Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Gygax on OD&D and AD&D

Since it frequently gets referenced and because not everyone is familiar with the original quote, here again is the famous June 1979 quote from issue 26 of The Dragon, where Gary Gygax discusses the differences between D&D -- what we refer to today as OD&D -- and AD&D, the latter of which would be completed with the then-imminent release of the Dungeon Masters Guide.
Because D&D allowed such freedom, because the work itself said so, because the initial batch of DMs were so imaginative and creative, because the rules wre incomplete, vague and often ambiguous, D&D has turned into a non-game. That is, there is so much variation between the way the game is played from region to region, state to state, area to area, and even from group to group within a metropolitan district, there is no continuity and little agreement as to just what the game is and how best to play it. Without destroying the imagination and individual creativity which go into a campaign, AD&D rectifies the shortcomings of D&D. There are few grey areas in AD&D, and there will be no question in the mind of participants as to what the game is and is all about. There is form and structure to AD&D, and any variation of these integral portions of the game will obviously make it something else.
I've bolded the phrase "D&D has turned into a non-game," because it's a really remarkable turn of phrase, both in terms of its actual content and because of the way it marks a turning point in the history of the hobby -- the point at which the demands of TSR's business interests took precedence in determining the future direction of Dungeons & Dragons.

51 comments:

  1. I often wonder how Gamer Gary, who would surely have been delighted with all the variations and what people were doing with his game, could put on his TSR Gary hat and write things like that without inwardly cringing.

    I can honestly say that EGG's description of OD&D there would sell that game to me and put me off AD&D.

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  2. In Gary's defense, his vision was a game that no matter where you went - you could 'join in' with little or no adjustment to the way the DM was running things. As he pointed out OD&D was vague and open to interpretation in some places - it was necessary for a DM to house rule just to run a fairly fluid game (I started with OD&D - so I was as guilty as anyone). He is, quite simply, making a remark about rules not settings - and its easy to read more into that particular remark than is actually there IMHO.

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  3. You know in many ways I am glad TSR Gary won out over Gamer Gary.

    Had he not then it is very likely that OD&D would never had lit the same spark that AD&D and even Basic D&D (Moldvay ed) did.

    Certainly I would not have been introduced to it since my gateway drug had been that AD&D Monster Manual.

    OD&D is a great game. But it was AD&D that got the world playing.

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  4. The problem is "Gamer Gary" and "TSR Gary" are not really separate people. You have to take his history whole and total.

    Gary did not always appreciate competition. The idea of "gamers creating just for the sake of creating", which is bandied a lot on this blog and other places, fly in the face of the fact that Gary was also an entrepreneur and wanted to MAKE MONEY. He ALWAYS wanted to MAKE MONEY. Otherwise he wouldn't do this stuff. For instance, he wished he could have patented D&D in the past, as he didn't think he could do that when it was created.

    There seems to be a perception after TSR that Gary was a "starving artist, wanting to make great art without compromise". He did have some principles--he would rarely do stuff "work for hire", and was willing to do things slowly for a (hopeful) long term gain, but if you think he cared more about his "art" than making a profit, you'd be mistaken. He was willing to completely walk away from Dangerous Journeys and unlike D&D, virtually disowned it after the settlement. I'm not 100% certain, but I believe he did Castle Zagyg mostly in the hopes to make more money than he did with Lejendary Adventures, his primary endeavor in the last decade. (When people complain about Gail Gygax "seeing dollar signs", I say--and Gary Didn't??!).

    He hated the OGL, only willing to use it because it was the only way he could legally get close to D&D, and he disliked the homogeneous nature it created, where everybody just creates a variant of xD&D, rather than create new games.

    Granted, Gary did change over time. I'm not sure I would have been friends with him earlier in life, as I think he like the other bigwigs at TSR got a little drunk on the big success of D&D--though I think a lot of people misread the "Gygax Puffery" as ultra-serious dogma. He went from not really wanting to talk to the D&D fanbase about D&D to warming up to talking a lot on the message boards, and he did change his political leanings (going from a classic libertarian follower to accepting the neo-conservative point of view.) So it's possible that he evolved from the so-called "gamer" to "TSR" guy.

    But let's not be so hasty to condemn this. Part of the problem is the current believe that business ruined gaming. I don't agree, and one thing people can say about TSR is that they embraced the entrepreneurial spirit--without that we wouldn't have even seen a D&D.

