Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

“When No Play Is Happening”

Aaron the Pedantic asked during the debate if this phrase “when no play is happening” contradicts my interpretation of how strict timekeeping should work in AD&D. Let’s address this.

Let’s be clear about what is happening, though. It is not AD&D that is turning the rpg world upside down right now. It is the approach to running a campaign that spilled over from my campaign and then propagated across dozens of tables in a short period of time. This way of playing allows people to take their campaigns to heights they never imagined they’d reach. They integrate multiple parties, non-attending patron players, Braunsteins, independent domain developers, massive Chainmail-scale battles. Everything opens up!

The people running these astonishing campaigns, they never get hung up on trying to find some kind of exception clause in the text that would somehow give them permission to go back to running rpgs with more conventional techniques. Why would they? This stuff just works! It’s true that there have been times when we have wanted to suspend or alter or fudge our strict interpretation of the time rules, yes. Still, it never makes it into the game. When there are so many independent actors at play, explaining a deviation to them all and getting it to actually stick is all but impossible.

You have two choices at this point, and I honestly don’t care which one you prefer. One option is that Gygax intended that you play like me and everyone that didn’t is a gross nerd that never even once played D&D right in his entire life. This is a really great choice! I love it! Your other option is that I am a game design genius and I’ve improved on what Gygax wrote to the point that it has become a new and unique contribution to gaming in its own right. Given the YouTube grifters claiming this is all in the rule book, I quite like this option as well.

So, which is it? Are D&D players a bunch of illiterate dweebs? Or am I a once-in-a-generation game design genius?

Both suit me just fine!

14 responses to ““When No Play Is Happening”

  1. John April 14, 2022 at 12:26 pm

    Just saying
    Page 2 of the AD&D players handbook. Second paragraph “, and Dungeons & Dragons has become a gaming cult, ”
    hehe.
    Oh well, cheers.

      • John April 14, 2022 at 4:41 pm

        I only really am pointing it out because some people call BrOSR a cult, and then because I saw your post about reading page 7 of the PHB, I decided I wanted to go and read through the PHB thoroughly to see if I can get more insight or inspiration, and saw the note about it being a cult. I thought it was funny. The stream on Inappropriate Characters is the first time I really had heard of BrOSR and I wanted to find out more, but there doesn’t really seem to be a good summary of what it is. Just bits I’ve pieced together about… trying to follow the rules as laid out, and 1:1 time keeping.

    • jeffro April 15, 2022 at 11:40 am

      Here is a summary for you. Good luck with your game, chief!

  2. Jeffrey Boyd Garrison April 14, 2022 at 4:28 pm

    You are a masterful name level illusionist at the very least Jeffro.

    I’m definitely enjoying my popcorn while watching this troll operation develop; please keep dutifully posting progress from the front.

  3. Vince Snetterton April 16, 2022 at 12:34 pm

    I do not grasps how 1:1 mapping works. Assume Party A fights some particularly nasty, and needs 8 days of downtime to recover. Do you immediately drop that group, mid-session and say “OK folks, pull out your chars in Group B, as we are now jumping into that parallel time line on the other side of the continent. ” And what about hand-waving a group traveling for 4 hours to the next town? Do you actually say “OK, Party C is out of action for the next 4 hours.”

    • Nagora April 16, 2022 at 4:19 pm

      Time passes at 1:1 when there is session in play. A journey that takes 4hrs in game passes in as much real time as it takes to check for and resolve any encounters on the way. The party is probably now just a few hours ahead of real time. They continue to advance their game world clock based on the rules until the end of the session. At that point, real world time starts to catch up. If they managed to pass a week in the session then they will be unable to do anything further for a week and if they pass 50 days then it will be 50 days before that group of PCs is available for play.

      With patron play, as I understand Jeffro, those 50 days could be passed by patrons declaring a long list of actions and them being resolved (possibly over several sessions) but for such a large gap I would expect the players to break out some other PCs and get some personal-level action in as well on, as you say, a parallel timeline. DMG pp37-38 touches on handling this, including what happens when the timelines cross, Ray.

