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Author Topic: Red-Box D&D Example of Play  (Read 5303 times)
JamesDJIII
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« on: October 19, 2004, 12:03:16 PM »

I'm speaking about the 1979, or 1980 "red cover" Basic D&D rulebook.

I remember when I convinced my parents to buy it for me when I was about 11 or 12 years ol.d. It was a few more years before someone came along and showed me how to play the game. However, I did spend a lot of time reading and re-reading the rules, trying to make sense of it all.

There was a part, near the end, where it had a transcript of play. Ok, so I realize that perhaps that particular example of play was just that: an example. I have no idea if people really played like that.

I suspect that the example of play was not just to illustrate rules in action, but the way in which the decisions about those rules were communicated. It always struck me as "wrong" that my play never was like that in the example. Eventually, I realized that there was no one way to do it, and that all interactions were negotiated in each group, with different levels of transparency.

I don't recall, but how may other RPGs have these examples of play? (I just remembered another one: in the old AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, right?)

I know that the ubiquitous "What is an RPG" and "How to Roleplay" sections are common, I'm trying to recollect the "actual play" examples. Examples of mechanics for the purpose of illustrating that mechanic in action without any other context doesn't count. I'm talking about a virtual or real transcript of play, written as such by the game designers, and shown as an example.

Also, do you think this was done because at the time there was a real need to illustrate "how things are done"? Or was this an attempt to demonstrate to the wayward D&D players that there really was just a "right" protocol for face-to-face, table-top gaming?
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John Kim
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« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2004, 02:22:52 PM »

Quote from: JamesDJIII
  I don't recall, but how may other RPGs have these examples of play? (I just remembered another one: in the old AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, right?)

I know that the ubiquitous "What is an RPG" and "How to Roleplay" sections are common, I'm trying to recollect the "actual play" examples.  

They are pretty common, I think.  I have two examples on my RPG pages:
http://www.darkshire.net/~jhkim/rpg/theory/examples/bond_sample.html">James Bond 007
http://www.darkshire.net/~jhkim/rpg/theory/examples/amber_combat.html">Amber Diceless RPG

The JB007 example is pretty much the first thing in the rulebook.  The Amber example is to some degree a "mechanics" example because it is deep in the combat section, but I think it also serves a general example function.  

Quote from: JamesDJIII
Also, do you think this was done because at the time there was a real need to illustrate "how things are done"? Or was this an attempt to demonstrate to the wayward D&D players that there really was just a "right" protocol for face-to-face, table-top gaming?

I think clearly the former.  As far as I can tell, the examples of play I've seen are exactly what they purport to be -- examples in order to illustrate how the game works in practice.
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- John
efindel
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« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2004, 06:00:12 PM »

They do seem pretty common... Nobilis devotes a whole chapter to one, as I recall.  Eden's Buffy RPG spends two pages on one (which is mostly an example of combat).  Theatrix spends six pages, with it split as a transcript on one side, and explanations on the other.  The Marvel Universe RPG spends about a page on one.  Vampire spends a chapter on one... at least the first edition did, which is the only version I have.
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DannyK
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« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2004, 07:40:04 PM »

Most White Wolf games have that... a lot of the older editions had a comic telling the story, with a facing page telling what the players were doing at each panel.  That was a great gimmick.
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jerry
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« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2004, 09:01:37 AM »

Quote from: JamesDJIII
I suspect that the example of play was not just to illustrate rules in action, but the way in which the decisions about those rules were communicated. It always struck me as "wrong" that my play never was like that in the example. Eventually, I realized that there was no one way to do it, and that all interactions were negotiated in each group, with different levels of transparency.


My reaction on reading that was "people play this way? It's like a classroom." Fortunately, I had already played (and I think that red book is otherwise a great book--at least the red book I started with; I think there have been two).

Quote

I don't recall, but how may other RPGs have these examples of play?


When I did Gods & Monsters, I chose to, instead of having an example of play, have an example of the kind of story that might result from a game. And then specifically point out that in role-playing, where you disagree with what the characters do, that's your choice in the game.

