Role Playing Games





Conceptions, Misconceptions, and Dungeons & Dragons, Oh My!

Dungeons & Micro$oft, or how Gary Gygax's Game got fucked over
Blame-Shifting: AD&D, that bad, bad Gun, - I mean Game!
And how did Gygax get started?
The Difference between Gygaxian Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and Wizards of the Coast's D&D 3, 3.5, 4 and 5th Editions

 
Dungeons & Micro$oft, or how Gary Gygax's Game got fucked over

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide


It seems a lot of role playing gamers have some pretty strong conceptions, and many also misconceptions either about Dungeons & Dragons in general, or about Advanced Dungeons & Dragons specifically. General Dungeons & Dragons bashing is en vogue in some parts of the role playing game community, and it looks and smells very much like Microsoft bashing in the Linux or open source community.

And why not? Dungeons & Dragons is the behemoth of role playing games which made more money for its owners than any other role playing game. And certainly, much like Micro$oft's Windows, its users were repeatedly milked for money, often quite ruthlessly and abusively, by constant new versions which made the former one obsolete.

But, while all that is true, it blends out something important. Namely, that the creator of Dungeons & Dragons, Gary Gygax (mostly) didn't want this and isn't responsible for this at all. After releasing what can be considered his life's work in 1978, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, the much bigger, much better, much more elaborate version of its 1974 much simpler and smaller predecessor Dungeons & Dragons, he was literally kicked out of his company (TSR) who sold it. TSR had been in financial trouble and in 1985 Lorraine Dille Williams, whom Gygax had brought in to help save the company, took over in a hostile take over. Gygax lost both the company and all rights to his games, Dungeons & Dragons and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

A few years later, in 1989, the money-milking with Dungeons & Dragons started. Mrs. Williams launched a new edition, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition, very much against Gygax's will, with countless (somewhat useless) new booklets, quite obviously to make money. To make more money, 2nd edition was clearly geared much more towards teenagers and children to broaden the target audience. To please religious parents, all mention of demons and devils were stripped from all parts of the game. Most were stripped from the game outright, and a few indispensable ones were referred to only under their secondary names. The formerly very artistic, black and white drawings of monsters and scenes, almost all carefully hand-selected or commissioned by Gygax, sometimes with adult content such as mild nudity, were replaced with cheap, childish, ugly, color pictures that looked like a child's cartoon or a first grader's coloring book. It was a disgrace. Still, after the success and huge impact of Gygax's Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, it was still THE role playing game (with the same name). 1st edition was out of print and not advertised anymore, so many people didn't have much choice. Despite this, 2nd edition lasted a full decade, just like 1st edition.

Then, by 1997, TSR was bankrupt again, too long, no money-make, and the money-making off of Dungeons & Dragons was ramped up soon after Wizards of the Coast, which had gotten big and famous and made a lot of money with the card game "Magic: The Gathering" purchased it with all rights to Dungeons & Dragons.
In 1999, Hasbro, a big toy company acquired Wizards of the Coast and in 2000 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition was replaced by just Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition. This new naming had nothing to do with the much simpler 1974 Dungeons & Dragons which was long out of print by then. This new Wizards of the Coast edition had simplified rules (d20 system) which were quite far away from original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and they made it almost impossible to play without miniature figurines (thanks to attacks of opportunity, etc.).

In 2003, Wizards of the Coast wasn't making enough money off of Dungeons & Dragons, so they looked for a way to better implement their money-making scheme that they employed so successfully with Magic: The Gathering. There, players could be forced to buy countless randomized (unneeded) card decks in order to acquire a few cards that they wanted. But how could that scheme be applied to Dungeons & Dragons? Well, naturally, with miniatures! The rules of Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Edition turned Dungeons & Dragons completely into miniature game in 2003, and players could be, or were forced to collect countless pre-painted miniatures. Naturally, this in turn started people making and painting their own miniatures to save money.