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  5. That quote is pretty harrowing. But if the intention was uniformity, did TSR succeed? I think maybe they blew it. Maybe Gygax and his collaborators at the time were intrinsically unable to do something that icky, and instead they produced the AD&D we remember, an insane mess of inspirations and cranky pronouncements not at heart different from OD&D.

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  6. The funny thing is that with time AD&D became a "non-game"...that is, heavily houseruled out the wazoo at every individual table with only a slim similarity from gaming club to gaming club. 2E is really just someone's houseruled 1E game, and so on. Perhaps only the RPGA really kept any sort of uniformity for the purpose of tournament play. This "by the book" mentality a lot of old timers swear by is nonsense, if anyone (like me) remembers gaming with another group and being handed a 15 typwritten page screed on their houserules....

    But the point is that without AD&D and it's uniformity the game would never have become the most played RPG of all time. EGG was right.

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  7. But it was AD&D that got the world playing.

    Was it? I've long been under the impression that most people who played D&D back in the day played some version of OD&D and that it was only the diehard, committed gamers who played AD&D. Granted, it's possible, even likely, that TSR made more money off guys like me who bought all the stuff they produced for AD&D, but I'm far from certain that it was AD&D that made the game the fad it was in those days.

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  8. But let's not be so hasty to condemn this. Part of the problem is the current believe that business ruined gaming. I don't agree, and one thing people can say about TSR is that they embraced the entrepreneurial spirit--without that we wouldn't have even seen a D&D.

    Speaking only for myself, I don't begrudge anyone's making money from selling RPGs, least of all Gary (though it is a pity how much effort was put into preventing Dave Arneson from sharing in D&D's financial success). What bugs me, though, is the official denigration of the very qualities of OD&D that attracted people to it in the first place. It's that which seems both out of bounds and, frankly, unnecessary.

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  9. But the point is that without AD&D and it's uniformity the game would never have become the most played RPG of all time. EGG was right.

    Again, was it? I honestly don't know. Everyone seems to have this notion that AD&D sold better and was more widely played that good ol' D&D, but is that actually true? AD&D might have generated more income for TSR from a smaller pool of people than did D&D, but I'd be amazed if more people actually played AD&D than played D&D. I suspect most casual players of the game -- of which there were many during the heyday of the gaming fad -- played some version of D&D.

    But I am willing to be corrected on this point if someone can point me to data to support it.

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  10. I have to admit I don't see anything strange about that quote. Gary certainly believed in a group figuring out how to resolve rules ambiguities on their own, a vital skill given a game that allows you to attempt anything, but I always felt like he was a strong believer in rules as well. For instance, there was/is a lot of talk about player skill in the OD&D/OSR world; something which only makes sense when a player can have some reliable expectations about the game. I'm a big chess fan, and if you tweak a few rules I can still play fairly well. Change enough and eventually we are playing checkers. That's what he meant by a "non-game", IMO.

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  11. "Everyone seems to have this notion that AD&D sold better and was more widely played that good ol' D&D, but is that actually true? AD&D might have generated more income for TSR from a smaller pool of people than did D&D, but I'd be amazed if more people actually played AD&D than played D&D."

    In 1978/79 I hadn't even HEARD of D&D or the white box. Certainly it wasn't sold anywhere I shopped. It wasn't until the AD&D books started appearing on shelves that the game took off (in my area anyway), and took off it did, with groups popping up everywhere using the Idol cover rulebook. At one point it became ubiquitous to see kids at school, library, etc with the PHB under their arms. I didn't even see a white box until the early 80s, if then. Of course this is entirely anecdotal...but I bet if you talked to any casual player of the 80s they would point to the 1E PHB, and not the White Box, as their entry drug...

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  12. When I was introduced to the game in the mid-80's, I thought (logically, I think) that the "A" in AD&D was to distinguish it from B/X. I didn't even realize OD&D existed until much later.

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  13. Within this key quote there is this -- "There are few grey areas in AD&D, and there will be no question in the mind of participants as to what the game is and is all about."

    Well, that's just flat-out ridiculous. AD&D caused far more ongoing rules debates than OD&D ever did. I almost feel like there's a case for temporary insanity when this passage got written.

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  14. "But the point is that without AD&D and it's uniformity..."

    I see this as simply mythology that was seeded by this particular essay that James has dug up. Regardless of how much EGG said in advance that it would be so, I just can't see the facts on the ground as supporting "AD&D uniformity". More stuff, yes. More uniform, no.

