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AMFV
2016-02-28, 10:05 PM
I keep hearing a lot of people claim that early D&D evolved as a "combat simulator" or claim that this is the main focus of D&D. I've recently been reading through a lot of the early issues of Dungeon Magazine, what has surprised me is how few of their adventures have combat as the main focus. Investigation, exploration, and diplomacy seem to be quite a bit more common. From what I've read of 3.5 Adventures this is often the case in about a quarter of published adventures. As such I'm wondering what people's actual play experiences in early D&D were like, was it really a combat simulator where the DM pitted himself against the players or was it really something very different?

Pluto!
2016-02-28, 10:14 PM
OD&D was all about looting. Which usually involved killing things in combat. But it was all about the fat stacks of cash.

Vitruviansquid
2016-02-28, 10:40 PM
My theory is old school DnD had a lot of combat, but *for its time* it was the least combat-focused wargame out there. You would thus play Dungeons and Dragons for its exploration, investigation, and diplomacy. If old school DnD has a lot of combat, it certainly wasn't the case when RPG was just in its infancy, therefore, when people played old school DnD it was for the non-combat portions.

Tiktakkat
2016-02-28, 10:53 PM
The rules were all about combat.
The gameplay varied by table, but had a tendency toward bragging rights.

Well, "technically" the rules weren't ALL about combat.
There were some for looting (aka, bragging rights), and some for screwing up looting (aka, griefing bragging rights), and later some for making background (aka, even more bragging rights and griefing bragging rights), but for the most they focused on combat.
And the gameplay wasn't always just about bragging rights. Sometimes there was gratuitous male bonding rituals (aka, other bragging rights), nerd wars (aka, yet other bragging rights), egregious looting (aka, still other bragging rights), and now and again some actual role-playing (aka, alternative bragging rights), but for the most part it was just about who could do whatever better than everyone else, at least for that night at the table.

Yes, the game evolved from a "combat simulator", specifically medieval miniature rules. The idea was to introduce fantasy concepts into the game, expanded to include unit advancement of leader figures. One element of this shows in older editions that use inches for range, as miniature games back then were typically played without grids, with range checked by tape measures.

As for what published adventures included, your survey is correct - there was just as much problem solving, exploration, and even outright interaction in those days as there is in typical published adventures today. The only real difference is that without a hardwired skill system, a lot less text is required to depict such things. Further, DM improvisation was much more expected, so boxed text speeches were nearly non-existent. I would also add that treasure was just as prevalent, another common complaint leveled in both directions. The primary difference is that treasure is hardwired into character power in later versions of the game, where only one form was directly hardwired into the earlier versions. (That being weapons of particular power to hit certain monsters.)

In regards to play experience, mine was mostly the various forms of bragging rights described above. We didn't really care what we got to brag about, we just wanted something to do that we could brag about. Awesome kills, cool tactics, killer treasure, or just scoring digs on each other, it was about having fun.

Arbane
2016-02-28, 11:18 PM
It wasn't ALL combat.
A lot of it was also playing Twenty Questions with the GM in hopes of weaseling out of the instant-death traps the dungeon was littered with.

AMFV
2016-02-28, 11:24 PM
It wasn't ALL combat.
A lot of it was also playing Twenty Questions with the GM in hopes of weaseling out of the instant-death traps the dungeon was littered with.

But there weren't any of those in the adventures I was reading... It was mostly exploration and investigation. More mysteries than anything else. That seems to hold true for the published ones as well. There are a few that are like that "Tomb of Horrors" but those have a reputation, even in that era. And don't seem to be reflected in what was actually presented so much as what people talk about later. Which has shaped perception.

JoeJ
2016-02-28, 11:33 PM
I started playing OD&D (the one that came with the module In Search of the Unknown) in 1978 or 79, but quickly transitioned to AD&D.

My experience was that it was mostly an exploration game, although with large chunks of combat, mystery solving, and diplomacy. And a couple of the most enjoyable sessions I've ever played were just about the party relaxing at an inn after a dungeon crawl.


My theory is old school DnD had a lot of combat, but *for its time* it was the least combat-focused wargame out there. You would thus play Dungeons and Dragons for its exploration, investigation, and diplomacy. If old school DnD has a lot of combat, it certainly wasn't the case when RPG was just in its infancy, therefore, when people played old school DnD it was for the non-combat portions.

In the games I played, Traveler had significantly less combat that D&D.

Darth Ultron
2016-02-29, 12:21 AM
Well, it does depend on what D&D game your talking about.

A lot of classic D&D game play was the dungeon crawl. There was no world, the game started and ended at the dungeon entrance.

Investigation, exploring, mysteries, diplomacy and puzzles have always been a part of the game.

And there are not all that many published adventures, ahem, modules. And if you have read 'a lot' of adventure modules about exploration and other things, you might have been reading the basic/expert/companion/master D&D ones, not the 1E ones.

Old school D&D gets the all combat thing from the fact that there were very few non combat rules. There were no skills or feats like later editions, for example.....and even the slight rules that did sort of cover this were vague.

Comet
2016-02-29, 01:06 AM
Old school D&D was all about challenge. It wasn't about writing backstories, seeking out plot hooks and meeting in a tavern. It wasn't about sportsmanlike combat where you know you'll be challenged just enough to feel satisfied, but never enough to be in actual danger. It wasn't about chasing a dramatic BBEG around the world and finally vanquishing him in a climactic showdown that taxes you to 75% of your resources and then having a nice epilogue where your half-elf warlock princess air genasi dragonblood gets to find out what happened to her wizard parents.

It was about horse**** traps, unfair wandering monsters and confusing labyrinths that were too big for your sheet of graph paper. It was about making a character in five minutes and losing them in three. It was about finally getting through that dungeon and screaming in triumph at your DM's face that you finally understand his world and how it works and nothing he can do will even touch your level 2 fighter. And then running into a black dragon just around the corner and realizing that you don't understand anything about this world, because it's too crazy and too weird for understanding.

JoeJ
2016-02-29, 01:50 AM
A good portion of Old School D&D was about leading/managing your minions. We almost always had NPC henchmen, hirelings, pets, pack animals, etc. as part of the party.

ImNotTrevor
2016-02-29, 02:38 AM
This depends on how far back we go to say where the start of D&D is.

Chainmail is the literal parent system of D&D. In a lot of ways, OD&D is just Chainmail 2e. Chainmail's DNA is firmly grounded in old historical wargames. (Roman miniatures vs. Syrian miniatures)

OD&D expanded upon Chainmail with additional opportunities for non-combat, but its entire reward structure was based on "kill things, get money."

nedz
2016-02-29, 05:58 AM
It started out as just playing through a dungeon, but it soon branched out.

For example: City State of the Invincible Overlord was published in 1976 as a first attempt at an urban setting.

World of Greyhawk was published in 1980, which is still quite early.

neonchameleon
2016-02-29, 06:23 AM
The rules were all about combat.
The gameplay varied by table, but had a tendency toward bragging rights.

Not even close. The rules had more about leadership and organising a team of NPCs than they did about combat. This however fell by the wayside by the mid-80s (not at all needed in Dragonlance for example)

oD&D was really about a series of badly planned armed heists in the dungeon. You gained 1XP for every GP you managed to recover, and every monster had about four times in GP their XP value, with most of that in their lairs. Which meant that smart players tried not to fight other than from ambush or with overwhelming force.

The exception to the above was wandering monsters. Wandering monsters did not carry treasure. Which meant that they were simply a problem - risky to fight (all monsters were) and without giving much in the way of loot or XP. You wanted to avoid fighting them (and the best way was to keep up the pace - you made a wandering monster trap every ten minutes).

The "what idiot created this stupid trap filled mess" dungeons (as opposed to exploration dungeons) were based on Tomb of Horrors - which was set as a deliberate challenge by Rob Kuntz and Ernie Gygax (they got all the treasure without dying - and just teleported away from Acecerak on the grounds that fighting was a mug's game; ToH is easy if you know one simple trick) and then spread as a tournament module. And then misapplied into home games.

Khedrac
2016-02-29, 07:28 AM
I've recently been reading through a lot of the early issues of Dungeon Magazine, what has surprised me is how few of their adventures have combat as the main focus.
I think where the confusion is coming from is that for most of us Dungeon is not "early" D&D - its first issue was in 1986.
To put this into perspective, Imagine - the TSR UK magazine had already folded (83 to 85).
Basic and Expert D&D have been re-written into BECM D&D and the Immortals box had come out (85).
Most of the 1st Ed AD&D modules (and the BECMI modules) had already been published. For example DL 14 - the last of the original Dragonlance series was published in 1986.
8 was when they started re-issuing old modules as compilations - A1-4, GDQ1-7 (yes T1-4 was 85, but T2-4 were never published separately).

So, Dungeon was after the original series of modules when the emphasis was combat, and people had started greatly to expand what else one could do.
Also as a magazine format - which made for short adventures, the fact that there was more than one adventure in each issue freed the publishers to experiment - they didn't have to stick with formulae they know would work, they could try very different ideas and see how the feedback ran.

Remember also that prior to Dungeon being published, Dragon contained an adventure in most issues, likewise Imagine (though fewer of them iirc).

Eldan
2016-02-29, 08:25 AM
And Games Workshop's White Dwarf, which first came out in '77, when it was still RPG magazine and mostly covered AD&D and Traveller.

Ashtagon
2016-02-29, 09:23 AM
I keep hearing a lot of people claim that early D&D evolved as a "combat simulator" or claim that this is the main focus of D&D. I've recently been reading through a lot of the early issues of Dungeon Magazine, what has surprised me is how few of their adventures have combat as the main focus. Investigation, exploration, and diplomacy seem to be quite a bit more common. From what I've read of 3.5 Adventures this is often the case in about a quarter of published adventures. As such I'm wondering what people's actual play experiences in early D&D were like, was it really a combat simulator where the DM pitted himself against the players or was it really something very different?

As with many tales, it's only half-true. Before AD&D, before even "original" D&D (the so-called white box set of 1974), there was Chainmail. This was unashamedly a set of rules for wargaming (somewhat similar to Warhammer Fantasy Battle in genre). Given that Chainmail included rules for heroes and wizards, it wasn't long before players placed themselves in the shoes of these generals, war-priests, and battle-sorcerers.

OD&D, the 1974 white box rules, was unashamedly a role-playing game, but an RPG in the context of its day. That meant deep-seated emotional attachment to a given character was out, since characters were intended to be quick to generate on the fly, not complex "builds" that you plan out days or weeks in advance. It also meant the typical adventure involved maximising the amount of loot recovered from the dungeon. GURPS Dungeon Fantasy plays up to pretty much every trope from that era, except OD&D had simpler rules.

That said, note that the emphasis was on getting treasure. Treasure, not combat or 'encounters', was what gained you XP. Quite often, adventures were designed to incorporate puzzles or diplomacy issues, and solving those would get you to the treasure (or reward).

Mutazoia
2016-02-29, 09:43 AM
As most people have already said, D&D, AD&D, and AD&D 2nd ed, were not all about combat. Sure, there were a lot of rules for combat, but that's only because the one thing you really need a solid rule set for. If your still unsure, just look at the spell list for AD&D. There are more non-combat spells than 3.X +, giving players a ton of other options to bypass an encounter besides "I hit it with my sword".

StorytellerHero
2016-02-29, 09:46 AM
I thought it was an evolution of the original creators' desires to get something more out of miniatures wargaming?

Mutazoia
2016-02-29, 10:23 AM
I thought it was an evolution of the original creators' desires to get something more out of miniatures wargaming?

They started by creating rules for controlling individual pieces (instead of the mass units of war-games up to that point), basically hero/general types, and then later added rules for "leveling them up" as they gained battle experience. And then they were sending those generals on missions, and the rest is history.

Eldan
2016-02-29, 12:03 PM
And then people working with the RPG magazine White Dwarf ported the rules back for using heroes and wizards in tabletop games and that's how we got Warhammer.

