Wednesday, September 29, 2021


Yesterday, the Seattle Mariners won again and got within half a game of a playoff spot...a playoff spot that has eluded them for two decades. They are currently vying for one of two open "wild card" spots along with Toronto, Boston, and the Yankees. Those teams have respective run differentials of +167, +72, and +49, a number that means how many more runs have they scored over their opponents for the season. The Mariners? Their run differential is -50. Throw out Monday's 14-4 win over Oakland and they'd be -60. Generally speaking, they haven't won games by blowing out other teams...the M's don't have the Big Bat offense other teams have, and their starting pitchers have been UGly. They've just been a scrappy, never-say-die team that's managed to gut out a bunch of 1 and 2 run games with clutch hitting, lights out bullpen, good defense, and inexplicable lucky breaks.

It's ridiculous. I'm still wearing my Mariners ball cap, and with four games to go in the season. Still not quite buying in...but I am watching. The kids and stayed up way past bedtime last night.

The school soccer team I'm coaching is struggling. We've been blown out and blown out and blown out, and unlike the M's, we don't get a 162 game schedule. Although we are playing in the 5th grade boys league, almost half our team are 4th graders. Only five of our 15 players have played together. Only a couple kids played any type of soccer last year (when the schools were closed for the pandemic), and for several kids this is their first time EVER playing soccer. Every team we've played against has been bigger, stronger, and faster than us...many have had multiple kids known to play on "select" or "premier" teams. 

This weekend, our best player (my son) has a schedule conflict: his premier team is playing at the same time on the east side of the water. While my plan was to have him go to that while I coach the school team, he has asked if he can skip his premier game in order to play with our band of misfits. See, he's scrappy, too. And even as he gets frustrated with the school's team to execute even simple concepts (he refers to them as a "dumpster fire"), even though there's less than half a dozen kids on our team that he's even known, and only three that he'd really call "friends"...he feels a duty, a responsibility to helping them out. He knows what he means to their team and he doesn't want to give up on them, let them down, pick your pithy phrase to reflect "loyalty" and an unwillingness to quit.

The other day, Havard was reflecting on the "edition wars," the pointlessness of...and the wasted time spent...bashing other folk's preferred versions of the Dungeons & Dragons game. In his view, those who engaged in such grumpy bickering should look at their actions with embarrassment. Instead of "focusing on the negativity and the things that divide us," Havard urges us fun experiences together? Remember that "we have a hobby that we love?" Something?

I guess he's not urging us to do anything except to NOT be negative. To be open-minded about other's preferred editions and welcoming to their preferred style of play. And (if I'm inferring correctly) to be glad and grateful that this is growing the hobby (i.e. getting more players into it).

So, okay...I have a different take on the "edition wars" from Havard.  For one thing, if it is (or ever was) a "war" it's one that my side LOST a long, long time ago. Circa 1986. The "war," if one would call it that, was over about the time Lorraine Williams took over TSR and changed its focus from creating games to publishing books. When 2nd edition AD&D was published in 1989, replacing Gygax's byline with Zeb Cook's, the war was officially, completely lost.

Folks like me have just been fighting guerrilla actions since then. 

My bitching-and-moaning about new style players and my criticisms of 2nd or 3rd or 4th or 5th edition D&D isn't a "war." Really. It is an attempt to keep alive an older style of the game that some folks might prefer to be relegated to the trash bin. Because it's one thing to say:
Hey, there are older editions of D&D and, here, you can buy copies of it on eBay, or PDFs from DriveThru and isn't that an interesting curiosity / piece of history? You can really see the war gaming roots and how funny, strange that style of play once was (not to mention how misogynistic, racist, and unenlightened the gaming community might have once been)....
And it's quite another thing to say:
Hey, there was this game that was new in the 1970s that blew people's minds and that was really fun to play, so much that it grew into a phenomenon that had profound effects on games and culture, and while it changed substantially some fifteen years after it's creation, maybe there's something to its original game play that's still fun and profound and exciting and worth playing, not just watching as a live-streamed "show."
See, I'm scrappy, too. And while I'm smart enough to know the "war" has been lost and times have changed, and more people would rather be shown or informed by others than take the time to educate themselves (by reading books, for example)...while I'm smart enough to see "times have changed" I'm stubborn enough and squeaky enough to keep shouting "hey, but don't forget..." 

And sometimes I say (or write) things in an incendiary way in order to get forgetful folks' attention.