    I'm pretty willing to believe that AD&D sold gobs more than OD&D. But I would believe in form-factors like hardcover books enabling students to carry the game to school. I'm just consistently, deeply dumbfounded at the "AD&D uniformity" belief.

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  15. "Everyone seems to have this notion that AD&D sold better and was more widely played that good ol' D&D, but is that actually true?... But I am willing to be corrected on this point if someone can point me to data to support it."

    I keep this chart on my wall: a poll at ENWorld in 2006 on "What date did you start playing?". The super-spike occurs in what we all know as the fad years: 1978-1984. That spike starts right when the MM was released, and has up to 10 times more people starting (being long-term gamers still active in 2006) than in the years prior.

    Perfect data could only come from TSR/WOTC, which they won't do. Like you, if someone had better data than this I would like to see it.

    http://www.superdan.net/download/startplaydate.xls

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  16. The Lord of Darkwolf Keep wrote:

    In Gary's defense, his vision was a game that no matter where you went - you could 'join in' with little or no adjustment to the way the DM was running things. As he pointed out OD&D was vague and open to interpretation in some places - it was necessary for a DM to house rule just to run a fairly fluid game

    The irony here is that we wound up house-ruling AD&D just as much to make it fit our local needs. And that happened all over the country. Really, I had to laugh reading that quote from Gary: it's marketing copy, meant to head off one of the earliest "edition schisms." :)

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  17. Most estimates that I have seen (including those from the Acaeum) put the ENTIRE total print runs of the OD&D box set at less than 50,000. As a comparison, the FIRST printing of the Monster Manual alone was 50,000.

    Based on those numbers, it is easy to argue that AD&D reached vastly more players than OD&D ever did...

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  18. James:

    Was it? I've long been under the impression that most people who played D&D back in the day played some version of OD&D and that it was only the diehard, committed gamers who played AD&D.

    That's not how I remember it. By the very early 80s, everyone (at least in my area) was playing AD&D, if they played a form of D&D. No one was playing OD&D.

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  19. OK, let me clarify something here, since I think I wasn't clear. When I talk of "OD&D" in this context, I'm obviously not talking about the White Box but its most direct descendants, the Moldvay and Mentzer sets. It's these versions of the game that, in my experience, were more widely played than AD&D, at least among casual gamers -- you know, the guys who played every now and again but we're diehard types like my friends and I were.

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  20. I think the key moment in understanding this quote is the moment an experienced player joins another group and, upon asking the question "So, how do you guys play it?" gets the answer "Pretty straight by the book".

    In OD&D that answer is almost worthless. In AD&D it carries you a long way. Not as far as Gary hoped, I think, but certainly a lot further than in D&D.

    No RPG worth the name will ever be a complete game in the sense that Monopoly or Hare and Tortoise is, and perhaps even at the start of AD&D Gary hadn't realised that. But it is possible to reduce the chance that a new player will spend most of the first night trying to work out what his character can and can't do compared to playing in their previous campaign.

    As regards Red Box Vs AD&D - I've never seen Red Box played. Ever. I did know someone that had a copy, but everyone I've ever played D&D with played AD&D (OD&D or Holmes before AD&D came out).

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  21. James:

    Ah, I see. Still, in my area, the B/X and BECMI versions were largely passed over for AD&D 1E as the gateway into the hobby. That could have been our local anomaly, however.

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  22. Anthony,

    No, I'm thinking my experience is the anomalous one, not anyone else's.

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  23. I often wonder how Gamer Gary, who would surely have been delighted with all the variations and what people were doing with his game, could put on his TSR Gary hat and write things like that without inwardly cringing.

    Judging from his later writings, I think it quite likely that Gygax wanted D&D to be like chess in terms of its tournament potential. That is why AD&D had to be stricter and more defined.

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  24. http://www.superdan.net/download/startplaydate.xls

    Thanks for that spreadsheet; it's really interesting. What's especially noteworthy to me is how flat everything after 1984 is, with an occasional small spike here and there. In this context, you can see that 3e's success, while real, wasn't any bigger than other post-84 spikes and somewhat smaller than some of them.

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  25. Judging from his later writings, I think it quite likely that Gygax wanted D&D to be like chess in terms of its tournament potential. That is why AD&D had to be stricter and more defined.

