Thursday, October 30, 2008

Prelude to a Post

Fanatical game hobbyists often express the opinion that DUNGEONS & DRAGONS will continue as an ever-expanding, always improving game system. TSR and I see it a bit differently. Currently D&D is moving in two directions. There is the “Original” game system and the new ADVANCED D&D® system. New participants can move from the “Basic Set” into either form without undue difficulty — especially as playing aid offerings become more numerous, and that is in process now. Americans have somehow come to equate change with improvement. Somehow the school of continuing evolution has conceived that D&D can go on in a state of flux, each new version “new and improved!” From a standpoint of sales, I beam broadly at the very thought of an unending string of new, improved, super, energized, versions of D&D being hyped to the loyal followers of the gaming hobby in general and role playing fantasy games in particular. As a game designer I do not agree, particularly as a gamer who began with chess. The original could benefit from a careful reorganization and expansion to clarify things, and this might be done at some future time. As all of the ADVANCED D&D system is not written yet, it is a bit early for prognostication, but I envision only minor expansions and some rules amending on a gradual, edition to edition, basis. When you have a fine product, it is time to let well enough alone. I do not believe that hobbyists and casual players should be continually barraged with new rules, new systems, and new drains on their purses. Certainly there will be changes, for the game is not perfect; but I do not believe the game is so imperfect as to require constant improvement.

--Gary Gygax, The Dragon, February 1979

12 comments:

  1. Amazing find.

    Different times, then.

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  2. Wow... Just wow.

    You know, I think this aspect of Gary's character actually played into the original construction of the game itself. -It's well known Gygax didn't intend it to be the blockbuster it was. His primary concern was making D&D a game to be played, not mass marketed.

    So glad to read this. It would have helped me make a much stronger argument that I gave up trying to make to new-schoolers some time ago.

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  3. I'm gleefully awaiting where you're going to go with this, James.

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  4. I can't wait to see where this goes.

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  5. I can't wait to see where this goes.

    Possibly not where people are expecting, but we'll see. I'll try and get the post up by tomorrow, but I have some other work to do too.

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  6. Yeah, I think this quote was posted on Dragonsfoot sometime last year. Interestingly, a simple reorganisation and re-editing of the rules was the entirety of the initial plan for second edition, according to David Cook in an early Game Wizard article in Dragon. The reason that they went somewhat beyond that initial mandate was never quite clarified.

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  7. This may mark me, but I don't see so much wrong with the fact that there is a cornucopia of products that carry the D&D logo. I can understand that some folks don't care for how the game has changed away from its roots (or else I wouldn't check this site every day!). At the same time, I feel like D&D is also a snapshot of the gaming zeitgeist, so each edition/revision is another flavor of the game meant to appeal to the gamer at large. This is just another example of how for better or worse, D&D has changed beyond its cultural origins.

    Though my sympathies side with the old-school, I like that there is another D&D out there for those who want it.

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  8. So the same thing was going on back then as is going on today. It's the same issue. Fascinating!

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  9. Interestingly, a simple reorganisation and re-editing of the rules was the entirety of the initial plan for second edition, according to David Cook in an early Game Wizard article in Dragon.

    It was and it wasn't, as the second Gygax quote I posted shows. I'm coming round more and more to believe that, while 2e may not specifically have played out exactly as Gygax would have planned it, the general thrust of it was more or less as he would have done -- including the explosion of supplemental materials produced under its aegis.

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  10. Though my sympathies side with the old-school, I like that there is another D&D out there for those who want it.

    I'd be more accepting of "another D&D" if there wasn't a supercessionist mentality at WotC that treats anything but the present edition -- whatever that one is -- as the One True Game. As I've said before, some people played OD&D in a 4e-like way back in the day, so the desire for Big Damn Heroes and over the top action isn't some newfangled creation of the corporate hype machine. But OD&D was a hobbyist game rather than a brandified consumer product, so there was much more space for differing interpretations. I'd be quite happy to go back to that mentality, but I don't expect to see WotC call a truce and go that route.

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  11. The quote reminds me of what happened with hobby board games. From individual games designed to a purpose (Luftwaffe or Alexander the Great) to series of games sharing and developing a common system (Panzerblitz & Panzer Leader), then the really big step of "expansions" such that the game became a hobby in itself and it was necessary to always get the latest release in order to stay current--the game didn't necessarily get better but it always got "more". Cosmic Encounter was an early offender.

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  12. Elliot,

    The trajectory of D&D is one shared by pretty much every form of entertainment ever conceived, sadly. Nonetheless, I find the comparison to hobby board games particularly a propos for a variety of reasons.

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