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There is More to OD&D than the Three Little Beige Books

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Some of the comments to my post on The Gray Book yesterday that The Gray Book was too much like AD&D to be considered OD&D confused me. The only reason I can think is that the 1e retroclones have given people a very limited idea of what OD&D included. Swords & Wizardry, for example, mainly emulates the original three book set of OD&D. Swords & Wizardry include the different die types for hit dice and weapons -- and some of the new spells -- from the first OD&D Supplement, but ignores most of the addition material in Greyhawk and seems to completely ignore the additional material in Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry, and the issues of The Strategic Review published in 1975 and 1976. Most OD&D campaigns played in the 1970s used a great deal of this OD&D material that currently available 0e retroclones ignore.

Here is a list of the major material added in the three OD&D supplements and in issues of The Strategic Review:

Greyhawk added:

* more bonuses and penalties for attributes, including exceptional strength for fighters and number of spells knowable per level for magic-users
* More class options for non-human characters
* Thief class
* Paladin fighter sub-class
* different die types for different weapons and class hit dice
* weapon vs armor type modifiers
* multiple monster attacks
* more spells, including levels 7-9 for magic-users and levels 6-7 for clerics
* many more magic items, including lots more miscellaneous magic items
* many more monsters (including metallic dragons)

Blackmoor added:

* Monks as a cleric subclass
* Assassins as a thief sub-class
* Hit location during melee
* new monsters (mainly aquatic)
* new magic items (mainly water related)
* underwater adventure rules
* specialists (sages)
* diseases

Eldritch Wizardry added:

* Druids as a cleric subclass
* Psionics
* Segmented melee round
* new monsters (mainly psionic monsters and demons)
* Magical Artifacts (Mainly from Greyhawk)
* new outdoor encounter tables

The Strategic Review Added

Issue #1 (Spring 1975)
* the Mind Flayer (non-psioniv version)
* Solo Dungeon creation tables

Issue #2 (Summer 1975)
* Rangers a a fighting-man subclass
* D&D FAQ explaining a number of rules poits that weren't clear

Issue #3 (Fall 1975)
* new monsters (including cllasics like Shambling Mounds, Piercers, Lurker Above)

Issue #4 (Winter 1975)
* Illusionists as a magic-user subclass
* Ioun Stones

Issue #5 (Dec 1975)
* a few new magic items and monsters (including prayer beads and the Trapper)

Vol 2, No 1 (Feb 1976)
* Two Axis Alignment System (Law/Chaos, Good/Evil)
* Bard class

As you can see from the above list, there is a lot more to OD&D than current retroclones have elected to include. Groups that used most of these rules -- and most groups I knew of in the 1970s did use much of this material -- were playing a game very similar to what was later published as AD&D -- just without all fine detail and complexity of that came with the longer and more detailed AD&D rules. However, the game they were playing was still OD&D.

The Gray Book includes most of the additional OD&D material published by TSR in 1975 and 1975. This makes it look more like AD&D to those unfamiliar with the OD&D supplements, but the rules are still OD&D. The lowest armor class is 9, not 10. The hit tables are those of OD&D not those of AD&D (where 20 repeats five times), there are no material components or XP costs for spells, spell and monster descriptions are usually very short, etc. Most people who played OD&D in the 1970s would look at The Gray Book and see the D&D rules they used, just in one book instead of in six booklets and six newsletters.

10 comments:
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Robert Fisher said...
September 22, 2009 at 12:55 PM  

Yeah. Some people like oD&D because of its minimalism. They tend to prefer just the 3 little books & a few additions. When they say “oD&D”, they tend to mean just the original three books.

Others like oD&D because it is AD&D that didn’t go too far.

Probably most of us like it because we can find our own preference somewhere in between.

I think it is somewhat natural for a lot of people when first discovering or rediscovering oD&D—considering what is likely brought them there—to be more interested in minimalism.

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David Macauley said...
September 22, 2009 at 4:04 PM  

Some of the comments to my post on The Gray Book yesterday that The Gray Book was too much like AD&D to be considered OD&D confused me. The only reason I can think is that the 1e retroclones have given people a very limited idea of what OD&D included.