      As has been said this is all in the books (both the original D&D booklets, and expanded on in AD&D 1e) and our group had a stab at it in the late 70’s but we were all like 14 or so and didn’t really know what we were doing and it didn’t “stick”. We did have some fun with CHAINMAIL, though. I remember misjudging a charge which took my cavalry past the side of the table we were playing on and the DM ruled we were fighting near cliffs, so that was the end of them!

      For me this is what the OSR is/should be all about – exploring the chances that were not taken or the ideas undeveloped. Not simply finding ways to continue with what became the norm ad infinitum.

  4. Wes350 April 21, 2022 at 1:21 pm

    “One option is that Gygax intended that you play like me…”

    There does seem to be some non-AD&D1e evidence that backs you up on patron play very strongly:

    In the thread on the RPG Site of your appearance on inappropriate characters:
    Lunamancer
    Reply# 67 – Jeffro on Inappropriate Characters
    https://www.therpgsite.com/pen-paper-roleplaying-games-rpgs-discussion/jeffro-on-inappropriate-characters/msg1213444/#msg1213444

    “…To my knowledge, and my knowledge of the 1E material is pretty strong, nothing in there tells you have players jump into domain play, running NPC types, or any of that. Jeffro seems to be just making that up. However, it is absolutely 100% true that Gary did have that exact same idea and wrote about it. And not “sort of” the same idea. I’m talking the EXACT same idea. And I can prove it. I just can’t prove that he had the idea at the time he was writing 1E. Here’s what I’ve got on it, though.

    As some of you know, in 1999 Gary put out the Lejendary Adventure RPG. What’s lesser known is LA was just the fantasy version of a Science Fantasy RPG he wrote that was never published called AsteRogues. In there, he explicitly describes having players play multiple characters, and specifically characters who operate on different tiers of action–like one group that does straight-up adventuring, another that does domain management type stuff, and so on.

    He even gave it a name. The multi-tiered campaign.

    I happen to have a copy of the beta version manuscript. It bears a copyright date of 1994. And presumably he had the idea at some point in time before he actually sat down and wrote it. So the idea is at least that old. Maybe he did have it when he wrote 1E. Maybe this was the vision behind every thing he actually did write into 1E. And maybe Jeffro is astute far beyond his ability to articulate that he was able to pick up on that just from the totality of 1E. *shrugs* I was never able to, and as I said earlier up thread, I put my 1E fu up against literally anyone in the world. But who knows? Maybe Jeffro saw something I didn’t see. Or maybe this is all just a coincidence.”

    I’ve asked for a pic/photocopy/scan of the relevant section, if it says what he says it does, IMHO that should go a long way to silencing critics.

    I readily admit as someone initially dubious of your one true way claims the more I read on the subject that the BROSR has posted. I’m starting to sip the Kool-Aid…

    Even more so in the past week given the way the critics seem to let the BROSR persona short-circuit their critical thinking skills. Ad hominem dogpiles, and especially the lack coherent counter arguments with actual questions has done a lot to push me more towards thinking that a lot of people just don’t want to admit you are right.

    • Nagora April 21, 2022 at 5:21 pm

      “In there, he explicitly describes having players play multiple characters, and specifically characters who operate on different tiers of action–like one group that does straight-up adventuring, another that does domain management type stuff, and so on.”

      This is almost exactly what Gygax says on p7 of the 1e Player’s Handbook, so I don’t see where the mystery is:

      “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.”

      Clearly the 1994 comment is simply reiterating the ideas printed in 1978.

  5. Wes350 April 22, 2022 at 2:20 am

    “Clearly the 1994 comment is simply reiterating the ideas printed in 1978.”

    The PHB p7 is one descriptive paragraph that most people have read and simply glossed over.
    The exact play mode is largely drawn by inference when bouncing what Gygax said on p.7 in the PHB off of playing the game RAW trying to understand why certain rules are there.

