Tuesday, March 10, 2009

On Bandwagons and Trend-Setters

Hello, everyone. My name is Ben.

(Hi, Ben!)

My name is Ben . . . and I'm a grognard.

Well, maybe not. You'll have to judge for yourself if I qualify.

It all started twenty-three years ago, in the spring 0f 1985. I had just been introduced to the works of Professor Tolkien the previous winter and had been watching the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon faithfully every saturday for three years. Then I went over to a friend's house and he asked if I wanted to learn how to play the Dungeons & Dragons game.

"Wait, there's a game?"

He pulled out a little red box (the Moldavy Basic rules) and started introducing me to the strangely-shaped dice and helped me roll up my first character, a cleric whose name I've long since forgotten. And that started me down this road. Soon, I was buying my own boxed sets, and getting my brother and our friends hooked. Then I started getting into the hard stuff, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. I've now been through five editions (counting BECMI) . . . six, in a way, since I found an old copy of the Holmes rules at my aunt and uncle's house, taking it with their blessing.

I loved the 3rd edition rules. It was good to finally have a codified rules-set for skills and special combat maneuvers. Not so much 4th edition, which has so changed the rules that it's D&D in name only. It was that revelation which made me start thinking about the rules period. And in time, that got me thinking about the "magical arms race" that editions 2-3.5 represented, with ever more special abilities and buffers against death being given to PCs at 1st level, a trend that I've hated for a long time now.

It was right at this point that I stumbled across Grognardia, and found James to be saying pretty much everything that I had been thinking for months, if not years. And that was when I had to face the facts.

I'm a grognard. In some ways a newbie grognard (pardon the irony), but a grognard nonetheless.

Having spent the last two months in particular deep in re-reading the rules in those books in my collection which have survived since the old days as well as retro-clones like Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord, and OSRIC (see sidebar for links), I've decided that with my seven-year-old daughter asking to learn to play, and with several other young people in my life wanting to learn, it's time to throw my hat in the ring and actually voice some of the thoughts on the rules and style that made OD&D so much fun.

Here goes . . .

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