Saturday, September 26, 2009

Geezer Wisdom

I've been trying to get an interview with Mike "Old Geezer" Mornard for months now, but it always seems something comes up to throw a wrench into those plans. Fortunately, Mike is very active on a number of forums and regularly posts reminiscences of his days in Gary Gygax's Greyhawk campaign. Here's a recent one Jim Raggi pointed out to me, which I think provides some insight into the Old Ways:
I played a Magic User in Greyhawk .. THE Greyhawk... for a while. Up to 6th or 7th level when I retired him because I was tired of him and went back to my 8th level fighter.

My favorite adventure was as a 1st level MU. I had heard about an entrance to the 3rd level of Greyhawk and went down.

Alone.

With 3 HP and a Charm Person spell.

Just me.

A 1st level MU.

In Greyhawk Castle.

With Gary Gygax reffing.

I hit 2nd level at the end of the night with enough XP to be one shy of 3rd.

I ran, I snuck, I threw lanterns (fire, oil, and a handle in one convenient package!), I ran, and I ran some more.

It was still one of the best single evenings of gaming I've ever had.

So, I have heaps and heaps of "no fucking sympathy" for people who complain it's boring to play a low level MU.

56 comments:

  1. Now THAT is when D&D is awesome.

    Some of my favorite adventures have also been one-on-one with the DM. I never understood why some old timers look down on that as somehow "not playing right" (see the recent interview with T. Kask posted here for an example). As if somehow you need 14 people all clamoring for the DM's attention for it to be fun (not that that isn't great, too).

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  2. Running in terror from orcs with your pointed stick and smelly robes does not make you a superior role-player.

    It's just a style you prefer. Plain and simple. You like that kind of gaming? Great. Good for you. But it doesn't invalidate the 4e experience or any other kind of D&D past the early 1980's.

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  3. That's really lovely.
    ...I still stand by the general criticism of the typical level 1 MU experience, though: the critical fact here is that he was alone, which leads to a totally different contract between player and DM, and in any event a different set of play options. A great DM can make a silk purse out of pretty much anything, but only if the players are willing to work with them. The whole torches + running gambit isn't going to be so much fun when the other 7 players are enjoying a frontal assault. In that situation, one game day is a long time at the table to be nursing your one spell, and you're more likely to be employed by the group staking doors open than engaging in wacky improvisational hijinks.

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  4. @Christian -

    Running in terror from orcs with your pointed stick and smelly robes does not make you a superior role-player.

    Who said it did?

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  5. If by role-playing you mean immersion in playing the character, then the above reminiscence tells us next to nothing about role-playing.

    Not sure how this got turned into an anti-4e post: he could just as easily be referring to 0e players who complain about playing a 1st level MU.

    I enjoy having more people at the table, since you get some interesting group dynamics, and people tend to build upon ideas thrown out by others. Solo games sound interesting too.

    The game or adventure is what you make it.

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  6. But it doesn't invalidate the 4e experience or any other kind of D&D past the early 1980's.

    Interestingly, I'm pretty sure Mike is responding to the opposite claim: that gaming prior to the present was somehow bad and "un-fun," with a 1st-level old school MU being an exemplar of that supposed lack of fun.

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  7. I find it interesting to note that one-on-one play was effectively the norm* at the wargames club I frequented in the late 70s and early 80s. It was very rare that two player character got together to do something, let alone be able to form an actual adventuring party, so I don't see anything strange with this sort of gaming.

    Almost all of the campaign worlds were sandbox Sword & Sorcery, with players all moving within the same campaign environs (and occasionally interacting). Then again, that's not really all that surprising, as that is very much how a wargaming campaign is run. Except a wargamer probably has more forces available than a single character. <grin>

    [* Disclaimer: My campaigns weren't like this, simply because I'm really bad at gamemastering individuals. It's a style thing, and my style is better suited to really large groups. <grin> ]

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  8. Not sure how this got turned into an anti-4e post

    Political Correctness maybe?

    The poster is involved in LL gaming, not someone you would assume a priori would rise and defend 4E...particulary from imaginary threaths.

    Or maybe marketing hype and corporate brainwashing is more effective than we think and is spilling out beyond the ranks of its intended audience? :)

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  9. Rpg guy uses personal experience to invalidate the opinion of others. Nothing new in that, in fact it's been with us as long as rolling 3d6 in order.

    P.S. I really dig your blog, James.

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  10. @richard
    I think if you view your spells per day as the number of times you're allowed to do anything fun, then yeah, being a 1st. lvl. mage is probably a drag.

    If you enjoy the challenge of making yourself useful, unobtrusive, annoying, or scarce when appropriate for the overall puzzle of the dungeon, then that single spell is just a tool in your arsenal.

    Being the guy who nails the door shut at the right time is just as valuable in team play as being the guy with the wand of fireballs. (Delta can relate an incident from running the "Tomb of Horrors" where having a wand that shoots fireballs was the *last* thing the party needed.)