    The point of wanting to get a scan of the 1994 doc is that rather than a one paragraph aside, the 94 doc allegedly lays it all out chapter and verse, without having to draw conclusions of what he was talking about through inference.

    It is something written by Gygax decades later that could explicitly confirm what the BROSR is doing.

    I don’t know why anyone in the BROSR wouldn’t want secondary source confirmation written by Gygax. I shouldn’t be the only one filling his message box politely asking for scans of the section in question.

    • Nagora April 22, 2022 at 4:57 am

      OK. But it is worth noting that the campaign style being discussed is basically just a normal old-style wargame campaign with individual adventures in dungeons added. If you look up Tony Bath and his Hyborean campaign from the 60’s (and onward) you’ll find the concepts of players taking different opposing roles from time to time and large-scale development of domains with tactical battle sessions mixed in. I don’t think Gygax knew about Bath in the early days of D&D (although he might have), but the point is that the only element of the campaign play being discussed that was novel in D&D was only the “dungeons” part.

      The patron-play and so forth was just how wargames, including fantasy wargames, were already being played at the time. It would be interesting to see Gygax’s later notes but they are, as you say, from the ’90s. The note in PHB seems enough to confirm that the style of game EGG expected the PCs to be dropped into was the standard sort of game that Bath and many others, including Arneson and Baker, were already playing. That is the context of the game’s subtitle “Rules for Fantastic Medieval Wargames Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Miniature Figures” right there on the cover of the little brown books. It was a context that we, as schoolkids, had no inkling of but in hindsight that long subtitle is almost spelling out that the sort of campaign play Jeffo is putting forward is exactly what Gygax and Arneson were thinking about.

      • Wes350 April 22, 2022 at 12:30 pm

        That’s all true.

        The problem is that most RPG players can care less about how “wargamers” did things back in the day. (Even though every good RPG is clearly a wargame derivative.)

        That kind of logical dialectic, that requires sound deductive reasoning, to understand how early wargame and RPG culture crossed over in the 70’s is going to go over 90% + of peoples heads.

        The BROSR will get far more mileage out of Rhetorical “kill shots”; Like: “See p.7 of the PHB? See p.37-38 of the DMG? See Gygax’s 94′ doc? BOOM, Suck it losers!”

        It fits in a tweet, and the message can be conveyed in nice-bite sized chunks for the masses.

        Perhaps sad commentary on current culture, but it’s what works.

  6. Blackrazor April 29, 2022 at 9:08 am

    PHB Pg 6 signed by Gygax states

    Similarly, even the most important material herein can be altered and
    bent to suit the needs of individual campaigns. Where possible, true guidelines have been laid down to provide the
    barest of frameworks for those areas of the campaign which should be the most unusual and unique.

    PHB Pg 8 part of the same thoughts from page 7

    This game is unlike chess in that the rules are not cut and dried. In many
    places they are guidelines and suggested methods only. This is part of the
    attraction of ADVANCED DUNGEONS 8 DRAGONS, and it is integral to the
    game.

    Obviously, there is no TRUE, ONE, ONLY, BEST way to play D&D, its up to the DM and players. The rules are guidelines – the game will vary from table to table.

    What you have optioned is A WAY – envisioned and played in Arneson’s Blackmoor and Gygax’s worlds – to play. This path comes from the war gaming and domain play past that the original creators and players were involed with.

    This is not THE WAY and Gygax knew this and put it to Paper over and over.

    Guidelines to help with the DM’s world, the DM’s vision and how the DM and players interact.

    That aside, I find that this type of campaigning has many merits and can be engaging and fun.

    A question –
    Dungeon exploration
    In this style of play, the party must leave the dungeon and return home by sessions end? The party may not end the session in the dungeon to pick it up later – next week?

    So if the party descended 10 levels into the depths, fought for 8hrs game time and now are tired, they hand wave returning to the surface thru 9 upper levels of dungeon – assuming they have no means of instant portation. I mean the progress back and the rolls, and the possible oohh look here what was this passage we didnt explore could take many more hours and they dont want to play anymore that night.

    How does this work in this way of playing?

    Thanks

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