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Author Topic: Early role-playing (split)  (Read 11574 times)
castiglione
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Posts: 5


« on: January 29, 2005, 12:05:38 AM »

Grade school, playing Dungeons & Dragons.  At least that's what the older kid running the game called it...I think the only similarity between what we played and Dungeons & Dragons is that we rolled 3d6 to determine our attributes.

Combat was odd - we rolled 1d12 AND a 1d20 - if the 1d12 was higher than the 1d20, we hit!

I believe he had the old three little booklets - my guess is, like many people before him, he bought them, couldn't make heads or tails of them and made up a bunch of house rules that he and his friends could live with.  All the older kids who played "Dungeons & Dragons" used this odd 1d12 and 1d20 combat system.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #1 on: January 29, 2005, 07:49:29 AM »

Hello, and welcome to the Forge.

I've split your post into its own thread because the original thread, Early role-playing experiences is about a year old. If you would, please check out the sticky posts at the top of the Site Discussion forum to learn more about posting here.

This is no big deal, though! No scolding. We'll just continue your conversation. I think the 12/20 dice technique you guys used is worth a good talk.

For instance, in my first D&D experiences in about 1978 or so, we tried very hard to understand the to-hit system ... not being wargamers, we had no idea that the standard "matrix" concept was to be assumed. So as best as we could tell, the example said you rolled and got 13 or under, so you hit.

So that's what we did: roll d20 (or in our case, d6 for odd or even, then d20 with a double set of 0-9), and if it was 13 or under, you hit.

What other ... unusual interpretations of the system did people employ in their early D&D experiences? I'm not talking about mutant strains of homebrew concocted by long-time DMs who were "fixing the system," but rather plain old reading it, puzzling over it, and deciding it "must" mean a particular approach.

Best,
Ron
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castiglione
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Posts: 5


« Reply #2 on: January 29, 2005, 08:04:56 AM »

Hi - I didn't realize how old that thread was...I was just browsing through the forum (blindly clicking NEXT) late at night and that thread caught my eye.

The wargamer roots of Dungeons & Dragons are pretty obvious in the way combat was conducted - it's basically a combat results table where you cross reference "attack strength" with "defending strength" to get a "to kill" number; the differentiation of units (characters) into distinctive categories (classes) which in some iterations had their own separate attack tables may also be due to D & D's wargame ancestry...or maybe I'm reading too much into this.
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JimLotFP
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« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2005, 08:16:54 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
What other ... unusual interpretations of the system did people employ in their early D&D experiences? I'm not talking about mutant strains of homebrew concocted by long-time DMs who were "fixing the system," but rather plain old reading it, puzzling over it, and deciding it "must" mean a particular approach.


Must have been 1982 or 83 when some D&D stuff was included in my elementary school book fair. I think I was in 4th grade. My mother had already bought me some of the AD&D choose your own adventure books (shame they never released Mirror Mountain as a full module, that place rocked and I've continuously placed it in my own campaigns) and some minis. In fact the whole reason she started me on D&D was so she could paint the minis. *shrug*

Anyhow, they had Keep on the Borderlands and Village of Hommlet at the book fair for a few bucks. The rulebooks were more, so we didn't get those!

Imagine me and my friends with two modules, no rules, and no context for what was supposed to happen except the text in the choose your own adventure books. Trying to play.

Well the introductory material in Keep was extensive so we played that. we picked characters from the pre-gens in the module, we put the map down as a playing board, rolled dice, and moved that many squares when it was "our turn". We didn't understand why the squares were made so small that the minis couldn't fit in them. When we got to a room with monsters, we'd fight using some imagined set of rules guessed from the beginner text and the stats. We'd both make a beeline for that hobgoblin armory so we could be invincible with all that stuff!

Man, that Hommlet thing didn't explain ANYTHING about the rules, darnit! And taking out turns on the big village map seemed pointless, we knew that we weren't supposed to kill the villagers! So why didn't they put the moathouse on the big map and make the village the tear-out sheet map?

After I got the red box basic set and had that "oh... OOOOHHHHHH" realization of How You're Supposed To Play, I tried to DM for my friends but they were never ever play because it "was not fair" that they weren't allowed to see the map or the module and I was.
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Kesher
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Posts: 174


« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2005, 08:19:02 AM »

Quote from: Ron

What other ... unusual interpretations of the system did people employ in their early D&D experiences? I'm not talking about mutant strains of homebrew concocted by long-time DMs who were "fixing the system," but rather plain old reading it, puzzling over it, and deciding it "must" mean a particular approach.