    It is a good point that the dialog between player and GM is important here. If the *only* solution the DM is willing to allow is bashing the monsters aside by force, then yeah, a low lvl. mage ain't gonna cut it. Both sides need to be open to improvisation for it to really work. A situation can be made just as hopeless for a character who's tricked out with all the magic stuff they'd need if the GM has only one switch that they're not flipping.

    @Christian
    "Running in terror from orcs with your pointed stick and smelly robes does not make you a superior role-player."

    Sure. But running deeper into one of Gygax's dungeons like that instead of back home to a nice, quiet career in accounting, and coming out alive and with enough XP to almost level twice, means you've got a couple "Spheres of Annihilation" hanging under those smelly robes...

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  11. Rpg guy uses personal experience to invalidate the opinion of others.

    Again, I don't think what Mike was doing was so much "invalidating" anyone's experience so much as offering an alternative experience, one where a supposed "weaknesses" of old school D&D are shown to be part of why he loves the game. Lots of people simply take it as Gospel that OD&D MUs are a terrible class to play and inherently un-fun. Sounds to me like Mike had an awful lot of fun.

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  12. Well I don't mean to be argumentative, but this:

    "So, I have heaps and heaps of "no fucking sympathy" for people who complain it's boring to play a low level MU."

    Seems to directly contradict your point about him not invalidating the opinion of others. Perhaps it's just the ways its phrased. One of the things I really dislike about the hobby as whole is endemic nature of the "You are doing it wrong," mentality.

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  13. oops, I missed that it was part of a larger interview. I'll have a look at that. could be I'm totally wrong.

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  14. @BigFella: you make a bunch of absolutely valid points, which really are about both the "roleplaying" and "free-playing" aspects of the hobby, which are exactly the aspects I personally find valuable.

    I suggest a thought experiment: what about a level 0 "minion" or "shlub" class? It has no special abilities that distinguish it from other classes, fights as a magic user and can use the simplest of weapons: dagger, spear and club. In keeping with recent meanings of "minion," it has no hit points but instead saves vs death whenever struck.
    ...I think this might be quite a fun class.

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  15. One of the things I really dislike about the hobby as whole is endemic nature of the "You are doing it wrong," mentality.

    I think most of us do and that's what Mike is responding to: the claim advanced by some that a 1st-level MU is somehow "worthless" compared to other characters. His point is that that perspective is faulty, because such characters can be useful and quite fun to play. I don't think he's saying anything more than that.

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  16. @richard
    Heck, if you wanna go hardcore, you could dredge up the Hopeless character class from Dragon magazine #96. (Flips coin for hp total each lvl. d4+2 for stats, terrified of chickens, etc.)

    Dungeon delving with nothing but your wits and a pair of good running sandals kind of reminds me of the Southern U.S. practice of noodling only with bigger critters than catfish. Your character might be short a few fingers, or maybe a few brain cells, but they can definitely answer the question "Quien es mas macho?"

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  17. I agree that ultimately "The game or adventure is what you make it," but this wonderful reminiscence does accurately capture the heady pleasures of the days of classic gaming. Inspiring!

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  18. What's wrong with telling people when they're doing it wrong?

    D&D is a game, like any other game. And there is wide variance in player talent and skill (combine the two and call it "ability", if you like), just like in any other game.

    Mornard had enough playing ability to survive and prosper in a tough dungeon going solo with a "weak" character. That's worthy of considerable respect, to me.

    I'm getting the hilarious mental image of an amateur chess enthusiast who just had his clock cleaned by a real pro self-righteously informing his opponent that "taking all the other guy's pieces doesn't make you a superior chess player."

    Games be games.

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  19. Aw, a 1st level magic-user PC with charm person is spoiled rotten; try playing a 1st level illusionist with nothing but audible glamer. That's a challenge.

    Seriously, though. Obviously there is much more the character can do than cast one spell. They fight almost as well as any other class at 1st level, for one. A magic user can't wear that fancy schmancy chain mail the fighter just purchased at the Keep, but he sure as heck can hire three or four men-at-arms who can.

    Granted, 7 times out of 10 that m-u won't survive to 2nd level, but there is no sense of accomplishment like the one you feel when you DO achieve 2nd level with such a character.

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  20. Mornard just kills me! He's always got something pithy to say.

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  22. ronically, it's 1E system of giving XP for gold that encourages players to think of ways *not* to fight monsters.
    What article did I read that talked about 20% xp from monsters and 80% from treasure and that monsters were really just a means of whittling down the characters powers?

    ahh yes, [url=http://www.philotomy.com/#dungeon [/url]

    genius, pure genius. Anyone know who this writer is?

    So if players really wanted their characters to achieve power quickly, it's in their best interest to *not* have to use their 1 spell, they'd level faster if they found an efficent means of circumventing all those evil mobs.

