Musings on OD&D’s 50th Anniversary

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merias
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Musings on OD&D’s 50th Anniversary

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From https://smolderingwizard.wordpress.com/ ... niversary/

Late January of 1974 marked the first printing of Dungeons & Dragons. I’ve seen various dates, but the last week in January seems to be commonly cited. I was six at the time – a bit too early for me to have been aware of it – but it was still widely available in hobby shops when I started playing AD&D in 1979.

I had an Original Collector’s Edition (OCE) “white box” set at one point back then, along with Greyhawk and the other supplements, but I didn’t really get into 1974 OD&D (3LBBs) until the OSR and retro-clone movement gained steam and brought me back into the hobby. It was Swords & Wizardry White Box that really made me take a closer look at OD&D when the former was published in 2009. Since then, I’ve played or run more hours of OD&D or OD&D clones than any other RPG – it’s far and away my favorite iteration of the game.

Wayne Rossi called OD&D “lightning in a bottle”, and I think this is the most accurate phrase I’ve seen to describe the 3LBBs. It brings to mind the open-ended nature of the game, the ability the 3LBBs give you to create something unique and fun from the framework presented in the booklets. Not that other RPGs are or were not fun to play, but many have been forgotten, while just reading the little OD&D booklets to this day, 50 years later, still inspires me to play it (by the way, Wayne’s compiled “OD&D Setting” posts are a neat look at the implied world as presented in the 3LBBs).

What I love most about OD&D is the simplicity of the “alternative” combat system, the detailed exploration rules, as well as the relative unimportance of ability scores to PC class choice. Everything is simple and play is fast – game prep can be minimal. Role play and exploration trumps the character sheet, and in my experience, when the referee and players embrace that play style, great things can happen.

The OD&D PDFs are available on DTRPG or via creative searching, and if you haven’t at least read them, I encourage you to do so, if nothing else for the creative inspiration.

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William
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Re: Musings on OD&D’s 50th Anniversary

Post by William »

I've read the PDFs of the LBBs and the supplements and it's a fascinating read. It's a shame that they aren't available as print on demand booklets but never mind. It can all be a bit of a jumble with the organisation, but I suppose that's because it was being created as they wrote it, which is obviously very forgivable.

OD&D via Swords & Wizardry is my favourite form of D&D tied with AD&D 1e/ OSRIC, as both provide a different feel and play experience - S&W/ OD&D is more customisable and a bit lighter in it's feel, though it's still (at least to me) very Swords & Sorcery feeling, whilst AD&D 1e/ OSRIC is more rigid and more of a toolbox that's already been created as canon, plus it (AD&D 1e) has (at least to me) a bit more of a dark, gritty, arcane feel. Gary's World of Greyhawk fantasy setting also carries this darker feel (at least to me).

I've never played OD&D "as is" from the PDFs or the White Box and supplements, though I would like to someday. I am currently making a start on my Blackmoor campaign using S&W Complete Revised, fleshed out with other rules, monsters, spells, and treasure from B/X D&D (we started on Saturday the 20th of January). It would obviously be interesting to use actual OD&D material, but I prefer actual books at the table, and PDFs just for reference, so unfortunately that isn't going to be happening. WOTC are due to release an OD&D anniversary collector's box, and whilst I don't like giving them my money I might (?) just make an exception for that one.

I've heard a variety of different dates for the release of the White Box too, but I have most commonly heard the 30th of January. That doesn't mean that it's correct though, and I'm not going to argue if people have other dates to put forward as I wasn't born until near the end of 1975, so it's not like I'm "in the know" or anything.

Bill
Swords & Wizardry....in Blackmoor!
AD&D 1e/ OSRIC
Conan
Greyhawk (1e)
Lankhmar
Ravenloft

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merias
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Re: Musings on OD&D’s 50th Anniversary

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William wrote:
Wed Jan 24, 2024 11:11 pm
I've read the PDFs of the LBBs and the supplements and it's a fascinating read. It's a shame that they aren't available as print on demand booklets but never mind. It can all be a bit of a jumble with the organisation, but I suppose that's because it was being created as they wrote it, which is obviously very forgivable.
I was lucky enough to snag one of the special edition sets in 2013, but I agree the rules are not well organized. The Greyharp single volume edition is much better in that regard. I had a POD copy of the Greyharp PDF printed up for table use that I don't have to feel bad about marking up.
OD&D via Swords & Wizardry is my favourite form of D&D tied with AD&D 1e/ OSRIC, as both provide a different feel and play experience - S&W/ OD&D is more customisable and a bit lighter in it's feel, though it's still (at least to me) very Swords & Sorcery feeling, whilst AD&D 1e/ OSRIC is more rigid and more of a toolbox that's already been created as canon, plus it (AD&D 1e) has (at least to me) a bit more of a dark, gritty, arcane feel. Gary's World of Greyhawk fantasy setting also carries this darker feel (at least to me).
I've played a lot of S&W WB, and it (the first printing anyway) has the same feel as the original. It's funny that despite playing a lot of 1e as a kid, I never felt the pull to play it seriously again, at least as written. I always thought LL AEC did a better job of capturing how I actually played back then.
I've never played OD&D "as is" from the PDFs or the White Box and supplements, though I would like to someday. I am currently making a start on my Blackmoor campaign using S&W Complete Revised, fleshed out with other rules, monsters, spells, and treasure from B/X D&D (we started on Saturday the 20th of January). It would obviously be interesting to use actual OD&D material, but I prefer actual books at the table, and PDFs just for reference, so unfortunately that isn't going to be happening. WOTC are due to release an OD&D anniversary collector's box, and whilst I don't like giving them my money I might (?) just make an exception for that one.
It's worth playing as much "as-is" as you can, although obviously there is a lot that has to be fleshed out with house rulings in play. Which I guess is the draw, for me anyway. I've read that Arneson's Blackmoor games had even less of a formal framework. I'd love to hear about your campaign if you are inclined to share play reports.

I, too prefer hard copies at the table, even when playing virtually - not necessarily books, however. I like to have printed refsheets when I run games, and refer to the actual rule books infrequently. But the bookcase is still a must :lol: .

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William
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Re: Musings on OD&D’s 50th Anniversary

Post by William »

merias wrote:
Thu Jan 25, 2024 2:35 pm
It's worth playing as much "as-is" as you can, although obviously there is a lot that has to be fleshed out with house rulings in play. Which I guess is the draw, for me anyway. I've read that Arneson's Blackmoor games had even less of a formal framework. I'd love to hear about your campaign if you are inclined to share play reports.
Yeah I agree about playing as much "as is" as possible, and yeah I've also heard that Arneson's Blackmoor campaign had only a loose framework. There's definitely room for improvised rulings in my new campaign even with some additional rules making their way in from B/X, as both versions of the game are simple enough so that there will still be some gaps.

Yes I am inclined to give campaign reports and I had considered doing it too. Leave it with me and I will put something together and post it.

Bill
Swords & Wizardry....in Blackmoor!
AD&D 1e/ OSRIC
Conan
Greyhawk (1e)
Lankhmar
Ravenloft

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