Last week I wrote a post that declared there is only one, true edition of Dungeons & Dragons, and that the particular edition in question was Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, the first edition, penned/compiled by Mr. Gary Gygax. This...predictably...ruffled feathers, but as the point of my post wasn't about justifying the position, I didn't take the time to elaborate on my statement. 

Here, then, is the elaborate justification; we'll try to take this in order:

OD&D (the original Little Brown Books) was a proto-version of Dungeons & Dragons. It is not and was not "complete," crystalized, or a fully formed vision of game design. Its own creators (Gygax and Arneson) did not agree on how it was to be played, and had wildly divergent styles. Until it ceased being published, it was in a constant state of evolution, each new supplement adding or changing the original rules. Other gamers ended up creating their own versions and variant designs: Warlock, Arduin, Tunnels & Trolls, etc. It is amorphous. It is imaginative. It is wonderful...but it is not a single, concrete game. It cannot function without addition. AS A GAME (not "as a concept" or "in spirit") it is not "true;" in many ways, the LBBs themselves were supplementary material for the Chainmail rules that only (later) evolved into a distinct form of play.

Basic (Holmes edition) D&D was designed to be introductory, specifically introductory, to the game of Dungeons & Dragons, and is thus far from complete. It draws parts from OD&D, the first supplement, The Strategic Review, Chainmail, and the Warlock variant. Its rules diverge from the AD&D game it was written to introduce and is not compatible with that, nor with "official" OD&D rules.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (first edition): this is the TRUE version of D&D. It took what had come before then adjusted, edited, and codified it into a singular vision of game play with rules covering every anticipated potentiality of game play. Note: not "every potentiality," just what was judged as being part of the scope of game play. Folks interested in "coloring outside the lines" would certainly be allowed to do so (outside of official, sanctioned tournament play), but were adjudged to be be playing something other than "standard" (i.e. "true") Dungeons & Dragons.

B/X(Moldvay/Cook/Marsh) D&D: another introductory game; it is a streamlined version of OD&D + Supplement I that leaves out some of the stickier complexities (race/class separation, weapon adjustments, AD&D ability score modifiers, 9-point alignment) in favor of simplicity. The best introduction to "true" D&D and nearly fully compatible with AD& much so that many folks in the 1980s were able to combine the two editions into a single mishmash with varied results. It sacrifices complexity and nuance for accessibility and ease of play.

BECMI (Mentzer) D&D: yet another revision of the introductory game; not only was it written for an even younger audience (complete with solo tutorial adventures), but it was written in such a way as to NOT include monsters, spells, and content specifically designed/developed for Advanced D&D. It became its own separate line of play, though again designed for simplicity, lacking the complexity, nuance, and interlocking of systems found in AD&D. While it is designed as a "complete" line (taking player characters from level 1 all the way to immortality through discreet rule systems) it deviates far from the singular vision found in "true" version of the game. Played straight, BECMI D&D does not call to mind the fantasy literature or pulp fiction that inspired the original game; instead, every player is on a quest for legendary power and (eventual) godhood. It is staid and mechanical, less organic, and in an effort to be more "family friendly" (or less controversial) has lost some of its original character...and thus some of its potential game play. The original game may have accounted good stronger than evil, but evil (as a player choice) was still a possibility. That possibility was all but excised in the presentation of BECMI.

In terms of the Seven Elements identified for "true" D&D game play, it begins to fail on both the "magic is limited" and "economy is present" scale. BECMI D&D lacks the various checks-and-balances for both magic and wealth found in AD&D; as a consequence, long-term game play turns into something very different from "true" D&D (see the Principalities of Glantri and Thyatis/Alphatia gazetteers for examples). 

[just like to note that I spent a couple hours yesterday combing through some 100+ pages of Frank Mentzer interview notes to find his own preferred version of play. As of the early 2000s he was still running his home game with what he referred to as AD&D 1.5 (AD&D + the Unearthed Arcana) in combination with his own Immortal set rules. His reasons for including the UA was fairly simple: he'd compiled and edited much of the work himself and was quite satisfied with its usability in terms of the D&D game. He also did not favor the totally "humanocentric" vision that Gygax did, and so liked the extra power given to demihumans in the UA]

Second Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: while mechanically very similar to 1E, it lacks the original vision of the "true" game's designer (evidenced by many stylistic changes) and begins to fall down in both the "economy is present" and (mainly) the "cooperation is necessary" categories; the latter because the default reward (advancement) system of 2E has the character classes pursuing disparate goals from one another. The shift in tone for supplementary material (especially "module" adventures) starts to break the elements of "PCs are heroic" and "the Universe does care" as more and more railroad-y or excessively moralizing texts are published, forcing PCs into certain avenues of play.

Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons: moves farther from the game as originally designed, overemphasizing "violence is inherent" (through its reward system), breaking "cooperation is necessary" (by de-emphasizing asymmetry), and paying only lip service to "economy is present" with rule stipulated treasure/monetary amounts at every level for both PCs and NPCs. On the adventure front, more of the same trends as from the mid-1980s (see 2E above).

Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons: extreme over emphasis of "violence is inherent" coupled with extreme DE-emphasis of "magic is limited" and "economy is present." Interestingly, there is a return/resurgence of "cooperation is necessary" but NOT via asymmetry so much as specific "adventure roles" needing to be filled for successful endeavors...still this is more of an aside, and adventures can certainly be written for specific groups lacking particular role characters. The same issue with published adventures continue.

Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons: extreme de-emphasis of ALL elements EXCEPT "PCs are heroic" and a warped/twisted version of "the Universe does care" which does its best to coddle the players rather than challenge them in any meaningful form. Even the idea of "D&D is a game" (element #1) is de-emphasized, as the idea that D&D is an amusing pastime, performance/show, becomes ascendant and character advancement is no longer tied to character's pursuit of specific objectives but is instead linked to how well the players perform the story being told. The singular vision that once guided the GAME of Dungeons & Dragons has been cast aside for a "do anything you like" attitude...objectives of play, mechanics and rules, all are meant to be changed and discarded as whim (and "fun") dictates. The term "D&D" doesn't refer to a specific game but, rather, a particular brand/IP that has been purchased...ostensibly to be "played," but what that play looks like will vary from table to table.

"Sixth" Edition Dungeons & Dragons: are you serious?

Harsh, harsh words, Old Man (actually, I'm trying NOT to be harsh in this post but, whatever...). JB, you're telling folks there's only one way to have D&D fun, and if it's not the same way as yours, then they totally suck. 

No, I'm not.

At least up until 1985 or so (i.e. about when the "war" was lost), the D&D game still had a uniting, singular vision that people could fall back on REGARDLESS of the rule set that was being used at the table. That vision, clumsily stated in the original Advanced D&D game allowed all players, regardless of system, to get on the same page when it came to the question of "what is (D&D) game play all about?" Some folks didn't like the answer to that question, and handled their dislike in different ways (drifting the system, changing games, quitting the hobby, whatever). Some folks just took a break for ten or twenty or thirty years, either because they either A) didn't see the potential promise of game play or B) didn't feel the effort needed to reach that potential was justified, and they could get their "kicks" somewhere else. 

[you can count me as one of the latter folks who first kicked AD&D to the curb in exchange for other games (a LOT of other games) and then spent a decade plumbing B/X and finding its depth (as designed! and well designed!) to be less than satisfying]

But that singular vision, incorporating those seven elements (to a lesser or greater degree) was a unifying force and you can SEE that in, for example, Prince's recent "No ArtPunk" adventure design contest: adventures were written for AD&D, B/X, BECMI, OD&D, retro-clones, ACKS, etc. but all finding a way to create interesting "dungeon" adventures suitable for their particular systems. Dungeon crawling by itself is NOT indicative of "true" D&D play, but it IS an important portion of the game aspect of D&D...and recent adventure offerings (both 5E and "OSR") seem to have very...mmm..."strange" ideas of what such design entails.

The point being: *sigh* yes, you're still playing "D&D" even if you're not playing AD&D. But if you want to play the game in its "highest expression," you have to start with AD&D. Other versions...especially pre-1985...have similar guiding spirit/principals and (more usually) recognizable tropes. But you can't play post-1985 editions of D&D as they are designed and written in the same way that the game was originally set down and codified.  Sure, you can take a late edition version and twist it or tweak it or drift it or could also just run GURPS or write your own damn game. could play the TRUEST version ever written and just spend your free time designing a fine campaign that is supported by the rules.

That, I guess, is my "scrappy" message. If you've never tried it and you find "old" D&D objectionable for some reason (it was written by white American men for white American men, or it exhibits too many colonialist sensibilities, or whatever)...I get it, I sympathize, I understand. Try giving it a chance. Try giving the crazy-ass rules a chance. If you're an "OSR" aficionado who prefers something lighter, rules-wise and are turned off by the opaque, clunky writings of Gygax...I get it, I sympathize, I understand. Try giving it a chance. Try reading it and parsing it and running it.

