Beginning on page 7 of the AD&D Players Handbook, there's a lengthy section entitled simply "The Game," in which Gary Gygax lays out something approximating his understanding of what Advanced Dungeons & Dragons is and how it's meant to be played. It's actually a very good section, devoid of most of the bluster and bombast that unfortunately accompanied many of Gygax's other forays into this topic. I could easily devote many posts to this section (and might well do so in the future), but, for the moment, I wish to focus on a single paragraph toward the end of this section, in which Gygax talks about the role of the referee in using the AD&D rules to create and maintain a campaign.
This game is unlike chess in that the rules are not cut and dried. In many places, they are guidelines and suggested methods only. This is part of the attraction of ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, and it is integral to the game.
Chess is a frequently used reference point in Gygax's discussion of the rules of AD&D, most infamously in his November 1982 essay, "Poker, Chess, and the AD&D System." Here, chess represents a game with clear, objective, and unchanging – perhaps even unchangeable – set of rules, in contrast to AD&D whose rules include many "guidelines and suggested methods only." I find this interesting, because, it initially seems as if the general tenor of what Gygax is saying comports with that of OD&D, but, as we shall see, there are significant differences.
Rules not understood should have appropriate questions directed to the publisher;
So much for "why have us do any more of your imagining for you?" seen in the afterword of Volume 3 of OD&D. It's quite a sea-change in approach.
disputes with the Dungeon Master are another matter entirely. THE REFEREE IS THE FINAL ARBITER OF ALL AFFAIRS OF HIS OR HER CAMPAIGN. Participants have no recourse to the publisher, but they do have ultimate recourse – since the most effective protest is withdrawal from the offending campaign.
That said, I can't help but agree with Gygax here, even if I wouldn't have deployed all capitals in stating it. His advice about dealing with bad referees is practical and effective. I have seen it used several times over the course of my years in the hobby (never against me, of course!). I sometimes think that, had this advice been followed more readily, fewer gamers would today have so many stories of tyrannical referees.
Each campaign is a specially tailored affair. While it is drawn by the referee upon the outlines of the three books which comprise ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, the players add the color and details, so the campaign must ultimately please all participants. It is their unique world.
I like this, though I am fairly certain that Gygax intended a greater degree of uniformity between campaigns than his reference to "specially tailored" might suggest. Nevertheless, his statement that "the campaign must ultimately please all participants" is important. I doubt he meant that it's the duty of the referee to assume that everything always goes the preferred way of the players (and their characters). Rather, he seems to mean that everyone involved, players and referee alike, should have a stake in the campaign and its continuance. That is eminently good advice and true, at least in my own experience.
You, the reader, as a member of the campaign community, do not belong if the game seems wrong in any major aspect. Withdraw and begin your own campaign by creating a milieu which suits you and the group which you must form to enjoy the creation. (And perhaps you will find that preparation of your own milieu creates a bit more sympathy for the efforts of the offending referee …)
I like this as well. Truly, I think more players should try their hands at refereeing, not merely for the reasons Gygax includes in parenthesis but also because I sometimes feel as if many players expect campaigns to cater to their own preferences. Over the years, I've played in several campaigns that, for various reasons, weren't to my taste. In every instance, I ultimately bowed out of the campaign rather than attempting to sway the referee to change those aspects of it that I didn't like. That strikes me as both polite and, dare I say it, adult. If you don't like something, don't partake of it; make your own thing that you do like and have fun with it. Life is too short to bother with games (of all things) that you don't enjoy and whining to get your own way does you no credit.