Fifty years ago the first fantasy campaign was announced thusly:
“There will be a medieval ‘Braunstein’ April 17, 1971 at the home of Dave Arneson from 1300 hrs to 2400 hrs with refreshments being available on the usual basis….”
Verily, this is a VERY SPECIAL date in gaming history and Dave Arneson would in a few short years go own to co-create with Gary Gygax one of the most remarkable games ever conceived. On this anniverary of what was the dawn of the fantasy adventure gaming hobby, it is altogether fitting and proper to reflect on just how far we’ve come since then. Or rather, how far we have fallen and how little we appreciate what men like Arneson actually accomplished.
Let me explain.
In the back of the third rules booklet for the original D&D game is a page that is frequently cited by gaming critics and commentators. This is the place where the designers give their parting advice for the revolutionary game they had put together. Rather than write to them with rules questions about how things should work, they suggest instead that “the best way is to decide how you would like it to be, and then make it just that way.” After all, they asked, “why have us do any more of your imagining for you?” Several decades later the vast majority of people within the D&D hobby act as if this were the ONLY significant rule within the entirety of those small booklets.
On that same page is something little remarked upon:
As the campaign goes into full swing it is probable that there will be various groups going every which way and all at different time periods. It is suggested that a record of each player be kept, the referee checking off each week as it is spent. Recon the passage of time thus:
Dungeon expedition– 1 week
Wilderness adventure– 1 move = 1 day
1 Week of actual time– 1 week of game time
The time for dungeon adventures considers only preparations and a typical, one day descent into the pits. The time for Wilderness expeditions would include days of rest and recuperation. Actual time would not be counted off for players “out” on a Wilderness adventure, but it would for those newed in their dens, hideholes, keeps, castles, etc., as well as for those in the throes of some expedition in the underworld.
Why this rule is there exactly is not immediately obvious. If you experimented with it at all, you would understand that this simple and strange sounding idea is one of the best ideas in gaming history BAR NONE. If you were also familiar with just what precisely Dave Arneson did with Blackmoor, you would realize that this rule was the key that allowed him to manage as massive and complex of a campaign as he in fact did.
But this story does not end there. This strange rule did not evaporate with the Blackmoor campaign and it did not remain as little more than a bizarre footnote to the amateurish looking original edition of D&D. In 1978, when Gary Gygax published his phenomenal Player Handbook for AD&D, the type of gameplay that results from this rule is presented as being synonymous with AD&D and a fundamental element of the AD&D game. Behold:
As with most other role playing games, this one is not just a single experience contest. It is an ongoing campaign, with each playing session related to the next by results and participant characters who go from episode to episode. As players build the experience level of their characters and go forth seeking ever greater challenges, they must face stronger monsters and more difficult problems of other sorts (and here the Dungeon Master must likewise increase his or her ability and inventiveness). While initial adventuring usually takes place in an underworld dungeon setting, play gradually expands to encompass other such dungeons, town and city activities, wilderness explorations, and journeys into other dimensions, planes, times, worlds, and so forth. Players will add characters to their initial adventurer as the milieu expands so that each might actually have several characters, each involved in some separate and distinct adventure form, busily engaged in the game at the same moment of “Game Time”. This allows participation by many players in games which are substantially different from game to game as dungeon, metropolitan, and outdoor settings are rotated from playing to playing. And perhaps a war between players will be going on (with battles actually fought out on the tabletop with minature figures) one night, while on the next, characters of these two contending players are helping each other to survive somewhere in a wilderness.
Again, this brief description of how AD&D works is not tucked away in some obscure appendix. It’s right up front just after the introduction in a section that is entitled as “The Game.”
On this, the fiftieth anniversary of the Blackmoor campaign, I am telling you that this is what D&D really is. Further, it is clear from everyone’s comments on this rule that you really have no idea how this sort of game works. You’re just plain clueless. The questions you ask about this are so stupid, it is obvious you haven’t the faintest notion of how to play the sort of game that Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax created.
Even worse than that are the nasty and very ugly people that bend over backwards to trumpet the most flimsy and spurious reasons for why this isn’t actually significant or relevant to understanding the D&D game. These are without a doubt some of the sorriest people I have ever had the misfortune to encounter.
But, hey. Happy “Blackmoor” day, anyway.
Maybe some of you will even play this game called “Dungeons & Dragons” some day.
I hope you do.