I started playing in '82 with the Moldvay-edited Basic set.  I think I was too impatient (as a 12 year-old, go figure!) to read everything carefully.  With the help of my dad, I understood that hit dice tied in to the combat matrix, but I completely missed how they were connected to hit points; unable to figure why certain creatures in modules had x amt. of hps, I just started assigning hps as desired.  Soon my players were facing goblins with 30 or more hps, and dying at an accelerated rate...

Castiglione, I'd certainly like to hear more as well about how that dual-die system worked; seems like a very unique mechanic.  I have no idea what kind of odds that generates, but, by God, you got another use out of a d12...
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xenopulse
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« Reply #5 on: January 29, 2005, 08:34:45 AM »

The D12-beats-D20 method comes out to a 27.5% to-hit chance. Not bad for beginning AD&D characters. That's actually pretty close to THAC0 20 trying to hit AC4 or AC5.
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James_Nostack
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Posts: 642


« Reply #6 on: January 29, 2005, 09:09:42 AM »

The main thing we decided was that waiting to level up was way lame.  If you survived an adventure, you gained a level.  Granted, we were like 10 at the time, but I still think the whole XP thing is slightly ridiculous.

Also, whenever I DM'd, all the monsters fought to the death because I couldn't understand the morale system.

Incidentally, I never had any real trouble reading the whole THAC0 chart/saving throws or anything, but dang! the whole 3E approach to armor class is numerically equivalent, far easier to explain, and such a simple fix!  How come people didn't think of that a million years ago?
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--Stack
castiglione
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« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2005, 09:15:09 AM »

The system was incredibly basic and bare bones.  As far as I know, they made no adjustments for armor class or attribute scores; weapons all did 1d6 damage (however, I believe this 1d6 universal damage was consistent with the original three little books rules).  Our attribute scores never really entered into play except to "color" our characters and maybe the DM would glance at our scores and arbitrarily decide:  "Oh, you've got a CHR of 16?  Well, the female orcs of the village decide that you WON'T be thrown into the pot of human stew just yet..."  We never even considered the probabilistic consequences of such a system (we were just kids then).  As house rules go, they were pretty "primitive" (the "bid kids" who cobbled them together were in the 5th to 7th grades).  There might have been more stuff to their system but the only thing I remember distinctly was the D12 & D20 combat system and the fact that everything we had did 1d6 points of damage.

I do also recall that when some of us got the Basic D & D rules and some of us started DM'ing rather than relying on the "big kids", they would walk in and wonder aloud why we were bothering with all that needlessly complicated stuff of cross-referencing level/HD with AC when rolling the D12 and D20 together was so much easier and faster.
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James_Nostack
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« Reply #8 on: January 29, 2005, 09:18:41 AM »

Quote from: JimLotFP
Shame they never released Mirror Mountain as a full module, that place rocked .


Damn straight!  Although this isn't a misunderstanding of D&D rules per se, the book casts you as an "elven prince."  None of my friends had ever seen this weird word "elven" before, so we kept reading it as "eleven."  As in, you were this prince who was eleven years old.  Which fit the illustrations pretty well, actually...
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--Stack
Ron Edwards
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« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2005, 10:37:47 AM »

Hiya,

If folks happen not to have seen it already, my article A hard look at Dungeons & Dragons provides a good conceptual backdrop for this thread. The idea is (as Rob MacDougall put it, I think) that all of us formed little Cargo Cults based on a smattering of diverse artifacts, each smattering being (a) a unique minority-assemblage of stuff and (b) entirely unclear about what you actually do.

But this thread, based on Castiglione's input, raises a very interesting focus for discussion: actual System. How do miniatures relate to this activity? What's the map for? Why can't I see the map (and frankly, that's a damn good question, as currently, we always play open-map when maps are involved)? And what do these dice do? And so on.

The point is that we all came up with solutions, and (evidenced by our presence at this website), that those solutions were functional. I even suggest that many of our solutions were more functional than anything ever published under an AD&D rubric in the late 1970s and 1980s.

Let's keep comparing. Who knows, maybe a whole bunch of role-playing designs might emerge from our youthful moments?

Best,
Ron

P.S. Paul Czege posted an amazing summary of his experiences with the 1977 (Holmes) version of D&D, especially the bit about how "halfling" was completely undefined, so they all assumed it must refer to the reptilian guy in one of the illustrations. That reminds me of the "eleven prince" interpretation.
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Bankuei
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« Reply #10 on: January 29, 2005, 10:53:07 AM »

Hi,

My older cousin had given me his old box set when he went away for college.  I can't recall exactly which edition, but it was definitely a Gygax written one, filled with a vocabulary that totally lost me.  I had struggled with it for some time, unable to figure it out until the Red Box Basic came out.