To be fair Randall, only two of us made the comment and both of us admitted it was only because neither of us had actually had a close look at the Gray Book document, but rather had only just glanced through it. So it had nothing to do with having "a very limited idea of what OD&D included", and everything to do with not having actually read the Gray Book. But thanks to you, our ignorance has been laid to rest. I'm now looking forwarded to sticking my nose into my printed copy.

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Talysman said...
September 22, 2009 at 5:39 PM  

Something to consider might be that there is already an AD&D retroclone (OSRIC) and several OD&D retroclones that approach the AD&D end, but not much for the LBB end. Closest is Swords & Wizardry Whitebox, and even that has a couple post-whitebox bits. I know I looked at The Gray Book thinking it might be closer to the LBB end, but it looked to me more like Holmes + lots of extra bits.

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Randall said...
September 22, 2009 at 7:58 PM  

Robert said: "When they say “oD&D”, they tend to mean just the original three books."

I agree. I know this seems seems to be the majority position amongst those playing OD&D and its retroclones today, but it was a minority position when OD&D was in print and in active play. Neither position is wrong, but the fact remains that The Grey Book isn't a rules light version of AD&D. 90 to 95% of its material is taken (in many cases word for word) from OD&D, its supplements, a few articles in The Strategic Review, and the Holmes Basic rules -- all OD&D.

It's more accurate (IMHO) to say that AD&D is a "lots more rules and details added" version of The Grey Book/OD&D and supplements than it is to say that The Grey Book/OD&D and supplements is a rules light version of AD&D. Perhaps this is a another case of "Randall tilting at windmills," but I think it is an important point. Your mileage may vary, obviously.

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A Paladin In Citadel said...
September 22, 2009 at 9:16 PM  

I may have to take a look at this. Makes me nervous to have a copy if it crosses the line re: copyright though.

I gather the Grey Book includes the exceptional strength table, since that appears in Greyhawk. Just one of the reasons why my tastes run towards the LBB's.

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Matthew Slepin said...
September 23, 2009 at 4:31 PM  

I find that the LBB's + all the Supplements is basically AD&D. Or, maybe better, to quote the Gray Book's intro: "AD&D Lite"

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Joseph said...
September 23, 2009 at 7:11 PM  

I must say I'm not sure why we're seeing all this enamoration of the original 3 LBBs.

They lasted a grand total of, what, less than a year? And most everybody who was around back then is in agreement; nobody stopped at the boundaries formed by their covers. Folks were using all sorts of added material, Greyhawk, Blackmoor, and Eldritch Wizardry just being the beginning. The dream of OE as some sort of pure-state game just isn't a realistic one, at least from the standpoint of history. The borders were pushed from the get-go.

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Randall said...
September 23, 2009 at 7:53 PM  

Joesph: I think some of the admiration for the original 3 LBBs today is the dislike of the Thief class from Greyhawk. A lot of people see this class as the start of the "you can't do X unless you have skill or feat Y even though realistically just about anyone should be able to try with some chance of success" attitude that took over the game by 3.x. Other people just like really rules light. (And I'm sure there are other reasons.)

Personally, I think ignoring everything after the 3 LBBs is cutting off one's nose to spite one's face -- at least for most campaigns. However, to each their own. I just get tired of the attitude I often see today that adding much past the 3 LBBs makes the game too much like AD&D. I've played OD&D with everything and AD&D they are not the same. They are close enough to easily exchange adventures, but they play differently in practice because the AD&D rules are much more "tight," more complete, and often more complex.

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James said...
September 24, 2009 at 2:19 PM  

I'll admit that I'm not a fan of how the original Greyhawk supplement handled thieves, though I'm also of the mind that there is a great deal of fun and useful information in Greyhawk, Blackmoor, et al. I absolutely agree that people who ignore all of that later material without first considering it are missing out.

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Andreas Davour said...
September 28, 2009 at 5:07 AM  

I think one reason the current retro clones haven't replicated all of that stuff, is that many today have less time to play and the experience of their youth and a longing for simplicity is what they get from retro clones.

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