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Saturday, July 14, 2012

Coming out of the woodwork on OSR

I've been bumping along thinking about restarting an old school D&D game for some years, never quite passing the energy threshold, but Dungeon Crawl Classics has me inspired, so I'm digging into my old boxes for nuggets of good stuff.

I'll start with a bit of personal history. Skip to the next post for something actually useful.
My history with D&D started in with playing Chainmail first as a very junior tagalong to my school librarian and history teacher Greg Novak at the University of Illinois Conflict Simulation Society - a sprawling game with 10 to 20 players on the thin green carpeted floor of the Knights of Pythias hall. My command was a small batch of men at arms and archers made up from 1/72 plastic Airfix Robin Hood and Sheriff of Nottingham figures.

I was hooked hard. Bought a copy of the rules as soon as possible and was playing in my basement, first using Airfix Romans and Ancient Britons and assorted plastic dinosaurs with paper wings stuck on for dragons and bigger toy soldiers for ogres and giants.

A couple years later, January or February 1975 at the local Winter War convention I bought the little brown box of little brown books from Gary himself if I remember right, discounted a buck to $9. As a youthful veteran of Chainmail, I was very excited to get a game that built on its fantasy appendix, which was the part I played the most anyway. It was both puzzling in its not-quite-fitting together and thrilling with the ideas of doing dungeon crawls and long running adventure campaigns instead of one-off field battles. I set up right away and started DMing games for friends from school, some that had already been wargaming, some not. The first game devolved after some months into the worst sort of powergaming, as I hadn't yet learned to rule out some of the sillier possible interpretations of the rules.

I rebooted with a continental map and the intent to inject a bit more roleplaying and less out of whack stuff like undead pyramid schemes based on not putting a duration limit on potions of undead control combining with the rule about new created undead being under the control of the undead that drained them. The second campaign was a good one, lasted 3-4 years, with a continental campaign map pretty well fleshed out, a reasonably balanced set of rules, my experiments into rules writing in devising a pretty good spell points system for magic, and assorted other houserules, a lot of players and a huge cast of characters, a lot of which died at levels 1-2 and the highest couple of stalwarts lasting to around level 15.

I used all the early D&D add ons in the small format supplements, The Strategic Review, the first few Dragons, and a lot of Judges Guild stuff. I used only the Monster Manual from AD&D, was already set in how I wanted to play and a bit pissed at Gary Gygax's transition from the original "play it however you want" to "play it how I tell you to play it" transition in editorials in the Dragon.

By then I had pretty much burnt out on D&D, had also played En Garde, EPT, Metamorphosis Alpha, Tunnels and Trolls, Traveller, and a bit of homebrew, and fell in love for a few years with Runequest and ran that the last semester of high school and into college, mixed in with a bit of Aftermath, Bushido, Morrow Project, and whatnot.

At the tenth anniversary of D&D I had my first D&D nostalgia twinge and started a little brown books campaign again. I wanted it very simple, but patched to suit my tastes. This game ran every month or two for three or four years, with half a dozen regulars and maybe fifteen or twenty players overall. My next post will be the initial houserules handout for that campaign.

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