Dungeons and Dragons

Actually, I find this whole thread highly amusing…I’ve been playing for a few years now, and I’d like to establish a few things…heh.

  1. If you have never in your life picked up a copy of “Knights of the Dinner Table,” it really is a must for gamers.

  2. I’m female (Just had to say that… most roleplayers I know are male, and think that a female roleplayers is completely unnatural, and defies the laws of the known universe) Yet another reason to read KotDT…

Like when the party attacked a Gazebo… or when they proclaimed Gary GOD… or when they had feudal wars in a new game called Surf: the uprising…etcetcetc… just a hilarious satire comic directed at gamers.
Of course… if you all have already read it, then I just blabbered on uselessly for paragraphs and paragraphs… but oh well… I suppose someone needs to read me typing every once and a while other than myself…

Far be it from me to impose some organized thought to this thread about imagination games, but really, shouldn’t a critical analysis of what Cecil said at least contain some accurate, citable background?

For anyone interested in the development of the “Dungeons & Dragons ™” game, there is a reasonably coherent narration of the history of the game in the book “The Fantasy Role-Playing Gamer’s Bible” by Sean Patrick Fannon (Prima, 1996) I will not repeat the whole story here (after all, going and looking up and reading about things is part of what Cecil is all about). Suffice it to note that: 1) the idea of a ‘role-playing’ fantasy game did not originate with Gary Gygax (thank, instead, his partner, Dave Arneson, who applied the role-playing military game ideas of Dave Wesely to a fantasy millieu, Blackmoor); 2) Gary Gygax DID develope the first rules for adding medieval and fantasy units to miniatures games (the famous “Chainmail” rules first published by Guidon Games in 1971); and 3) the original “Dungeons & Dragons”, subtitled: “Rules for Fantastic Medieval Wargames Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Miniature Figures” was intended as a supplement to the “Chainmail” rules system (it was the combined effort of Arneson and Gygax). As those of us who still guard our precious, boxed set of the original books (“Men and Magic,” “Monsters and Treasure,” and “The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures”) remember, it was damn-near impossible to run a campaign solely using the original publication, even if you were lucky enough to possess the aforementioned “Chainmail” rules. The whole point was that each ‘dungeon master’ was SUPPOSED to ‘fill in the blanks’ in his or her game. Indeed, as noted in the “Bible,” when the original developers of role-playing miniatures games attempted to impose rules on the barely-organized chaos of the first attempts, they received multiple complaints from the players, who preferred NOT having their actions straight-jacketed (see page 121).

Why, then, is the present incarnation of the game so completely rule-bound? Basically, two reasons exist: 1) Arm-chair attorneys, who LOVE to get involved in such games, and 2) unimaginative would-be Dungeon Masters, who can’t figure out what to do about figuring the experience points of slaying an ancient spell-using red dragon of huge size. One is tempted to point out the obvious: 3) the mercenary tendencies of TSR, Inc., who know a good thing when they see it and make substantial money off selling such important tomes as: “The Complete Paladin’s Handbook” (TSR, Inc., 1994), but truly that was a later development. The metamorphosis of the original D&D from a few, easy to read but hard to understand rules into the monster AD&D with its explosion of hard to read and harder to understand, but way more comprehensive rules occurred between 1978 and 1980, and was, simply put, a response by the TSR owners to the overwhelming demand of DM’s to give them more specific rules for handling the game.

Enjoying D&D is ALWAYS a matter of finding the right people to play with (as is true of all games, including Monopoly™). If you like to look up everything from how often you can cast a fireball spell to the consequences of picking your nose in the presence of the god Thor, play AD&D, 2d Ed. If you prefer a game that depends more on imagination, play a simpler version, or play one of the competing games (who remembers the fun of Tunnels and Trolls?). As for Cecil’s reaction, I think it is understandable. But, then, who would want to take-up Bridge after being handed Goren’s “Complete Bridge?”

hyjynx wrote:

However, it must be notes that, on several occasions, AD&D players have submitted suggestions to Dragon magazine as to different minor changes they like to use in their games – and Gygax has responded with “No! If you’re not playing by my rules, you’re not playing AD&D.”

