Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Forty Years of Mass Hallucination!

I am preserving this one here because the narrative flip is already well underway. In a very short time, people will claim that nobody every thought this way about D&D, so enjoy it while it lasts!

From PROFESSIONAL DUNGEON MASTER and Dice Fudging Apologist Black Dragon Games:

D&D isn’t a JOB, and presenting it as such is, IMO, just as “toxic” as suggesting that you are “doing it wrong” if you don’t kill off PCs, or you don’t fudge dice, or whatever. D&D is a game you play with your friends. It isn’t a JOB unless you are paid to do it

It’s crazy to me to watch how assumptions start to become the default. The BROSR dudes suggesting that no one played their way until 2 years ago and that if you aren’t playing this way “you aren’t playing real D&D.” So the last 40+ years of people playing D&D…

… was a massive hallucination, apparently they were all “playing it wrong”. And the story gamers who have decided that DM’s who do not encourage and incorporate extensive character backstories are “not doing their job” as a DM. That’s the default.

That’s odd, because I’ve run and played in games for more than 3 decades and SOME used character backstories, but others did not. I guess all those thousands of tables that didn’t use character backstories had DM’s who were “not doing their job”

So, to any new DM’s out there who are looking to Twitter to “improve their game” or find out how to “run a great D&D session”, I have some unsolicited advice for you.


If you want to have character backstories, then use them. If you don’t, that’s just fine. If you want to use strict time records and 1:1 time play, do so. But if you don’t, that’s just fine. Take all the play style advice here for what it is, someone else’s opinion.

By all means, if you want to try keeping strict time records then follow the people who do so and take their advice, read their blogs, learn from their experience. If you want the big backstories follow those who promote them, learn from them. Expertise is worth mining.

But your one and only responsibility as a referee is to RUN THE GAME. Create a setting (or use a published setting), create adventures (or use published adventures) and adjudicate the PCs actions in game. HOW you choose to do that is up to you.

If your game is low lethality tea party D&D with lots of social interaction, complex backstories and lots of DM fudging, THAT’S FINE. If your D&D is strict time records, super lethal, never fudge the dice D&D, THAT’S FINE.


And don’t let the revisionists convince you that ANY of these things are new, strict time records D&D existed before it was “discovered” by the BROSR, backstory D&D existed before it was made into your “job” by today’s story gamers. These are just styles of play.

Everyone thinks they were the first when they are ignorant of the game’s history and they fail to realize that their table and their friends’ tables are not the whole of the game. Thousands and thousands of tables have run D&D over the last 40+ years.

Thousands of designers and players over the years have tried out variations on the game. Even the most cursory familiarity with the history of the game shows that. It’s not that something new can’t be done, it’s that many more things than you realize have been tried.

My advice is to stop assuming that your way of playing is everyone’s, and stop telling people that they are “playing it wrong”, or that it’s their “job” to play a certain way. IT’S A GAME. Play it as you like, the only opinion that matters at your table is your table’s opinion.

Well, let’s review the argument one more time here.

  1. The 1:1 time rules in OD&D are a exactly that: rules.
  2. Every design element of OD&D and AD&D are predicated on the assumption that the time rules will be in force within an original campaign milieu.
  3. The Dungeon Masters Guide famously and unequivocally asserts the importance of this rule via an all-caps declaration.
  4. Page seven of the Players Handbook gives a capsule description of the type of game Gygax was presenting, and it’s clear that what he took for granted can only emerge at a table that honors the 1:1 time rules.
  5. Any game with D&D branding on it that omits these rules is an intrinsically different game and– compared to the 1970s rule sets– is necessarily broken.
  6. As Gygax himself stated, it is completely fair for someone joining an AD&D campaign to expect to play in an AD&D campaign and not some other game made up on the spot.

Taken together, there is only one conclusion that can reasonably be drawn from this:

If you aren’t playing the 1:1 time rules within an original, old style D&D campaign, then you are playing D&D wrong.

What then of these thousands of tables that have been playing D&D wrong for the past forty years? Just what are they playing, anyway?

Well, take your pick: Pidgin D&D, fake D&D, Calvinball, “Basic”…

Whatever you call it, it isn’t working! Now that the real thing has been rediscovered by the gaming elite, you really ought to consider adding playing in a REAL D&D campaign to your bucket list!

2 responses to “Forty Years of Mass Hallucination!

  1. kywrite March 31, 2022 at 7:06 pm

    Our rules have always been “if you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.” Otherwise, anything goes.

  2. Jeffrey Boyd Garrison March 31, 2022 at 10:16 pm

    Let me start by saying, this is some juicy drama and I totally approve of your post.. as well as others stirring the pot like Lord Matteus. You guys make reading blogs fun with your commentary. Now comes the part where I disagree with you…

    I’m extremely glad and proud to say I have always played D&D WRONG, …from B/X and AD&D onward.

    1:1 “out of game” time is retarded and E. Gary Gygax was retarded (but also a genius). I mean that in the nicest possible way… EGG was a total gimp, not only for 1:1 out of game time, but also for weapon modifiers vs. AC. Both of those utterly retarded (I sure do love that word) “rules” were completely inconsistent and ill conceived; utterly antithetical to someone with a wargaming background and focused on tactical simulation …1:1 game time just makes the whole experience into some kind of ridiculous absentee LARP. There are so many better ways to pass time and have multiple groups by the same and/or different players run around in the world (and many many many old school DM’s have used them), but EGG chose to enshrine the WORST method in the texts.

    I have never used those rules and will never involve myself in a game that uses those rules.

    As to the BrOSR… keep calling them out, it’s funny and we all need this kind of humor.

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