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  23. Awww, Gary was obviously fudging the rolls!!!! :)

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  24. What's wrong with telling people when they're doing it wrong?

    The argument is that, in this case, the 'it' in 'doing it wrong' is 'playing a roleplaying game.' The (ahem) Gygaxo-Arnesonian lineage of RPGs covers just a tiny (deliberately narrow) fraction of what the form is capable of. Since OD&D-derived games are incapable of providing certain experiences that many RPGers desire at the game table, acolytes of (ahem) Gygaxo-Arnesonian adventure gaming are off-base when they claim that post-1984 (or post-whenever) game(r)s are 'doing it wrong.'

    The same applies in the other direction, of course. One proper starting point for criticism is, 'There are things you don't seem to know you could be doing.'

    If I find gold-hoarding and magic-spell-collecting to be stupid activities for simulation and tell you, therefore, that you're 'doing it wrong' at the game table, you have a right to object immediately to my proscription, though defending such activities as 'noble' or particularly grownup is (ahem) quite another @#$%@ matter. :)

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  25. "If I find gold-hoarding and magic-spell-collecting to be stupid activities"

    Good for you, but we've already established that you're a windbag snob and borderline troll with nothing to contribute to anything.

    The "Gygaxo-Arnesonian" (seriously?) principal of challenging the gaming abilities of the player as the core of the play experience may not be how you like to game (although "game" in any other context seems disingenuous to me), but it absolutely is the way D&D was intended by its creators to be played. That's simply not up for debate.

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  26. Gah, I'm just too tempermental tonight. Not even Wally deserves that (maybe).

    Anyway, despite how other games might be designed and despite the ways that publisher's attempted to alter many of D&D's core assumptions over the years in order to embrace Dragonlance-style romantic high fantasy or MMORPG mechanics, or whatever, the simple fact remains that D&D, as its core, was intended to be a game of player skill.

    How was that skill measured? The old Kenny Rogers method: Coming away from the table with your character in one piece and, hopefully, richer and more powerful than when you started. You do indeed need to know when hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, and know when to run.

    I still haven't decided whether or not you should ever count your XP when you're sitting at the table. :)

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  27. @Will Mistretta
    You *never* count your XP when you're sitting at the table. There'll be time enough for counting, when the dice rolling's done.

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  28. "Good for you, but we've already established that you're a windbag snob and borderline troll with nothing to contribute to anything."

    Wow, that is exceedingly rude...

    I wish this comment section had an ignore button.

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  30. Hereby subscribing to Will's newsletter.

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  31. Sounds like he had a great GM. In many cases, a 1st level MU going into a Dungeon by himself is going to be eaten not by orcs, but by rats with the old minimum of 1 damage per hit.

    I'm interested that he made 2nd level as Gary's writings ususally tend to make things look like he prefers a slow but steady advancement.

    Thanks for posting.

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  32. It's quite clear that Mike is describing the "best single evenings of gaming" for him, not in absolute. Personally cannot find anything special or very funning in such evening game description (ran, snuck, threw lanterns and ran). As always is a matter of taste.
    PS "Sounds like he had a great GM."
    really cannot find any clues to said that...

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  33. I wish this comment section had an ignore button.

    Yeah, I'd start by ignoring all commenters whose names start with "W".

    If I find gold-hoarding and magic-spell-collecting to be stupid activities for simulation...

    I still don't think "simulation" has anything to do with it. You can't simulate something unreal, in which category a wizard running around in an underground labyrinth certainly falls.

    and tell you, therefore, that you're 'doing it wrong' at the game table, you have a right to object immediately to my proscription, though defending such activities as 'noble' or particularly grownup is (ahem) quite another @#$%@ matter. :)

    No, what you prefer to do is constantly tell us that we're "discussing doing it, wrong", and imply that you've discovered the key to "noble", "mature" gaming. It's an F'ing pastime, who cares if it's mature or grown up? Noble? Really?! No, really? What's the name of this mysterious and vaunted RPG, "Sandbags and Soup Kitchens"? Give us a break.

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  34. I ran, I snuck, I threw lanterns (fire, oil, and a handle in one convenient package!), I ran, and I ran some more

    Let’s deconstruct that one….

    1) Medieval tech era lamp oil doesn’t explode with anywhere near the dramatic results that many RPG players seem to think that it will - something that subsequent editions of AD&D have been at pains to emphasise. So, the sum damage total of that particular tactic should have been a spray of broken glass, and maybe burns for anything directly hit.
    2) Why should a character automatically be able outrun any monster, and why should they stop following him after a certain point if he’s clearly an easy target? That’s the point where most GMs would be reaching for the dice, and a player’s luck’s eventually going to run out if he tries that trick enough times.
    3) Not giving any of the monsters in that dungeon missile weapons was a definite gift on the GM’s part. A single kobold with a bow or javelin could have put paid to the character altogether.