Khedrac
2016-02-29, 12:18 PM
I thought it was an evolution of the original creators' desires to get something more out of miniatures wargaming?
Whilst true, that does not make it simple.

For example Dave Arneson, one of the three co-creators, had as his personal setting Blackmoor.
Castle Blackmoor, as published by Zeitgest Games, claims that the original version was run as a large group (30?) of first level fighters going in and seeing how far they could get before they ran out of bodies. So in this case, very much something more out of miniatures wargaming.
But was that all they wanted?

I can't speak for the rest of the designers of D&D, but considering that Gary Gygax tried his hand writing novels set in Greyhawk (admittedly the first being published in 1985), it is worth considering Glorantha which was originally created as a setting for fantasy fiction by Greg Stafford, the wargames and RuneQuest rpg system came later.
My point here being that they probably had lots of motives for what they did, but the source (miniatures wargaming) will have affected how they went about it.

Jay R
2016-02-29, 12:28 PM
Chainmail was a set of miniatures rules: a simulation of medieval battle. Put a bunch of miniatures on the board, have a big battle, put everything away. It had a short appendix for playing with elves, dwarves, dragons, wizards, etc.

If all people wanted was combat, the next game out would have been Chainmail II.

But it wasn't. D&D used that game as the combat system, but it was a very different kind of game, about exploration, treasure-seeking, and playing the role of a fantasy character. It also assumed a copy of Avalon Hill's game Outdoor Survival, for the wilderness exploration.

The ten-foot pole for poking at a potential trap was as ubiquitous as a sword or spellbook.

In short, while it used the combat system in Chainmail, it wasn't simply a bigger version of it, but an entirely new type of game.

And once the first supplement (Greyhawk) came out, the D&D combat system was changed and Chainmail was not part of it at all.

Florian
2016-02-29, 12:39 PM
I keep hearing a lot of people claim that early D&D evolved as a "combat simulator" or claim that this is the main focus of D&D. I've recently been reading through a lot of the early issues of Dungeon Magazine, what has surprised me is how few of their adventures have combat as the main focus. Investigation, exploration, and diplomacy seem to be quite a bit more common. From what I've read of 3.5 Adventures this is often the case in about a quarter of published adventures. As such I'm wondering what people's actual play experiences in early D&D were like, was it really a combat simulator where the DM pitted himself against the players or was it really something very different?

Back then, it was a totally different nuance what the difference between "winning" and "beating" an encounter meant. In addition, the GM had very heavy authority about the rules and how they should be implemented. Stuff like "balance"? Sorry, had you tried to explain that notion me back then, a kid playing oD&D, IŽd have laughed in your face and called you names.

Combat Simulation? My ass, really. Combat (and spells) was something bloody fools engage in, wise and intelligent people scout, gather information, talk and circumvent to get to their goal (Loot!).

Gosh, sometime I miss he crowd from the McGraw base that used to be in Munich....

neonchameleon
2016-02-29, 01:20 PM
As most people have already said, D&D, AD&D, and AD&D 2nd ed, were not all about combat. Sure, there were a lot of rules for combat, but that's only because the one thing you really need a solid rule set for. If your still unsure, just look at the spell list for AD&D. There are more non-combat spells than 3.X +, giving players a ton of other options to bypass an encounter besides "I hit it with my sword".

I'm fairly sure that this isn't true. That the AD&D spells are a almost subset of the 3.X ones.

On the other hand what really changed was, as I mentioned, the XP system. In oD&D and 1E it was 1XP for 1GP meaning your main source of XP was armed robbery of monsters with killing monsters as a sideline. In 2e it was XP for class-specific things like casting spells as a wizard or killing monsters as a fighter (no, really) as well as killing monsters. In 3.X it was overcoming challenges with the only challenges really awarding XP being monsters you killed.

JoeJ
2016-02-29, 01:38 PM
On the other hand what really changed was, as I mentioned, the XP system. In oD&D and 1E it was 1XP for 1GP meaning your main source of XP was armed robbery of monsters with killing monsters as a sideline. In 2e it was XP for class-specific things like casting spells as a wizard or killing monsters as a fighter (no, really) as well as killing monsters. In 3.X it was overcoming challenges with the only challenges really awarding XP being monsters you killed.

In 1e you got xp both for treasure and for monsters. In 2e they officially took out the xp for gold bit except for rogues, but I didn't know anybody that played it that way. We all continued doing what we were used to, and there were even some published 2e adventures that listed the xp value of the treasure.

Tiktakkat
2016-02-29, 02:09 PM
Not even close. The rules had more about leadership and organising a team of NPCs than they did about combat. This however fell by the wayside by the mid-80s (not at all needed in Dragonlance for example)

Where?
There was a section of a chapter on followers gained at name level in the DMG, another portion devoted to loyalty tacked onto the encounter reaction portion, and some random notes on hirelings. None of that actually discussed organizing them into a warband.
This compared to the extended chapter with charts and tables on regular combat, unarmed combat, and psionic combat, plus the saving throw chart with commentary.
And of course leadership was barely even mentioned in the PHB, as bare explanation of entries on the Charisma table and mentions of followers at name level for classes, while combat had its own chapter, with only modest comments about short-changing NPCs on xp and treasure division.

wumpus
2016-02-29, 02:14 PM
I'm fairly sure that this isn't true. That the AD&D spells are a almost subset of the 3.X ones.

On the other hand what really changed was, as I mentioned, the XP system. In oD&D and 1E it was 1XP for 1GP meaning your main source of XP was armed robbery of monsters with killing monsters as a sideline. In 2e it was XP for class-specific things like casting spells as a wizard or killing monsters as a fighter (no, really) as well as killing monsters. In 3.X it was overcoming challenges with the only challenges really awarding XP being monsters you killed.

The *rules* were almost all about combat. Scratch that, the *rules people could figure out and were willing to play with* were about combat. There were a ton of rules in the DMG about transportation, including rules for getting lost (rangers didn't get any special saves, which I felt was a big oversight). There were rules about traveling trough swamps (and presumably sewers, for all you urban dungoneers) and rolling for various diseases. I suspect there were more rules in the 1e DMG (mine isn't accessible right now) for transportation (mostly wilderness, but sailing, astral plane and more extreme as well) probably took up more room than combat.

All the "social skills rolls" of later games were missing. Presumably, these were done in character however you felt like just to lead to either the dungeon or the expedition to the dungeon. Note that this doesn't include hirelings and henchmen: as noted above there were plenty of rules about henchmen loyalty and rolls for morale (during combat) and betrayal. Generally, these were lumped under combat as these were often assumed to be cannon fodder.

Note that for any non-combat situations, the players were assumed to have to figure it out (often through meta-gaming, which was often considered acceptable). Traps were often discovered by clues given by the search results (not: you found a trap but hints of a mechanism). Remember, AD&D was pretty rules light (for rules as played and the general applicability for rules in arbitrary situations) and the DM had to rule on the spot (yes, this was often abused nearly as bad as Pun Pun in later games), lack of a specific rule hardly meant you couldn't do it, just that players had to think of it and get the DM to agree.

Joe the Rat
2016-02-29, 02:46 PM
On the other hand what really changed was, as I mentioned, the XP system. In oD&D and 1E it was 1XP for 1GP meaning your main source of XP was armed robbery of monsters with killing monsters as a sideline. In 2e it was XP for class-specific things like casting spells as a wizard or killing monsters as a fighter (no, really) as well as killing monsters. In 3.X it was overcoming challenges with the only challenges really awarding XP being monsters you killed.

That's an important thing to remember: Treasure was the goal. Not killing stuff, taking stuff. If you could reach the vault, and get the goods back to town (it's not the having, it's the taking with you), you were rewarded. In essence, it was quest/objective based xp, that came in small denominations. Talking and bribing and threatening your way past intelligent monsters (and running away) were as important of tools as fighting, if not moreso. If you get the artifact (and some pocket change) home without a single fight, you're doing good.

Early adventures weren't stories you played through, they were locations and situations with a set of goals (even if said goal was simply "find treasure"). It was up to you to figure out how to reach them.

hymer
2016-02-29, 02:57 PM
The old Rules Cyclopedia has a lot of combat-related stuff, but there's a lot of other stuff, too. Plenty of Skills deal with other stuff, and a fair few spells. The 'Encounters and Evasion' chapter can be seen as pre-combat phase, but it also includes stuff on exploration. There's a chapter on mass combat (which may or may not count). And the chapter on Strongholds and Dominions is nearly a whole game in itself. And when discussing how to create a campaign as a DM, there are plenty of things besides things you can fight mentioned.
So I'd say the rules are fairly combat heavy, but there's plenty of other stuff, and suggestions for noncombat experiences beyond the scope of the rules themselves.

Thrudd
2016-02-29, 03:22 PM
The *rules* were almost all about combat. Scratch that, the *rules people could figure out and were willing to play with* were about combat. There were a ton of rules in the DMG about transportation, including rules for getting lost (rangers didn't get any special saves, which I felt was a big oversight). There were rules about traveling trough swamps (and presumably sewers, for all you urban dungoneers) and rolling for various diseases. I suspect there were more rules in the 1e DMG (mine isn't accessible right now) for transportation (mostly wilderness, but sailing, astral plane and more extreme as well) probably took up more room than combat.

All the "social skills rolls" of later games were missing. Presumably, these were done in character however you felt like just to lead to either the dungeon or the expedition to the dungeon. Note that this doesn't include hirelings and henchmen: as noted above there were plenty of rules about henchmen loyalty and rolls for morale (during combat) and betrayal. Generally, these were lumped under combat as these were often assumed to be cannon fodder.

Note that for any non-combat situations, the players were assumed to have to figure it out (often through meta-gaming, which was often considered acceptable). Traps were often discovered by clues given by the search results (not: you found a trap but hints of a mechanism). Remember, AD&D was pretty rules light (for rules as played and the general applicability for rules in arbitrary situations) and the DM had to rule on the spot (yes, this was often abused nearly as bad as Pun Pun in later games), lack of a specific rule hardly meant you couldn't do it, just that players had to think of it and get the DM to agree.

There are rules for social reaction of intelligent monsters and npcs. A character's charisma modifies the reaction, OD&D, B/X, and AD&D 1e and 2e each had slightly different ways of doing this. This is how the DM determines what the result of a parley is, it isn't just free-form. You didn't need a whole chapter about it, just one table.

Also, the early TSR books were not known to have the best editing or organization. Just because a rule or a table was found in an awkward place in the book doesn't mean it wasn't important or integral to the game.

obryn
2016-02-29, 03:29 PM
The old Rules Cyclopedia has a lot of combat-related stuff, but there's a lot of other stuff, too. Plenty of Skills deal with other stuff, and a fair few spells. The 'Encounters and Evasion' chapter can be seen as pre-combat phase, but it also includes stuff on exploration. There's a chapter on mass combat (which may or may not count). And the chapter on Strongholds and Dominions is nearly a whole game in itself. And when discussing how to create a campaign as a DM, there are plenty of things besides things you can fight mentioned.
So I'd say the rules are fairly combat heavy, but there's plenty of other stuff, and suggestions for noncombat experiences beyond the scope of the rules themselves.
Much as I love the RC, it's a much later incarnation of the D&D line than we're mostly talking about, here. :smallsmile:

hymer
2016-02-29, 03:31 PM
Much as I love the RC, it's a much later incarnation of the D&D line than we're mostly talking about, here. :smallsmile:

I saw 1st and 2nd edition AD&D mentioned further up the thread, but not this. Thought I'd mention it. :smallsmile:

Eldan
2016-02-29, 04:00 PM
In 3.X it was overcoming challenges with the only challenges really awarding XP being monsters you killed.

That's just not true. XP are given for challenges. Challenges are anything with a challenge rating, which includes traps and environmental hazards. And killing isn't a requirement, just "overcoming".

