunnels and Trolls, Empire of the Petal Throne, Rune Quest, TFT: In The Labyrinth, or even Traveller. All of these games offer an entirely different game experience from what may be familiar to you and may add to your already existent campaigns.
Now is the chance to become a much more well rounded RPG gamer and also, exploring other systems doesn’t have to be costly. Old games can be found on Ebay, or as PDFs. In some cases they are even being reprinted today. Some are even free.
A copy of Basic D&D is on the web here:
If you are a gamer without a group, I will even leave these links to the rules and a wonderful solo adventure for Tunnels and Trolls - yes, even solo play can be fun.
The original rules:
A very good solo adventure to play through:
There is the blanket term of OSR for anything that is not the current D&D edition. I would add, 5e is now part of the OSR realm of D&D editions. And, of course, there are many non D&D fantasy games, as well as an endless supply of non fantasy settings that one can explore.
For someone who began with newer editions, beginning around 3rd edition, the constantly evolving low ruled style of the early games may be a bit confusing. The premise that Arneson described when he demonstrated his Blackmoor game to Gary Gygax for the first time of “There are no Rules” may seem entirely alien.
What did Arneson mean by that comment? How can we play a game that has no rules?
An Adventure Game is not a computer program. Not all situations can be handled in a realistic manner by simply rolling some dice and tabulating the result with a cross referenced attribute. Rob Kuntz is known for stating, “You cannot rule reality.” What he means is that in an ever changing real fantasy world experience there are too many variables to track and you can’t model a reality with simple die roles according to simple one size fits all rules. What you need is a Referee, or Judge, who is fair and impartial that can make decisions about what is happening in any situation and can apply these decisions to the game play.
The earliest editions of RPGs had rules which covered player attributes, movement, how to conduct battles, how magic spells work, and some very basic rules for listening at doors, opening doors, and finding concealed objects. Everything else was up to the Game Master and players to work out amongst themselves.
The minimal rules led to a greater level of flexibility for the referees. It allowed them more freedom to create things ahead of time that the players could then discover. It also led to having unique encounters creating a truly magical feeling for the players.
Perhaps the greatest difference within traditional play is how weak players are to start out with. New characters are like young adults, or even teens, who are setting out to make their way in life. Thus your ability is limited and the situations and creatures encountered are often deadly. Players will often choose to avoid some encounters.
Wandering into a dungeon or wilderness away from civilized society is a terrifying experience. Everything one encounters is mysterious and enchanting in its own way. Yet, as mentioned before, it can also be deadly for your characters.
The older D&D basic set I linked is only 44 pages long, yet it contains everything you will need to play up to 3 levels of a game. It has a sample dungeon, but you can easily create your own. My advice is to read the sample and them make your own because it is easier to run something you made up yourself and you will also need a bigger 3 level dungeon anyway.
There is a reason the old games were so popular. They ware fast playing, and also, a lot of it was very Do It Yourself. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have fun exploring a magical RPG world with the older games.
Of course, another way to learn how to expand how you play your RPG is by watching Secrets of Blackmoor:
Until next time, Griff
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Secrets of Blackmoor is a Feature-length documentary about the birth of the “Mother of all Games;” Dungeons & Dragons.