It should be further noted that Gary Gygax is no longer at TSR, and has basically nothing more to do with AD&D at all.

“Common knowledge” says that when TSR wanted to rewrite the AD&D rules, Gygax either insisted on doing it himself, or was opposed to its being done at all (I forget which). He was outvoted and forced to leave the company.

No cite for this; I just remember reading about this situation in magazines at the time. Since it was about the same time as the release of the AD&D Second Edition, it must have been, what, 10 years ago?

Anyway, my point is that Gygax is no longer involved with any TSR stuff. I let my subscription to Dragon lapse a couple years back, but when I was reading it, they seemed to have no problem with house rules and reader suggestions.

I agree with everything DsYoung said.

Of course Cecil was quoting accurately, but in those early days Referees (not players)did need to see how to do such calculations. After some practice you can just estimate.

As for the necessity of rules, I play in a campaign where 7 of us take it in turns to referee. This means it’s essential that all standard common situations are clearly agreed, so we have our own rulebook. You don’t need it often, but it saves time and interruptions, which would spoil the fantasy mood.

2 of us have separate campaign settings, but this just means the player characters are different. The physical ‘laws’ of the world remain constant i.e. you use the same dice rolls to simulate the same situations.

It really is the easiest game for beginners to learn. I teach both roleplaying and chess. It takes 20 minutes to learn the moves of chess (and then a lifetime to play well!), but 5 minutes with a sympathetic group is enough to start enjoying roleplaying.

Wow! What a thread. In regards to Cecil’s comments about D&D, I would like to add that he is completely correct. Yes, the rules (even if you think his source is outdated and obscure comparatively) were complex and (more important, in my opinion)very poorly written. Keep in mind that TSR and its predecessor, Chainmail, were not created by professional writers, nor mathmaticians, nor experienced business marketers. I consider myself a relatively educated person, and I found many of the rules and their descriptions confusing. WHO didn’t at age 10? Also, keep in mind that the concept of a “role-playing” game was completely novel to most typical kids/adults/Americans. I remember pouring over those horribly illustrated, hard-cover manuals endlessly, reading and re-reading a paragraph of math formula and still not grasping the concepts. Which leads me to my main point.
Cecil perhaps missed out on some of the not-so-known benefits/implications of playing D&D.
To begin with, I owe MOST of my basic math skills and passing grades in school, to the game. After a year or two with D&D, who couldn’t do complex division, multiplication and some basic algebra? And who else at age 10 at your grammar school knew what a portcullis, a candelabrum, or a halberd was? Hell, I was using vocabulary in stories for Language Arts classes that my TEACHERS didn’t even know. I remember my parents continually interrupting game sessions and threatening my brother and I that we better have had our homework done, since we spend many more dedicated hours to this game than to our homework. Finally, I said “Look, Ma, this game is HARDER than our homework.” Then one day, my parents actually looked into the books. Next Christmas, we got every single manual for AD&D. Thus, my point is that no other element in my non-scholastic life (with the exception of, perhaps, the Boy Scouts of America) was as educational and critical thinking skills building as D&D.
Second, playing D&D was a great way to scare the bejeezus out of any of your pesky relatives. Especially the nosy ones that would come over to a game table every visit to annoyingly inquire, “Who’s winning?!” After explaining to them how the game works and how you “take on” or “become” another character with his/her own personality, obsessions etc., most relatives go wide-eyed and slowly and falsely nod in understanding. “So you think that you are this other person?!” That and talking up into the sky in strange voices at every other family barbecue usually kept the Aunt Sophies and Uncle Joes at bay.

Anyhow, despite its admittedly complex format and confusing language, the game itself is very educational and extremely entertaining when played correctly; fantastic aerobics for one’s imagination. And it kept the spooky, cheek-pinching, too-much-perfume-wearing Aunties at bay.

