OD&D + Supplements != AD&D 1st Edition

I’m currently in Durham, NC visiting a friend from school, and so out of necessity, this might be a bit short. This is something of a follow-up to a comment I made over on Grognardia. Put simply, if you don’t buy the “evolution” argument about role-playing games, i.e. that games “evolve” somewhat naturally from previous editions, and that the successive editions are somehow “better”, then it isn’t much more of a stretch to realize that Advanced D&D 1st Edition isn’t the only way in which Original D&D could’ve evolved. You could take this further, and note that the very existence of Holmes/Moldvay/Mentzer D&D pretty much proves this point.

“So? They are still all ‘D&D’, right?” Well, yes – but that misses an interesting implication. There are a lot of different ways Original D&D could’ve evolved; Arduin Grimoire is one direction, and Tunnels and Trolls and Chivalry & Sorcery are others. At some point, we cross the line into “new game” territory. Both T&T and C&S are good examples of games straddling the line, or so it seems to me – clearly inspired by D&D, but different emphases than the original three little tan booklets.

I’m one of those guys who likes Original D&D a lot, but I also like some of the crunchy goodness found in the later supplements, particularly Greyhawk and Eldritch Wizardry. Blackmoor is also interesting – so if you go on to look at Dave Arneson’s First Fantasy Campaign you get a very different vibe than AD&D. What I am excited by is the prospect of lots of different re-imagining of D&D, without the judgmental label of “fantasy heartbreaker” – the current round of “Original Edition” products is proof that there is a lot of creativity out there; just look at the latest issue of Fight On! for proof if you don’t believe me.

Besides all that, though, is the very real note that if you add up Original D&D and its four supplements, you still don’t have “AD&D” – you ‘ve got something that resembles AD&D, but is not the same thing. Probably the most important difference, rather than between this or that mechanic or character class, is a difference of tone. AD&D is clearly the “tournament standard” with Gary Gygax’s Foreward in the DMG, whilst Original D&D is much looser and open to creativity, even with all of the supplements. And that’s a good thing.

3 thoughts on “OD&D + Supplements != AD&D 1st Edition

  1. Very good point, I think. OD&D (and to some extent the BECMI books as well) always felt more open and free than Gary's AD&D.

    However, I've always found that the 2nd edition of AD&D – the much maligned version of the game that takes flak from just about everybody – seemed to, if only in tone, move back to the openness and receptivity to creativity that OD&D had.

    It's hard to put an exact finger on why, but one of the best ways it is illustrated is the flux of settings that came out during 2nd edition's reign. If one can say only one thing about the settings, it was that at least some of them took the rules and bent, twisted, and outright broke them in very creative and interesting ways.

  2. Totally. That’s a very good point; the range of settings made it possible to play very different games, depending on what you wanted. Some of the backlash against 2nd Edition seemed to be based in the perception that it encouraged what Glenn Blacow would’ve called a “role-playing” gaming style; one that emphasized characterization and placed the player-characters center stage. Having never really played 2nd Edition, I can only speculate on the truth of this perception.

  3. Blacow, in my opinion, is largely right in some ways. A lot of the "storytelling" elements from White Wolf and other such games filtered into the AD&D 2e mindset pretty readily for some reason, though little of it was ever written down on paper in the core books. It wasn't until you got to certain later settings that these elements came to the fore at the expense of the game at times.

    At its heart, though, 2nd edition was just the same game as all that had come before it. It just ended up being the system that people love to hate.

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