Friday, January 16, 2015

Why OD&D is my (sometimes) favorite RPG.

I've seriously played Original D&D, the Little Brown Books, twice in my life.  Long ago, in my early 20's, when I still had the white box and now, last year or so.

Many years earlier when my dad had bought whitebox for me, I looked at the goofy art and put them aside cause at the time I already had *Advanced* D&D. Why regress to something "inferior". At some later point, exhausted with the weight and complexity ("realistic" weather, economy, ecology, etc. etc.) of my own campaign world and especially with the endless splatbooks and crappy products being written by novel authors instead of game designers being churned out in 2ed area. Digging through all my junk found that white box, sat down and actually read them for first time. It hit me, that feeling, the same one wargamers in 1974 must have got. Awe, newness, excitement, wonderment that anything was possible, it would be easy, and fun!  Right there, I rolled up some characters (on plain ruled paper, no special character sheet) and started hexcrawling a random wilderness.

I play / played many RPGs, and try all editions of D&D. But always end up gravitating towards rules lite systems. First FUDGE, then Labyrinth Lord, more recently Swords & Wizardry (which is my 1st choice now). In Austin, TX there is large group of DMs and players using OD&D with shared set of house rules and campaign world, called Planet Eris. In between other campaigns I've been playing with them on/off for a couple years and will be starting my first OD&D Planet Eris campaign next Fri.

The appeal of OD&D (for me anyways) dawned on me while writing this somewhat tongue and cheek response to DM adding ranger class on roll20 (which I don't think you have access to so reproduced below)
BLASPHEMY! Damn you and your rules bloat.Where will it end? Subraces of hobbits? Comeliness attribute? Madness! Our forefathers succumbed to the seduction of splatbooks. Has their sad history taught us nothing! We play the original rules, not because they are old, but because they are NOT NEW! 
Sir, I reject your wanton modernity. And if my fighting trousers weren't in the laundry, I might have been tempted to call you out.

That line, "not new"... OD&D is simple and **simplistic**. There are almost no rules. Which forces everyone to be more creative, to use more of their imagination. Also, nothing new to learn, no new class/rule breaking game, almost nothing to rules lawyer, min-max, or argue over. Even the basis of the game is simple. While you could play massive RP/court intrigue, ODD doesn't lend itself to that. It's heavy on *game*. And a specific, simplistic type at that, the crawl game. Dungeoncrawl, Hexcrawl, Citycrawl. Explore, do stuff with things you've found, explore some more.

It's all so refreshing and easy. Even more so than S&W which has variable damage, more complex monsters, other stuff. Sometimes I feel like gourmet almond crusted chicken with some freaky berry sauce arranged artistically and accompanied by nice wine. Other times I just want a hunk of meat juicily roasted with fire.

Those times I crave OD&D.


  1. You nailed it! I wish there was a Supplement for sci-fi, though. Winging space travel & mercantile swashbuckling is just too much winging for me.

  2. Hey, my ranger class isn't necessarily a class. Its just a fighter that starts with some tracking skills and solo surprise/alertness bonuses. Nothing that other characters can't get through spending time in the frontier with a real tracker until they learn how to do it themselves. Plus, if there are already two trackers in the group, you can't use the "class" anyways.

    Also I'd kill for a Sci-Fi space travel supplement.

    1. Carcosa has some sci-fi stuff, robots and alien weapons

      There are a few sci-fi games in the OD&D style... Stars without Number? and another. Steve, I can show you next time you are over.


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