A frustrating experience even afterwards, because the image on the box illustrated this one warrior facing off against a dragon over a sea of gold.  In actual play, rarely did anyone survive against kobolds, or falling in a hole, much less dream of getting to a dragon.  I figured there had to be some kind of strategy that kept you alive long enough to "get to the dragon", but just couldn't figure out what that was.  

It wasn't until a few years later, when I got to play with some older folks that I realized that there was NO magic strategy that made things significantly easier... It mostly came down to numbers and luck for the first couple of levels until one had enough resources to do more than play craps with one's hitpoints.

Chris

PS- I had somehow read "Ogre" as "Orge"(Ohr-g), and in my head, they simply were bigger, more grown up versions of orcs.  They looked mostly the same in the illustrations...
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JimLotFP
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« Reply #11 on: January 29, 2005, 11:50:29 AM »

Quote from: Ron Edwards
If folks happen not to have seen it already, my article A hard look at Dungeons & Dragons provides a good conceptual backdrop for this thread. The idea is (as Rob MacDougall put it, I think) that all of us formed little Cargo Cults based on a smattering of diverse artifacts, each smattering being (a) a unique minority-assemblage of stuff and (b) entirely unclear about what you actually do.


Is the idea of a Cargo Cult supposed to be the 'fault' of the game or the player? I don't know how the hobby was before the AD&D hardbacks were out, but by the time I came around everything was clearly labeled 'You Need X Book(s) To Use This Module' inside and outside the book. We just ignored it at first. Entirely a failure that can't be blamed on the game itself.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
How do miniatures relate to this activity?


Marketing scam. :p

When my mother would paint the things (with testors model paint, no priming!), we didn't want ANYBODY touching the darned things. We'd use spare dice or coins when any sort of positioning or tactical issue was important.

And then Battlesystem came out and those counters were the most awesome thing ever.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
What's the map for? Why can't I see the map (and frankly, that's a damn good question, as currently, we always play open-map when maps are involved)?


Wouldn't the map issue be entirely a player/character knowledge issue? I have always been in favor of the "if the characters don't know it, it is better if the players don't either" school of thought, and half the fun of a dungeon crawl is not knowing where you need to go... exploring! But I also have no desire to try to explain mapping information verbally. I've always wanted a tranparency projector like teachers used in school so I could just draw the map as players explored, but that was always too expensive and difficult to cart around so the MO in games I've played or GMed is that every time we go someplace new, the DM takes the players' map and draws where we are.

The 'mapper' as described both in the redbox D&D and AD&D hardbacks is just asking for more confusion and more bitter arguments than playing Pictionary with a girlfriend.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
And what do these dice do?


I admit I had no clue how to properly read d4s for like ten years. I just used the little white crayon to color in a 1, 2, 3, and 4 on a different side, and when rolled we picked it up and read bottom of the die to see what was colored in.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
The point is that we all came up with solutions, and (evidenced by our presence at this website), that those solutions were functional. I even suggest that many of our solutions were more functional than anything ever published under an AD&D rubric in the late 1970s and 1980s.


Well the game I was playing with Keep on the Borderlands ended up being what the Dungeon boardgame actually was. Too bad they never made 'modules' for that, I would have loved supplements with a paper board with custom player-pieces, monsters, and treasure for each one. That's a lot of fun by itself (as is the Zombies tile game with its add-ons) but it's not role-playing.
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Sean
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« Reply #12 on: January 29, 2005, 11:51:36 AM »

Ooh, one of my favorite topics.

The 'Cargo Cult' metaphor is right on.

Task resolution: roll d20 under relevant statistic. Except when, y'know, you could find a table for that particular task somewhere, in which case the table determined it. Except when the table sucked.

But then there was the problem where you had two different tables in Dragon magazine, one in the Ready Ref Sheets, one in Arduin, one in Gamma World, and one in Empire of the Petal Throne. Which one should you follow? The GM usually had the credibility to decide this.

Uses for d12s. A guy playing a character named 'Getafix' in my 5th grade game had a 'funky spear' I gave him. The thing did 2d12 damage, but if either die came up an 11 or 12, something 'funky' happened - we all tried to think of something weird to happen and it just happened. Double 12's was 'superfunky' - portals to another universe, the sky turns orange, whatever. I guess that was an open-ended group consensus narration mechanic.

One guy who ran some games for me in '78 ditched the elementals because they were scientifically wrong. Early Sim player, I guess. In his game we had to fight the 111 'true' elementals - the radioactive elements were nasty.

The systems we played were a patchwork. We'd go "that should work like this" and then we'd patch in a rule from a supplement or else just write our own. There was a certain drag effect back to the official rules because a new book would come out and then we'd use that stuff.

