Saturday, October 24, 2015
Actual Play: OD&D, Greyhawk and a touch of Arduin
I ran OD&D today. It seems odd, given a wide array of systems – including clones – to still use the original booklets to run games. I did recently give Lamentations of the Flame Princess a whirl, and it's a fine clone. And yet I now feel like OD&D is my "home" system.
(The picture above is of dice inked by Lou Zocchi. I was using the tiger eye beauties above as my primary d20s, using a d6 as a control die. There's just something to it.)
The game used Dyson Logos's Dellorfano Protocols Map. I loaded it with an adventure that had some plot behind it, a portal leading to Cykranosh (the Clark Ashton Smith name for Saturn), a few other CAS references, a few monsters, and a couple of interesting tricks. It was a ball to run.
Using OD&D plus Greyhawk as a basis winds up a lot like AD&D lite, or an alternate version of B/X D&D. But I like this particular iteration's quirks the best. It was how OD&D was really played, and it hits a sweet spot that attempts to add more detail or systematize things wind up missing. There is a comfort level to it, but a big factor is that it doesn't feel as much like somebody else's game. That's the main weakness, in my opinion, of the various clones.
As a side note: I think the best thing that you can do for your D&D experience is to run original D&D, no supplements, at least once. It's like a Zen cleansing moment for D&D: you just get to focus on the dungeon crawl itself. My love for OD&D I think stems from that. Everything I add, I choose to add, for a specific reason that I understand.
I also used the Arduin Grimoire, which I've been consulting for its quirky-as-hell critical hit table for a few games. It's a frickin' riot in use. One of the PC hobbits got a result of "eye" against a bandit with a dagger, and the damage was enough to kill the bandit straight out, so I described the hobbit getting up on top of the bandit and jamming the dagger home. I'd actually like to see a book like Arduin but designed by a person with better rules-sense than Hargrave, and less of the stupidly complex charts like individual weapon damage by number of enemy HD.
And of course the Ready Ref Sheets were in hand. It's another product I love but would appreciate a new version for. I'd like a to-hit chart closer to the one in Iron Falcon, which has additional gradations by level, and a fresh dungeon searching table. And of course various and sundry other charts.
My feeling is that D&D is an intensely personal game, being a creature of imagination. So it's naturally going to wind up as a kitbash game, where you take from the variants and other games out there and construct your own. Other people have talked about how they're running an "OSR Frankengame" and I think that's educational. The best thing the OSR has done is put out an awful lot of material for kitbashing. No one piece is a sine qua non, but there's plenty out there to tune a game just the way you want.