Saturday, July 9, 2011

The State of the Game: Dungeons & Dragons

As the grand old game once again find itself in flux, it seems these trips to the ancient manuscript files are both poignant and interesting, well at least they are to me...

Comments on the state of the game by Gary Gygax (Dragon #14, 1978)

Not a few D&D enthusiasts are puzzled about what is going on with the game. They are wondering what the ‘new “Basic Set” of D&D is, will the Original game be around much longer, and what ADVANCED D&D is and when it will be available. As briefly as possible, I will attempt to answer all such questions, for we have no desire to confuse DMs and players as to what is taking place.

Before the third supplement (ELDRITCH WIZARDRY) was in print, it had been decided that some major steps would have to be taken to unify and clarify the D&D game system. This project began then, but such a long and complex. task cannot be accomplished quickly if it is to be done right, and if nothing else we were determined to do it right! Organizational work was in progress when correspondence with J. Eric Holmes, professor, author and incidentally a respected neurologist, disclosed that the Good Doctor was interested in undertaking the first stage of the project — the rewriting and editing necessary to extract a beginner’s set of D&D from the basic set and its supplements. The result of his labors is the “Basic Set” of D&D.

“Basic” D&D does not differ greatly from the Original except that it is far better structured — thus far more understandable for an individual previously not acquainted with the concept of fantasy role playing.
The rules clarify things and are changed in a few minor areas which do not materially affect existing campaigns. There are a few new first and second level spells. It is important to note, however, that the
“Basic Set” is NOT aimed at the existing group of enthusiasts, it is designed solely for new players. It has rules which take players only through the first three experience levels! If they enjoy the game they must then obtain either AD&D or D&D. As advertisements have boldly proclaimed, the set has everything needed to BEGIN PLAYING D&D, Whether or not the work is purchased for purposes of having a complete collection of D&D material, IT IS NOT NECESSARY FOR PLAYERS ALREADY ACQUAINTED WITH THE MECHANICS OF DUNGEONS & DRAGONS. Well then, what about references in the new work which direct the reader to ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS? you might well ask.

The “Basic Set” was done with care, and it can lead to either the Original game or to the new, as yet unfinished, ADVANCED D&D. Because of the numerous supplements and articles necessary to make D&D a more easily understandable and multifaceted game, we decided that a whole new game was in order. There were too many gray areas in the Original, too many different books, too many varying approaches offered. However, the first work will never be done away with, for it offers a system which still attracts many persons. Whether from a nostalgia standpoint, from a desire to collect anything pertaining to D&D, or because of the content which will be excluded from the concept of the new game, we at TSR are certain that Original D&D will always be in demand. The-only part of the system which will be revised to fit into ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is Supplement IV, GODS, DEMI-GODS, & HEROES. Here is what the new game will consist of:

ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, MONSTER MANUAL was anticipated to be ready prior to Christmas. (As usual, there were delays, mainly from the printer and the binder.) I am drafting the final manuscript for the player’s book, and a rough outline of the referee’s volume is on hand, so work on that can commence as soon as the former is completed. Furthermore, Messrs. Kuntz and Ward are hard at work revising the G, D-G, H supplement so that it will be ready to go into print late in 1978 or in early ‘79. The player’s and referee’s books should be available in the summer of ‘78. Thus, A D&D will consist of four books — three main parts and a supplement. The MONSTER MANUAL and GODS, DEMIGODS, & HEROES will fit into the Original game system with a bit of care on the part of the Dungeon Master, if such is desired. But all-in-all, ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is a new game. To state this in terms of existing boardgames, for example, AD&D and D&D will bear the same relationship as STALINGRAD does to RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN. The former is a truly classic game, but the latter is even better. Nonetheless, devotees will wish to have both! Furthermore, to carry the analogy a bit further, parts of RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN can be incorporated into STALINGRAD to give the latter new horizons in respect to the strategies and tactics of play. While each game will retain a following which adhere only to one or the other, most players will certainly wish to have both regardless of which they find themselves playing more frequently.

In summation, the “Basic Set” of D&D is aimed at new players, those persons as yet uninitiated to the wonders of fantasy role playing. While it channels these new adventurers towards the ADVANCED game, with its better ordered and more clear rules, it suits such players for play of the Original game just as well. Nearly all of the Original booklets will remain unchanged and in print, only G, D-G, & H will be revised to fit into ADVANCED D&D. The whole of AD&D will be a better, cleaner system aimed at improving the understanding of the role playing game system. The first three books, the main part, will be ready in mid-1978 if all goes as expected. I am certain that you will find them worth the wait!
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