Tiktakkat
2016-02-29, 04:12 PM
The *rules* were almost all about combat. Scratch that, the *rules people could figure out and were willing to play with* were about combat.

LOL

For real. I'm having a flashback about how much time we spent reading and trying to figure out how to actually use those other rules.


There were a ton of rules in the DMG about transportation, including rules for getting lost (rangers didn't get any special saves, which I felt was a big oversight). There were rules about traveling trough swamps (and presumably sewers, for all you urban dungoneers) and rolling for various diseases. I suspect there were more rules in the 1e DMG (mine isn't accessible right now) for transportation (mostly wilderness, but sailing, astral plane and more extreme as well) probably took up more room than combat.

There were.
For reference, checking my "revised" printing 1st ed DMG, I get the following rough section page counts:
TOC and introduction pp 1-11
Additional notes on character design pp 11-25
Additional notes on equipment pp 25-28
Hirelings and Henchmen pp 28-37
Timekeeping pp 37-38
Additional rules and notes on spells pp 38-47
Outdoor rules pp 47-60
Combat pp 61-83
Experience pp 84-86
Campaign concepts 87-114
Magic Item notes pp 115-119
Treasure + Appendices (i.e. "bonus charts") + Glossary pp 120-238

The biggest chunk is clearly loot and random tables.
After that, the largest specific section is combat.
There is also a large section expanding on things from the PHB.
Finally, scattered about, there are sections on how to have some structure for where to have combat (dungeons and outdoors), and what to talk about when not having combat (setting design, particularly castle and army building), with tons of charts to support them.

runeghost
2016-02-29, 04:22 PM
As others have pointed out, the rules in Old School D&D (AD&D 1st ed, and B/X D&D were what I was playing back in the early 80s) were mostly (but not entirely) about combat. The amount of actual combat in the game varied widely between different DMs and sometimes even between sessions in the same campaign.

The groups I played with back then ran D&D somewhere between poorly-optimized tactical combat and Amber Diceless. A player would try to do something, and if it wasn't combat-related, a spell, or one of the handful of non-combat, non-spell things there was a rule for, we'd just wing it. Roll some dice vs. ability scores was common, but so was basing stuff on level, other in-game mechanics, making it up, and just roleplaying it out. Loot and powering-up was nice, but so was playing in-character, and just generally having fun.

I currently run a weekly AD&D 1st ed game that's about two years old. It's split roughly evenly between roleplaying, resource management, and die-rolling based on the rules (with as few house-rules as possible, which isn't to imply I don't have any). And only some of the die-rolling is combat. My players dislike fights, and they particularly dislike fair fights. That's how PCs get killed! (Of course, as DM, it's my job to make sure that hostile monsters and NPCs generally feel the same way. :smallbiggrin:)

Amphetryon
2016-02-29, 04:48 PM
In 3.X it was overcoming challenges with the only challenges really awarding XP being monsters you killed.
I'm sorry that's been your experience of 3.X. It has not been one I've seen a lot, personally.

Ashtagon
2016-02-29, 05:44 PM
And then people working with the RPG magazine White Dwarf ported the rules back for using heroes and wizards in tabletop games and that's how we got Warhammer.

That's be a neat trick.

WFB was inspired by a miniatures-based skirmish-scale wargame called Reaper, which came out in 1978, before even AD&D reared its head. WFB 1e came out in 1983, but it has its roots purely in miniatures-based wargames, not in RPGs, exactly as D&D did.

neonchameleon
2016-02-29, 08:04 PM
In 1e you got xp both for treasure and for monsters. In 2e they officially took out the xp for gold bit except for rogues, but I didn't know anybody that played it that way. We all continued doing what we were used to, and there were even some published 2e adventures that listed the xp value of the treasure.

"We all continued..."

This is one thing that makes talking about the various TSR editions of D&D very hard. When I ask most 1e fans what they were doing they almost invariably end up telling me that what they were playing was Red Box D&D with some optional rules from the 1E PHB and DMG and the 1E MM. When I speak to players who started playing in the 1980s and who say they played 2e throughout the 1990s it normally turns out that they almost entirely ignored the 2E DMG (which is a very different thing from the 1E DMG). At that point as a purist I'd say that they were playing 1E with a few 2e house rules.

And there were also plenty of groups in the 1980s who dropped the XP for GP rule on the grounds it didn't make sense.


The *rules* were almost all about combat. Scratch that, the *rules people could figure out and were willing to play with* were about combat. There were a ton of rules in the DMG

This is another huge problem of 1E. Although there were plenty of rules for exploration in oD&D too. Gygaxian verbosity and impenetrability was a problem. (Who played with the 1e DMG helmet rules? Anyone?)


All the "social skills rolls" of later games were missing. Presumably, these were done in character however you felt like just to lead to either the dungeon or the expedition to the dungeon. Note that this doesn't include hirelings and henchmen: as noted above there were plenty of rules about henchmen loyalty and rolls for morale (during combat) and betrayal. Generally, these were lumped under combat as these were often assumed to be cannon fodder.

They were meant to be a little more than that.


Remember, AD&D was pretty rules light

Once you ignored all the hard to find or impenetrable rules, the rules you say are ignored and decide to declare that the cleric doesn't need a dozen pages of rules to themselves due to the spells they've chosen then yes I see how you might think AD&D is rules light.

To me a rules light system is one where you can fit all the rules of the game on a double side of A4, and all the character rules comfortably onto a single side of an index card and NPCs on a post-it note and they are almost human-readable. And never touch the rulebooks at the table after the first half dozen sessions.

Red Box D&D doesn't qualify as rules light. AD&D even after a good pruning is at the heavy end of rules medium, slipping over into the light end of rules heavy in cases with NPC spellcasters or when the wizard needs to look up the details of their spells in the PHB (or worse another source); my threshold for rules heavy is if you look anything other than a comprehensive statblock up in the rulebook more than every half dozen sessions. (If the statblock is all in one place, as non-caster statblocks in AD&D are, that can be rules medium. If it tells you to refer to somewhere else as all spellcasters do that's automatically rules heavy).


That's just not true. XP are given for challenges. Challenges are anything with a challenge rating, which includes traps and environmental hazards. And killing isn't a requirement, just "overcoming".

I acknowledged that there were things there like traps. Now give me the trap or environmental hazard:monster ratio. The overwhelming majority of 3.X XP RAW is from killing monsters. This is not the case in oD&D or 1e, and 4e has a much wider range of methods for XP generation so RAW it's the majority but not the overwhelming majority (traps, hazards, and any PC plan will generate XP in 4e - as will quest awards; I've only once gone an entire level where XP were handed out RAW and we didn't actually fight anyone but it's only slightly outside the normal range in 4e).

Quertus
2016-03-01, 12:18 AM
It varied. Combat, traps, puzzles, mysteries, intrigue, exploration, survival, etc. But many of these things would be one man shows. Who other than the party face really talks much in most RPGs; who other than the party rogue usually interacts intentionally with traps? And how many groups actually have an even distribution of interest in and talent for puzzles?

Combat, however, was the one area of the game where everyone could participate, if not evenly, at least reasonably.

Subsequently, I would always encourage DMs to include combat in all adventures, even when I was obviously not running a particularly combat-oriented character. Other than the rare times when we would role-playing our characters just sitting around chatting with each other, combat was the best bonding experience for the characters.

JoeJ
2016-03-01, 12:48 AM
It varied. Combat, traps, puzzles, mysteries, intrigue, exploration, survival, etc. But many of these things would be one man shows. Who other than the party face really talks much in most RPGs;

Pretty much everybody. Party face has never been a thing in any of the games I've played. I've only ever encountered it on the internet. The closest we came was if everybody pointed to the same character when a powerful NPC asked, "who's responsible for this?"


who other than the party rogue usually interacts intentionally with traps?

Anybody who is able to help out. Everybody else makes a point of telling the DM how far back they're standing.


And how many groups actually have an even distribution of interest in and talent for puzzles?

IME, about as many as have an even distribution of interest in and talent for combat. But maybe that's because all the people I played with back then were nerds.

obryn
2016-03-01, 09:22 AM
Pretty much everybody. Party face has never been a thing in any of the games I've played. I've only ever encountered it on the internet. The closest we came was if everybody pointed to the same character when a powerful NPC asked, "who's responsible for this?"
This is reminding me that the Caller was an actual thing in older D&D. :smallsmile:

JanusJones
2016-03-01, 10:18 AM
Heh. JUST (http://mmlow1979.wix.com/genrecardgame#!Winning-is-for-Losers/v7862/56c276240cf2100f6473fa86) wrote something about this!

Quertus
2016-03-01, 11:30 AM
Anybody who is able to help out. Everybody else makes a point of telling the DM how far back they're standing.

Man, I've gotta stop posting in the library if you're going to be making me laugh like this! That brought back a lot of memories, regarding just how much of a (sometimes literal) meat grinder older editions were.

kyoryu
2016-03-01, 04:47 PM
Well, old school D&D was about whatever the particular table playing it made it about. There's as many answers to this question as there are people that played old school D&D.

That said, I've had the good fortune to play in a really old-school game, as well as the friendship of people who either played with Gary or are working with his family on D&D-related stuff. I'm going to answer the question from that perspective. Your experiences may differ, and I'm not discounting that at all, so please don't think I'm saying anyone "did it wrong".

No, old-school D&D was not "all about combat". That was a portion of it, yes. Old-school D&D was a game of exploration, first and foremost. It's not inaccurate to view it as a combination of a dungeon heist and survival horror. That's why you got more xp from treasure than killing things typically - it was to make combat a means to an end, not the end in and of itself.

Since most things were presented as interactions with the world, people could engage with most things - yes, even traps. Sure, the final roll to actually disarm the thing would require that skill, but up until that point everything could be done by engaging with the world in-character. Saving throws weren't really supposed to be the 'primary' way of interacting with things, they were you last-ditch mechanical bailout after you (as the player/character) made bad decisions.

If you approached things from a "I can do the things I have mechanical widgets for, and only those things" mentality, then yes, the game could devolve into combat-only or some of the things that have been described above. But that's not the original playstyle. The original playstyle was that you'd describe what you were doing in terms of being a person in that situation, and then the GM would figure out what rules/rulings to use to resolve the action.

goto124
2016-03-02, 12:54 AM
If you approached things from a "I can do the things I have mechanical widgets for, and only those things" mentality, then yes, the game could devolve into combat-only or some of the things that have been described above. But that's not the original playstyle. The original playstyle was that you'd describe what you were doing in terms of being a person in that situation, and then the GM would figure out what rules/rulings to use to resolve the action.

Is that what people mean when they say 5e goes back to old-school roots?

Fizban
2016-03-02, 04:18 AM
It wasn't about chasing a dramatic BBEG around the world and finally vanquishing him in a climactic showdown that taxes you to 75% of your resources and then having a nice epilogue where your half-elf warlock princess air genasi dragonblood gets to find out what happened to her wizard parents

My players dislike fights, and they particularly dislike fair fights. That's how PCs get killed!
See, people complain about CR in 3.x, but it doesn't disagree with the old school sentiment towards combat at all: the CR system assumes that most of your fights are explicitly not fair fights. They're 4 on 1 level unfair fights in your favor, with only one or two fair fights per level (which you can probably subvert anyway). The only difference is that where it sounds like older editions gave no DM direction, forcing the players to keep avoiding and badgering until they can find an easy win, 3.x and later used the CR system to explicitly set the bar at "PCs spend most of their time bullying people and taking their stuff." The system works fine, it's just the perception that's wrong-calling it "challenge" rating made it sound like an even fight and many, many people think that's what it's supposed to mean. Make no mistake: a single creature of CR=level is not supposed to be a "challenge" of any sort, it's just a minor obstacle you've decided to deal with via brute force for expediency.

Here's a question: did anyone ever create characters above 1st level in older editions? Since reports all make a point of how you had to claw your way up from 1st while avoiding combat as much as possible, I would assume most groups would find that completely antithetical at the time.

