Wednesday, October 15, 2008

How the Heck do you play OD&D?

This post is less advice and more a request for advice. It's also reasonably short for my posts.

How do you play OD&D? I've purchased the PDFs of the books, and I'm working on a way to print them without burning through ten ink cartridges. Still, I've read (skimmed) through them, and the rules seem so nonsensical and alien. Weird charts everywhere, strange attack progressions, different XP rates for everyone, strange book layouts, and numerous references to Chainmail (which I also purchased, but I haven't read through yet)

How did anyone ever figure this stuff out by themselves? Was D&D always passed master-apprentice style, with an experienced player going DM to teach others how it worked? Was this system intentionally designed (as it seemed to be stated in the books themselves) to be houseruled to hell and back? Did anyone play the same game? There are weird omissions for all kinds of rules that would be required to be houseruled in some way, or else powergamer folk will beat the hell out of it. Were powergamers not extant in Gygax's heyday?

Traps seem neat in the sense that they should be physically arrayed objects, and not just "roll to defeat" spots, but then how do you determine if someone can do it? Anyone can say "I put a table over the spike in the floor, so when it goes up again it get stuck in the wood" or something, but how does a DM (sorry, 'Referee') figure out if that would work? Fiat? Are there even proper rules for how much a trap spike damages a table?

The game seems interesting in theory, and some of it makes sense. A lot of the weird differences in spell and other behavior when outside as opposed to a dungeon seems a bit gamey and breaks suspension of disbelief, but hey, that's how it goes. What is with listing range in inches? I vaguely recall reading that an 'inch' of range in spell descriptions translates to something else in-universe, but I don't recall where, and I can't seem to find it offhand. Not to piss anyone off, but with this sort of thing as OD&D, where do people get off complaining about 'squares' in 4e? Replace "5 squares" with "5 inches" and you still have the same focus on miniatures.

Anyway, any folks who currently play OD&D or are old enough to have played it in the 70's have any advice on wrapping my head around this system?


John said...

There is a lot of help on this OD&D board - drop by and check it out

Sham aka Dave said...

I'd have to echo John's post above. Finarvyn's site is one of the best resources for muddling your way through those early stages. Before you know it, you'll realize OD&D is fairly easy to use. How much you decide or feel the need to fill in the perceived gaps is up to you, and for me has been part of the fun of using the original.

Read back through older posts before asking too many FAQ, and also read over Philotomy's Musings found here:

Although my own house rules page strays far afield at times, it might be of some use as well:


Sham aka Dave said...

To add, 1" is a hold over from OD&D's Wargame/Chainmail roots. Indoors it represents 10 feet, and outdoors it represents 10 yards.

It might sound odd, but it was a conversion from those old Wisconsin wargamers moving from outdoor troop based table top battles to indoor single figure based adventuring. As for movement it makes sense, the premise being that in a dungeon you are required to move slowly, checking for danger, having low light, and making maps.

As far as did anyone play the same game? was all D&D. It was all handled slightly differently from Referee to Referee, but it still used the cornerstones of the LBB concept. It was the concept that was the thing. Modern day fans such as myself appreciate it for it's boundless possibilities and open ended style.

I am a recent OD&D convert, but many of the conventions presented in the LBB were familiar to am AD&D 1e player such as myself...maybe the transition was therefore much easier. I also purchased the Chainmail pdf, but have absolutely no need for it when playing D&D.

Hope that helps a bit!


Sham aka Dave said...

Last comment, then I'll stop spamming your post, but since it seems you are serious about learning OD&D you might enjoy a little series of posts I made called Why OD&D?

Here's the link for all five parts.

Let me know what you think! OD&D is not for everyone, but it's certainly worth exploring the game's roots.


David said...

Ah, a lot of advice and links.

It will take a while to sort through all this stuff.

On reading through things a bit more thoroughly, it makes a bit of sense. I still say that you can't tackle it from the same rules-make-the-game sense that new editions do.

Power gamers with permissive DMs would eat the world alive.

Still, I'll poke through the links and see what I can see. Thanks for the quick comments, useful stuff.

d7 said...

You're right that it's not a rules-make-the-game sort of thing. That's actually a fundamental difference in old-school play from recent D&D. In OD&D (and AD&D, mostly), the game world made the rules.

So, in the table example, the DM should already have a good idea of how powerful that spike is and use their judgement on whether the table would block it, and for how many triggerings. The "don't consult a rule, use judgement" style of refereeing is a profound difference.

For a very good, accessible, and blessedly short primer on the style of play that OD&D needs to make any sense, download Matthew Finch's Quick Primer for Old School Gaming. It's a really good read.

David said...

That primer was great! Haha, got me all jazzed to play.

Anyway, lots of good help all around on this thread. I'll see if I can get a game of '0e' run at some point.