I have considered videotaping a game and transcribing it, but that would be scary and there would be too many in-jokes.

Jerry
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Jerry
Gods & Monsters
http://www.godsmonsters.com/
efindel
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« Reply #5 on: October 25, 2004, 03:26:24 PM »

Quote from: jerry
I have considered videotaping a game and transcribing it, but that would be scary and there would be too many in-jokes.


As I was observing to a friend the other day, IRC play is ideally suited to creating an example of play -- save a transcript of the session and edit out any asides and such that aren't needed.
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contracycle
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« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2004, 03:07:08 AM »

Quote from: jerry

I have considered videotaping a game and transcribing it, but that would be scary and there would be too many in-jokes.


Not just in-jokes, in my experience.  I once saw video footage of a game I was actually in, and even so as an observer I had a tough time following along.  Not least I think becuase its quite easy to fall back on your characters individual perspective, as a player, but as an outside observer there is more need to synthesise these inputs into a holistic overview, a sense of what is happening.  In a lot of play, players only actually NEED to be paying strict attention to the current action when everyone is involved simultaneously.
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JamesDJIII
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« Reply #7 on: October 26, 2004, 05:18:52 AM »

I don't have a copy at my disposal, so I can't indicate precisely the text I need to. When I do get a copy to work with, I'll post those sections.

I am glad to see I'm not the only person who remembers the example and the oddness about it.
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efindel
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« Reply #8 on: October 26, 2004, 08:08:22 AM »

Quote from: contracycle
Quote from: jerry

I have considered videotaping a game and transcribing it, but that would be scary and there would be too many in-jokes.


Not just in-jokes, in my experience.  I once saw video footage of a game I was actually in, and even so as an observer I had a tough time following along.  Not least I think becuase its quite easy to fall back on your characters individual perspective, as a player, but as an outside observer there is more need to synthesise these inputs into a holistic overview, a sense of what is happening.  In a lot of play, players only actually NEED to be paying strict attention to the current action when everyone is involved simultaneously.


Yep.  I can't give a good example from here, but Steven Pinker's book The Language Instinct spends some pages talking about the difference between real speech and the depiction of speech in written works.  Real speech tends to be a lot more choppy, with a lot of sentence fragments, people interrupting each other, and use of generic pronouns and nouns like 'it', 'that', 'the thing', etc. than depicted speech, sometimes to the point of near-incomprehensibility for anyone who's not actually there in the discussion.

I think that the difference between real speech and depicted speech may be part of what gives the 'classroom' feel that James refers to over in the other thread (well, that combined with the odd 'caller' convention).

In any case, though, I have a feeling that any useful example of play would have to be at best a cleaned-up and gone-over transcript.  Probably the main reasons that examples of play tend to be made-up instead of actual transcripts are that, and the fact that real play can be very rambling -- you want to get as much as you can in a short space in a written example.

With that in mind, I'll note that the Red Book D&D example of play skips over the combat that occurs -- and the example of combat, while done with the same characters and GM (it's actually the combat that's skipped over in the example of play) is done as a third-person narrative, instead of as a transcript.  I think it's most likely done that way for reasons of space, since:

Joe:  "Okay, I'm going to attack the goblin on the left."

GM:  "Roll it."

Joe:  "I got a fourteen.  Does that hit?"

GM:  "Yep."

Joe:  "Okay... six points of damage."

GM:  "Your sword takes the goblin in the chest, and he goes down with a sigh as he dies."

takes a lot of space to do for a whole combat.
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efindel
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« Reply #9 on: October 26, 2004, 05:56:57 PM »

Quote from: JamesDJIII
I don't have a copy at my disposal, so I can't indicate precisely the text I need to. When I do get a copy to work with, I'll post those sections.

I am glad to see I'm not the only person who remembers the example and the oddness about it.


I've typed up the example and sent it to James.  I'm not sure what Forge policy on posting something like that is, so I'm not posting it here unless one of the admins says it's okay, but I've put it up at:

http://www.lostthoughts.org/~casey/redbox_example.txt

for anyone else who wants to see it.

