... now with 35% more arrogance!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Incomplete and Incomprehensible

Just yesterday, I saw someone post a message on a forum that included the statement that the three original books of D&D were incomplete and incomprehensible. It's a standard complaint, and I sort of ignore it or, in the past, occasionally accepted it as true, even though I felt I could understand the LBBs.

But now, I'm challenging the conventional wisdom, and not on the grounds of "you attacked my favorite game!" I'm seriously asking: Is it really incomplete? Is it really incomprehensible?

It references Chainmail in several places, and suggests using the Outdoor Survival map (and refers to the terrain effects of that game.) In that sense, the LBBs are incomplete, but that's not a whole lot of missing material.

True, re-reading the LBBs has revealed a lot that I thought I knew, but didn't. But you know what? Almost all of those things I thought I knew were actually from later editions, which radically changed many elements. There's even material that's not in the LBBs, but is in later editions, like initiative. But do we really need initiative?

Spell and monster descriptions are missing a lot of details that are in later editions, but I'm not a big fan of the later stat blocks for spells and monsters. Most of that information is stuff I don't use. Casting time? Frequency? Intelligence? I either skip it or make it up, as needed.

So what's really wrong with the LBBs?

7 comments:

  1. As someone who doesn't think the LBBs are particularly incomplete, I may not be the best person to answer. However, it's been my observation that, when most people say that about OD&D, what they really mean is that the LBBs don't explain themselves. That is, they just present rules and tables and charts but provide little or no verbiage to explain how they're meant to be used, at least compared to later iterations of the game.

    (I'm not even sure this critique is a fair one, but it's a common one, which is why I think you're more likely to hear the LBBs described as "incomprehensible" than "incomplete.")

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  2. Having re-edited the 3LB into a single document, partly to prove to myself this kind of thinking was incorrect, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the original game is both complete and easy to understand (more so than some later versions of the game).

    Unfortunately in its original format it most definitely is confusing, which in turn leads people to believe it's incomplete.

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  3. The engine for running the game is in the LBB. Everything since then is home brew. It is certainly not presented in an optimal format, and there is plenty of room for personal interpretation...but the nuts and bolts are there and pretty much unchanged since 1974. The allure of the LBB for me has been attempting to forget everything I learned playing 1e AD&D, and in the process realizing that OD&D is actually more my speed.

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  4. The allure of the LBB for me has been attempting to forget everything I learned playing 1e AD&D, and in the process realizing that OD&D is actually more my speed.

    Me too.

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  5. Wait a minute - the LBBs are a fantasy supplement to Chainmail, if I recall correctly.

    That means the LBBs can't be complete - Chainmail can be complete, and the LBBs can be part of Chainmail's completeness.

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  6. the LBBs are a fantasy supplement to Chainmail, if I recall correctly

    Your recollection is faulty PG, the LBBs are not a supplement of Chainmail. The RPG D&D certainly grew out of the Chainmail wargame's Fantasy Supplement, but is itself a totally separate game. The LBBs suggest the Chainmail wargame as an option to handle mass battles.

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