Back in the day…

From The Dragon #28:

On the change from original D&D to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. (The End, according to Diaglo ) Selected extracts from an interview.

Q. Suppose it is game night at your house; you have a bunch of “normal” D&D players, you’ve invited them all over for their first AD&D adventure, in the new, modified AD&D campaign. What kind of pep talk or briefing would you give them before they sat down and actually adventured?

What do you feel that you would point out, what would you warn them about, etc.?

Gary Gygax: The first thing I’d do. . . would be warn them that the party is over. Things are tougher, more controlled. They really needn’t worry if they are experienced players; role-playing is one thing and fantasy games are another thing, and with D&D or any similar game, for that matter, whether it be something as basically non-complicated as perhaps Tunnels and Trolls, or something as detailed and complex as Chivalry and Sorcery. They have the basic ideas of the game down. They would have to roll whole new characters—they’d have to begin afresh. Their background experience, of course, would be useful to them. And what would they find? A game where the DM is far more able to handle situations as they arise; AD&D provides the DM with a far stronger framework that answers his questions and needs far more explicitly and more extensively than the other systems do.

Q. Along the same lines, then, if someone were to ask you, “Why did you do AD&D?”, is that what you would answer them? Why did you feel that it was necessary to “re-do” D&D?

Gary: I didn’t really “rewrite” D&D per se. I looked at D&D and said, “This is a game form designed for a much different audience than is actually playing D&D.” So what we want to do is to provide a quarter-million, or a half-million, or whatever the number of players and referees is, with a game form that is really usable to them. D&D is only a loose structure and doesn’t answer many of the needs of the DM. AD&D is a much tighter structure which follows, in part, the same format D&D does, but it is a much stronger, more rigid, more extensive framework around which the DM can build his or her campaign. The whole of D&D was built to make the game, the adventure campaign, more viable for the DM who had to put all these hours and hours of work into structuring the whole thing. With D&D, the DM can find that unless he or she had been extremely careful, one winds up with a campaign that lasts six weeks, or maybe even six months, but then everybody is beyond the parameters of the rules. With AD&D, growth is slower, it’s more structured, and it’s designed so that you won’t run out of game in six weeks, or six months. Perhaps in six years you will, but that’s a whole different story.

Q. lf you could predict the future, see into your crystal ball where the letters and responses are at, what do you expect the response to AD&D to be? From the old D&Ders? From the new, unexposed to-fantasy-game players? What do you think it’s going to do for fantasy gaming? For TSR?

Gary: Well, we’ve had some response already from D&D players with regard to AD&D. The letters have basically been: “Gee, this is all different from D&D! Why didn’t you warn us?’ And John Mansfield, in his magazine Signal said, “Don’t think you can plug D&D into an AD&D format, because you can’t.” I agree. In fact, in one of the recent columns in your magazine, I pointed that out. They are different. You can’t do it. Basically, players and referees are going to say, “Thanks a lot,” when it’s all done, because all the work they put into setting up a game won’t go down the tubes in such a short time, as it would with D&D— not in all cases, but in most cases. D&D tends to allow too rapid growth of player-characters and the game gets beyond the control of the DM far too quickly. In AD&D, all of these problems have been taken care of. The character classes have more balance, and the growth rate of player-characters is kept in check far more closely. For the amount of work that a DM has to put in—probably two hours for every hour of play—you’re going to get some real returns, instead of a short-lived campaign.

Q. Back to your earlier comments, that inevitably players will find areas that don’t suit them, areas that may be “wrong”, areas that are treated in a way that the consensus feels to be wrong, whether or not it is, and if the game is expanded upon, or when it is expanded upon, it will be expanded upon in modules. Are the majority of D&D players going to have to pick up every one of these modules, like you used to have to do with all the supplements? You really had to keep up with the supplements to keep up with the ongoing, ongrowing D&D when it first came out. Is this going to happen again, or are you going to be able to take the DMG, lock yourself on a desert island, and have a good time with it?

