My recent acquisition of the Advanced Edition Companion put me in mind of my first encounter with D&D. As I’ve written before, I started with the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, which I still maintain a healthy respect for as perhaps the best single volume rules set of all time (although my another GM of mine had a binder of Rolemaster rules that probably eclipsed it, but that wasn’t actually a single product).
Like many groups of the time, however, we didn’t just use one product. Our D&D was a mishmash of the Cyclopedia, a boxed set (sans lid) that held parts of about 3 different D&D boxed sets, someone’s battered AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide, a ton of house rules, ideas from D&D cousins, and “special exceptions” for player accomplishment.
That’s what’s interesting to me now. On one hand, I see little snippets of the game peeking out at me from the classes and tables of Hackmaster 4e, but we used many of the basic Cyclopedia rules—the basics of which I can see in Labyrinth Lord and Swords & Wizardry. There are classes from the AD&D 1e Player’s Handbook, and some homebrew classes that don’t still exist anywhere I know of. There were level limits for demi-humans, but I’m sure they were pretty high. Vancian Magic co-existed with someone’s homebrewed Mana Mage, which predictably used Mana Points to cast spells. Heck, I even think we used armor from Palladium Fantasy, though that’s fuzzy now.
And that’s perhaps the greater point. I don’t know that I could, as an exercise, recreate that game. The rules were not a hard-and-fast thing, and changed as different supplements and trends came into vogue. Parts of it evolved over time, and may never have existed except as a gentlemen’s agreement between players. Part of me thinks it’d be fun to cut-n’-paste, and to try to recreate what I can of it. But I don’t know if what seemed awesome gospel and common-sense to 13 year-old Zack would seem like that to his players now.