    In short, it sounds as though he survived purely by GM fiat.

    That said, I’m glad that the individual player was able to have a good time, and run with it. But the anecdote doesn’t to anything to delegitimise the concerns of players who might (a) have a different gaming style, or (b) past experience of playing with “killer”, or at least less lenient, GMs. And, unfortunately, that was what the I have heaps and heaps of “no fucking sympathy" for people who complain it's boring to play a low level MU” comment seemed to be getting at - anyone who finds something that I enjoy boring must be somehow “doing it wrong”, since it’s inconceivable that anyone’s personal preferences or gaming experiences could be different from my own.

    The gaming market’s moved on from the days when a 1st level Magic-User was let loose with a single sleep spell and told to have fun with it. And it’s moved on because that wasn’t a play style that the majority of gamers enjoyed, not because we were all “doing it wrong” and somehow missed the point of the game.

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  35. The gaming market’s moved on from the days when a 1st level Magic-User was let loose with a single sleep spell and told to have fun with it. And it’s moved on because that wasn’t a play style that the majority of gamers enjoyed, not because we were all “doing it wrong” and somehow missed the point of the game.

    The market has moved on, but many of us who played "that way" still do, or at least miss that style. Allow me to address your points:

    1) Medieval tech era lamp oil doesn’t explode with anywhere near the dramatic results that many RPG players seem to think that it will - something that subsequent editions of AD&D have been at pains to emphasise. So, the sum damage total of that particular tactic should have been a spray of broken glass, and maybe burns for anything directly hit.

    There's nothing in the rules that says the oil corresponds to that produced by Earth-standard medieval technology; there are however rules for determining how much damage burning oil does, how to treat grenade-like weapons, how much oil a lamp holds, etc.

    2) Why should a character automatically be able outrun any monster, and why should they stop following him after a certain point if he’s clearly an easy target? That’s the point where most GMs would be reaching for the dice, and a player’s luck’s eventually going to run out if he tries that trick enough times.

    There is no indication in the original account that the M-U PC automatically outran the monsters he fled from. There were chase rules back then, too, if you felt the need to use them (see DMG).

    3) Not giving any of the monsters in that dungeon missile weapons was a definite gift on the GM’s part. A single kobold with a bow or javelin could have put paid to the character altogether.

    Maybe they had missile weapons and missed, or perhaps Mornard's M-U took cover when he was being fired at (thus reducing his chances of being hit).

    I don't think anyone is denying that the character in the story was incredibly "lucky". But, he was also daring (possibly foolhardy), ingenious, and sneaky. It seems to me the session was memorable precisely because success was an extreme unlikelihood.

    Oh, and the old-school sleep spell (though this particular M-U had charm person is nothing to sneeze at. You can kill quite a few nasties in one fell stroke with it (well, okay, you have to slit their throats afterwards, but there is no save!). Maybe this guy charmed an ogre or bugbear or something, too...

    Sorry for the long comment; this is my last word on this post.

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  36. There were chase rules back then, too, if you felt the need to use them (see DMG).

    A question about the D&D/AD&D split: EGG said at the time that both games would continue, but I'm guessing AD&D developed out of the acumulated house rules of Greyhawk (no?), so I'm wondering which one he played in, say, 1980.

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  37. Kudos to both, the DM and the resourceful player!

    I am not a fan of Vancian magic. After all, a guy who saves a life doing CPR once can do it twice and three times in a row, if need be. It's not "one per day". Nor are wizards usign spell points to be spell casting gatling guns my idea of fun and realism. I took a different approach to learning magic, learning spells, practicing them, and casting spells. But it takes a player really into being his/her character class to pull it off. There is no such thing as "leveling up" charcters must actively seek out teachers, knowledge and equipment to grow. Wizards guild is there, but it costs an arm and a leg to join. And you need a license to practice magic commercially. So, you spend your hard earned gold tracking down rogue wizards who might know a useful spell. And who says they want just gold? And what of they are quacks and scam artists? Ergo for warriors and rangers. A Ranger character must spend a couple of years in a particualr envirnment to function at his best in that area. A fighter might know a sword, an axe and to fight in chainmail (and who says everyone can plate up for under 10000 gp?). Historic warriors wore armor for mo ths and years sionce adolescence before actually fghting in it. And which noble knight will teach a mere yeoman tow ear plate when the freeman is not of noble birth? So, there is plenty to do for even a simple fighter. There is a whole diemnsion to D&D besides the Dungeon expedition that rarely egts paid. And there is a historical precedent for this line of thought. Take medieval mathematicians. They were paid a lot of money to perform calculations for builders, priests, merchants etc. People spent lifetimes learning, using and perfecting a method or two, much like wizards in fanatsy. Master mathematicians screwed their apprentices, whom they used and abused. Take a look at Pythogarean school in late Greece. These mathematicians were quite useful and well paid, but the organization was like a secret society and individual students were like cult members. The secret core into which the members were initiated wasn't even that practical. It was the knowledge of tonal system of music notes, where musical note scale was based on a system of strings of exact length and thickness, that produced them. Durign late Greek period (of Roman occupation, I think), there was a panic among the leadership of Pythogorean School that the secret of the Note Scale was out. This was followed by a wave of violence, in which mathematicians of that school were assassinated across the ancient world, those mathematciians who were deemed to be capable of betraying the secret.

