A good case in point is 1978's Ready Ref Sheets. This is in fact the expanded second edition of the product, the original having come out a year earlier. 56 pages in length, the Ready Ref Sheets, as its name implies, is a miscellany of charts, tables, and optional rules for use by referees of Dungeons & Dragons. The majority of this miscellany comes the first six issues of Judges Guild's Guildmember subscription, supplemented by material from the Campaign Hexagon System booklet and other JG products. You'll note that this edition is listed as "Volume I," but, so far as I know, there was never a Volume II.
Many old school referees quite rightly swear by the Ready Ref Sheets. Within its pages is a collection of some of the interesting, useful, strange, whimsical, bizarre, and downright stupid ideas for D&D collected in one product. Here's a sampling of just a few of them:
- City encounter tables, based on social class
- Special encounter rules for women, including how to determine their bust and waist size based on their Charisma (no, I am not making this up)
- Rules for adjudicating a court case
- Rules for advertising for hirelings
- An alternate coinage system that includes mithril and adamantite
- Shock rules
- A new system for initiative based on "weapon priority"
- Tables for "startling statues" and what they do when examined
- Extensive wilderness encounter charts
- Rules for prospecting for ore
It's here, I think, that a key bit of wisdom from the past reveals itself. Lots of contemporary gamers will make the claim that they lack either the time or confidence to run a proper sandbox-style campaign. Being able to think up encounters or details on the spot can be difficult, no question, but it's not as if the referees of the past were made of sterner stuff than are those of today. What they had, though, was recourse to dozens upon dozens of random tables for every occasion -- just look at the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide! Modern gamers frequently turn up their nose at this stuff, but they shouldn't, since it's these tables that allowed earlier referees to wing it with much greater ease.
I know I regularly used tables in the Ready Ref Sheets as aids to my imagination and am glad I did. I often think that the old school movement would be wise to produce a book much like this one, geared toward providing gamers with the tables and charts they need to help shoulder some of the burden of our preferred play style. Properly presented, such a book might even be of interest to gamers outside our little corner of the hobby and go some way toward clarifying just why we love randomness as much as we do.