AD&D we used as a D&D supplement. I know very, very few people who actually played with the full DMG initiative system, etc. But how could you pass up paladins and triple-classed half elves? Well, actually, a lot of people did.

But anyway we figured out the roll high d20 combat, do 1d6 damage system right away, so nothing good to share there.
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nellist
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Posts: 27


« Reply #13 on: January 29, 2005, 01:27:34 PM »

My early experience with role playing was a flyer from a model engineering convention. It had a description of some D&D play on one side and an advert for White Bear Red Moon on the other.

The D&D game gave me and my brother the idea of a game where my borther described what I met and I described (basically) how I chopped the skeletons to pieces, how I leapt over a chasm etc. This was good fun and led to me buying the Eric Holmes edited blue covered book. My borther wasn't too interested at this stage and no one I knew had heard of D&D but I was fascinated. Coincidentally, I won a cash proze in a local newspaper competition and used the money to order a Dungeon Maser Guide.

From there I got a few friends involved, some people that seemed interested who became and still are friends, and our games commenced.

I'm not sure we had too many real rule misunderstandings as such. we made a lot of stuff up and chose to adapt stuff (we liked critical hits tables, we used peculiar 'conversion' rules, we had a clerical prayer rule for casting cleric spells,  etc. But these were not so much misunderstandings as preferred options.

This is a an aside, but recently I've been re-reading my DMG, and find myself amused at the weird archaic prose style it uses, and also impressed by how many points are covered that I really had taken no notice of before:

Examples:
"Pronouncements there may be but they are not from "on high" as respects your game."

This beats YGWV by a considerable number of years.

"In the heat of play it will slowly evolve into a compound of your personality and those of your better participants, a superior alloy."

A forerunner of some sort of idea of social contract.  

"You must view any non-DM player possessing it [the DMG] as something less than worthy of honourable death. "

OK, this is more Hackmaster or Paranoia. I'm sure we ignored it even then.

"The final word, then, is the game."

This is clearly "MGF", or at least a clear admission of Gamist roots. Again, something we pretty much ignored. Back then what we all argued about was realism. No one would have argued a rule was silly because it was realistic but boring - I think we, as  11yr olds were interested in Sim.  

Thus, I guess we were totally ignoring and misunderstanding:-
"As a realistic simulation of things from the realm of make believe or even as a reflection of medieval or ancient warfare or culture or society, it can only be deemed a dismal failure."

These were not so much rule though, more advice or design footnotes.

Not sure where I'm going with this post so I guess I should stop.

Keith
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Bryan_T
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Posts: 75


« Reply #14 on: January 29, 2005, 06:50:54 PM »

When I started playing the AD&D Player's handbook had come out, but none of the other Ad&D books had.  Note that the player handbook had none of the to hit or saving throw charts in it.  However one guy's older brother had some of the original D&D stuff, so we managed to use that with AD&D characters for a while, even though there were little issues like going from nine armor classes to ten..... I can still remember the incredible excitement when the DM's shield came out full of AD&D tables (it came out before the DMG did)

I was the sort of kid willing to read through a book front to back and try to make sense of it all.  By the time I was done that we were mostly playing "by the book," however I was not totally popular when I pointed out that the magic users spells per day were TOTAL number of spells per day, not times per day that they could cast each of their spells.  Oddly, at low levels our original interpretation was not at all unbalancing.

The one part that we didn't play per the rules was the experience system.  This was not mis-reading it, just not liking it.  We made what I'd now call a social contract decision that we didn't like giving XP for treasure found, so only gave it for killing monsters, but didn't divide by the number of players.  This probably helped emphasize our early adolescent bloodthirstiness, and gave a lot of incentive to go after tough creatures.

The interesting thing for me personally from that, was that it got me thinking about "experience" systems.  As we proceeded to play a wide variety of games one of the earlier parts I'd look at was that system.  There was an incredible variety in early games, from ones that tried learning and studying systems (oddly one of the only parts of Space Opera that actually seemed to work was this system), to variants on XP, to other things entirely.  

In the homebrew system that we eventually ended up using for our last few years of sporadic gaming we had a hybrid experience system (well, it was homebrew, never fully defined and always in flux and being negotiated, so "system" is a bit of a kindness).  One part of that system you might call a D&D like system (kill enough people, you got better at combat), but the other part "bullshit points" worked remarkably like karma in shadowrun or hero points in Heroquest (and similar systems, no doubt, in other games now, I've long since lost track of most new games coming out).  Anyway, its been interesting to see various people converge on the same sort of currency system.  It seems to be more than "This is neat!" and more something like a local optimum.

--Bryan
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