2010-07-21 Canon Puncture Game Advocate for OD&D

Once again I was listening to Canon Puncture – a podcast mostly about indie games – and they had Tavis Allison from The Mule Abides talking about OD&D – the version from 1974 where all weapons do 1d6 damage and where the rules are so confusing that they barely make sense at all. Tavis’ take is that this is the result of the tension between Arneson, who wanted his players to not know the rules at all and just use their imagination, and Gygax, who wanted to make the game accessible to other people. The result is, as he says, a D&D flavor “that is only vaguely reflected by the published text.” :)

I really liked the interview! He talks about the necessity of everybody reinventing the game: What does a wand of magic missile do? Apparently it’s not in the rules. The game encourages you not only to decide for yourself, but it also teaches you (by example) how to write random tables to use instead in order to surprise everybody at the table, DM included.

Arnold comments on the episode: “That is a strange and attractive take on the game.” [1] I agree! And yet – so liberating! I started to write a comment, but then decided to write a longer blog post instead.

I had a very similar reaction when I started reading about the older material. What a strange and attractive take on the game indeed! I had resumed gaming at the end of 2006 with D&D 3.5 and my first campaign was reaching levels twelve, thirteen, and more. I was getting sick of high-level play in my D&D 3.5 games. Pathfinder promised to be more of the same. They were going to fix some of the problems, but not the general problem: The game was getting too complicated for my taste! D&D 4th ed. was different but not in the way I wanted it to be. It was just a different tactical game. I stumbled upon the blogs of the Old School Renaissance (OSR). A few weeks back I collected some memorable quotes that defined the experience for me.

These old school blogs promised stuff I didn’t know I was looking for, but once I had read about them, there was no forgetting them:

I felt that Tavis Allison captured all these elements quite eloquently in this interview. Recommended – unless you’ve already been reading the blogs of the Old School Renaissance in the last one or two years. If you haven’t and you’re looking for some inspiration, I have collected a large number of old school blogs on the Old School RPG Planet.

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