I think a fair case could be made that the most significant thing about the advent of the internet is that it has greatly facilitated the discussion and development surrounding independent and amateur role-playing games. It’s a nonstop party out here… and if there was a time when I was sad that there just wasn’t anything along the lines of Dragon Magazine or The Space Gamer around anymore, today we have something far better.
What do I mean…?
Well as Save Versus All Wands notes, you can right now pick up a PDF copy of first edition Tunnels & Trolls for next to nothing. Myself, I never saw a copy of any edition of this game back in the day– thought I did have a legit copy of Buffalo Castle, the first solitaire adventure ever made. (I’d picked it up because the introduction of second edition GURPS assured me I could use nearly any gaming product out there with it. It didn’t work for 14-year-old me. Still upset!) You absolutely need to see this game for yourself because not only is it fun, not only is it funny… but you can see first hand where the idea of “just let the attributes mean something and do the heavy rules lifting” design ethos came from. T&T is simultaneously an Old School D&D and Proto-GURPS! It is the first “everything you need in one book” game and it was specifically engineered to be comprehensible to people outside of the hardcore wargaming scene. Finally, for people that are still skeptical that authors besides Tolkien had much of an influence on the invention/discovery of D&D, read this book and you’ll notice that designer Ken St. Andre was was riffing on Jack Vance, Andre Norton, Robert E. Howard, and L. Sprague de Camp to the same extent that Gygax was.
Of course, not everyone is skeptical of the Appendix N thesis. Some people consider the case closed on that. Even better… they’re making game supplements that leverage these sorts of observations. One to look out for is Autarch’s Heroic Fantasy Handbook which I’m told includes a shoutout to my book in the introduction. There’s been a great deal of friction generated over the years that derives from people playing D&D under the assumption that it somehow ought to generate the same sorts of gameplay as what you see in the typical sprawling “Tolkienesque” mega-series that has defined the fantasy genre since the mid-eighties. I believe that leveraging the kind of shorter, pulpier stories that inspired the game in the first place can solve all manner of problems that emerge in actual play. This new game book will make it an order of magnitude easier for anyone to put the implications all this to work!
Meanwhile, rpg-Twitter has been on fire lately. People outside the old school game blog scene are routinely baffled by things that the grognards take for granted. A case in point for that Castalia House blog’s own PC Bushi who just can’t wrap his head around 18/00 strength. This makes no sense to people that came up on post-TSR D&D. Cirsova has a concise technical explanation for how things happened like they did… but in my view, this is an example of how original D&D was not designed. It simply emerged from a primordial ooze of countless gamers inventing their own hacks and solutions to whatever they saw needed a bit of tweaking. First edition AD&D codified a synthesis of these developments into a whole that has a great deal of influence on fantasy and role-playing to this day. And though it eventually found itself (as Lew Pulsipher would put it) held hostage to capitalism, when it was brand new… it was absolutely imperative that it be played exactly as Gygax insisted that you did.
I assure you, this is all just the tip of the iceberg. Digging into this stuff is the most fun you can possibly have short of going to a convention, setting up at a table, and then running an adventure for whoever happens to show up. If you haven’t started game blogging already, you really need to reconsider how you’re spending your free time!