If you've run or played AD&D before, and just can't understand why anyone would still want to play the game based on that particular antiquated/clunky version of the rules anymore (or for WHATEVER reason)...I get it, I sympathize, I understand. I do! Really! But did you really give it your best shot? How long ago was it that you tried running it? How have you grown/changed since then? I know technology has changed a lot since the 1970s...the ability to create easy-to-use spreadsheets and play aids is incredibly simple. And it makes it O-so-easy to run the crunchy bits with just a little time and energy.

Maybe...try it one more time?

All right, that's all I have time for today. Have to go pick up the kids from their (club) soccer practice. Which they are doing in the pouring rain. Like troopers.

Go Mariners. Keep proving me wrong.
: )


  1. All I can really say is, I disagree, because D&D is not the frickin' Highlander. There need not be "only one."

    (Though the game could, I'm now realizing, use the addition of a special vorpal sword that triggers a call lightning effect whenever it crits.)

    1. @ John:

      Yeah, I understand. I don’t know how to disabuse you of the notion, or I’d try.

      D&D isn’t a religion. I have a religion. I like…most of it. It works for me. But I won’t tell someone their belief system (religion) “sucks.” That’s asinine. My religion was designed for my culture, adapted from multiple traditions of my (ancestral) culture and cemented over centuries. Saying “hey [x] you should read the Bible and get Jesus in your heart” to someone whose culture isn’t built on the same understandings is nonsense. Why is Mary venerated as much (or more than) Jesus in Mexican Catholics? Because the Spanish couldn’t stomp the mother goddess out of the indigenous religion when attempting to instill their patriarchal dominion.

      But…as I said…D&D isn’t a religion or belief system. It’s a game. There’s a way to play it that works wonderfully. Not everyone plays it that way. Some people make an informed choice in this regard “I tried THAT version; it didn’t work for me for reasons A, B, and C.” But a lot of people haven’t even tried it. Instead they say:

      “Huh? Level limits? Dwarves can’t be paladins (or whatever)? Asymmetrical class structure? No heroic feats and skills? That sounds bogus, dude.”

      And they don’t bother trying.

      Tell me, what part do you disagree with? The idea that there’s a “true” (or “correct”) way to play D&D? Or do you disagree with my assessment that AD&D is that “true” way? Or…what?

      Is it just that I sound like some sort of fascist? Or does what I write bring up negative feelings in you?

      Really, all I’m saying is:

      1) OD&D was never nailed down as a particular, solidly designed game.
      2) AD&D was.
      3) Various “basic” games were all designed to introduce players to the AD&D game (before it was deigned to split BECMI off as its own, separate line, which led to the same problem of…)
      4) All later editions deviated by design from the original concept, objectives, and vision of the game’s most fundamental designer.

      None of which should preclude you (or anyone…including me!) from enjoying whichever version of D&D takes our fancy to play at any given time.

      So what part of the thesis sticks in your craw, man. Maybe *I* have a blind spot that needs a shining light!
      ; )

    2. I suppose it's that I just don't buy into auteur theory.

      Even if AD&D is "Gary's vision" (and I don't even think we can accept that notion uncritically; at the very least, we know that Tim Kask helped Gary put the core books together and had a lot of input), that doesn't automatically make it "the best D&D", nor does it even make it "unique" IMO.

      I don't accept that OD&D is unfinished, or that BECMI is all that much of a deviation from OD&D and AD&D. In fact, the only thing that AD&D has that's unique to it is Gary's interwoven commentary — which is valuable, it's really the only source of explanation for how the game is supposed to work — but I also don't accept that such marginalia is in fact part of the rules system. If one were to excise it from AD&D, (a) I think the three systems would actually look pretty similar, and (b) I pre-emptively reject any claim that without the infamous Gygaxian ramblings, AD&D ceases to be AD&D. The rules can stand on their own (cf. OSRIC).

      But the differences between those rules? Trivial. "System matters" is held up as a truism these days, but it's an unexamined one. (And it should be examined, because it was the rallying cry of the Forgists and the storygamers.) I don't think it matters nearly as much as the DM having been indoctrinated into the proper culture of play. And at that point, we're really beyond discussing texts and into another realm of discourse entirely.

    3. I had to go look up "auteur theory." I'm not sure I buy it myself. The original Star Wars movies benefitted greatly from Lucas's (then) wife being a talented film editor. And yet we assign George all the credit.

      Certainly AD&D has pieces from many of EGG's crew: Blume and Ward are evident in the Boot Hill and Gamma Ward stuff, Mike Carr, Arneson, Rob Kuntz. Many of the core classes were taken from independent contributors to The Strategic Review magazine. And Kask was the editor of the DMG (at least...I can't remember if he also did the PHB). Many parts from the magic items list were penned by others (gosh, but I forget the guy's name right now).

