So I've reading and re-reading all my OD&D books and it's been an interesting experience. It's hard now to find them nearly as impenetrable as I once did, because I've been so immersed in the extensive exegesis of their contents for the last two years that they seem (almost) straightforward to me. I realize they're not in any absolute sense, but I also more keenly understand that, if one had been part of the wargames culture out of which OD&D sprang, they probably weren't quite as opaque as they seem decades after the fact. That's not to say that no one had trouble understanding them, because we know they did, but I suspect the number of early adopters who were baffled by them is smaller than is suggested in after-the-fact discussions by people with a vested interest in claiming OD&D is the gaming equivalent of the Voynich Manuscript.
On the other hand, I'm not convinced that OD&D, especially the LBBs, contain hidden depths of meaning that can only be plumbed after extensive periods of prayer and fasting. Rather, there are many passages and even whole sections whose meaning is obscure because of either the way they were written -- no one can claim OD&D is a model of auctorial clarity -- or a dependence on a context not provided by the text itself. That's why it's so vital to speak to people who were involved in the hobby at the time in order to gain that context. It's been my contention from the start of this blog that a lot of this knowledge is in danger of being lost forever, which would be a pity.
In any case, while reading through OD&D, I noticed several things I'd somehow never noticed before:
- Wisdom is the only stat that does nothing other than provide an XP boost. Even Greyhawk does not expand upon Wisdom's mechanical utility. This strikes me as very odd.
- Originally, only fighting men benefited from high Dexterity in terms of being harder to hit. I must say I rather like this approach.
- All magical armor is plate mail.