Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Kits vs Open Play

I had a chat recently with a fella interested in playing AD&D 1e.  He has some idea of 2e and other later editions of AD&D but not 1e.  What's the major difference is what he wanted to know.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that it was more about the specificity of later editions.  It's kind of like LEGO kits from when I was was younger.  They just came in a big box with a variety of different blocks and a beginning set of instructions on how to build a handful of things like trucks, helicopters, buildings and other fun stuff.

Ultimately, the world was at your fingertips.  You could build almost anything you could imagine.  Later, LEGO started making kits with specific parts and specific instructions to build what they intended for you to build.

Yes, if you were creative, imaginative and resourceful you could build other things with what was available.  It seemed though that while a handful of people (like me) did just that, most everyone else seemed content staying with the provided instructions.

As newer updates to AD&D were released, it seemed as though they were being refined and directed toward someone's pre-determined idea of how the game should be played rather than the wide open and non-directed system that is 1e.

It was like building a specific LEGO kit focused on a specific project instead of building whatever you might have in mind.  Sure, easier to referree and run the game but, in my case anyway, it felt like I was playing someone else's game, not "my" game.

To me 1e seems to support spontaneity and flexibility.  It allows for a game to go in any direction at any time because 1e has no expectations.  It has no pre-determined outcomes.  It just the bits and blocks used to build an adventure.  Any adventure.  YOUR adventure.

Later editions may be fine for other people but they seem too focused and constrained on how someone else thinks it should be played.  I'll stick to 1e (and OSRIC) because it feels more like my game, my way.


  1. Were you ever alarmed by the size of the "Sage Advice" column in Dragon Magazine?

    To me, that column represented tragedy, and offered a window on how some people were gaming. My group would squabble about rules, we still do, that's part of the game, but to get things so hot that you had to ask "Dragon"? We didn't have time for that.

    1. I take columns such as those with a grain of salt. If there are so many things to be disputed, to me, we're doing it wrong. If I cannot run a game and make the story, the adventure, so pervasive that the players can't overlook details and minutiae, then either I am doing it wrong or I have the wrong players at my table who play to "win" rather than playing for the experience.

    2. I agree, but I also think that we are rare animals. On a subconscious level, that column was telling us, perhaps, how others were playing the game. They wanted rulings, not improvisation. It was a shocking direction that the majority of players wanted to go. Personally I think that it harmed the game and put too many limitations upon what can and can't be done.

      Can a great DM run a great later edition game, I think that they can because the old principles still apply. Can a weak DM run 1st edition? Of course they can, but it takes practice and failures.

      One of the biggest mysteries of AD&D is when Gygax claimed that it was meant to solidify rules, when it clearly wasn't. That wasn't even how he ran his game. There isn't 1 version of D&D. There was no true way to play; yet there was Sage Advice once again saying that there was.

      I've played under strict by the book DMs, I've played by the More Gygax than Gygax DMs, but I've always preferred the DMs who do what we do. It is just more fun that way.