      But I think it's okay to say the vision was steered by Gygax. He had final say in what was (and was not) included.

      If you take out the overwritten prose and snarky "Gary-isms," you'll still find instructions on how to play the game, run the game, set up and conduct campaigns...which are the heart of true D&D play and the natural outgrowth of the simplified instructions found in B/X and OD&D.

      [mm...probably a subject for its own post]

      Later AD&D sets (NOT the various "basics," but all the way down to 5E) largely borrow from the 1E DMG's instructional text, but due to rule changes, they don't quite work the same.

      RE OD&D being a "finished" game

      As written, it cannot function or stand by itself, and large swaths of it were immediately re-written with its first supplement. It was ever-evolving. It requires Chainmail to run. I don't know what more I can say, man: you seem to simply be disbelieving the facts on that one.

      RE BECMI "deviating greatly"

      BECMI is a complete game. Mentzer is a solid designer. BECMI lacks some of the nuance of AD&D, but it also lacks interlocking systems that contribute to a particular style of play. BECMI play, run as written, WILL end up looking different from AD&D play over time.

      RE System Not Mattering (Much)

      System only ceases to matter when one deviates from the system. If you want to deviate the system to make it more in line with another system...why not just play the other system?

      RE Indoctrination in Culture

      That can't be helped, but people can find their way out (or into different cultures). And cultural indoctrination, unexamined, is a sad state of affairs.

      But you're right...that's a whole 'nother realm of discourse.


      I appreciate your comments and your position. I think you feel my thesis is overblown, mountains out of molehills, etc. and you may be right.

      I haven't read OSRIC for a looong time, and it may well be "The Good Parts" version of AD&D. Cool. We're still talking AD&D. I'm not calling it the "true" form of D&D because of its "Gygaxian flavor." I'm not interested in flavor...I can add my own flavor (and every DM WILL add their own). Textually, I am familiar with AD&D's instructions so I use that. I own those books; I know how and where to find the info I need within them. Maybe OSRIC is an easier system to learn/use...but I don't have enough experience with it to say.

      I was really trying to limit my discussion to the "name brand" versions of D&D.

    4. "Why is Mary venerated as much (or more than) Jesus in Mexican Catholics? Because the Spanish couldn’t stomp the mother goddess out of the indigenous religion when attempting to instill their patriarchal dominion."

      Well, that's an ignorant, offensive and embarrassing statement. Hell is chock full of Marxists though so you'll have plenty of company.

    5. I don’t know enough about Marxism to say if I fit their company. However, I do know quite a few Mexican Catholics.
      ; )

  2. Hm, how do you figure that 2E was inferior in your "economy is present" criterion? By decoupling XP from gold and noticeably reducing the amount of gold found during adventures - both directly in published modules and due to the DMG disparaging "Monty Haul campaigns" and expanding upon Gygax's ideas for removing excess wealth from PCs - 2E made managing your money more important than ever, as players would still have the same wants and needs as in 1E, but a slower inflow of cash.

    As for your comment on differing advancement goals reducing cooperation: the core rule is only to award XP for defeated monsters, and a group award upon successful completion of an adventure. Individual XP awards (what you were referring to in your post) and XP-for-GP were both optional rules for faster advancement. Even if individual awards are used, almost all of them are for things that a functional adventuring party should be doing anyway, such as "spells cast to overcome foes or problems."

  3. Decoupling XP from gold wouldn’t be a bad thing…IF there was something better to replace it.

    2E awards two standard types of XP: group and individual. Group XP is given for defeating opponents and for “completing story goals” which, being set by the DM, are completely arbitrary and subjective according to the DM’s whim. There are also few guidelines as to how much XP this “completed adventure award” should be, save that it should not exceed the total XP of monsters defeated, nor one-tenth of the XP needed to advance (so…different amounts for different classes?). This is a CRAP method of awarding points in ANY game, basically asking players to “game the DM” rather than play the game, and the same applies to the suggested “constant awards” for “fun” and “character survival” (p.45 of the 2E DMG). Trust me on this…I ran Vampire for 4-5 years with similar crap guidelines.