Since it's 24 years old, for a version of D&D that's barely being sold, and gives no information needed to play the game, I'm figuring that no one at WotC would probably mind my putting it up.  If I'm wrong, anyone from WotC or Hasbro please contact me, and I will take it down immediately upon request.

--Travis
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JamesDJIII
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Posts: 201


« Reply #10 on: October 28, 2004, 08:19:25 AM »

Travis, thanks for the type up. That was quick!

However:
Quote
gives no information needed to play the game


isn't quite correct. Isn't this example full of example of exactly how to play the game?

Imagine you have no previous experience with board games as we know them, or of wargames, and especiialy, from table-top RPGs. You can easily read the outline of play, and in fact I think the Moldvay rules lay them out in a step by step manner labelled "Adventuring." But, what isn't spelled out is the face-to-face communication (in this example) expected from play.

There's also a lot of examples of how the GM/DM masks details of the game, keeps secrets, interacts with the players, and so on.

So, again, I think that reading these old examples are kinda neat. I also think that they show you a lot about what the people who wrote the games thought about what play was supposed to be, and the expectations they had about the audience.

It's just jarring to read and imagine myself trying to play that way. I wonder how much that changes the play experience? If you really forced yourself to do it that way... more fun? Less? Or just plain different? An Actual Play experiment that I might just attempt.

All, comments or experiences?
 
Thanks!
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anonymouse
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« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2004, 10:04:50 AM »

Japanese RPGs (and we're talking traditional, not console here) tend to have several pages of split-comics; one panel or side of the page will show the players around a table, describing their actions; and on the other panel (or whole second page) are corresponding panels with their characters performing the action.

Andy Kitkowski probably has a lot more experience with this than me, though, might want to poke him with this thread and see if he can add another culture's games to the perspective.
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efindel
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« Reply #12 on: October 30, 2004, 08:30:05 AM »

Quote from: JamesDJIII
Travis, thanks for the type up. That was quick!

However:
Quote
gives no information needed to play the game


isn't quite correct. Isn't this example full of example of exactly how to play the game?


Well... it's still not strictly necessary -- people were playing D&D for a good eight years before that set came out, and neither of the prior versions of D&D had that example.  The Red Box set also gives most of the needed information (such as the fact that the GM doesn't simply give out all information -- the players have to ask questions and make experiments with their characters) in other forms as well.

Still, though, I agree to some extent.  I was speaking more for the benefit of anyone who might be saying "Hey!  He's putting up part of our rules!"  The information given is arguably necessary -- but it's by no means sufficient to play D&D, so that's what I probably should have said.

Quote from: JamesDJIII
Imagine you have no previous experience with board games as we know them, or of wargames, and especiialy, from table-top RPGs. You can easily read the outline of play, and in fact I think the Moldvay rules lay them out in a step by step manner labelled "Adventuring." But, what isn't spelled out is the face-to-face communication (in this example) expected from play.

There's also a lot of examples of how the GM/DM masks details of the game, keeps secrets, interacts with the players, and so on.

So, again, I think that reading these old examples are kinda neat. I also think that they show you a lot about what the people who wrote the games thought about what play was supposed to be, and the expectations they had about the audience.

It's just jarring to read and imagine myself trying to play that way.


Which leads back to the original question -- can you give an example of what's jarring about it?  In my case, except for the "caller" thing, the example is pretty much exactly what my early D&D sessions were like.  Other than one session my older brother ran for me after giving me the D&D stuff for Christmas, I learned how to DM from the examples and materials in the 1980 Red Box and Blue Box, and the first edition DMG.
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Eric J.
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« Reply #13 on: October 31, 2004, 07:46:54 PM »

I think examples help the readers figure into the mind of the writer than does it give a consomate way to play the game...

Several things in the text kindof bothered me.

There was little conversation between the adventure people; it was heavilly focused and there were no OOC comments.

It's hard for me to imagine play to go anything like this, personally.  I dunno.  In my experience, examples of play are anything but.

I mean, when that one guy's character died, he just kindof shut up.

And the name silverleaf bothered me (but that's just because of Jack Chick).

May the wind be always at your back,
-Pyron
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