In thinking about and commenting on other blog posts, I realized that I might never have adequately explained why I'm running Dwimmermount the way that I am: minimal rules and megadungeon-focused. Dwimmermount is explicitly an experiment in seeing how both rules and campaigns develop organically through play. One of my contentions is that the history of D&D is not one of natural evolution at all but of forced evolution, starting with AD&D and continuing down to the present day.
Dwimmermount starts with an approximation of OD&D -- Swords & Wizardry -- that uses minimal material from the supplements. I've purposefully avoided creating lots of new rules for use with the game, because I want new rules to evolve from a pressing need in the game rather than by "designer fiat." For example, we're using straight D6 for all weapon damage. We decided, though, that wielders of two-handed weapon roll 2D6 and take the highest result. When Iriadessa joined the campaign, she started using darts to throw at enemies. What damage should they do? On the fly, I decided she'd roll 2D6 and take the lowest result, because they were small weapons. It was a nice, simple, straightforward solution to a real need in play.
We've made a bunch of other little rules changes here and there, but almost none of them were decided by me in advance of actual play. Dwimmermount is thus partially about seeing how Swords & Wizardry will naturally evolve as a result of the situations that occur in weekly gaming sessions. Already, our game is diverging from the rules as written, but those divergences are not based on theory but on practice. We are in the process of creating our own game, unique from everyone else who plays, and it's the embrace of this process that I see as at the heart of the old school. We don't play in tournaments and so see no need to deform the rules on an a priori basis to accommodate convention play. Neither do we care if gamers outside our group do things differently in their own sessions. Uniformity of rules is not an ideal I hold.
Dwimmermount is focused on the dungeon because the dungeon is a good "training ground" for a new campaign -- it's geographically constrained and able to be developed in manageable chunks. I don't think dungeons are the be-all and end-all of old school play but they are certainly one of the pillars on which old school play is based. I treat the world outside the dungeon much as I treat rules: it develops through play in response to a pressing need. I've done the world building thing many times before and, while I love it, I see no need to build more than I need for each session. That often means making stuff up on the fly when the players go somewhere unexpected or ask questions for which I have no pat answers. But that's what players are supposed to do and being able to come up with answers is what referees are supposed to do.
I leave lots of clues and pointers and tidbits for the players to take up, but I don't push them to do so. If they're uninterested or more focused on other matters, so be it. That's their prerogative, after all. That's what sandbox play means: make of the setting what you will. Again, it's organic, not forced. The key is to be able to think on your toes when suddenly a player wants to journey "off the map" into somewhere you've given no thought to or when he wants to learn more about a hireling who'd previously just been a generic spear-carrier from Central Casting. The setting, like the rules, are living things and they grow best in response to stimulus, not by being force fed.
So that's what Dwimmermount is all about. It's an ongoing experiment and, so far, a very successful one. It's where I put my theories into practice and see if I have any idea what I'm talking about or if, as some have opined, I'm "full of it."It's not intended as a blueprint for anyone else's campaign nor do I think the approach I've taken should be deemed normative. That said, I do think it's valuable for gamers of all stripes to understand there are many paths D&D could have taken in its development and the ones it did take had more to do with business plans than with campaign plans. I'm done being forced to adapt to someone else's vision of how D&D should develop and am embracing my own vision without apology. If that's at all controversial, it sure says a lot about the current state of this hobby.