    Yes, the chess analogy is one that Gygax sometimes used, most famously in "Poker, Chess, and the AD&D System," in which he compared AD&D to Poker according to Hoyle or tournament rules chess. This is likely one of the most famous appearances of "TSR Gary," as he denigrates the introduction of "extraneous material tinkered onto" AD&D as apt to "bring it down to a lower level, at best, ruin it at worst."

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  26. Part of the difficulty in determining which as the bigger "gateway" must stemn from the fact that so many of us back in the 1970s and 1980s played somke strange hybrid of D&D and AD&D. My friends and I all bought and used the AD&D books, of course, but we had mostly started out on Holmes or Moldvay/Cook and simply used the AD&D tomes to enhance the game we were already playing. Were we really playing AD&D as writ? No way! But did we all own all of those core AD&D books? Absolutely! So how do we really "read" the sales and publication data based upon the blurriness of this line?

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  27. "Thanks for that spreadsheet; it's really interesting. What's especially noteworthy to me is how flat everything after 1984 is, with an occasional small spike here and there. In this context, you can see that 3e's success, while real, wasn't any bigger than other post-84 spikes and somewhat smaller than some of them."

    Yeah, like I say, it's the one and only thing D&D-related I have on my wall over my computer to remind me about the overall context of things.

    I do share the popular impression that 3E sold a lot by virtue of bringing older gamers back to the game. New gamers, doesn't look like it.

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  28. James,

    Thanks for the quote. That was just great.

    I'll put my input in on the Moldvay books vs. AD&D. All I can say is that for me, the early 80s, I thought that Basic and Expert D&D were the steps one took before going to AD&D. I didn't realize they were two different systems until much later.

    I think many of us who came into the game in the early 80s as teens and preteens that this may have been the impression. Most of us were very fluid in our use of the rules between the systems.

    However, as I got older and started picking up Dragon I tended to take the rules as a more "official" source and tried to stick to them better. This probably comes from reading about "tournament play" and picking up tournament modules at the store. This made me think of the game more like chess and other games along similar lines.

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  29. I don't know if this has been said before but... D&D was always a non-game. It's not a game (or at least, not primarily a game).

    It's a hobby.

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  30. I think that what Gygax was pointing out was the fact that OD&D wasn't meant to be as ambiguous as it was. It was either a failure of his writing, failure of the editing, or lack of eyes upon the initial manuscript that resulted in a playable, but horribly explained game. That's why Holmes was done, to clean up the manuscript. AD&D went further and did a better job of presenting what Gygax viewed as the heart of the game. I don't think the quote is purely a business decision, but actually a response to the fact that the OD&D rules poorly presented Gygax's ideas and led to many misinterpreted passages. There is a difference between open ended by choice and poor writing/editing and OD&D was definitely the second kind. Not to say that the game wasn't open ended, just that the writing needed a redo to clearly explain the areas that were open versus what were meant to be the pillars of the game.

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  31. It is interesting how different gamers percieve things. As I have stated before, I come from the Electrum Age of gaming (just prior to the Hickman Revolution) circa 1981/82.

    I started gaming with the Moldvay set despite all the advice that I should move directly onto AD&D. In retrospect, that advice was correct, as AD&D offered the complexity and the structure that I found so sorely lacking in OD&D. Therefore, I can understand business Gary's decision to codify the rules. But, as you said elsewhere James - AD&D came as the perfect storm phenomena only to be duplicated by other perfect storms such as the rise of Magic CCG or proliferation of MMORPG we are now witnessing.

    But, as your librarian wife, I am sure tells you, bodies of knowledge are never static they grow, float and interact with other bodies of knowledge. One of those surely must be the need to bring things under one roof and in the 1980s - that meant codification and standardification - hence AD&D was born.

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  32. I would have to say in terms of success it was the wild success of OD&D that made it possible for TSR to put AD&D in every Waldenbooks in the country. Having started with OD&D '75 I am perhaps a bit biased. I have no idea how Holmes/Molvay stack up against AD&D. I know my efforts to push the Holmes as both a cleaner and more comprensible game fell on deaf ears, the old schoolers woouldn't give up their rangers, assasians and palidians, and the twelve year olds just starting out wouldn't be caught dead playing "baby" D&D. Just my thoughts from days gone by.

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  33. FWIW, nobody in Toronto played B/X or OD&D when I got into gaming (1981). AD&D was it.

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  34. I'd say Gary's reason was heavily influenced by wanting to retain creative control of the game. As in "this is how the game should be played," as well as actual creative control of the product. Some of the more popular variant games/campaigns/worlds did seem to offend his sensibilities of play.