In 2008 it was time for more money for Wizards of the Coast, so Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition was released. It tried to be more compatible with computer game RPG rules. Truly, the original game and rules, as invented by Gary Gygax were a far cry from what the game hat been turned into. So much so, that it simply stopped being fun.
Wizards of the Coast realized this, so in 2014 Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition was released. That's 4 editions in 15 years. While keeping the d20 system introduced in 3rd edition, the rules returned very substantially back to Gary Gygax's Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Miniatures were no longer needed, at least not mandatory anymore, and once again, just like in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Theatre of the Mind became at least a possible play-style. People loved that. That heavy return to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons play-style convinced a lot of people and 5th edition by far is the most successful edition of all Wizards of the Coast editions of the game.

So in short, yes, Dungeons & Dragons is, by now, a very commercially oriented money-making game, in many ways as bad as Magic: The Gathering. But is it Gary Gygax's fault? Or the fault of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition? Nope. If at all, only because of their success, which others simply wanted to cash in on after they got their hands on it (against Gygax's expressed will!).

[^ Back to top ^]


 
Blame-Shifting: AD&D, that bad, bad Gun, - I mean Game!

Besides the Micro$oft comparison with Dungeons & Dragons in general, which is justified in this author's mind after the game was taken away from it's creator, there's also a specific misconception, or rather a blaming of Gygax's Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition (AD&D 1E), that it weren't a good game to start with. The misconception here is, that the people who believe this most often either never played the game, or if they did, they didn't play it right. An the later, admittedly, is quite easy with AD&D 1E. A lot of people simply didn't understand the game, or rather its rules correctly, and then often just didn't play the game the way it was meant to be. The resulting bad experience is then blamed on the game, naturally. That bad, bad gun! - I mean game! To those people's defense, one must admit that the game isn't described as good, as consistently, or as clear as today's role playing games. As child- and idiot-proof I'm tempted to add, because AD&D 1E, probably more than any other system, really is what the Dungeon Master makes of it. But I digress. It's true that lots of guns kill lots of people. Just look at the US.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was, compared to today's 5th edition of D&D much less of a safe, child's rounded-off toy or game, than a wheel-barrel full of sometimes complex, reality-simulating plausibility rules. Sometimes with sharp edges or pointy corners that can hurt you if handled incorrectly. - Or your game. Many things in Gygax's Advanced Dungeons & Dragons have two, and some even three sets of rules, each describing the exact same thing. Then it's left to the Dungeon Master to decide which rule is the right one, or rather, the right one for the situation. Or him and his players.

The arbitrary and sometimes confusing way how AD&D's books describe the game rules wasn't invented by Gygax to frustrate or confuse players, or other Dungeon Masters. It's just how the game was created: As a set of reality-simulating plausibility rules that were expanded and added upon, every time something new had to be simulated that hadn't been thought of yet. And Gygax, an experienced adult role playing gamer, simply took his customers as equals. As adults. If he can do it (as an experienced adult), so can his customers. Or so he assumed. He expected his customers to be able to make their own choice as Dungeon Masters, what was right for their campaign, and what rules best apply to what situations in their games. Naturally, that's quite a challenge, especially to inexperienced Dungeon Masters. But I like that a lot about Gygax. Whatever his flaws otherwise might have been (such as probably not having a computer for editing the rules in 1978), he took his players very seriously and as equals to himself.

Unfortunately most people who believe Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 1st Edition isn't a good game either never played it themselves, or, if they did, they were children or teenagers when they did or when they first learned its rules. And hence, they didn't understand how to use the rules or rule books correctly and they probably never really improved on this condition when they got older.
That happened to very many people, including this author when he was a kid / teenager. When I started playing, I used about 30% of the rules, and cheated on half of those. My first character had all 18's, except strength, which as an 18/00, naturally. And my dungeons were riddled with gold, magic items and monsters, worse than any haunted house at a county fair. And once you got in the grove of playing that way, it had a way of sticking. Just out of habit.