    So we end up looking to Individual XP goals as an OBJECTIVE measure of advancement and find that each class has a different measure…and this a different agenda. This does NOT engender cooperation between party members. Fighters only gain individual XP through defeating creatures…how will they approach the game? Priest are S.O.L. In a standard dungeon crawl (unless furthering their “ethos” or facing a bunch of undead). And rogues are going to want to AVOID anything that doesn’t net them treasure or the chance to use their skills…a straight 100xp award for a single potential use of “backstab” in combat is hardly an incentive to get “stuck in.”

    I infer you feel that “successful completion of an adventure” is a fine alternative for awarding XP. I cannot disagree more. It completely curtails “player agency,” requiring PCs to jump through hoops to get their biscuit. If I say: “you gain XP from treasure: go!” Players will look for paths to that objective. As opposed to “(*sigh*) Just tell us what we’re supposed to be doing tonight.” One way empowers players to be self-starters, which (when supplied with the proper resources from the DM) leads to greater engagement with the imaginary setting.

    Player engagement with setting is the backbone of a successful campaign.

    Yes, there is an optional rule in 2E of awarding XP “for the cash value of non-magical treasures.” This leads to the same issue found in Basic (and original) versions of the game: too much coin. You need the XP for magic items (sold or retained) to work with the higher XP needs of the game. The game’s economy gets thrown off when you start cherry-picking rules.

    Look: I’m sure folks will tell me they’ve run 2E by the book for YEARS with no problem, balancing the lack of XP with story awards, “fun” awards, individual “participation” awards (the sidebar on p.48 of the 2E DMG). Fine…cool. I’d guess those tables are fine with a lot of DM fiat and control. Not everyone is.

    But there’s another way. You say 2E cuts down on Monty Haulism by slowing the inflow of cash. Looking at the “loot take” from many late edition modules, I’d say the MAIN thing that’s been cut (by necessity!) would be any semblance of a real economy in the setting. That many things are simply hand waved (or ignored) on the parts of DMs because they’re PCs are so cash-strapped they wouldn’t be able to engage with the imaginary world in a “real” (immersive) fashion. “Let’s just get to the part where we fight and roll dice; I’m bored!” Okay.

    I’d call it a failure if the DM, but the poor DM isn’t supported by the system they’re using.

    1. You keep calling Individual XP "standard" when it's specifically called out in the book as an optional rule. Never used it, and never played with any else who used it either. I agree that the "one-tenth of the XP needed to advance" guideline wasn't well-playtested, but it's very simple to disregard that and use the other guideline. Directly from the text: "Thus, if the DM knows there are roughly 1,200 experience points worth of monsters, the story award should not exceed this amount." That's pretty direct, and the only reason the nebulous "should not exceed" language is there is because there's a later section about how different groups prefer different rates of advancement and the DM can tinker with XP awards to speed things up or slow them down.

      If you just use the maximum recommended amount of XP, equal to the total value of monsters which might be encountered, then you end up with a split about on par with other classic editions. Specifically, when GP is worth XP, then typically about 20 to 30 percent of XP comes from combat and the rest comes from treasure. Assuming the average group only actually engages in somewhere between one-third and one-half of possible battles, and either avoids or never encounters the rest, then around 20 to 30 percent of XP will come from combat and the rest will come from adventure completion awards.

      I have no idea where you get the idea that this discourage self-starters. An adventure is an adventure, regardless of whether the DM lays it out on a platter or the PCs choose it themselves. Finding a goblin lair in the wilderness and looting it is a completed adventure just as much as slogging through a boring Dragonlance module is. I have never run a game with XP for treasure in my life, and player engagement has never been a problem.

      As for loot take, I never bought many modules, so it's certainly possible they were being excessively stingy. I always did think the entire section about Monty Haul campaigns was a bit of an overreaction, but maybe it was a bigger problem in the '80s? I dunno. Either way, I found that it made the economy much more important when a party of four or five adventurers only have 1000 gold pieces to split among themselves by the time they're 2nd level. They actually still have to worry about things like rope and rations, plate mail won't come until 3rd or 4th level (making chain mail +1 or +2 a significant find rather than a booby prize), and whether to buy horses right away or wait until a higher level is a significant financial decision. It makes the players live at an economic scale where they can't just flippantly throw gold coins at every problem or inconvenience because they have tens of thousands of gold pieces per person and nothing costs enough to deplete their hoards unless they want a sailing ship or are Name Level and ready to build strongholds.

    2. @ Dan:

      Can you give me some examples of good 2E adventures? Either published ones...perhaps ones that you learned from...or ones that you played in? Or if most of the 2E adventures you've run have been your own, can you describe one or two of favorites of yours (and your players)?