Khedrac
2016-03-02, 07:23 AM
Here's a question: did anyone ever create characters above 1st level in older editions? Since reports all make a point of how you had to claw your way up from 1st while avoiding combat as much as possible, I would assume most groups would find that completely antithetical at the time.
Actually, for that reason starting at level 3 wasn't that uncommon.
Also, if the idea is to run a specific adventure than a party was usually created at the correct level for the adventure.

Much the same as people do nowadays tbh.

The exception to this (for me) was RuneQuest. Not being a level-based system new characters tended to start at base skill levels even if the rest of the party was much more skilled.
Something we still do for the Call of Cthulhu campaign I play in.

hamlet
2016-03-02, 11:10 AM
Is that what people mean when they say 5e goes back to old-school roots?

One of the things, yes, though it's arguable how close to the root it got, really.

Jay R
2016-03-02, 12:13 PM
See, people complain about CR in 3.x, but it doesn't disagree with the old school sentiment towards combat at all:...

In original D&D, the equivalent for challenge rating existed implicitly, and all players understood it. On pages 10-11 of The Underground and Wilderness Adventures (the third pamphlet of D&D, used for setting up dungeons), there were six "Monster Level Tables".
Level 1: Kobolds, Goblins, Skeletons, Orcs, Giant Rats, Centipedes, Bandits, Spiders
Level 2: Hobgoblins, Zombies, Lizards, Warriors, Conjurors, Gnolls, Ghouls, Berserkers, Theurgists
...
Level 6: Giants, Hydra (9-12 heads), Dragons, Basilisks, Gorgons, Chimeras, Vampires, Lords, Balrogs, Wizards, Evil High Priests, Purple Worms.

A dungeon's first level was filled with 1/3 table 1, 1/3 table 2, 1/6 table 3, and 1/6 table 4.
Second level was 1/6, 1/6, 1/3, 1/3, and 1/6.
etc.

The players knew roughly how threatening a dungeon level was supposed to be.

Of course, that left the possibility of Wraiths, Ogres, Evil Priests, etc. on level 1, since there was a 1/6 chance of a Level four monster. When we found them, we ran. But there was still an overall understanding that lower level PCs stayed on the first level below the surface, and you went down further when you were more powerful.

It also meant that when you went deeper, you already knew a great deal about the dungeon, and had "safe" places below the surface to rest.

Wilderness adventures were intended for high level parties with Lords and Patriarchs who wanted to clear out an area of wilderness to build a castle or cathedral.


Here's a question: did anyone ever create characters above 1st level in older editions? Since reports all make a point of how you had to claw your way up from 1st while avoiding combat as much as possible, I would assume most groups would find that completely antithetical at the time.

Different groups played differently. Here's what I experienced.

From 1975 to 1979, all my PCs started at 1st level except for one-shot tournaments at conventions. When I joined a group in progress in 1979, and created a 6th level character, it felt a little like cheating - getting the benefits of 1st-5th levels without taking the risks.

I would still prefer to play the entire adventuring life of a character. I want the background of my tenth level PC to include nine levels of experiences I've actually had, not merely a story I made up. This has become a somewhat rare preference among modern players, but it was standard procedure when I started.

cobaltstarfire
2016-03-02, 12:41 PM
I acknowledged that there were things there like traps. Now give me the trap or environmental hazard:monster ratio. The overwhelming majority of 3.X XP RAW is from killing monsters.

No it's not. All you have to do is complete the encounter, you don't need to kill anything. If you defeat the monsters but don't kill a single one of them you still get XP. If you encounter them and manage to get through the encounter without starting a fight, you still get the XP. The 3.5 DMG itself talks about awarding XP for encounters both in terms of using diplomacy or defeating monsters, as well as overcoming challenges.

You don't need to kill anything to get xp in 3.5, you simply need to be successful.

CharonsHelper
2016-03-02, 12:53 PM
The exception to this (for me) was RuneQuest. Not being a level-based system new characters tended to start at base skill levels even if the rest of the party was much more skilled.
Something we still do for the Call of Cthulhu campaign I play in.

That's a matter of how much more powerful characters get as they level. In some games, you only get slightly more powerful vs. the more exponential power of D&D. (I don't know RuneQuest, but in Call of Cthulhu you get slightly more powerful, but also more insane.)

For those games, it works fine as the new players can still contribute significantly. However, if a level 1 D&D character joins a level 6 group he's basically worthless except as 1 more person to hopefully roll high on perception checks.

mephnick
2016-03-02, 01:17 PM
Is that what people mean when they say 5e goes back to old-school roots?

Mostly in how anyone can and should try anything again, because of reachable DCs, while letting the DM sort things out.

How the game is "supposed" to run:

DM: "The crazed Gorillon is charging at you and all that's behind you is a large drop off!"

Player: "Firbol jumps off the ledge and reaches out for the branches of the nearest tree to catch himself. I hope I make it!"

DM: "Ok, roll an athletics check....Yes, you manage to hold on to the nearest branch!"

How it started to run once 3.5 hit the stage:

DM: "The crazed Gorillon is charging at you and all that's behind you is a large drop off!"

Player: "Well, I could try to jump to that tree, but my Jump is only a +2 so it's probably not worth trying because the DC is probably ramped up to 20-25 at this level. I really should have specced physical skills a bit more, but didn't think I needed to because Phil has +23 in it. What does my character sheet say I can do here? Hmm. I can't trip him or grapple him because I didn't take those feats. My +18 Hide won't help. Sigh. Guess I'll just delay."

kyoryu
2016-03-02, 02:54 PM
See, people complain about CR in 3.x, but it doesn't disagree with the old school sentiment towards combat at all: the CR system assumes that most of your fights are explicitly not fair fights.

The big reason that (really old school) old school grognards dislike the CR system is the implicit assumption that it's the job of the GM to set up fair/winnable fights. In old-school games, the environment/dungeon was just there, and the characters went where they wanted, scouted, and engaged what they thought they could take. It wasn't the GM's job to serve up a sequence of encounters for the players to overcome.

Zombimode
2016-03-02, 03:14 PM
The big reason that (really old school) old school grognards dislike the CR system is the implicit assumption that it's the job of the GM to set up fair/winnable fights. In old-school games, the environment/dungeon was just there, and the characters went where they wanted, scouted, and engaged what they thought they could take. It wasn't the GM's job to serve up a sequence of encounters for the players to overcome.

The notion that this is any different in 3.5 is of course flat-out wrong. People would know this if they would actually read the 3.5 DMG. Citing published adventures is of no use either since most old modules consist of encounter of roughly the same makeup in difficulty in relation the the party level as is suggested by the 3.5 DMG (that suggest including 5% "unwinnable" encounters; a fact that many people do not seem to be aware of).

ComaVision
2016-03-02, 03:57 PM
it's probably not worth trying because the DC is probably ramped up to 20-25 at this level.

Skill DCs aren't supposed to scale based on character level in 3.5. If that jump would be a DC 10 for a level 1 it should be a DC 10 for a level 12.

Thrudd
2016-03-02, 04:08 PM
The big reason that (really old school) old school grognards dislike the CR system is the implicit assumption that it's the job of the GM to set up fair/winnable fights. In old-school games, the environment/dungeon was just there, and the characters went where they wanted, scouted, and engaged what they thought they could take. It wasn't the GM's job to serve up a sequence of encounters for the players to overcome.

It's not entirely true that the DM did not design winnable fights. The dungeon was designed as a somewhat predictable environment, where each floor or level contained wandering monsters and challenges that were "level appropriate" within a certain range of levels. So if the party stayed on the first level of the dungeon, they would be facing monsters appropriate for level 1-2. Go down (or up) the stairs, and they could expect it to get progressively tougher. Out in the wilderness, traveling to and from the dungeon, wandering monsters would not necessarily be designed for a particular level, but outdoors it is also easier to avoid or flee from monsters.

The 3e guide for the percentage of encounters at what CR relative to the party mirrors the wandering monster tables for each dungeon level from basic and AD&D, where you would see a number of easy encounters, a number of tougher ones, and one or two clearly over powered ones.

What the DM didn't do was plan out the course of events. The location and enemies were prepared, and the party encountered things as they explored, and wandering monster tables added an element of urgency not to dally about as random encounters drain resources.

Mark Hall
2016-03-02, 08:03 PM
There's also how rewards were weighted in AD&D that plays into it.

In 2e, a lot of your XP came from combat. There were rules for other things, but you still got the bulk of your XP, most of the time, from killing things.

In 1e, the XP mostly came from taking their stuff. If you were a low-level thief, you likely couldn't stand up to an orc... but you might sneak in and steal his pouch, and come out with more XP than you'd get for simply killing him, because your XP came from loot, with combat XP being a bit of a garnish.

kyoryu
2016-03-02, 11:42 PM
It's not entirely true that the DM did not design winnable fights. The dungeon was designed as a somewhat predictable environment, where each floor or level contained wandering monsters and challenges that were "level appropriate" within a certain range of levels.

Sort of but not entirely. Look at B2 - there's stuff you can immediately get to that would wipe out a typical first level party. It's generally true that "level 1" will have weaker stuff than "level 2" but it's not typically strictly segregated. The party still has to scout, assess threat, etc.

Compare this to something like DragonLance (which is still pretty long in the tooth) where the party is basically fed a stream of encounters, one after the other.

You can put crazy stuff in B2 because the party can scout it and avoid it, or engage and probably die. It's their choice, and it's on their heads. If you put in something that's "not balanced", it's not a problem, because engaging things or not is the party's choice. Once you go to the "series of preplanned encounters" model, you've effectively taken that choice from the party, and all of a sudden creating properly balanced encounters is a very important part of the GM's job.

That's all on top of the fact that in really old school dungeon crawls (1e and prior), the XP from loot was so large of a share of the total xp that the optimal strategy was typically to avoid combat, making 'balanced fights' even less important.

goto124
2016-03-03, 12:04 AM
It's not entirely true that the DM did not design winnable fights. The dungeon was designed as a somewhat predictable environment, where each floor or level contained wandering monsters and challenges that were "level appropriate" within a certain range of levels. So if the party stayed on the first level of the dungeon, they would be facing monsters appropriate for level 1-2. Go down (or up) the stairs, and they could expect it to get progressively tougher. Out in the wilderness, traveling to and from the dungeon, wandering monsters would not necessarily be designed for a particular level, but outdoors it is also easier to avoid or flee from monsters.

I believe even computer MMOs do this. You could fight out-of-your-level monsters, but you'll have to travel a long way from your starting point to do this, so you would have to be fairly stupid to fight those over-leveled monsters. Instead, you fight the nearby monsters that are appropriate for your level, and slowly build yourself up and take on increasingly more difficult monsters.

Khedrac
2016-03-03, 03:59 AM
I believe even computer MMOs do this. You could fight out-of-your-level monsters, but you'll have to travel a long way from your starting point to do this, so you would have to be fairly stupid to fight those over-leveled monsters. Instead, you fight the nearby monsters that are appropriate for your level, and slowly build yourself up and take on increasingly more difficult monsters.
Ah the joys of EverQuest (yes that shows my age). One of the zones right next to a starting city (I don't think it was the starting zone, I think it was one of the level 3-6ish areas) had an event happen to it (before I started playing the game). This meant the zone got invaded by undead at night - level 40ish iirc. EverQuest used an accelerated Day/Night schedule (something like 4 or 6 hours for a complete cycle) so it was quite easy to have night come up on you while you were killing things without paying that much attention....
In the days when I played, when I was low enough level to need to go through the zone (rather than bypass) I was also low enough that I would run round the edge, as high up the wall as I could rather than attempt to go through the middle if at night.

