Friday, February 24, 2012

Early D&D and Feeling Left Out

I feel like there's something of an "inner circle" in the OSR. There's guys steeped in the early editions/versions of the game (OD&D/the LBBs, Holmes, Moldvay) and early supplements, and I am just now scratching the surface of that era in the game's history.

As I explore, I'm becoming more and more interested in stepping away, at least for a while, from my AD&D roots (which I'm currently expressing through AD&D's modern counterpart, Castles & Crusades). I'm becoming more interested in using the old rituals, so to speak, of Basic D&D.

Besides a yen to actually play in/run games using Basic D&D rules for the first time, I've also wondered about the reality behind names like Tekumel, Empire of the Petal Throne, and Arduin. I see the veneration for these items that some people have expressed, and I feel a certain envy, not having been exposed to those things when a young man starting out in the hobby.

Now, I've read up on the meat of Tekumel and Arduin, and further study has not garnered any particular interest on my part. Some of the mystery has been stripped away and I guess I wasn't too impressed. The same goes for my delvings into OD&D and Holmes...they just don't seem to do too much for me. Moldvay/Cook/Marsh B/X is where I really seem to start liking things, and on through the Mentzer era culminating in the Rules Cyclopedia.

As far as clones go, I like the style and passion that comes from Matt Finch's Swords & Wizardry, and also the magic that seems to be infused into the pages of Dan Proctor's Labyrinth Lord. As for "second generation" clones, I really like Adventurer Conqueror King, and Newt Newport's Crypts & Things is up there too.

But I'll always feel like I missed out on something as a kid, for not having experienced Basic D&D all those years ago, during my formative time in the hobby. Ah well. Here's to making up for lost time! GAME ON!


  1. Despite having had a thorough grounding in the classic stuff, there are still plenty of things I missed the first time around. I'm just glad to be able to read a lot of it now. As far as Arduin, Tekumel, and the rest, don't feel bad. I've never been really taken with them, either.

  2. Bob: yeah, I gotta say, I'm not really seeing what all the fuss is/was about with Arduin and Tekumel. But then again, if I'd been exposed to it as an impressionable youth, things might be different.

  3. The acclaim for Tèkumel and Arduin is based not on nostalgia or even for their provenance, but for their authors' unbridled genre creativity, and distinct authorial voice, notions that have almost entirely vanished from the hobby. The gonzo was just a welcome extra! :-)

    Other RPGs like Tunnels and Trolls 5.0/5.5, Talislanta, Skyrealms of Jorune, Stormbringer, Runequest 2 etc, Holmes D&D(Blue Book)... likewise are held up as examples as much for what they represent as what they are. Note than none of these read like they were written by a weary professional textbook author, simply trying to meet yet *another* deadline. Enthusiasm for the game, and Fantasy Adventure Gaming(as it was called back when most of these RPGs were new), seeps through the pages and inspires!

    The dawn of the hobby was definitely a time I wished I could've experienced as well. I did come close to playing in its heyday, though, with a potential Red Box game back in Middle School fizzling out. The experience wasn't all for naught, though, as I was intrigued enough with RPGs to homebrew my own! And now, I'm delving back into Old-School RPGs and having a blast.

    Thanks to a resurgence in interest, RPGs are beginning to branch out again, with more variations on common themes being introduced on a regular basis. This is leading to some pretty awesome campaign settings, from what I've seen so far. I really love non-Bog Standard fantasy in particular, which 'The Market' largely ignores in favor of yet another 'potential' Forgotten Realms(aren't they all?) or licensed property(which are bought largely by collectors of the IP in question anyway), so fan works are my best bet to fulfill my daily quotient of Awesome.

    We may not be living in the Golden Age, but even a shadow thereof would be an improvement in our more recent, greyer times, imo.

  4. I agree that enthusiasm went a long way toward establishing a lot of these things as exemplary products. I would add the Compleat series from Bard Games that eventually became their Atlantis setting/rpg to your list. I still thumb through the Arcanum, Lexicon and Bestiary fairly regularly.

  5. Don't feel bad about it. As kids there was only one store we could go to and they had nothing but TSR stuff (which was great) but I had zero exposed to Judges Guild stuff and I really enjoy taking a look at it now.

  6. It wasn't that long ago that I was an outsider too! Hargreave and Gygax and Arneson are all gone, but it's remarkably easy to game with all the survivors at Gary Con or NTRPG, and much easier than it ever was back in the day to immerse yourself in Judges Guild or Dungeoneer or whatever other corners of the early explosion in creativity passed us by.

  7. Don't feel left out a gamer...try it the recent Duran Duran album says 'All You Need Is Now'. Try to hook up with a Braunstein with Wesely if he runs one this year. Try out a wargame if you haven't (I can help with a free print and play-WWII game-if you would like to try one out-small, fast and excellent). And the English are MASSIVELY into wargaming if you would like to see more, especially miniatures, online I have found more wargame blogs than RPG blogs from the UK.

    And remember-the unique part of gaming, and we learned this from the old men themselves, gaming is very literary. Look for books, especially non-fiction history books, from the late 60' through the early '80's. Then check out recent ones to see how even those writing styles have changed. Look over a copy of HG Wells 'Little Wars' to see even deeper into the roots.

    And never ever under any circumstances turn down a chance to sit in on ANY game. Even boardgames (the stuff coming from FFG these days is excellent). I have found the best gaming in my life by pure accident (my Holmes box was in a bookstore on an endcap-total lucky accident-and it had NO dice! Try figuring out those damn chits when you have never even SEEN a set of polys :)

    Things were great back then but may be even better now because of the richness and availability of so much goodness...

    You don't need a time machine man, just the power of imagination and following your zen :)

  8. In an earlier post you mention wanting to find a simpler more streamlined game than C&C and were asking for advice. You had mentioned d6 systems so I had recommended TFT.

    But, reading this I am reminded of a very stream lined and well thought out OD&D clone and thought I should bring it to your attention. Have you looked at Lamentations of the Flame Princess?

    It is a very clean, very well designed OD&D game, but and like C&C it sheds all the baggage of the old systems in favor of cleaner easier methods.

    You can get a "no art" version for free to look over. If you are looking for simple and old school than this comes with my strongest recommendation.

    Check it out!


  9. @Jeff: I actually have the LotFP deluxe box set at home! It is indeed a good, simple system. However, the "gravitas" of playing actual D&D these days is more and more appealing. Meaning, my old copy of the Rules Cyclopedia is whispering to me. So, you could say that retroclones are losing their appeal for me these days, somewhat. I mean, I'll borrow from them, and apply some of their cool aspects as house rules for my use of the RC.