    3. If we are going on adventures as a basis of quality then B/X wins hands down.

    4. @ Dan:


      [per your request]

  4. To edition war is human. To edition war is divine.

    Exert your existence or be conquered.

  5. I get it now. You do not want folks shitcan AD&D1e especially since it was the foundation upon which modern gaming was built. That's great, I support you 5000 percent. Your choice of words sucks ass though. Using true and framing things as ultimates does you a disservice to your message and actually seems to support the negative criticisms of old school play and players.
    Again I support more players should experience AD&D1e and gain the valuable design lessons and flaws it has and the fun to be had enjoying its rules abd play- well some of them imo.

    Maybe a shift in tone and semantics will help the cause more.

    I would get jazzed seeing your actual play and excitement over this edition of play rather than this poorly worded diatribe. You write well, it's those trigger words that seem to detract from the cause.

    Seriously show me and others just how awesome play is, that would sell it. This way seems doomed to an ice cream flavor debate.

    1. @ Unknown:

      It's more than not wanting folks to shitcan AD&D. The reason I'm using the semantics I'm using (rough though they are) is to make the point that AD&D is THE system to play. My concession that "okay, playing other versions is still 'playing D&D,' have fun" is me throwing up my hands at the hurt feelings I've engendered by coming in too hot on the subject.

      Sometimes the truth hurts.

      It's not just about "having fun." Watching baseball is fun. Coaching soccer is fun. Drinking beer is fun. Lots of ways to have fun out there.

      Anyhoo...I'm re-reading your comment and trying to reconcile "you write well" with the phrases "your choice of words sucks ass" and "poorly worded diatribe."

      Here's the thing Unknown. I'm not debating here. It's not me talking about my "preference" in ice cream. I'm telling folks why one published edition of D&D is a complete system of fantasy adventure gaming and why other systems are not. Period.

      I'm trying to do people a service. If that "triggers", sorry about that?

  6. I'm just going to comment from personal gaming experience. I started with BECMI when it came out, few/no players so read more than played. My real playing started with 2nd edition which I loved. But a lot of things in 2nd edition (skills, proficiency slots, and all the supplements) started a slippery slope that started a trend, and a change in player culture/behavior. I played and ran plenty of 3.5... never felt right... 5 foot movement mapping, attacks of opportunity, players thought they should never die, rolling up characters took hours with players dreaming of their character at level 30. Never tried 4e and searched for old school... never looked back. I have a true love for B/X (simplicity makes it so easy to bring in new players, non-gamers, spouses, kids) and avoids all the trappings that first started metabolizing in 2e. I've run lots of B/X and AD&D since then... and I love and respect both... but gravitate to AD&D. I'm a strategy war gamer as well, and the extra complexity in AD&D is a just-right fit for me. The AD&D published DM Screen (or my own printouts) gives me most of what I need for running a game without needing to page through and parse the gygaxian prose. I save that for my own reading time. BTW, I'll be running an AD&D tournament game (C2 Ghost Tower of Inverness) at DragonCon in Seattle in a few weeks.

    1. @ Sir Rob:

      Wish I could make it...I've never played, run, or read C2. But even without the pandemic (which makes my family hesitant for MY attendance at cons), October is VERY busy month for me. I just don't have a free weekend.

      Hopefully next summer.

    2. I suggested, and you followed up on a Ravenloft suggestion I made. Very much appreciated. Keep C2 out of sight, and maybe sometime soon, in person gaming will be a thing once more, and I can run it again somewhere local. I love bringing old school modules to the table with old schoolers who never played them, or have forgotten the details.

    3. Sounds good. Fingers crossed.
      ; )

  7. In the grim dark future of D&D 6 there is only edition war.

    1. Isn't it funny how there's no "edition wars" with Warhammer 40K, even though they've put out 9+ editions?

      Just "edition fatigue."

      If I had to guess, I'd say this lack of acrimony between WH40K aficionados is due to A) continued unification of vision, B) minor variant in core rules, C) adherence to principals of GAME (no one's "fudging" dice rolls in a tabletop battle!).

      D&D has little of that.

    2. It's the fact that different editions of dnd aren't editions at all but completely different games. You might say 3.0 and 3.5 are different editions of the same game. But there is no way 3e and 4e and 5e are just new editions with minor changes. In general rpgs misuse the word edition.

    3. I agree but I would also say that both editions of AD&D are the same game, and that all the variations of basic are the same game as well.

  8. I just want to say that I've really enjoyed your examination of this subject matter. I don't agree with all of your points, but you've obviously put thought into them and I appreciate that you're willing to take and defend what seems to be an unpopular stance. I'm a 2e player at heart, but that's due to nostalgia much more than playability or rules coherency or being the "true" system.