Some MMOs put very high level stuff quite close to starting areas, but they also usually give the ability to judge the lethality of a monster from range. This usually means if you wander into the neighbouring zone you can look at the creatures there and think "time I went somewhere else - very fast".

goto124
2016-03-03, 04:08 AM
Ah the joys of EverQuest (yes that shows my age). One of the zones right next to a starting city (I don't think it was the starting zone, I think it was one of the level 3-6ish areas) had an event happen to it (before I started playing the game). This meant the zone got invaded by undead at night - level 40ish iirc. EverQuest used an accelerated Day/Night schedule (something like 4 or 6 hours for a complete cycle) so it was quite easy to have night come up on you while you were killing things without paying that much attention....
In the days when I played, when I was low enough level to need to go through the zone (rather than bypass) I was also low enough that I would run round the edge, as high up the wall as I could rather than attempt to go through the middle if at night.

Heh.


Some MMOs put very high level stuff quite close to starting areas, but they also usually give the ability to judge the lethality of a monster from range. This usually means if you wander into the neighbouring zone you can look at the creatures there and think "time I went somewhere else - very fast".

As I recall, TRPGs usually give the characters (and players) a chance to judge as well. Less "this creature is level 40" and more "this creature has poisoned spikes all over its body, it sure looks dangerous".

Fizban
2016-03-03, 07:15 AM
In original D&D, the equivalent for challenge rating existed implicitly, and all players understood it. On pages 10-11 of The Underground and Wilderness Adventures (the third pamphlet of D&D, used for setting up dungeons), there were six "Monster Level Tables".
That doesn't sound very implicit at all, it's just as explicit as the 3.5 DMG. Assuming of course that your DM follows either. The only difference is that 3.5 doesn't focus on multi-level dungeons where going to lower levels literally means higher level monsters (at least, it didn't stick out to me in the DMG and most 1 dungeon modules end within a very narrow band from what I've seen). Thrudd already beat me to most of that, but. . . dungeons with a prepared location, enemies, and random encounter table are exactly how it works in 3.5 too, as much as there's any standard. The DM should have an idea of what path the players will most likely take, that's just being prepared to run it, but even the most linear of modules still has side forks and a player who wants to "sequence break" even a railroad dungeon can find a way. The planned course of events only lasts until the players choose to ignore the plan.

Reading the idea of "a series of pre-planned winnable encounters," it strikes me as quite a fallacious assumption (hey it's the internet, it's what we do). If it means, "monster groups that the party is capable of beating in combat," that's quite explicitly ignoring the 5% of unwinnable encounters, and 15-35% where the odds can go as bad as 50/50. There's nothing that says the party has to fight all of them. The 3.5 DMG actually discusses Site Based Encounters first and gives them a whole page, while Event Based Encounters only get about 1/3 of a page. Is is the heading for "Tailored or Status Quo?" that bugs people, since it discusses tailoring encounters before the possibility of just placing monsters regardless of PC abilities? Because it does say right in that paragraph that even a tailored game benefits from having status quo stuff around.

I get the feeling it's not anything to do with the books, but rather the game building advice. Too many stories of DMs that can't build a dungeon (too hard or too easy) and wacked parties that can't stand up to even weak monsters leads to lots of tailoring advice and the assumption that 3.5 is all about a series of fights you'll always win.

Or maybe if I'm being less charitable then like the skills part below, 3.5 put more rules and building guidelines in the hands of the players and DM: the monsters were not pre-organized into encounter tiers, instead they were ranked individually so you could use them as desired. . . so DMs got lazy and didn't vary their encounter difficultly like they should have, just as the players are too lazy to know what skills they can pull off (and back to DMs being too lazy to use the standard DCs and just making stuff up).

I would still prefer to play the entire adventuring life of a character. I want the background of my tenth level PC to include nine levels of experiences I've actually had, not merely a story I made up. This has become a somewhat rare preference among modern players, but it was standard procedure when I started.
Thinking from a DM standpoint nowadays I find even myself leaning towards lower level ideas since it's much easier to use monsters, and I agree that it'd be nice to have a character who's history I've played from the beginning. But I haven't actually had all that much game time, and most of it in the DM seat, so actually playing from a 1st to Xth is just unfeasible if I ever want to reach the levels where I want to play.

Player: "Well, I could try to jump to that tree, but my Jump is only a +2 so it's probably not worth trying because the DC is probably ramped up to 20-25 at this level.
Easily solved if you know how the skills work. As ComaVision already pointed out, the skill DC is set and has nothing to do with your level. In 3.5 it's actually far easier to pull stunts like that, because instead of relying on the DM giving you a made up number you may or may not reach, usually assuming an arbitrary failure rate, instead every single player knows what their odds are before trying. You know you can jump X feet, you ask how far away it is, you know your odds. You know what you can climb, you ask if there's something to climb within your ability. Or at least they would if they thought about it that way. Sadly most people do refuse to consider options they aren't specialized in, rather than really figuring out what they can do and choosing weather or not to improve it. Myself, I make a habit of calculating bonuses required for automatic success (rolling a 1), taking 10, and comparing them to take 1 or 10 on any relevant skills, as well as guesstimated rolls for foes like spot checks vs hide. It's a lot more sensible than just assuming you can wing it in a pinch, and the rules are freely known.

The big reason that (really old school) old school grognards dislike the CR system is the implicit assumption that it's the job of the GM to set up fair/winnable fights. In old-school games, the environment/dungeon was just there, and the characters went where they wanted, scouted, and engaged what they thought they could take. It wasn't the GM's job to serve up a sequence of encounters for the players to overcome.
I'd point out that regardless of how well tuned to PC level it is or not, any dungeon is by definition a series of encounters to overcome. The rest ended up addressed above (yay a-synchronous post-writing!)

My own style is to ensure that each fight is indeed winnable, pushing to a certain limit but with appropriate degrees of failure depending on how hard they mess up and limited so that nobody's gonna get one-shotted in a stupid mook fight (that is for boss fights when you don't prepare). But all that really means is I check one-round damage vs hp totals and put myself in their shoes to guess at contingency plans. Even then I still run a location intelligently, which gives the players plenty of room to aggro a whole bunch of guys at once and exceed my expectations for screwing up. 3.5 modules I've read vary, but usually any location that's not isolated caves hundreds of feet apart has notes on how they'll bring down the whole house if they aren't careful. I'm not so sure it's all that different between the editions, though that doesn't change how having CR spelled out so plainly makes it feel like things are easier than they should be (as before, "challenge" rating may not have been the best description, but it's what they managed).

Apologies if anyone's displeased with my tie-in of 3.5 vs 1e/2e "old school" encounter building, but I think it's relevant. I feel that the main reason to question the significance of combat in older editions is due to how it seems so weighted against the PCs, so it's natural to discuss if/why that is so and how it changed. As more information comes to light, it sounds like there never was much of a difference, just people on both sides ignoring the guidelines and making a lot of noise about it. Dunno how many 4e or 5e people we have that'd weigh in: I couldn't speak to 4e at all, but 5e is where I'd say the mentality of "a series of winnable fights" actually does start existing (of course I didn't read the DMG in full so it might contradict that just like 3.5 and I'm totally wrong), as well as in increase in expected encounter capacity from 4 fights (in 3.5e) to 6 fights in a day of fighting. I do know that the Horde of the Dragon Queen adventure spends it's first three chapters quite hilariously crushing the PCs under it's heel if they think they can actually fight every battle (and every description implies you should be fighting rather than running).

Elderand
2016-03-03, 11:06 AM
The main difference between old school dnd and newer edition is on whom the onus for survival falls.
In newer edition it is very much the dm's job to tailor the adventure and encounters to the PC so that they face a challenge but have greater than 50% chance of surviving.
In old school dnd the onus for survival is entirely on the player's head. First level dungeon with a young black dragon in it on the very first floor? Yup, totaly a real thing in a published module.

Amphetryon
2016-03-03, 12:52 PM
The main difference between old school dnd and newer edition is on whom the onus for survival falls.
In newer edition it is very much the dm's job to tailor the adventure and encounters to the PC so that they face a challenge but have greater than 50% chance of surviving.
In old school dnd the onus for survival is entirely on the player's head. First level dungeon with a young black dragon in it on the very first floor? Yup, totaly a real thing in a published module.

There's one of those in a published 3.X module, too. Is 3.X 'old-school' to your way of thinking?

obryn
2016-03-03, 01:04 PM
There's one of those in a published 3.X module, too. Is 3.X 'old-school' to your way of thinking?
And let's not forget the Irontooth meatgrinder in 4e's Keep on the Shadowfell, which slaughtered many an unprepared character.

Thrudd
2016-03-03, 01:46 PM
There's one of those in a published 3.X module, too. Is 3.X 'old-school' to your way of thinking?
I think this shows it isn't as much the system itself but how the DM chooses to prepare and run the game that dictates the experience.
While 2e and later removed the xp for gold mechanic, and lack of random encounter tables in 3e and later further changed assumptions about how to play, it is possible to run any edition in an "old school" manner, with locations populated by challenges and wandering monsters, and giving players the agency to decide how and where to approach the adventure.

AMFV
2016-03-03, 01:50 PM
There's one of those in a published 3.X module, too. Is 3.X 'old-school' to your way of thinking?

I think the argument could be made that that element in that particular module is a result of what might be called "Old School" thinking, or at least what people tend to refer to that way, regardless of edition. I mean technically speaking I could do a conversion of any module to any edition and the basic design premises would remain.

I don't necessarily agree that this is a firm delineation between editions, so in that respect, I agree with you. But it is one that people tend to refer to as an old school thing. I suspect this is the transition from site to task to story based adventures that happened in the 90s. (Although this is not a total rule, just trends I've observed), in early adventures there was a lot of focus on the site, which could include dangers beyond what the players could handle, because they were supposed to explore the site and determine what could be handled. There are task adventures (such as those in Dungeon, the ones I was looking at, which I didn't realize were newer), which means that most challenges need some method of being surmounted by the PCs, even if that's by going around them or the adventure won't progress (unlike a site adventure which depends on the player's interactions to progress and doesn't require as strict a series of events), then there are story adventures that require an almost rigid series of events.

Certainly there are examples of all three in early D&D, but people tend to associate it with site adventures, possibly because those are the most famous. (Outside of exceptions like the Ravenloft, and Dragonlance modules, but those tend to be classed separately for one reason or another). Task adventures are the norm in 3.5 and Pathfinder, most Adventure Paths and published modules tend to be this way (although there are certainly others available). Story adventures tend to work best in other systems, but those ones tend to be newer. This is I suspect the reason for the "Old School" as more deadly perception (in a really long-winded way).

cobaltstarfire
2016-03-03, 02:20 PM
It may be as much or more a change in how players approach the games, as a shift in how DM's and modules are done?

The last long running 5e campaign I participated in was using all oldschool modules upgraded. We did/finished The Lost City, and had been working our way through the Island of Dread before real life split us all up.


The DM considered himself an "old school" DM, and the way he ran the modules was to use them just as a basic springboard. When we ran B4 (The Lost Temple) he mentioned that one of the floors we skipped had a bunch of random monsters that didn't make sense to really be there, and he was going to have fluffed it as being the menagerie of one of the evil religious leader guy we had been trying to track down and kill/reason with.

We're the only group he's played with who has managed to beat Zargon, rather than getting crushed, driven insane or simply running away.

The difference wasn't in how he DM'd it as far as I'm aware, but in how we approached it. Many groups he plays with simply slaughter everything no questions asked. What did we do differently? We befriended the Nidecians, instead of killing them on sight. By the time we had killed the mid boss, and spotted Zargon we had built enough of a relationship with the NPC's (who may have only had a stat block in the module for all I know) that we were able to form an army and fight Zargon.