Thanks for listening. By the way, you open the wooden chest to find three copper and a piece of moldy cheese. (always)

I concur with Rando’s scholastic experiences related to D&D, especially the vocabulary one. Granted, I was always well ahead of the pack with language skills in those days, but the addition of the game’s esoterica made me seem positively uncanny to others. Heck, my 6th-grade teacher even used my gaming background to create a reading contest for the class. Sick? Don’t ask. Fortunately, I was always muscular enough (though never tall) to prevent the beatings usually suffered by gamer geeks.

If any of you haven’t heard, Wizards of the Coast (the owners of TSR) are going to be releasing Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition either late this year or next. I don’t know how many of us even play anymore, but it means another $100 or so for rulebooks for those who do. From what I can tell, this will be a major overhaul of the rules, even more significant than the switch to 2nd Edition. the hypeful-but-unhelpful page of relevance is http://www.wizards.com/dnd/3e/ for those of you who’d like to take a peek. Anybody care to speculate on the future of the classic game?

–Da Cap’n

I’m still roleplaying after 20 years and now I teach the game at my School, so I’m sure it’s going to last in that sense.

I agree that the original rules were clumsy, just like the original computer interfaces, which were produced by programmers, without the benefit of professional writers. (I’m not criticising programmers or TSR - they were both great original achievements).

However game manufacturers don’t survive without regular sales. So we get new editions, even if they’re not really necessary.

I have strong support from other School departments on roleplaying. English, Maths, Geography, Biology, History and Learning Support have either provided material or said how inspiring / helpful the game has been.

I find it teaches teamwork, manners, honesty and I can easily get the pupils to write up their adventures / character details on the computer - they don’t think of this as ‘homework’ - it’s fun!

I don’t know the current plans for AD&D 3rd addition, but a few months (year?) ago the Wizards of the Coast were advertising a re-release of the GreyHawk campaign setting. The GreyHawk advertisements seemed focused on the “hack-and-slash” aspect of the game, and the re-release seemed poised to be the weapon of backlash against the pretentious role-playing type. At least that’s what it seemed to me.

I’ll refrain from quoting from the WotC FAQ on the subject of the new game – note that they have dropped the “Advanced” from the title, for various reasons which they discuss at the D&D 3rd Edition FAQ. It’s almost impossible to determine what the take on serious roleplay will be, when all they’re doing is reworking the rules.

Those rules, though, appear to be migrating toward an easier and all-inclusive format. Class and level will still be the most important determinants of what a character can do, but all class abilities are now tied up in a universal skill system. This will cover combat, thieving, and the non-weapon proficiencies from 2nd Edition. Not all skills will be available to all classes and races, but there will be much more opportunity to flesh out unique character skill packages. Finally, wizards with swords, and fighters who sneak up on people!

Greyhawk, where D&D started, is going to be the “default” setting for 3rd Edition, but Forgotten Realms and other settings will also be supported.

What can we say about roleplaying? No matter what the rules system says, roleplaying is entirely up to the players and GM. I hope the rules are up to today’s standards – I’d love to see D&D cease to be a 600-lb-gorilla joke of the gaming industry.

If anybody wants to move this part of the discussion to a new folder, I’m cool with that. We seem to have drifted a bit from Serena’s original topic.

–Da Cap’n

The fact that Jonathan Tweet is working on D&D3rd gives me great hope that it will not be a poor patch of the outdated mechanics. Tweet has a good pedigree in the RPG biz and has long since abandoned the clunky D&D style mechanics.

If anything could ruin it, it would be WotC listening to the whiny rules-lawyers who think rping is using the rules to ‘beat’ the gm.


Wizards with swords? Sneaky fighters?! Who do they think they are, Steve Jackson?

Honestly, I think they’re about to wreck the very soul of AD&D. Its biggest strength is the simplicity of the character classes; you’ve got your fighters, and your thieves, and your magic-users, and they’re all distinct. It makes character generation a snap, because once you choose your class, everything else is listed on the charts. Compare this to GURPS, where creating a simple fighter requires 45 minutes and a calculator.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the complex systems, mind you. GURPS and friends are great for making realistic, multifaceted characters with varied skills. But if all you’re going to do is stroll into a dungeon and clobber things, why bother with all the extra work?

