19 September, 2010

That 70s Game

Around the middle of August of this year, I began something that can also be seen as an experiment. I say 'also' because the main purpose isn't experimentation or simulation. It's also not just an exercise in nostalgia. The overarching purpose is simply having a good time. However, it's a wonderfully nostalgic and experimental good time that simulates the journey of Dungeon's & Dragons through the 1970s.

The basic premise was to begin playing a game using only the 3 original Little Brown Booklets first published in February of '74. The first supplement, deceptively (to later enthusiasts) entitled Greyhawk, was first published 13 months later. Therefore, the additional material from this booklet will be incorporated (perhaps not in toto) 13 weeks after the beginning of play. The remaining supplements would come in at the same rate, with weeks between adoption standing for months between publication.

However, the LBBs weren't used in a vacuum. Modification and addition were not only encouraged, but actually required to cover all the strange and unusual things players thought of doing. Improvisation during a game to deal with some unforeseen contingency led very naturally to precedents that a group would continue to site in similar situations. A lot like British Law, from what I understand, interestingly enough. To simulate the proliferation of these house rules, the plan was to begin gradually introducing accretions from Whitebox. Why not just our own house rules? It's a game run via message board on a website, so it's nice to be able to have a concrete, objective, individually accessible reference. Plus, there's information about it on the web, so it's wonderful to be able to just stick a link in a post instead of trying to refer to some past idiosyncratic ruling.

A few days ago, three weeks into the campaign, our first few accretions accrued:

  • The Whitebox attack matrices, for determining hits. (these may be identical to the LBB.. I honestly didn't look)
  • The Whitebox rules for turning undead.
  • The slightly variable damage values for different weapons.

I should say also that even before the first pixels had a chance to dry on the page, a handful of house rules popped up like mushrooms after a nice rain. I'm certain these aren't unique to our little game, but I'd never thought about them in precisely the way I did, or came up with precisely the results we did this time. This intrigues me no end, because I've been making house rules for D&D for 29 years. D&D is evidently an incredibly unique experience, which never occurs the same way twice. I've even heard it's a big-time nerd thing, but I've honestly never experienced that.. anyway...

Here are the little mushrooms that popped up. Some of them can be traced directly to Philotomy's, which I internally picture as a wonderfully ancient and dusty little bookstore, with an appropriately ancient and dusty little wizard wandering around inside.

  • Wielding a weapon in each hand gives the sole benefit of adding +1 to your attack role. Pure Philotomy's genius.
  • Helmets are conspicuous only in their absence, as per Philotomy's.
  • A wizard's first spell book has all 8 first level spells in it.
  • A pint flask of oil will burn for 6 hours in a normal lantern. Real modern lamp oil will burn for about 36 hours per pint, but it also won't make goblin flambĂ©.
  • You have to make an attack roll to hit a prone foe.
  • You can try things like a shield rush in combat, just use a regular attack roll and we'll decide what happens based on how you describe what you try.
  • The most substantial house rule to date, the addition of wizard's cantrips.. worthy of it's own post, probably tomorrow.

It seems to be going really well so far, and my hopes are high for more unique and interesting developments. I've also incorporated my desire to (in my case) experience some of the most classic and iconic modules, but I'll discuss that in a later post.

The Troll
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