    So, my question is, why are D&D magic users invented by modern man with all his experience are so much simpler, poorer, and less pwoerful than a bunch of primitive mathematicians who couldn't even cast a magic missile or a charm person spell? And why is the realistic and detailed character development missing from so many D&D games. Can you see WHY I prefer Gygax to fluff written by commercial artists for the Wizards fo the Coast?

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  38. The market has moved on, but many of us who played "that way" still do, or at least miss that style. Allow me to address your points:

    First off, thanks for the feedback. I’ve got a soft spot for some of the older editions myself (and will be starting my own mega-dungeon campaign this coming weekend), but something about Mike Mornard’s insistence that anyone with a different style of gaming is somehow doing it wrong just strikes me as insufferably arrogant.

    There's nothing in the rules that says the oil corresponds to that produced by Earth-standard medieval technology; there are however rules for determining how much damage burning oil does, how to treat grenade-like weapons, how much oil a lamp holds, etc.

    There is no indication in the original account that the M-U PC automatically outran the monsters he fled from. There were chase rules back then, too, if you felt the need to use them (see DMG).


    I’m not sure whether you visit rpg.net, but Mike Mike Mornard frequently makes the point that he’s only ever played with the “Brown Box” edition of OD&D.

    Did those sort of rules exist back then?

    If so, then it’s difficult to imagine these sort of hit-and-run tactics being viable, as according to the AD&D chase rules, each and every orc in that dungeon would have had an equal chance of outrunning him. And with 3 hp he’d have been as good as dead as soon as one of them caught up and took a swing.

    That would bring the anecdote outside the remit of player “skill” which it’s being touted as, and closer to the realm of dumb luck.

    Maybe they had missile weapons and missed, or perhaps Mornard's M-U took cover when he was being fired at (thus reducing his chances of being hit).

    Again, that’s possible, but the anecdote doesn’t read that way. The subtext seems to be more, “this is what I achieved because of my amazing skill as a player” than “this is what I achieved due to a run of blind luck… monsters were taking pot shots at me all evening, but the DM couldn’t roll anything above a 6.” Which is probably the only way the character could have survived if the monsters had been afforded the opportunity to use
    missile weapons.

    And if the character's success was contingent upon an extended run of blind (and probably unrepeatable) luck, the it wouldn't provide much of a coherent answer to other players who might find playing a 1st level wizard a dissatisfying experience.

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  39. Good for you, but we've already established that you're a windbag snob and borderline troll with nothing to contribute to anything.

    Are you asking me to dance?

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  40. So, my question is, why are D&D magic users invented by modern man with all his experience are so much simpler, poorer, and less pwoerful than a bunch of primitive mathematicians who couldn't even cast a magic missile or a charm person spell? And why is the realistic and detailed character development missing from so many D&D games?

    I think the answer is that D&D has its roots in military simulations (and wargames-inspired 'simulationism' more generally) but isn't really a simulation of anything - so the contract with the designer(s) entails giving up on any pretense of 'realism' in exchange for a glorious heightened sense of possibility/fantasy. From the very beginning, D&D has offered a simple trade: 'Buy this (silliness) and you'll get this (imaginative horizon drawn tantalizingly close).' 'Vancian magic' is literal nonsense but it's a good storytelling tool. Every iteration of D&D from OD&D to 4e has proceeded from a goofy set of assumptions about the way 'the world' works. Well, how else are your wishes going to be fulfilled?

    i.e. Even in the Gygaxian versions of D&D you have nothing approaching 'realism' - neither ecologically nor historically nor, um, alchemically ('Gygaxian naturalist' protestations notwithstanding). And your facility at suspending disbelief is a key component of your skill as a D&D player. The particular edition of D&D you're playing can only vary the stretching of believability a little, compared to the basic silliness of the game's premises.

    I guess I'm just saying, if you want a more realistic version of the game you're going to have to make big changes regardless of the publisher or edition. And if you want those variations to be motivated by something other than selfish wish-fulfillment, your guiding star should always be 'What's fun for all involved?' If you start from 'magic-users "should" display this behaviour,' whatever that might be, you'll always end up inside your own skull. Which makes experiences like the ones described in this heartwarming post impossible.