I’m not a warlock. I’m a witch with a Y chromosome.

Our point exactly, I think – most gamers have grown beyond this sort of dungeon-hack adventuring. I mean no offense if you enjoy that sort of thing, but D&D is what we grew up on, and it’s what made gamers thirst for better rules and an environment that fosters roleplay over rollplay.

My impression of the new rules is that very little extra complexity has been added, just enough to add some dimension to the flat character classes of older versions. I won’t be able to say until I’ve seen them, of course.

If we want to talk complex, let’s try the original Fantasy Hero rules, before they started using power frameworks a la Champions. Writing up a spell-using character could take a week! Even grunt fighters weren’t immune from rules quicksand. We had spreadsheets in Lotus and Excel to help us build these math monstrosities.

I’m glad to hear that the well-pedigreed Tweet is working on the new system. Old-school fans will also be glad to know that Gary Gygax (yes, HIM) is involved in this version as well. We’ll have to see what happens.

–Da Cap’n

“Greyhawk, where D&D started, is going to be the “default” setting for 3rd Edition,”

Not that I like nit-picking, but Greyhawk wasn’t where Dungeons & Dragons™ started. Blackmoor was the original fantasy role-playing game setting that led to the rules published under the D&D name (see my prior post in this thread). Greyhawk wasn’t even the first campaign setting published, as the rules ‘supplement’ by that name didn’t include a pre-generated setting. Blackmoor, the second ‘supplement’ (I used to love these ‘supplements’ that totally changed how combat was conducted (anyone remember the psionic combat rules from Eldritch Wizardry?)) contained the ready to play campaign “Temple of the Frog” from the world of Blackmoor.

As to the issue of playability, etc, I have only two comments: a) if you like what you are playing already, WHY buy a ‘new’ version at $100 plus? and b) must a D & D game be played by the ‘rules?’ After all, isn’t that what got this thread going?

The D&D class system easy? NO WAY!

It may have been easy in 1st ed. D&D, but by AD&D2ed, the amount of rules and options weighed down character generation to at least an hour (comparing someone as familar with D&D as they are with GURPS). Finding the appropriate saving rolls for your level, class, and race and then adjusting them by the pluses (or, never, the minuses)from constitution is crazy. Then you do that all over again with each weapon skill (calculating its THAC0), and again if it’s a weapon specialization, and so on. D&D was never easy unless you had a GM who did it all for you.

Regarding wizards with swords and fighters who sneak. AD&D2 already had that with the complete fighter/wizard/theives/etc… books as an option. D&D3 will make that an option without buying the complete Compleat guides. That’s nice.

Regarding the price: The new set will not cost $100+. The players’, DM’s, and monster books will be @ $60 all totaled. Now, I’m sure that there will be adventure books, world books, and optional rules books down the pike (just like they do now) – but you don’t need them to play. Just the first three (first two if the GM creates their own monster stats using the new rules).

My biggest kick is seeing that D&D3 will use a single resolution mechanic (ala GURPS). Does that mean… the gods forbid… needing only one type of die/dice?

What will I do with all my d4s and d12s? Mommy!



I sincerely HOPE not! Polyhedral dice are what made D&D as fun as it was. Who can forget the thrill of rolling the tetrahedron and doing one hit point of damage with a dagger? :slight_smile:

So… did we ever figure out if the original premise was correct?


Since the OP also said, “…sure, there are billion of rules…”, the OP disproved his/her own point and proved Cecil’s – too many rules.

So, by using the ‘correct source’ the OP proved Cecil’s point. (Which means that it’s moot what source Cecil used.)

The RPGs that followed xD&Dxed simplified the mechanics (well, most did, Synnabarr being the exception) and covered the same things that the billions of rules which D&D had with a lot less rules.

D&D3 will finally break with its clunky miniatures/wargaming background and bring the mechanics into the 90s.


I haven’t seen Third Edition, but I’d be very suprised if it wasn’t a lot like Alternity. Therefore, all the same old dice would apply.

Which means, of course, that D&D will still be 10 years out of date … ;->