Lots of people died, and/or went insane, but we were able to defeat him. Zargon is usually an unwinnable encounter, but it became winnable when we made friends and got ourselves an army. (we each had control of the NPC's, that fight took forever, and for that time became more like a wargame I guess)

Really I guess it falls on the shoulders of both the players and the DM. We as the players didn't go around murdering everything we could, and the DM didn't run the module on the expectation that everything was only kill fodder. He wouldn't have stopped us had we decided to play that way mind you, but he was delighted to get to play the more social parts of the game as well, and witness this very different narrative we caused to unwind before him.

neonchameleon
2016-03-03, 02:34 PM
I couldn't speak to 4e at all, but 5e is where I'd say the mentality of "a series of winnable fights" actually does start existing

I'd cut it way before that. And like too many things to DL1. In this case the Obscure Death Rule.

Dragonlance literally had a rule where if a low level pregen PC died they weren't dead and should come back because the plot would want them later. And if you read Dragonlance novels there really are series of winnable fights.

I'd also point out as a later turning point the reaction to The Forge of Fury and the Roper in the basement. People on line threw their toys out of the pram at that one - and there were few such unwinnable fights in subsequent modules even if the advice was to provide them.

Yora
2016-03-03, 04:05 PM
When the adventure has a predetermined plot and outcome, there is already nothing left to salvage. Dragonlance seems a strong canditate for where it all began to fall apart. Scarlet Citadel and Forge of Fury were an attempt to fix the problem, but apparently they were unable or unwilling to get things back on track.

The 3rd Edition DMG is actually pretty oldschool in its contents. But after those first two adventures WotC abandoned that way of running adventures. Didn't help that the 3rd Ed DMG was only better orgnaized than the AD&D DMG but still didn't explain any reasons behind it.

AMFV
2016-03-03, 04:12 PM
When the adventure has a predetermined plot and outcome, there is already nothing left to salvage. Dragonlance seems a strong canditate for where it all began to fall apart. Scarlet Citadel and Forge of Fury were an attempt to fix the problem, but apparently they were unable or unwilling to get things back on track.

The 3rd Edition DMG is actually pretty oldschool in its contents. But after those first two adventures WotC abandoned that way of running adventures. Didn't help that the 3rd Ed DMG was only better orgnaized than the AD&D DMG but still didn't explain any reasons behind it.

I wouldn't say that's necessarily the case. Depending on how you manage that plot and out come, you certainly won't have the same type of adventure. But task based adventures work pretty well too, they're just different (hence the "New School") moniker. In those it's the how you get the objective that matters. I mean take a heist, you know in a heist film, that the heist will be successful, you just don't necessarily know how and there are countless heist films, many of them are some of the most exceptional films. So it's more a matter of developing tasks that are challenging and require innovation to solve.

Yora
2016-03-03, 04:16 PM
I like task based adventures. It's very much like oldschool treasure hunts, but with different goals than always "treasure".

The problem with all adventures of the WotC and especially Paizo style adventures I've read (and I've read a lot), is that they are all very linear. Whatever task you have, there is really only one way to do it, which almost universally is beating your path through a series of guards that you can not get around without a fight.

A great task based adventure is No Salvation for Witches. It's not "here is your goal, reach it!" but "Here is your problem, do something about it!"

CharonsHelper
2016-03-03, 04:22 PM
The problem with all adventures of the WotC and especially Paizo style adventures I've read (and I've read a lot), is that they are all very linear. Whatever task you have, there is really only one way to do it, which almost universally is beating your path through a series of guards that you can not get around without a fight.

Paizo APs tend to be that way - likely because they're so long and the later stuff needs to generally know what went on earlier.

Their modules are intended to be played in 1-2 sessions and tend to be much more open in how they're dealt with.

AMFV
2016-03-03, 04:24 PM
I like task based adventures. It's very much like oldschool treasure hunts, but with different goals than always "treasure".

The problem with all adventures of the WotC and especially Paizo style adventures I've read (and I've read a lot), is that they are all very linear. Whatever task you have, there is really only one way to do it, which almost universally is beating your path through a series of guards that you can not get around without a fight.

A great task based adventure is No Salvation for Witches. It's not "here is your goal, reach it!" but "Here is your problem, do something about it!"

I agree on this front, but I think that's mostly a result of author issues than anything else. A good adventure of that type should at least discuss some alternative solutions. It would be nice to see a minimum of three discussed, that way we can have a good idea and should potentially include options to let the DM solve problems using their own improv stuff.

Fizban
2016-03-03, 10:18 PM
Task adventures are the norm in 3.5 and Pathfinder, most Adventure Paths and published modules tend to be this way (although there are certainly others available).
The sticking point is probably what you mean by "tasks," where popular 3.x modules usually have you defeating a bad guy or stopping a plot, while it sounds like the popular modules from earlier editions were often just a dungeon that waits until you plunder it. I don't agree with static site dungeons since I don't find plunder interesting myself. As for what's in the modules, I haven't read all or even very many of them so I can't say for sure (probably some who have of course), but I can give the full list of 3.x modules I've read or am familiar with.
Red Hand of Doom: the horde is effectively a moving location, you deal with it by going to other locations and surviving a combat slog (killing at least some commanders is required but not all), followed by another location and a boss fight to kill. It's not tuned to let you avoid combat, but it's clear at all points that you can gain a significant advantage if you approach properly. There's a time limit, but it's long enough that you can walk everywhere if you need to and again you gain massive advantage if you get your travel skills on. I'd call it half and half, though I'm probably being generous since I like it.

Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil: explore a location, explore a bigger location, explore a huge location. I don't think this one had any time limit and the massive dungeon at the end was meant to have PCs camping out inside as they explored. I'd say this is all site based.

Shadowdale, The Scouring of the Land: this had three major locations you could go to, one obviously shouldn't be messed with, one you could assault directly, and the other leading into a series of spaced out dungeon areas. There's no timetable at all and the last phase full of event triggers is kicked off by the PCs at their liesure. I'd call this one 2:1 or 3:1 site based, with a disclaimer that the events at the end are dumb.

Anauroch, The Empire of Shade: I've only read about half, but this is the first one that's feels "task" based. Since high level spellcasters can subvert dungeons so easily, it has short and direct combat locations connected by "you must research and then go to X to continue," and a helping of dead magic areas. Definitely feels like you're being led by the nose, also very late in 3.5 if I've got the timing right.

The 3.0 line: with the Forge of Fury and the Heart of Nightfang Spire and such, all looked like standing dungeons to me, and your hook for showing up could be to solve the problem the monsters are causing or just looting the place, depending on the party. -And then Yora/neonchameleon mention Forge of Fury made a bunch of people mad, heh.

The World's Largest Dungeon: not WotC and obviously meant for site based dungeon fanatics I wouldn't actually count this, but it's literally a series of dungeons organized so that they get tougher as you go deeper in. Depending on the area there area there are absolutely rooms you shouldn't mess with, and the intro makes a serious point that you can't hand out xp as normal since it will make the characters overleveled so they won't care. I ran this for a while and despite their gestalt characters and raw power they still freaked out at a couple encounters, might have been able to teach them caution eventually.
So from what I can tell, it looks like 3.0 started with plenty of dungeon site modules and only moved towards "stop the bad guy" as the main point later, and those were the popular modules. Which seems to match with what Yora's reporting. The victory points in RHoD and Shadowdale seem to be an attempt at allowing alternate non-murder solutions, but RHoD fails because it's too focused on wyrmlord/drgaon points without any good ideas for alternate solutions (as realistic as that may be), and Shadowdale explicitly says you basically need all the points from all the objectives and a single failure can make you fail. . . ignoring the fact that any optimizer can easily build a character that could literally kill the entire enemy force by besieging their base from underground (how many points is that worth?). Agree with AMFV that you should always have at least three solutions expected while keeping notes on any other stuff that could be relevant if the PCs have a different plan.

I'd cut it way before that. And like too many things to DL1. In this case the Obscure Death Rule.

Dragonlance literally had a rule where if a low level pregen PC died they weren't dead and should come back because the plot would want them later. And if you read Dragonlance novels there really are series of winnable fights.

I'd also point out as a later turning point the reaction to The Forge of Fury and the Roper in the basement. People on line threw their toys out of the pram at that one - and there were few such unwinnable fights in subsequent modules even if the advice was to provide them.
And the 3rd chapter of 5e's Horde of the Dragon Queen has a Roper in a room, which is set up/described in such a way that if you enter and don't have the idea yourself of acting friendly first there'll be a fight and you'll be the one losing. Probably a 100% intentional reference, though less problematic than the actual boss. I've noticed that about the Dragonlance novels myself, but considering it's a story that doesn't end with a TPK then by definition it rather has to be a series of winnable fights. There were probably too few instances of running away or being outmatched, but reading that constantly in a novel would be way less interesting than playing it out tactically in-game. The "Obscure Death Rule" sounds kinda novel at first but would be pretty dumb in practice.

If we consider this Roper in the Basement as a turning point, I offer another possible reason: so in older editions you knew the strength of monsters pretty much through metagaming only, right? 3.x had knowledge skills that could give you hints about monster strength, but only if you had the right skill and made the roll and even then you didn't actually get CR info (I don't remember how good it was in 3.0, could have been worse). Added to the fact that new players won't have the background to metagame and the DMG discouraged it so the DM might have been less willing than normal to warn them, equals a lot of dead PCs.

Jay R
2016-03-03, 10:35 PM
The answer to the question, "Was X version of D&D all about Y?" is "No", for any values of X and Y.

It is simply not true that my game of X was the same as your game of X.

ImNotTrevor
2016-03-04, 12:43 AM
The answer to the question, "Was X version of D&D all about Y?" is "No", for any values of X and Y.

It is simply not true that my game of X was the same as your game of X.

I don't think that's the assertion unlesd you take the statement strictly at face value. It's not a question of "Is this system incapable of doing Y?" That will usually be No, as you say. Any system can do anything with enough brute force, but that's not the question here. (Sidenote: that's a really crappy way to spend your time when someone else has probably done it already.)

I think the question would be better stated as "Was Combat the primary design focus of OD&D?"

I would say that was a no. However, D&D was born from Chainmail and so its combat rules were more extensive than needed. (If I'm not mistaken, Chainmail has a paragraph that says it is strictly for dungeoncrawling, and that if you want to have outdoor adventures, to go play a different game that it listed thereafter.) This lead to each edition being more and more combat focused.

3.5 is undeniably combay focused in its rules and design. When was the last time D&D featured a high CR monster that was frail, mundane, and really really good at manipulating people. It doesn't exist. Increasing ability in every D&D iteration directly relates to your ability to survive combat encounters. You don't get to opt out of more hitpoints, and you wouldn't want to because most threats will have more hitdice than the combined residents of the village it lives near, and attack bonuses in the double digits. The design focus of D&D is very much on Combat, because of its heritage. (Born from wargames, which are pure combat.)

Now, take note: you can still use D&D and ignore the combat focus, and even avoid combat entirely. But doing this means throwing out/ignoring a LARGE portion of the rules. Ignoring fight-avoidance doesn't rid yourself of nearly so many rules as the opposite does. And even when avoiding combat, it might still happen anyways if you screw up.

So yes, most editions of D&D are combat-focused.

This doesn't mean anything about your individual campaign. With enough hacking I could make a diplomatic RPG adventure out of Yahtzee. So doing a diplomatic adventure in D&D is comparatively easy.

But D&D is still designed with a combat focus. The addition of rules for avoiding combat doesn't mean it isn't combat focused. In fact, the fact that we think about it as a specific playstyle indicates to me that it isn't the status quo.

TL;DR:
Yes, you can use D&D to play low-combat campaigns.
Yes, D&D has rules outside of combat rules amd even rules to avoid it.
No, that doesn't mean D&D isn't primarily focused on killing things and taking their stuff.

Lorsa
2016-03-04, 05:52 AM
The answer to the question, "Was X version of D&D all about Y?" is "No", for any values of X and Y.

It is simply not true that my game of X was the same as your game of X.

As always, Jay R provides the wisdom.