Gary: This question will take about ten years to answer; it’s highly extensive. First of all, D&D came out in the form it did because it was still a baby when it was done. It was done in a hurry to answer the demands of many hard-core gamers, and it was written for a whole different audience. But even though the audience was different, their basic abilities were not all that different from the anticipated audience. And most of these good people have great minds and imaginations, and nearly everyone of them is going to be able to say, “Boy, that would be a perfect game if only this rule or those rules were changed, and I know how to make it a perfect game.” This is rather typical of gamers, and so they’re going to want to immediately change things and amend things to make it “the perfect game.”

To some extent, this can be done with AD&D, because there is still enough flexibility within therules to allow it, without really changing the scope of the game. As the game matures, and we want to add on, without coming to what would be called perhaps “the third generation of fantasy role-playing,” we will add to it through modules, or perhaps through articles. These additions or clarifications or whatever won’t really be necessary to be obtainedfor any player, because, hopefully, they won’t be earthshaking revisions of the rules. If that comes up, what we’ll have to do, really, is publish an article saying, “this is a horrible revision, please take note, and free copies are available for all you good people who bought it.” But I really don’t envision that. Yet, the people who are active inthis—perhaps not all the vocal ones or the ones you read about, but who generate the volume of mail—have enough questions or enough comments on certain areas, we might then look at a second edition, let’s say, of AD&D to cover these points. Again, if it becomes necessary, it will be well publicized prior to that. We don’t envision AD&D as being an ever-changing thing except as follows: Gods, Demi-Gods, and Heroes is really a necessary part of AD&D, because the deities are necessary to the game. So, eventually, those with viable campaigns move on to add deities to their games. And this will be possible within the next six-months, or a year, or whatever—whenever a much revised and expanded GDH is available. We also contemplate adding monsters to the game because monsters get burned up. It’s always nice to be able to throw a new monster at the players, so. . . . The people in the U.K. are going to have their chance to add some monsters to the game, and who knows? There might be two volumes to the Monster Manual, or three, over the years, but that’s about the size of it: a slowly growing work, as the players want it, not as the players must buy it.

Recently I’ve been browsing through my Dragon Magazine Archive, looking at old articles, seeing what is relevant to today (not much!), and generally enjoying myself.

This interview with Gary Gygax, of which I have only printed a part, was upon the occasion of the Dungeon Master’s Guide being released, in the August 1979 issue of The Dragon. It does remind me of one thing I miss from today’s Dragon Magazine: articles from the designers looking into the rationale for why something was designed like it was. (Too many of those articles are just “This is great! Go get it! It’ll improve your game!”)

It is also interesting to see what Gary wrote about the oD&D -> AD&D shift and compare it to the 2E -> 3E shift. Do you see correspondences? I certainly can.

“AD&D is a much tighter structure which follows, in part, the same format D&D does, but it is a much stronger, more rigid, more extensive framework around which the DM can build his or her campaign.”

As oD&D relates to AD&D, so does AD&D relate to 2E and 2E relates to 3E: the Framework of the game becomes stronger each time.Of course, there is a point where the game can become too arcane for the majority of its adherents. In some ways, 3E has passed that point… though I love the game, I know there are people who have trouble with the knowledge needed to prepare adventures.

Conversely, you have quotes like this: “[I]n most cases. D&D tends to allow too rapid growth of player-characters and the game gets beyond the control of the DM far too quickly.”What a difference from the 3E philosophy! The initial daily play of D&D has disappeared into the weekly or even monthly play of today, and the rate of advancement has changed likewise… of course, I think 3E allows the DM to design better encounters for high-level play than AD&D did, but that doesn’t invalidate Gary’s point!

Gary’s comments on the role of supplements are very interesting indeed. The original supplements for D&D (Greyhawk especially) changed the game in major ways! These days, supplements (mostly) don’t change the core of the game that much, but instead provide new options for the DM and players.

One thing to remember about oD&D is exactly how few the rules were, and how little the emphasis on Game Balance. 3E is one of the most amazingly balanced games I’ve seen with regard to the guidelines I see given on monster difficulty, treasure awarded and PC abilities. Of course, there are some that feel that has gone too far!

