Friday, March 12, 2010

The Essence Of Original Dungeons and Dragons

Access to original Dungeons and Dragons materials was one of the unfortunate casualties of WOTC's decision to suspend the distribution of electronic copies of their intellectual property.

WOTC's decision to suspend electronic distribution of old Dungeons and Dragons materials may simply have been an effort to protect their intellectual property from straying into the public domain. Unfortunately, that decision included a lock-down on electronic copies of the original Dungeons and Dragons booklets: the 3 "little brown books", Chainmail, and the five original D&D supplements. For those interested in the history of Dungeons and Dragons, without access to those source documents, one has been forced to rely, largely, on the on-line commentary and distillations of others, to discover what original D&D was all about.

Dungeons and Dragons retro-clones (like Swords and Wizardry) are a boon to those who lack access to the original booklets, and are interested in original Dungeons and Dragons, as they recreate the early rules of that game. But while they recreate the rules, the retro-clones also lose much of the magic contained within those original booklets (that magic being the 'specific' writing style and presentation of the rules, flawed and ambiguous though that presentation may be).

While the retro-clones themselves are a serviceable (and better organized) substitute to the original booklets, they lack any deep analysis or advice on actually running an original Dungeons and Dragons campaign.

Enter Philotomy's Musings. In addition to providing his own insights into the nature and best practices of playing oD&D, Philotomy has culled advice and wisdom from others, and has published his musings on his website. While he makes no claim to being the final authority on oD&D, his insights are penetrating. Even those of us who have visited and been enlightened by his site in the past, will benefit from an occasional return trip to his font of wisdom.

Philotomy's insights, about the essence of oD&D, are sufficiently valuable to be worth printing, and storing with your other D&D materials. Until several days ago, I had not done so, as I find printed web-pages to be inconvenient to store and reference. But in my search to find a distillation of the old Chainmail rules, I came across the Elf Lair Games website. Lo and behold, I find a copy of Philotomy's Musings, in oD&D booklet format (scroll to the bottom, it is one of the last items on the page, under 'other oD&D resources').

Philotomy's Musings should be included in every old-school, retro-clone boxed set, as it is perhaps the most succinct distillation of advice on creating and running an old-school D&D game that I have come across. And it can be printed in booklet format, to fit nicely inside your oD&D game-box!


Cameron said...

Woah! I knew about both sites, but I never bothered to click the Philotemy link since I already have his site 'rolled on my sideboard. His musings are even better with graphics.

Clearly, a trip to the printer is in order.

P_Armstrong said...

I completely agree.
I have also slowly...oh so slowly, been compiling Sham's 40 post series "D&D Cover to Cover" into a similar book.

Matthew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matthew said...

"While the retro-clones themselves are a serviceable (and better organized) substitute to the original booklets, they lack any deep analysis or advice on actually running an original Dungeons and Dragons campaign."

It should be pointed out OSRIC has a good deal of excellent information in its How to Play section along with Stuart Marshall's afterword. OSRIC's authors, however, would most likely point the hungry reader in the direction of the PHB and DMG.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Pat, I would love to see the fruits of your efforts. Will you be posting the final version of that compilation?

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Matthew: Thanks for mentioning OSRIC and the original AD&D hardcovers.

when I think of original D&D, i'm thinking of the LBB's, chainmail and first 5 supplements. Those are hard to come by, at reasonable prices.

the AD&D PH, MM and DMG are much easier to obtain. They are fantastic resources. Of course, by the time of their printing, D&D had already strayed quite a bit from the original materials.

Still, there are a host of good reasons to own those hardcovers.

P_Armstrong said...

I would want to check with Dave first but if he was okay with it and if I ever get it completed I would post it.

A Paladin In Citadel said...

Sounds great!

Rick Marshall said...

This is marvelous, and I love the idea of the Sham supplement as well. Thank you for writing about this.