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Friday, January 13, 2012

Iterations of D&D

I have written before about how I play 1st edition AD&D, but it's really a mash-up of Holmes Basic, B/X, 1st and 2nd edition AD&D right? I even started writing a B/X WW II game. The other day it occurred to me that I have never actually played Moldvay Basic or even read through the book completely. I have read sections of it. I have looked things up in it. Moldvay's Red Basic book wasn't one I had as a kid though and I went straight to AD&D away from "kiddie D&D" as quick as I could. I think I have done myself a disservice. I have been reading through the Moldvay Basic book, straight through, since the announcement of D&D's impending "5th" edition. I don't really know why I picked it up, I had been reading through my GURPS Imperial Rome supplement, because I had just written about some old Roman campaigns I had run back in the 1990s and my interest was piqued.

But the more I read the Moldvay rules the more I like the simple elegance of them. Holmes Basic was really just OD&D cleaned up and edited into something slightly easier to wrap your head around; honestly after rereading the Holmes Basic book I am shocked that I ever figured out how to play D&D as a kid. Moldvay is pretty clear and simple by comparison. Holmes Basic will always be my first love, but I have to admit that B/X was really a better product.

Which leads me to this next point- I really want to actually play some B/X D&D, or DM it, since that's more likely to realistically happen. I skipped B/X back in 1981 for the most part on my way to AD&D with it's myriad of options and just the prestige of the "Advanced" version of the game being the more grown up one to play. Sure, there was a little confusion at the time, I bought a Basic D&D boxed set in 1980; Holmes Basic as it turned out; I got the Expert boxed set the next year (because it took us up to level 14!), although I already owned the AD&D Monster Manual; the obvious progression we all thought at the time was that you went from Basic to Expert to Advanced, not that Advanced was a totally separate, but related and nearly 100% compatible game. That I just happened to get caught in a different, earlier edition of Basic before moving on to Expert was just one of those odd growing pains I had on the way to Advanced D&D.

I'd like to give B/X a shot on it's own, without being stuck in the shadow of either Holmes or AD&D.

Who's with me?

I also had a few thoughts on TSR's last iteration of D&D, the one published postmortem, 3e and the D20 system. I might have liked the changes they made to the system in general if they had made certain subsystems optional and up to the DM's judgment. I am thinking particularly of the Feats and Skills, which seem like the core of the D20 system, but they're not; D&D is. Feats and Skills are an add-on that I think you could rip out and make the game pretty cool. Simplifying the saving throws was a good idea. Simplifying the Ability scores was a good idea, and it goes back to older editions of D&D than any edition of AD&D. Ascending AC was actually a pretty good idea, no matter how much me and the rest of the Grognards hate it; we only hate it because it's different and we hate change.

Now, this isn't going to turn into a 3e love-fest here, there's still plenty of stuff I didn't like. I didn't like renaming healing potions potions of cure light wounds for instance, or hyperfast leveling or the loss of multi-classing or the art direction that it took; but a lot of that could be house-ruled by the DM (except for the crap art, you're just stuck with that), once you ditch the feats and skills. Feats and skills are what made the entire D20 system slow and bound to the battle board. As a DM if you want multi-classing back in your 3e game, just do it, the same way you used to in previous editions. Too fast leveling? Double the XP required to level and reduce the XP/encounter to 10% of what it's "supposed" to be.

Now, you are going to say "What about thieves? (or Rogues I guess, right?)", OK, some skills can stay in the game, reduce drastically the number of skill points/level and limit them to "Thief" type skills. This works for Bards too, just give them even fewer. Never let someone just make a Search or Spot check, I am just brainstorming here, maybe we should just eliminate all the 3e/D20 skills and put in AD&D Thief Skills in their place. I haven't really thought it through too much. My point is D&D is the DM's game, he should be able to hack it how he wants to fit his vision; I don't understand how or why the D20/3e system's codification of everything scared us all and handed over our good judgment to the rules lawyers.

Now, I will repeat my call for Wizards of the Coast to publish the next D&D under the TSR imprint, out of respect for the continuity for the game and it's creators; and because the only version of D&D that they were solely responsible for caused more division in the D&D playing community than any other edition ever published. Resurrect TSR, and bring back the older edition TSR stuff in at least a PDF format legally. You say D&D next is going to be compatible with all of the older editions anyway, right? So sell us all that older edition stuff we missed out on too! PDFs and print on demand services cost you nothing, they do make you profits though and they generate goodwill with the fan base that you have alienated.