Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Celebrating the 45th Anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons

I and others are celebrating the 45th Anniversary of the publication of Dungeons & Dragons (the Original) in January of 1974. Who's not celebrating? WotC for one, if you go to their D&D homepage this morning there is no acknowledgement of the 45th Anniversary of D&D. If I am still around five years from now I wonder if they will remember the 50th Anniversary?

The Original Dungeons and Dragons is very intuitive and easy to learn. The players don't need to know the rules beyond a very few basics that the referee can quickly impart and character creation takes only a few minutes and you can be playing immediately. This is a game of exploration and discovery in a fantasy medieval environment and the main requirement for players is curiosity and imagination. Those who are decisive will excel and those who suffer from chronic indecisiveness and lack confidence will quickly replace those with a confident, decisive demeanor as they grow into the roles they choose.

In the original game, the Three Little Brown Books, there are three classes: fighting-men (and women), magic-users and clerics. Many claim that is boring because the rules do not give them endless tweaks to customize their character. They could not be more wrong about that. You see in the original game, players were expected to customize their characters through play and a good to excellent referee is expected to play his part in facilitating that process by providing an interesting, fascinating living world for the character to live in. When character are cookie cutter mirror images of one another, that is not the fault of the game. The tools are there, but it takes imagination and thinking outside the box to use them.

The secret is spelled out in the rules themselves, don't play by the book, the "rules" are mere guidelines and a jumping off point from which you can go anywhere. Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax never played by the book and you should not play by the book either. Contrary to what many fake old school "experts" and the forums they inhabit claim, there is no one true way to play. They try to bind people to playing only by the book and thus lead people astray and away from the chance to experience for themselves old school play.

If you choose to limit yourself by playing by the book you are free to do that, just don't lie and claim to be old school when you do it. Playing by the book is a valid option, it is just not an old school option. Old school is defined solely by the way Arneson and Gygax played in their own campaigns and it is this, "Follow the spirit of the rules and not the letter." Old school is the way of freedom, not the way of shackles and limitations of massive rule sets and by the book play. If you choose to be shackled and limited with by the book play, be my guest and have fun that way, just don't pretend that is the old school way.

Let's spend this month celebrating the 45th anniversary of the Original Dungeons & Dragons and International Original Dungeons & Dragons Month together.

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