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  41. Lamp oil is distilled from troll fat (a renewable resource!), which explains both why it's so cheap and why trolls harbour an implacable hatred for all creatures that lack infravision. The distillation process stops regeneration, but traps a little magical potential in the final product, which usually manifests as a small flash on ignition, making lanterns somewhat easier to light with troll oil than with vegetable oil. This release of magical potential explains why lamps can be used as grenades. Magic is unpredictable, however, so that one time in 20 some other effect will occur, most usually the spontaneous generation of a flock of butterflies or 1d12 kobolds. Larger releases of magic are less predictable, producing multiple effects at once. Happily, these tend to cancel each other out, rendering big vats of oil relatively safe.

    Also, dwarves generate large amounts of iron and steel without the need for industrial methods, which explains why those metals are so cheap and plentiful. that they can even be made into disposable spikes.

    Other problems of historical realism are left as an exercise for the reader.

    ...this comment is basically superfluous following Wally's last one I guess, but I'd already written it.

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  42. James
    That would bring the anecdote outside the remit of player “skill” which it’s being touted as, and closer to the realm of dumb luck.

    The character could have been creeping along the corridors listening for danger: the rules are quite forgiving on PCs who move slowly, do reconnissance, scout ahead etc, as opposed to blundering in swords drawn expecting the DM to have provided an encounter whose outcome is predictably suitably "balanced" to the PC power level.

    other players who might find playing a 1st level wizard a dissatisfying experience.

    Perhaps such players should go to other blogs where they discuss these supposedly more advanced styles of role-playing games. Over here we don't care.

    Mike Mornard says he had fun playing a 1st level Magic User. People who come to this blog enjoying Old School RPGs can read his short report and easily imagine why. Those who don't can't and there's little we can do for you.

    And you know what? Should I ever be invited to play D&D/LL/S&W etc again, I think I'll play a level 1 MU too and I'll make sure he or she has the wimpiest spell in the book.

    And if this character dies faster than a summer love then I won't whine and badger the DM complaining about how crappy the game is; I'll just roll up a new one and wait for the party to rescue him or her from the band of kobolds around the next corner.

    And for all Wally's insinuations about "wish fulfillment" in OSR games it's the newer more "sophisticated" editions and styles which pander to that more by guaranteeing PC invulnerability.

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  43. And for all Wally's insinuations about "wish fulfillment" in OSR games...

    It's not insinuation - playing a character with magical powers involves wish-fulfillment (we can alternatively use the phrase 'attractive fantasy' but the upshot is largely the same). This attraction and reward are system-agnostic!

    Then different editions of D&D cater to these (and other) wishes in various ways. The baroque language of the 1e DMG, for instance, conjures wonderful images of otherworldly order, hidden worlds of meaning, archaic and arcane secrets. 4e offers more of a post-video-games fantasy of algorithmic control, allowing for literal programming of the play world. Hence the irritating, dry tech-manual language. Each approach to imaginative empowerment has value; each can be criticized.

    (Ever play Mortal Kombat or Tekken? D&D 4e 'power gaming' is all about combos, which come through card games like M:tG, and which younger players probably know first through side-view video fighting games.)

    ...it's the newer more "sophisticated" editions and styles which pander to that more by guaranteeing PC invulnerability.

    No, no edition of D&D makes such a guarantee; there's plenty to criticize without this mischaracterization, FYI. Though, yeah, there is something about the nasty/brutish/short vision of old-school play that's lacking from more narrative-focused modes of pulp fantasy play. But then that's a very, very, very narrow field of comparison, within which other factors are more worth arguing over.

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  44. "(Ever play Mortal Kombat or Tekken? D&D 4e 'power gaming' is all about combos, which come through card games like M:tG, and which younger players probably know first through side-view video fighting games.)"

    Of course. I myself have a brutal Paul Phoenix game in Tekken (deceptively simple character used in deceptively complex ways) and my Mox-laden M:tG Millstone deck is worth four digits to this day.

    Still, I'm well-rounded enough to not conflate my method of enjoying these games with the proper way of playing another, completely distinct game, such as D&D, AD&D, etc.

    Your attempt to make some case that my ability to enjoy one type of game *on its own terms* contradicts my ability to do the same with another game *in the same way* is transparently self-serving at best.

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  45. Wally,
    D&D is wargaming. My own narrative style as a DM didn't flow and stalled until I mastered the combat mechanics of the game and players could engage in combat at will. The rest blossomed only afer the combat element was in place. The combat and the endless search for treasure (loot) is vaguely reminiscent of the 100 years war.

    There is a way of getting a player involved in all this sophistry, though. It exists completely outisde the D&D rules and setting. First is, as D&D is a storytelling game, you built rapport with individual players and get them involved in the story. Second, AD&D Character classes are based on fantasy archetypes, so you get the player to play whatever character clas they want. Then the players are interested in their own character development, while the DM developes rules, back story and lays out adventuring hooks for the palyers to eagely swallow.