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  35. I got the white box around 1976, some time before I started hanging out through my teens at the local Santa Monica game shop. I think the place was Chess and Games, and I wasn't even aware of shops devoted to rpg's and wargames.

    Flash forward a year or two later and the Monster Manual really opened my eyes. AD&D was like going from beer to whiskey. There was so much satisfaction built into PHB and DMG. So much fun to read, even the stuff I would never end up using. Without AD&D, I would probably have stopped gaming by the time I was 18. I liked OD&D, but I fell in love with AD&D.

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  36. @brunomac:

    Was that the Chess & Games on Pico and Westwood? I loved that store. It's where we first picked up the MM and PHB and thought we were supposed to meld it with the Holmes version we were using. (As the saying goes, "hilarity ensued. :) )

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  37. "Part of the difficulty in determining which as the bigger "gateway" must stemn from the fact that so many of us back in the 1970s and 1980s played somke strange hybrid of D&D and AD&D."

    I'll say! I was introduced to D&D by an older cousin, who had at least the AD&D PHB. It could have been pre-DMG, but I suspect it was in '79. Anyway, I created a character (a half elf Ftr/M-U/ Thief, I still have the sheet around, believe it or not!) and got hooked. I then got the Holmes Basic Set, and at a later point the PHB, MM, and Greyhawk Supp. I (NOT the DMG! My mom was creeped out by the cover - no joke!) Eventually I did get the DMG, though, and played full AD&D. Primarily, though, it was Holmes that was my gateway drug...

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  38. Hmmm... Interesting timing on this article...

    James Wallace posted last week on what constitutes a game here...

    http://www.spaaace.com/cope/

    ...and 0D&D pretty much qualifies, as does AD&D. So 0D&D really can't be a non-game.

    The diversity of play styles though would result in a fractured player base, however I'm not sure that didn't happen anyway over the long run. Just took a bit longer after everybody rallied around AD&D 1e.

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  39. I disagree re. prevalence of LBB or Holmes v. AD&D.

    I started playing in 78 in junior high when just the MM was out. We used Holmes but it had only levels 1-3. We used the OD&D combat charts and exp tables past 3rd level + cool stuff from Greyhawk/ Blackmoor/ Eldritch Wizardry. When the PHB came out we adopted that, and when the DMG finally came out we did not use OD&D any more.

    I always liked the 3-alignment system better than AD&D's 9 (due to reading Moorcock I'm sure) though.

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  40. "the point at which the demands of TSR's business interests took precedence in determining the future direction of Dungeons & Dragons."

    I find it a little surprising that you're so unwilling to take Gygax at his word and instead speculate on ulterior motives. Perhaps he honestly believed that a more standardized take on D&D was the best thing for the game's long-term viability as a pastime.

    Then again, I myself have of sympathy for the idea that "AD&D rectifies the shortcomings of D&D." I've often get the inkling that exponents of the OSR, creative as they are, could benefit greatly from a single common set of assumed rules (serving the role that AD&D did during its ascendancy in the pages of Dragon Magazine) and a tempering of the seeming drive to "out-gonzo" each other. :)

    I think perhaps the powerful drive to react against the sort of mindset that Gygax's quoted text exemplifies can itself lead astray, swinging the pendulum all the way from the most staid yin to the most wild yang with nary a shade in-between.

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  41. My point being that in the circle of gamers I was part of, we used OD&D out of necessity before AD&D was available but dropped it as soon as AD&D was complete. Newcomers after the DMG came out would have had no exposure to the LBBs. I suspect this was a common pattern at that time.

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  42. I started gaming with traveller in 1979 in the UK. My second game was 1st ed AD&D. No-one knew of OD&D. I bought Basic D&D, thinking it was the step before AD&D. But I also played in AD&D games. I realised B/X was a different game and that I preferred it's simplicity (which was also probably more 'organised' than AD&D). So I ran B/XD&D and played AD&D and had never heard of OD&D. I also played T&T solos the whole while. I then discovered RuneQuest and I didn't play or run any D&D again until 3e.

    I have seen OD&D and am amazed at how loose it is. I can see how EGG wanted to harmonize it in AD&D like chess. What I am intrigued by is why TSR also harmonized it in a separate way in BXD&D.. I mean I much preferred the Moldvay game, but I wonder why TSR backed 2 horses.