Yora
2016-03-04, 06:49 AM
If we consider this Roper in the Basement as a turning point, I offer another possible reason: so in older editions you knew the strength of monsters pretty much through metagaming only, right? 3.x had knowledge skills that could give you hints about monster strength, but only if you had the right skill and made the roll and even then you didn't actually get CR info (I don't remember how good it was in 3.0, could have been worse). Added to the fact that new players won't have the background to metagame and the DMG discouraged it so the DM might have been less willing than normal to warn them, equals a lot of dead PCs.

I see the problem as this:
1. There is only one path to the goal.
2. Therefore, key encounters can not be avoided.
3. If an encounter can not be dealt with successfully, the game would stop with nowhere to go.
4. Therefore players expect that every hostile creature and NPC can be easily defeated.
5. And much too often this creates the unconcious assumption that players are meant to defeat everything they encounter.

Also, it's assumed that you get XP and treasure if you defeat an oponent. Whether dead or surrendered doesn't matter, but if they surrender you have to deal with prisoners, which is annoying, and therefore rarely happens. There are occasionally a few treasures that are unguarded, but those are usually trivial in published adventures.
Players want to get as much XP and treasure as they can get. And by giving these things for defeating enemies in a fight, the game tells the players that fighting all enemies is the expected behavior. They are meant to fight everything. If they don't, they miss out on rewards and will have a harder time later.

With XP for treasure, and most treasure not being found on the bodies of enemies but in their lair, you get a very different system of incentives. The most effective way to get XP is to steal as many treasures from lairs as possible while trying to keep the number of actual fights as low as possible.
Because when you have wandering monsters, there is also a kind of time limit. Wandering monsters have only the treasure they have on their bodies and fighting them gets very little reward. The longer you stay, the more wandering monsters you will encounter. And each fight has a certain risk of death. Also, when the players are in the mindset that not every fight might be winable, then the chance of a really powerful and deadly wandering monster is another very strong incentive to really try to be in and out as fast as possible.

Once you give the full reward for defeating an enemy in a fight, then wandering monsters are no longer a time limit. They are encounters that have the courtesy to come to you instead of you having to search around to find them.

The Oldschool dungeon crawl is actually a pretty complex system of interdependent elements: XP for treasure, lair treasures, wandering monsters, limited healing, and nonlinear floorplans. Once you remove just one of these, the whole thing collapses. And I think the main source of all the problems is the idea that the GM has a story to tell. If the GM has a specific series of events and their outcomes in mind, everything falls apart and you're basically end up with something that is like a Final Fantasy game: Cutscenes and tactical battles.

Jay R
2016-03-04, 09:34 AM
I don't think that's the assertion unlesd you take the statement strictly at face value. It's not a question of "Is this system incapable of doing Y?" That will usually be No, as you say. Any system can do anything with enough brute force, but that's not the question here. (Sidenote: that's a really crappy way to spend your time when someone else has probably done it already.)

But the crucial fact about original D&D is that nobody else had done it at all. D&D was the only role-playing game, so however you role-played, you used D&D.


I think the question would be better stated as "Was Combat the primary design focus of OD&D?"

No. To the extent that any one thing could be called "the focus" of a game system that undeveloped, exploration was probably first, followed by combat and puzzle-solving in no particular order. If you wanted to stick to just combat, you probably could, but most players I knew were deeply into using the graph paper to explore, and solving the meta-game puzzles, just about as much as the combat.


(If I'm not mistaken, Chainmail has a paragraph that says it is strictly for dungeoncrawling, and that if you want to have outdoor adventures, to go play a different game that it listed thereafter.)

No. The closest thing I can remember that sort of fits that description was original D&D, not Chainmail. It used the board from Avalon Hill's Outdoor Survival for wilderness adventures, but we would play D&D on it, not Outdoor Survival.

Chainmail was not a role-playing game at all. The ideas of dungeon crawling and "outdoor adventures" are both alien to it.

Chainmail was a miniatures war game -- massed battle set in the Middle Ages. Two players each have so many points to buy units of foot soldiers, archers, longbowmen, light horse, medium horse, catapults, etc. You would put them all out on the table and have a war until somebody wins. In the back was a short fantasy supplement, with costs and combat values for units of orcs, elves, dwarves, fairies, wizards, etc.

Man-to-man combat was a three page section, for jousting, and for battles so small that each unit would represent a single individual instead of (as was usual) a unit.

There was no DM, PCs, stats, role-playing, etc. It was just a battle. The next time you played, you could set up an entirely new army. No single miniature represented "your character", just as no single checker in a game of checkers is "your character".

While D&D used the combat system from Chainmail, it was an entirely new kind of game.

JadedDM
2016-03-04, 02:35 PM
I'd cut it way before that. And like too many things to DL1. In this case the Obscure Death Rule.

Dragonlance literally had a rule where if a low level pregen PC died they weren't dead and should come back because the plot would want them later. And if you read Dragonlance novels there really are series of winnable fights.

It was DL2 that rule first appeared, not DL1. Also, it only applied to NPCs that were important to the story (and once their role in the story was complete, they could die). PCs could absolutely die, even if they were pregens.

kyoryu
2016-03-04, 02:45 PM
I see the problem as this:
1. There is only one path to the goal.
2. Therefore, key encounters can not be avoided.
3. If an encounter can not be dealt with successfully, the game would stop with nowhere to go.
4. Therefore players expect that every hostile creature and NPC can be easily defeated.
5. And much too often this creates the unconcious assumption that players are meant to defeat everything they encounter.


Exactly.

Note that this isn't about ruleset, but rather about campaign design and player expectations.

wumpus
2016-03-04, 03:58 PM
But the crucial fact about original D&D is that nobody else had done it at all. D&D was the only role-playing game, so however you role-played, you used D&D.


This was true for Dungeons and Dragons (what we often call 0e). Tunnels and Trolls was out in 1975, Traveller was out in 1977 (same as the first "Basic" D&D by J. Edgar Holmes) and sold pretty well. On the other hand, if you wanted to *learn* to role play, you almost certainly learned on D&D (probably still true if you assume D&D includes Pathfinder), so things work out the same. I wouldn't recommend learning with Traveller: that pretty much dumped you out in a universe and asked to poor referee to make *everything* up as you went along.


No. To the extent that any one thing could be called "the focus" of a game system that undeveloped, exploration was probably first, followed by combat and puzzle-solving in no particular order. If you wanted to stick to just combat, you probably could, but most players I knew were deeply into using the graph paper to explore, and solving the meta-game puzzles, just about as much as the combat.

And a lot of this simply depended on what the DM was prepared for and what the whole group wanted. The rules covered combat, exploring was up to the players and DM (some rolls for the thief, but pretty much it was expected to be metagamed). If you get a chance to read it, I'd highly recommend reading the AD&D (1e) Dungeon Master's Guide. Not so much for the game (the free 5e basic edition covers everything much better and pretty much includes everything you'd really want from AD&D) but for instruction in DMing (sometimes hit or miss) plus the deep love of exploration and adventure that is simply built into that book. Much of what makes it not so good for gaming (poor editing, goofy rules) is what inspired so many players: it simply oozed possibilities and tried to cram them on every page, readability and organization be damned.

nyjastul69
2016-03-04, 08:59 PM
I keep hearing a lot of people claim that early D&D evolved as a "combat simulator" or claim that this is the main focus of D&D. I've recently been reading through a lot of the early issues of Dungeon Magazine, what has surprised me is how few of their adventures have combat as the main focus. Investigation, exploration, and diplomacy seem to be quite a bit more common. From what I've read of 3.5 Adventures this is often the case in about a quarter of published adventures. As such I'm wondering what people's actual play experiences in early D&D were like, was it really a combat simulator where the DM pitted himself against the players or was it really something very different?

I think the fact that your reading Dungeon Mag skews things a bit. Dungeon worked 'outside of the box' as compared to a standard print adventure as I recall.


That's be a neat trick.

WFB was inspired by a miniatures-based skirmish-scale wargame called Reaper, which came out in 1978, before even AD&D reared its head. WFB 1e came out in 1983, but it has its roots purely in miniatures-based wargames, not in RPGs, exactly as D&D did.

Depends on the month Reaper was released actually. AD&D MM was released in Dec '77, PH in Jun '78, and the DMG in Aug '79.

ImNotTrevor
2016-03-04, 11:56 PM
But the crucial fact about original D&D is that nobody else had done it at all. D&D was the only role-playing game, so however you role-played, you used D&D.

You missed the core point of the assertion I'm making.
Being able to Do X Thing with a system doesn't mean the system is built around it.



No. To the extent that any one thing could be called "the focus" of a game system that undeveloped, exploration was probably first, followed by combat and puzzle-solving in no particular order. If you wanted to stick to just combat, you probably could, but most players I knew were deeply into using the graph paper to explore, and solving the meta-game puzzles, just about as much as the combat.

That's all well and good, and I even said that OD&Ds original focus wasn't combat. But it did devote an unusually long amount of time to combat rules, which promoted further investment into these rules which lead to later editions being more combat focused over time. I haven't played 5e enough to judge that one, and I will likely never play it because I won't ever run it, but I've seen the editions turn more and more towards combat being the bread and butter of the system with the most robust mechanics, and everything else is just to make it qualify as an RPG. At least, that's how it feels.

But I never said OD&D was primarily about combat.



No. The closest thing I can remember that sort of fits that description was original D&D, not Chainmail. It used the board from Avalon Hill's Outdoor Survival for wilderness adventures, but we would play D&D on it, not Outdoor Survival.


I mixed up the two, I apologize. (I've got a new kiddo at home so sleep is now a precious commodity.)

All that aside, none of this relates to my point.

You can't say that D&D Generally speaking is not about mugging monsters (often lethally, in later editions) just because it has rules for other things.

To go to the first edition that really embraced this model, in 3.5 you progress primarily by killing monsters and taking their stuff. You get rewarded for it. "But you don't have to kill them!"
I hear ya. And yet virtually all class enhancements across the levels are combat based. (More health to take more hits, better base attack bonuses to hit things better, many spells and abilities are measured in rounds, which is combat. A large portion of the feats are combat focused. Out of the PHB feats, 63 out of 119 feats are for combat (and I didn't count weapon crafting feats, skill boosting feats, or any of the magic feats, even if combat applicable.) So that's 53% of PHB feats are directly related to combat (what weapons you weild, what armor you can wear, the kinds of attacks you can make, your ability to avoid damage, your hitpoints, etc.) The other feats are a smattering of different things. Metamagic feats, crafting feats, Skill boosting feats, etc. But the majority of the pie, and the largest slice, is Combat.

Now, there are perhaps a myriad of reasons for this. But the fact remains that a very large portion of the rules are dedicated to combat. A very large amount of development time was dedicated to combat. Exploration and Navigation rules are stripped down and nearly nonexistant in newer editions. Rules for social interaction are simplified to the point of being overpowered because they do too much with no caveats, or they don't exist. (There isn't really a rule for bribing someone that I personally recall. You could give a bonus for it, but mostly it would just be Diplomacy +small bonus. And there are no guidelines for how much bribing would need to be done to accomplish the task. Results are binary, so haggling over a bribe won't happen. (Haggling in general doesn't really happen)

Can you do those things in D&D? Yup.
Does that mean that the system has no focus or strongpoint and so the entire system is perfect for whatever kind of campaign you've managed to run in it? Nope.

OD&D was really strong for exploration, deadly combat, and what amounted to Lord of the Heists gameplay. It wasn't good for social interaction, political intrigue, personal horror, mystery, or many other things. Which isn't a bad thing. It is good at what it is good at.

Modern D&D is really good at combat and just passable enough at other things that you could use it for those if you really want to. It takes its roots from pulpy, action-fantasy like Conan and such. Which isn't a bad thing. It is good at what it is good at.

But once you tell people not to ever say "This system is all about X" (which, being interpreted, is "This system is best suited for X") then you also tell them to not ever look for a system that may better suit their needs. If I want gang/crime story, I'll play Blades in the Dark. If I want space opera, I'll play Stars Without Number. If I want pulpy, dramatic post-apoc I'll play Apocalypse World. Because these
Systems are "all about" what they do really really well. And you'd be hard pressed to make D&D do these things better than games dedicated to their genres.