    For me at least, there is a certain special feeling I get opening the AD&D 1e DMG that I don't get with any other book from any other edition. I look forward to the next installment!

    1. Thanks for the kind words…appreciate it.

      The “next installment” has been posted.
      ; )

  9. I agree with the assertion that 1e is “real” D&D. It was the game most people played “back in the Day”, from what I have gathered on various fora and message boards concerning the topic. It was Gygax’s definitive edition, right?

    I don’t know if that means that 1e is the best version of the rules to actually play.

    I have digital copies of the 1e rules (and, by the way, thanks, WOTC, for making everything available for purchase. Some more POD would be nice). I don’t know if I will ever take the time to set up and run a 1e game, though. I rarely look at the rules. I would happily play in a 1e D&D game, though.

    The essential element with any D&D (or any tabletop rpg) product is the game master. Who is going to run the game? Does the DM’s guide draw a person’s interest enough to invest the time to create an adventure and run people through it?

    I just glanced through the 1e DMG. There are a lot of topics covered. I see that it has a sample dungeon—a big one. That’s awesome. My interest is piqued. But, I doubt I will run it, because I have invested time in other game systems, and the familiarity makes these other systems seem easier to run.

    B/X (and BECMI) especially is good at helping the DM, because the step-by-step rules for creating a dungeon feel very similar to creating a character for the player. As you roll randomly for room contents, a story about the place begins to build in the mind—why it was built; why it was abandoned. All that stuff. The 1e DMG gives a similar step-by-step process in Appendix A: Random Dungeon generation. It doesn’t seem as user friendly as the B/X rules, though. Plus, there are a slew of other rules to take into consideration for running a game. So, one would need to be invested in the system to take the time to properly build and run a 1e dungeon/adventure “by the book”. Over time, of course, the process would get easier, but there are real-world considerations (jobs, players moving away, etc.) that act as obstacles to taking time to learn the system. Also, if there are easier alternatives that provide a similar experience, there is not much incentive to switch to the more complicated rules. Playing 1e may be more fun, but it also has to be fun to run, I think.

    I recently watched a YouTube video of a group of players giving their impressions of playing a one-shot 4th edition D&D game. Their almost unified response was “it’s too much!” Too much tracking of powers and conditions and the like. I get the impression they play either 5e or Pathfinder (they didn’t really say). In any case, when I skim through the 1e DMG, and see a lot of rules that are, in my opinion, haphazardly organized, I think, “Too much!”
    Going back to the 4e video; if one were to subsequently listen to the podcasts of Season 1 of “Acquisitions, inc.”, or watch the more recently posted sessions of Matt Colville’s 4e game “Dusk”, one would not hear/see people bored and confused by the rules. In each of the latter cases, the players had an experienced DM that knew the rules. I bring this up to reiterate my argument that The DM is essential. Therefore, the DMG needs to draw the prospective DM in enough to warrant the time it would take to set up and run a game. I am not sure that the 1e DMG does that for most prospective DMs.

    I don’t think most modern players will get a chance to play “real” D&D.

    To switch topics: do you ever look at a blog called the Computer RPG Addict? He is trying to play every CRPG published. He is into the games published in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s. The reason I bring it up is that he discovered that the computer game “Pool of Radiance” had an accompanying tabletop module published by TSR (“Ruins of Adventure”, or something like that). He won the computer game some years ago, but he is replaying it while referencing the module. I thought you might find it interesting.

    1. I don't know that blog, or "The Pool of Radiance" (neither the CRPG nor the module)...however, computer RPGs are the (planned) subject of my next post.

      I agree with your final assessment (that few modern players will have the chance to play "real" D&D). Some of the earlier stuff in the post I'm less agreeable with...but that may just be personal opinion, and I'd like to think on it a bit before posting a (hopefully measured!) response.

    2. Be as vitriolic and unreasonable as you like.

      That’s what we pay you for.

    3. And the pay is so good!

      (see my Patreon page)

      It's not that I won't be vitriolic and unreasonable, I just want to think about the words I would use, and whether or not if there's anything helpful and/or constructive to build one/with.
      ; )

    4. Fair enough.

      I would like to clarify what I was trying to say earlier. To get people—players and new DMs—to invest in the 1e rules, I think it will be necessary for experienced 1e DMs to advocate for the rules, and mentor players to be 1e DMs. My understanding is that new players in the early days of D&D were taught the game by older brothers and friends who started with the little brown books.