    I have some ideas for magic, but hadn't had a player wanting to really play a magic user yet. I had a thief, and so I developed a bunch of guilds for the player to choose from and fight with (being forced to take sides on the eve of a guild war). I did quite a bit of wilderness design, and then my players all opted to be fighters, rude and inexperienced powergamers who chose fighters with wilderness skills as opposed to being AD&D Rangers. So, I did some work on the fighter class and palying (a basic) fighter became as interesting as playing a spell-caster with as many choices to make, since I was dealing with players who wanted to play WARRIORS. If I ever get players wanting to play Clerics of halfling, my game will end up drifting into an uncharted (for me) territory. And yes, my AD&D game is heavily modified. I stick to the AD&D 1st edition though, because of the great framework of monsters, spells, magical items, weapons, etc.

    Richard, my game might be more historically accurate, but it's not about historic realism. You know how to write a bad story? Make the protagonist great and make the bad guys weak. Typically because the would-be-bestselling author lacks the brains and imagination to make truly evil and truly challenging bad guys, and lacks more brains still, to enable the protagonist to overcome tough challenges. Realism (primarily in combat) and historical accuracy are there to challenge players and their avatars in the game, simply because history has more surprises and challenges than fantasy.

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  46. >> for each in commentList {if (topic==flamewar) {this.ignore()}};

    ...But man, that Mornard game sounds crazy fun. I would play something like that in a heartbeat.

    For all you naysayers, it's doable. Without DM fudging. The way you survive with a character like that is to stack the odds. When you are weak, know that you are weak, and do not fight as though you were strong. Do not fight at all if you can win without fighting.

    When you have to fight, don't fight fair. When you run, throw distractions - even treasure if you must. Take advantage of your surroundings. Quietly slip past danger whenever you can. Make friends and influence people - with Charm Person, if you have it. Let your new friends help you in any way they are willing. Play enemies off against each other. Don't disarm traps; use them to defeat your foes from a distance. Be polite to guys with crossbows. Better yet, be elsewhere.

    Most of all, when possible, win without mortal combat. One of my thieves once slew a two-ton rust monster with nothing more than a ten-foot pole, some rope, an iron crowbar, and a bag of marbles. That same night, he defeated a sorcerer with nothing but contemptuous insults, infuriating his enemy so much that the guy tried to assault him in broad daylight in front of three armed guards. Not once that game did he ever need to draw his sword. The greatest general is the one who wins without fighting.

    I'm salivating just thinking of a game like that. I just need to sucker someone else in my group into DMing for awhile...

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  47. Rob, I salute you.

    More DM's need to encourage that kind of play.

    The closest I have come to that is yesterday in my homebrew campaign the party made a deal with a villain and then betrayed him, then found out that he was much more powerful than they expected and surrendered to him. I had the villain accept the surrender and send the group to steal treasure from one of his allies. The party are on their way to his ally, not to steal her treasure, but to tell her her plot so she can send some of her minions to help them get rid of the villain. I like it when players think out of the box... sometimes you have to show them they are out of their depth before they even begin thinking that way.

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  48. I thought this bit on mastery in video games and how the "painful apprenticeship" works out there might be of interest to some readers here.

    I haven't figured out how it all meshes together yet, but it seems like there's a dialogue here.

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  49. I like to play a tourist in Nethack for that sort of gameplay. Still haven't got to the halfway mark with one yet, let alone won, but it's fun for a lot of the same reasons - Just surviving the first couple of levels is a challenge that requires you to be on top of your game. You have to be either absurdly lucky or an utterly devious bastard to reliably get anywhere with one.