So that was my point. I don't care how you have previously played D&D. That's real great, I'm glad you had fun, but don't sit there and try to tell me that I'm not allowed to look at a system and say "ah, this system is about X, but I want to play Y. I'll find a system that does Y and use this system when I want X." That's asenine.

You're allowed to figure out what systems are "all about" and you'll usually be right. If you don't want to play a game that does one thing really well, but not the thing you want, then don't play it and find one that actually works.

Where I do agree is if you change it to "Is X system all about Submechanic Y?" Then no, probably not true most of the time.

But "Is D&D 3.5 all about pulp fantasy action?" Yes. It is. It is a rockstar at that. You want pulp fantasy action? Go play D&D. If you like that and want fewer rules, Dungeon World. (Its just D&D with different mechanical bits.)

"Is Apocalypse World all about desperate post apocalypse drama?" Yes. It is. It is perfect for that. Desperate post apoc drama oozes off of every page of the book. Yes. Go play it if that's what you want.

Anyways, rant over. That's all I'm talking about in the post above.

Arbane
2016-03-05, 05:43 PM
It was DL2 that rule first appeared, not DL1. Also, it only applied to NPCs that were important to the story (and once their role in the story was complete, they could die). PCs could absolutely die, even if they were pregens.

Now I'm imagining the Knights of the Dinner Table playing that module, and using some important NPC as a human shield...

Lorsa
2016-03-05, 06:12 PM
But once you tell people not to ever say "This system is all about X" (which, being interpreted, is "This system is best suited for X") then you also tell them to not ever look for a system that may better suit their needs. If I want gang/crime story, I'll play Blades in the Dark. If I want space opera, I'll play Stars Without Number. If I want pulpy, dramatic post-apoc I'll play Apocalypse World. Because these
Systems are "all about" what they do really really well. And you'd be hard pressed to make D&D do these things better than games dedicated to their genres.

I find your translation of "this system is best suited for X" into "this system is all about X" a bit strange. Why stretch a statement this extra length? There is a reason why we have nuanced words like "best suited for" or even "primary focus". So we can distinguish such statements from "all about".

They are not the same, and if you try to make them the same, your language will suffer. Or are you never ever planning on saying "this system is best suited for X"?


So that was my point. I don't care how you have previously played D&D. That's real great, I'm glad you had fun, but don't sit there and try to tell me that I'm not allowed to look at a system and say "ah, this system is about X, but I want to play Y. I'll find a system that does Y and use this system when I want X." That's asenine.

You're allowed to figure out what systems are "all about" and you'll usually be right. If you don't want to play a game that does one thing really well, but not the thing you want, then don't play it and find one that actually works.

Well, the thing is, if you had read the OP, you would have seen that AMFV was not such much concerned about rules, but how people actually played D&D back in the old days. So an actual play story is much more relevant than the actual rules.


I keep hearing a lot of people claim that early D&D evolved as a "combat simulator" or claim that this is the main focus of D&D. I've recently been reading through a lot of the early issues of Dungeon Magazine, what has surprised me is how few of their adventures have combat as the main focus. Investigation, exploration, and diplomacy seem to be quite a bit more common. From what I've read of 3.5 Adventures this is often the case in about a quarter of published adventures. As such I'm wondering what people's actual play experiences in early D&D were like, was it really a combat simulator where the DM pitted himself against the players or was it really something very different?

FabulousFizban
2016-03-05, 06:17 PM
Old school d&d was all about running away

mephnick
2016-03-05, 06:31 PM
Old school d&d was all about running away

Did the old systems have a different system for retreating that made it viable? I only played it as a kid and I don't think we used the rules at all.

In the newer systems retreating seems impossible as all movement speeds are the same, or monsters are faster than you, or ranged attacks will gun you down. You can't outrun a behir so why not fight to the death?

Talakeal
2016-03-05, 06:34 PM
Did the old systems have a different system for retreating that made it viable? I only played it as a kid and I don't think we used the rules at all.

In the newer systems retreating seems impossible as all movement speeds are the same, or monsters are faster than you, or ranged attacks will gun you down. You can't outrun a behir so why not fight to the death?

IIRC monsters wouldn't leave their level of the dungeon, so if you could make it to the exit you were considered safe.

ImNotTrevor
2016-03-05, 09:39 PM
I find your translation of "this system is best suited for X" into "this system is all about X" a bit strange. Why stretch a statement this extra length? There is a reason why we have nuanced words like "best suited for" or even "primary focus". So we can distinguish such statements from "all about".

They are not the same, and if you try to make them the same, your language will suffer. Or are you never ever planning on saying "this system is best suited for X"?

Synonyms and alternative ways of phrasing the same idea don't exist! There is one way and only one way to express any thought!

Get outta here with this crap.

Additionally, as an actual response, word the phrase as a question to see how I got here (The phrase itself is the answer to this question, after all.)
What is X system all about?

When someone asks this, do they want to know:
A) Every individual thing this system has ever been used for, ever?
Or
B) What the general themes, design, and primary focus of the system are? (General themes becomes what kinds of narratives the system is best suited for, the design shows what kind of play experience the system is best suited for, and the primary focus of the system shows what you'll be spending most of your time doing.)





Well, the thing is, if you had read the OP, you would have seen that AMFV was not such much concerned about rules, but how people actually played D&D back in the old days. So an actual play story is much more relevant than the actual rules.

I actually did read the OP. And yet people tend to play systems based on what the system rewards them for. (Crazy how people tend to enjoy rewards) The rules of a game tell us how it's meant to be played. Otherwise we wouldn't need them. Someone would just say "Hey, Just roll some dice and have fantasy adventures" Which isn't a system. Systems are sets of rules of how to play themselves. You can't divorce The Rules of a system from The System itself. It's like trying to talk about how the human body gets around, but you're forbidden to talk about legs. Or at least, it is exactly as bizzare of a goal.

And furthermore, he never asks "What did you each individually use OD&D for, because clearly its all about each one of those things." What he's saying is:
"People tell me that D&D is a pure combat simulator. But when I lool back at adventures published for it, and other such things, that isn't the image of the game that is painted. Am I crazy or did the actual general experience of playing the game match what I'm reading?"

This is a broad-focus look at how OD&D was played generally, not a granular survey of every single way OD&D was used for any given RP situation. The former answers his question. The second makes it worse. If someone comes in here and says "I used OD&D to play a jet-fighter military drama game" then is OD&D about jet-fighter military drama in general, or did one person make a very weird hack of OD&D?

In any case, I wasn't responding to the OP directly. So, weirdly, that wasn't my primary concern.

Thrudd
2016-03-05, 09:41 PM
Did the old systems have a different system for retreating that made it viable? I only played it as a kid and I don't think we used the rules at all.

In the newer systems retreating seems impossible as all movement speeds are the same, or monsters are faster than you, or ranged attacks will gun you down. You can't outrun a behir so why not fight to the death?

AD&D had numerous rules and guidelines for pursuit situations, in both underground and outdoor settings. There were recommendations on how to decide if a monster or enemy would bother pursuing the party at all, that depended on intelligence level and motivation/hungriness and whether or not the monsters outnumbered the party. If the party succeeded at getting a sufficient distance away or out of sight, the pursuit would usually break off. Heavy emphasis was placed on the players figuring out ways to distract or slow down pursuers, certain conditions like dropped food or treasure or distracting spells modified chance for pursuit to end. There is even guidance on how far away clanking armor or heavy boots can be heard. In the end, the result is often decided by die rolls. It should be noted that several spells in the magic user repertoire are especially useful for creating distractions or barriers to pursuit, especially illusions.

Outdoors, there is a base percentage for a party to escape pursuit(80%) modified by variables of terrain, party size of pursued and pursuers, light, and speed.

nedz
2016-03-06, 05:29 PM
Did the old systems have a different system for retreating that made it viable? I only played it as a kid and I don't think we used the rules at all.

In the newer systems retreating seems impossible as all movement speeds are the same, or monsters are faster than you, or ranged attacks will gun you down. You can't outrun a behir so why not fight to the death?

Yes: some monsters, usually the bigger scarier ones, were deliberately given slower movement speeds so that you could run away - well unless you had little legs :smallbiggrin:

JoeJ
2016-03-06, 05:52 PM
Yes: some monsters, usually the bigger scarier ones, were deliberately given slower movement speeds so that you could run away - well unless you had little legs :smallbiggrin:

Yeah, you don't need to outrun the troll. You just have to outrun the dwarf.

runeghost
2016-03-06, 10:48 PM
AD&D had numerous rules and guidelines for pursuit situations, in both underground and outdoor settings. There were recommendations on how to decide if a monster or enemy would bother pursuing the party at all, that depended on intelligence level and motivation/hungriness and whether or not the monsters outnumbered the party. If the party succeeded at getting a sufficient distance away or out of sight, the pursuit would usually break off. Heavy emphasis was placed on the players figuring out ways to distract or slow down pursuers, certain conditions like dropped food or treasure or distracting spells modified chance for pursuit to end. There is even guidance on how far away clanking armor or heavy boots can be heard. In the end, the result is often decided by die rolls. It should be noted that several spells in the magic user repertoire are especially useful for creating distractions or barriers to pursuit, especially illusions.

Outdoors, there is a base percentage for a party to escape pursuit(80%) modified by variables of terrain, party size of pursued and pursuers, light, and speed.

Yep. It's always fun to watch the agonized struggle between fear and greed as PCs try to decide whether or not they should ditch their loot (and possibly even their armor) to boost their chances to get away. At high levels they typically have more options for retreat and maneuverability in general, although the outcomes can still be fun. (The first time a cleric bails on their party in the middle of a tough fight using Word of Recall is priceless.:smallbiggrin:)

Quertus
2016-03-07, 07:24 PM
If we consider this Roper in the Basement as a turning point, I offer another possible reason: so in older editions you knew the strength of monsters pretty much through metagaming only, right? 3.x had knowledge skills that could give you hints about monster strength, but only if you had the right skill and made the roll and even then you didn't actually get CR info (I don't remember how good it was in 3.0, could have been worse). Added to the fact that new players won't have the background to metagame and the DMG discouraged it so the DM might have been less willing than normal to warn them, equals a lot of dead PCs.

Well, you knew the strength of monsters based on experience. Sometimes, that experience was hard earned, from former minions companions you sacrificed lost to horrible monsters. Other times, that experience was passed on, from mentor to student, or just around the campfire with your fellow murder hobos brave adventurers. Learning all about what others had encountered and bravely run away away from was a key survival skill.

IMO, it's only meta gaming if you used knowledge of monsters you as the player had that the character had no reason to know.

But, yes, there were no "skills" for identifying monsters.

And, on a related note, knowledge skills in 3.x tell you about the monster, sense motive (?!) tells you how tough of a challenge it is.

goto124
2016-03-07, 07:46 PM
IMO, it's only meta gaming if you used knowledge of monsters you as the player had that the character had no reason to know.

Many times I can't separate player and character knowledge, because I've played so long and the character has been played quite long as well, I don't know what my character is supposed or not supposed to know. Does my character know about dragon colors, or the weaknesses of a troll? I went through [some unknown number of] characters before and read up a lot on online sources (because good players research the games they play), I honestly don't remember.

Not that anyone around me cared.

I've never came across a situation where meta-gaming made the game unfun - quite the opposite, in fact. My characters do things that help keep the game moving along even if it's meta-gaming ("Am I suppose to know if fire is strong against trolls? Meh, I'm not going to waste time playing out the 'I'm trying everything' scene just to use fire on a troll.").

I would try to get back on topic, but I'm far too young to discuss in detail. What I know is: often when I meta-gamed, I didn't even realize it, it's just a natural part of gaming, because in the end this is a game.