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  43. I like the suggestion that a huge point of acceptance for AD&D was the fact it was in hardback from. I know in the middle of high school anything to make one look less nerdy was happily embraced. As sad as it sounds, carrying around the PHB or DMG (as many students did at the time) between classes mixed in with other books was far preferable to carrying a little white box or the softcover Holmes edition (the only other rulesets available at the time).

    I will also say that the release of AD&D stopped the worst excesses of the wide open OD&D style. While I hadn't heard of OD&D before buying the AD&D hardcovers, we began to discover that AD&D was based on an earlier version by reading back issues of Dragon magazine. The few gamers who came into our groups having played OD&D were uniformly negative in their appraisal if the system...which most of the time stemmed from the fact their DM was a lunatic. The "wide open style" it seemed was just another name for the DM doing whatever he wanted and if the DM wasn't good (which seems was often) this resulted in a style probably unlike any EGG ever imagined. In retrospect I believe EGG realized the vague rules of OD&D were leading to lots of games that were actually nothing like "his" version of D&D, and this would hurt the game if he wanted to expand beyond a hardcore group of dabblers to a mass audience.

    The PHB for the first time swung a bit of the power into the player's hands, as they could point out specific passages to back up their decisions (and led to the development of the rules lawyer, unfortunately) and avoid the routine screwing they got at the hands of bad DMs. By making the rules more "solid" and less flexible, the "hobby" became more of a "game", and attracted far more people.

    I think in this way EGG did the game a huge favor, as someone else said had AD&D never been released there would be no Dungeons & Dragons to speak of in this day and age.

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  44. "So does OD&D not include B/X?"

    Most would say "no" to that. Wikipedia: "The original Dungeons & Dragons, now referred to as OD&D, was a small box set of three booklets published in 1974..."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%26D#Edition_history

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  45. Interesting. I would consider B/X to be OD&D's "second edition," while BECMI would be the third.

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  46. I remember seeing the OD&D booklets in my local shop in 1979: they were sagging, neglected and gathering dust on a spinning rack.

    I bought Blackmoor, out of curiosity, and recall asking the cowboy at the register if these booklets were any good. He shrugged and said why bother.

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  47. I concur with Anthony, B/X is OD&D 2E.

    Just to comment on D&D vs AD&D. The big spike between 1978-1984 also corresponds with the release of three editions of the D&D Basic Set. And while I would agree that most people I knew played AD&D, but I know a lot more people that purchased D&D and played it little or not at all. I bought my copy of Moldvay in the toy section of a department store! I had friends who had copies on their shelf or in their closet, but when I asked them they said they'd tried to play once but didn't really like it. I suspect Basic sold far more copies than AD&D, but only a fraction of buyers became gamers.

    I DM'd B/X but everyone else I knew ran AD&D. If I wanted to play in their games I had to switch.

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  48. Interesting. I would consider B/X to be OD&D's "second edition," while BECMI would be the third.

    I tend to think that way too, although the whole thing is very convoluted, given the interplay of various forces that were brought to bear on all the post-White Box versions of the game.

    For myself, I think Moldvay/Cook/Mentzer at least (and probably Holmes too) have some claim to being called "OD&D" inasmuch as they're not descendants of AD&D, which was a self-conscious effort to break with and improve upon OD&D, for good and for ill. Granted, most people -- myself included -- would note that Moldvay/Cook/Mentzer exhibit a number of dissimilarities with OD&D too, so I fully understand those who'd rather not consider them under the OD&D umbrella.

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  49. I've often get the inkling that exponents of the OSR, creative as they are, could benefit greatly from a single common set of assumed rules (serving the role that AD&D did during its ascendancy in the pages of Dragon Magazine) and a tempering of the seeming drive to "out-gonzo" each other. :)

    The thing is the OSR does have a common set of assumed rules, namely D&D. But which D&D, some may ask? That's the glory of it: all versions of TSR D&D, even 2e, are about 90% compatible with one another without much difficulty. The same is true of its various retro-clones. There's really no more need for an officially anointed common ruleset today than there was back in the day; we already speak the same language.

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  50. > Everyone seems to have this notion that AD&D sold better and was more widely played that good ol' D&D, but is that actually true?

    Undoubtedly so, judging by the largest survey of the time (1986 in WD): AD&D as "first choice" of RPG outweighed D&D by 2,012 to 714 from 5,300 or so responses.
    D&D was still behind as a "second choice" despite cross-voting between the two.
    Ca'n't see any way in which that lead would've been eroded in the later 1980s...

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