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  50. Richard, the problem wih computer games is that they are "closed systems". Once you defeat enough enemies and filter through enough gear, combat ceases to be a danger or a challenge, you dominate the sandbox, and then go through all of the sidequests to prolong the game. In the ecological world you have the life of the Apex Predator, the Grizzly Bear, the Bengal Tiger, who has no natural enemies (man excepted), and a doomed to death from natral causes or accidents. But the world of men adventuring is not the natural world and not the world of computer games. It has one thing that the comoputer games and natural world does not have: It has SOCIAL CONTROL. Historically,the concept is simple: Warriors didn't raid Dungeons: they pillaged enemy villages, town and castles. This was a self-perpetuating process: You needed manpower, warriors to hit bigger settleemnts. You needed to pay them money for them to keep fighting for you. You needed to be of Noble Birth to have any kind of claim to any tribute and to have any kind of right to raise men to fight for you. You needed ALLEGIANCE to be able to raid with relative impunity while on your own soil. And then you had a vicious cycle: you needed more men to get bigger treasure, you needed to pay more gold for your warriors, and if you got too big you would become a threat to yuor own King, who might start working agaisnt you not to emntion the enemy you raid, who might strat raising an army to destroy you. If you are very good, you might rise to upper echelons of power, if you are snart you might live to die a natural death, otherwise hopefully you get to roll a new you. Let's look at the typical Dungeon. It provides a convenient Treasure Mart and an experiecne mill for leveling up, not to mention a generator for the legions of the guilt-free subhuman cannon-fodder and other monsters with treasure ripe for pillaging. Once the party gets the gold, they spend it freely in town upgrading their equipment and putting magical items to good use. What's wrong with this picture?
    It is as if the player characters exist in a vacuum! The local warlord will almost certainly demand tribute, since the Dungeon is on HIS land. That magic sword, that's a Lord's Tribute! Do you want to steal it from the King and become an Outlaw? Those peaches in the orchard are King's Peaches! That Dungeon, is King's Dungeon. Butlet's say that the local lord is at war with monsters and the adventurers are his friends. If the local chieftan is worth his salt, he would not want the players to be stronger than his men at arms! He will try to control the players by demanding their allegiance and seeking to subjugate the party. Even if the players hit it off and the lord deputizes the party to be his Lone Rangers,there are still other beinfgs to contend with. The too string a mage will raise the ire of a local wizards guild that will try to lay claim to his or her scrolls and magical treasure. Too much treasure will attract the local thieves and they will try to sue the guild to co opt the thief player to become an inside men or if they can not control the thief character, they will rat him out to the constable! A too successful cleric will make waives with his own church and with the priests of other religions. A priest too skilled at turning undead may pique the curiousity of the vampire and the lich dwelling in the region (we no longer dealing with the local county, but the region, since the sphere of influence of anciet dragons, vampires, and Liches would be measured not in villages, but in parts of realms!). A party with too big a treasure trove might attract the local Dragon. The there is the Underdark - the Drow, the Mind Flayers, other powerful mages and other NPCs who may take an unhelathy in the success of the players.
    I am not saying that a D&D campaign should be as oppressive as medieval feudalism in Europe, BUT the AD&D setting offers some unique opportunities to make life interesting for D&D players.

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  51. I like to play a tourist in Nethack for that sort of gameplay.

    And that, folks, is what a man looks like. :) Nethack is the best computer representation of the kind of gaming experience at issue, and the tourist is like a level-0 Nitwit. Hats off!

    @Will, my Tekken comment wasn't addressed to you. It was an aside prompted by the previous paragraph. Calm down.

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  52. Heh, you flatter me too much, I think.

    Despite their reputation, Tourists are tough, but not actually too bad, once you learn to play them. They are about as tough as magic-less wizards, but since they don't use magic well, there's absolutely nothing stopping you from gearing up in the best armor you can find. The trick is just getting decently caparisoned before the monsters get too tough. And since the monster level is the average of your level and the dungeon level, you can actually game the system by *avoiding* leveling. You just let your pet kill as much stuff as possible and sort out the loot when he's done.

    The magic maps you start off with are mostly useless (until you can wash the map spell off and rewrite them as something like blessed Scrolls of Genocide), and you may not get proficiency with magic or most weapons, but Tourists have their upsides. The camera is great for scaring most monsters, the credit card can open locks silently (even if the storekeepers only take cash), and their starting darts can be made into one-hit-kill wundershots if you can find a potion of sickness.

    Plus they start with ridiculous loads of food and gold, so you never starve. Their Quest Artifact, the Platinum Yendorian Express Card is one of the most absurdly powerful in the game. (For those not in the know, it has the power to charge something every couple hundred turns. And I don't mean by paying with credit. Let me just refill my empty Wand of Death...)

    And in the end, you can always hide behind your dog, throw rocks, or frantically scribble Elbereth if you run into something *really* dangerous.

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  53. It's great that the "old dude" has a lot of old school experience. Too bad his "wisdom" doesn't shine through to a new generation. Geezer just always comes off so bitter and beaten. Early this year when I got back into gaming, I checked out rpg.net. Geezer was my first of many experiences with snarky, embittered, hostile personalities there. Upon reading a post about a game someoby had the night before, I shared a bit of one of similar things that happened in one of my games. Geezer commented "stop pissing in the wheaties."

    In communities that are supposed to about sharing, this dude is for sure one of the "Wheaties pissers" that made me decide that certain places online had way too many people that were not worth sharing with.

    And as for the solo game with Gary, running away from things and throwing lanterns all night sounds like crap to me, no matter what you are running or who is running it. There's not enough weed and beer in the world to make that fun for me.

    "Mileage may vary. Yours."

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  54. Brunomac ... the guy telling you to "stop pissing in the wheaties" in that kobold thread actually wasn't Old Geezer, but someone calling himself Old Gumphrey. I.e. a different poster altogether.

    Old Geezer comes across a somewhat grumpy, but overall very friendly dude in my experience.

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  55. Ingmar, they aren't the same guy? Shit, I just thought he got blocked and came back with a similar name. I think they both used the same smiley face drinking a beer animation...

    Anyway, my bad and apologies to the somewhat less grumpy dude.

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