The gap between the original three-booklet edition of oD&D and AD&D is as great as the gap between 2E and 3E. The game changed massively over the four years. Gary had released oD&D before it was ready, really, as he mentions in a few articles at this time, urged on by his friends who loved the game.

Through the supplements, oD&D evolved to something very close to AD&D, though AD&D was a big step forward in putting it all together.

Many of you would know the Riftwar series by Raymond E. Feist (Magician, etc.) That came out of a oD&D game run by Steve Abrams. Interestingly, the game was set 500 years after Magician!

However, when I say “oD&D game”, that’s not strictly accurate. Here’s what Feist has to say about the system they used: “In 1975 or so, I fell into a game with some friends at an apartment off campus (UCSD). It was called “D&D” but it wasn’t. By the time I came aboard, they’d already tossed most of the original rules as being “dumb” and replaced them with “house rules” which we got on xeroxed sheets. If you’re old enough to remember the original white box of D&D, you’ll understand how incomprehensible most of the rules were. Anyway, Midkemia was original a bunch of unrelated dungeons, but by the time I came aboard, they had started running overlands from dungeon to dungeon.”

House Rules galore! This was part of what was happening at the time of the release of AD&D. Where today you can go from one game to another and know most of the rules, back in 77 and 78, the entire game might have changed on you! One can imagine how that could cause problems at tournaments, and in those days, tournaments were seen as more competitive (akin to wargaming and chess) than today.

Further to what I was just saying, here’s one additional excerpt.

Q. One of the raps against D&D was that it was too flexible, and one of the great difficulties, particularly in going to conventions or tournaments and such, was: anyone could say, “I’m having a D&D game, and a person from one side of the country would go, he’d sit down at the table, and within ten minutes, he knew he was in trouble, because he didn’t recognize it as any kind of D&D he had ever played. How flexible, or how inflexible, is AD&D in this regard, compared to D&D? Can a player from California go and find a group in New York and at least have some reasonable assurance that he or she is at least going to understand the guidelines and the framework? Or are you going to encourage the massive variants and do-it-yourself additions that D&D was noted for?

Gary: D&D was noted for massive additions and variants that we encouraged, to some extent, without fully realizing the inventiveness of those people who were going to get it, and because it was done over a short period of time, and we didn’t realize how unfamiliar many of the players who would begin D&D were with miniatures and boardgames. And so . . . we encouraged a monster . . .and we are like Frankenstein and D&D is our monster. It’s grown and we want to throw it into the lime pit now and let it. . . . No, in reality, it’s a monster that brings so many people so much fun and enjoyment, even though, as you say, and is also true, that each group plays much differently than the other. We want to still keep D&D going as long as anybody is interested in it, because it is fun, and although you get wild variants, if you’re enjoying the game. . . . after all, that’s what it’s there for. AD&D is designed specifically to answer this lack in D&D in that the players will not be so able to bend the rules nor will the DM be able to bend the rules. There are strong admonitions against tinkering with the integral systems, and what we are trying to do is establish a game that will be recognized from coast to coast, from the Arctic Circle to the Mexican border, or beyond if they read English and play AD&D. This will give fellowship to all the AD&D players, and also enable us to do something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time, that it to establish an international tournament for AD&D, which will allow players from all over the country and maybe even the U.K. and Australia and everyplace else it’s played to get together and compete in a recognizable game where they’re on relatively equal footing for—someday—substantial prizes, perhaps.

Those interested in further researching the origins of Midkemia might want to visit this site:

The flirtation with AD&D as a tournament game can be clearly seen in the early modules: the Giants, Drow, Ghost Tower and Slavers were all part of that early competitive atmosphere.

However, it quickly became apparent that different groups will achieve different results based on who their DM was for the session! The game is too wild for a level playing field. That doesn’t mean that the organisers of these tournaments didn’t try…

Indeed, there’s an early Dragon article which explains that all of the monsters in a particular tournament module were unintelligent to limit the options of the DMs!Ultimately, I don’t think D&D is suited for this sort of competitive play… though it’s limited form (D&D Miniatures) probably is – but then you lose the role-playing element.

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