Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Recreating Our D&D

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.


Matt said...

And this is why I love the profusion of retro clones - everybody's idea of the perfect game gives me more ways to perfect my game.

Zachary The First said...

@Matt: Well said. There aren’t a half-dozen retro-clones, there are really hundreds of them—each one customized at the gaming table.

Andreas Davour said...

I've thought about those kind of mixin games from yesteryear, and I wonder if they would work today.

Sure, you can mix and match to some extent, but those really gonzo blends seem to work best if you play for hours on end every other day. The best way for them to work is to have them internalized in a way that I wonder if any grown up have time for.