This post by Tim Kask is just plain great. It provides a lot of insight in just what was happening in the early days of D&D when it transitioned from OD&D to the split between AD&D and “Basic”.
We had a little pride, but a lot more arrogance, now that I look back on it. We absolutely felt that we “knew” the way the game “should be played”. We fought off the waves of sexual weirdos on the East Coast with their fascination with Girdles of Sex Changing and more; no Moms were going to let their kids play that stuff. We outlasted the hordes clamoring for Spell Points, the most unbalancing feature at the time that would have had wizards ruling the worlds…. We persevered against the adherents of critical hits and hit locations; didn’t they realize that fighting a really bad guy with something like a Vorpal Sword was going to cost them limbs causing them to bleed out? We preserved the original abstract concept of hit points. We felt that these challenges to the game, as well as many others too numerous or petty or insignificant now to name, needed to be quashed so that the game remained true to Gary and Dave’s vision.
At one point a bunch of would-be “improvers” flat-out told us we did not know what we were doing and should let the game out into the world, giving up all rights. Now that was arrogance.
We shaped and guided the evolution of the game with the supplements. When magic began to proliferate, we saw a way to shape it and expand it in an “approved”’ fashion with new spells and artifacts. We also addressed an area of imbalance overlooked for some time; monsters with psionic powers like Mindflayers were too horrible even in a fantasy game as they wielded an unstoppable weapon. So we came out with a psionics system that was grotesquely misunderstood and misused from its very publication. (As the author of a great deal of it I acknowledge that it could have been done better and explained more clearly—hindsight.) This was Eldritch Wizardry. These were always presented as suggestions and ideas, never rules. It said so in every Foreword I wrote, but we also hoped that our “gentle nudging” would steer the game back.
Read the whole thing!
My favorite thing about it? That side by side, two seemingly contradictory beliefs could be held with utter conviction.
On the one hand, you have this: One of the founding tenets of D&D as it was played in its formative years of ’74 to ’77 was about rulings, not rules.
But on the other hand, you also have the idea that masses of people out there are playing it wrong– and that, if they have their way, they will RUIN D&D.
Many of the things Tim Kask mentions in the post are of course written right into the AD&D manuals in passages from the Dungeon Masters Guide that are singled out today as being written in “High Gygaxian”. That stuff is completely mind blowing to the ecumenically minded gamers of today, of course. But I have to say… if you’re going to play first edition AD&D today, I really do think you need to get into the spirit of things by trying to recapture that zealousness and passion.
Sure, it’s your table and you can do whatever you want. But if you don’t… I think you’re doing it wrong.