But the fact that many people, often immature people for whom the game was not made, goofed up with AD&D in various degrees, with various outcomes that will certainly have you scratch your head, doesn't mean the game is bad. Not once you understand its rules and how to use them and how they were meant. Not once you understand just how much judgment, correct judgment by the Dungeon Master was - and must be - expected by Gary Gygax of anyone bold enough to take on Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. It's just if you failed, the game didn't point at you, but had you point at the game.

In this author's view, people who actually played, it, and still think Advanced Dungeons & Dragons isn't a good game really just didn't play it right. Because the game can really be played in almost any preferred play-style, thanks to its tremendous versatility. Unlike in most other role playing games, in AD&D the Game Master is just expected to be a mature judge, a real "Master", not just about what happens in the game, but also what rules are employed, and how, to make that happen. That's quite different to almost any other role playing game, where the Game Master is much less responsible for what rules to employ. That kind of work as been taken out of his hands by most game creators.

In AD&D, the Dungeon Master must decide which magic items and treasures or monsters go in his game, and which ones not. He, not the game must decide upon the balance of the game, whether it's a bleak and poor world with hardly any magic, or a high-fantasy setting with magic, gold and weird monsters oozing out of every corner. This much more so in AD&D, and probably with much bigger impact on the game, than in other systems. As such, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, just like Gygax, actively encourages Dungeon Masters to make not only their own decisions on what rules to use, but even more, to make their own house rules if need be. That's one of the unwritten rules of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition. AD&D 2nd Edition, after kicking Gary Gygax out, was the first to try to end that. And 3rd Edition really blew the foundation off on that. If AD&D 1st edition can be considered a helter-skelter wood house, D&D 3rd edition was a concrete bunker. What's better to live in, people don't agree. Unfortunately, many kids who played Advanced Dungeons & Dragons were overtaxed by the arbitrariness of its rules and hence, the game often became a childish parade of outrageous monsters lined up in cage-battery-like dungeons, where hacking them down in piecework granted more gold and magic items than any character could possibly ever use (much less carry if the rules of encumbrance would have been understood or used (correctly)). So yes, kids, perhaps even inexperienced adults, but kids and teenagers for sure needed 2nd and especially 3rd (and later) editions.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st edition literally lists hundreds of outrageous monsters and powerful magic items, and the treasure table of monsters lists countless possibilities for rich financial and magical possessions of slain monsters. Hence, AD&D games are, or can be a Monty Haul campaigns. If you like, that is. - Or, and this probably applies do most Monty Haul campaigns, if you don't know any better. Entire comic strips, such as "Knights of the Dinner Table" picked up on this aspect. And it's exactly the point: When in doubt, people (Dungeon Masters) added treasures, magic items and countless monsters straight out of the books, because they often just didn't know any better or what else to add to their adventures. Making adventures seem exciting without a lot of gold, magic and weird monsters as a lot, lot harder. And more time consuming.

In his AD&D books, Gygax listed as much extremes as possible, the weirdest monsters, and the most powerful magic items, by the masses, not because those should all go into any single game, or even necessarily into any game, but because he assumed that the normal, the mundane, conventional things need not be mentioned by him or the rule books. He expected Dungeon Masters to pick one magic item from the books, and fill in 99 normal or mundane things from their own imagination. - Or whatever ratio was or is desirable. So even if Advanced Dungeons & Dragons lists countless magic items and allows monsters to have incredible treasures, that's not how it has to be, or even how it was meant to be. This author feels it's really a huge and sad misunderstanding with AD&D 1E that many people didn't understand this. Despite Gygax mentioning it several times in his books. Here a few quotes:
  • "Keep potent magic items rare." [DMG p. 120]
  • "The use of treasure type to determine the treasure guarded by a creature in a dungeon is not generally recommended." [MM1 p. 5]
  • "TREASURE TYPE refers to the table which shows the parameters for various types of valuables which the monster in question *might* possess." (Emphasis by the author.) [MM1 p. 5]
  • "Finally, it must be stated that treasure types are based upon the occurrence of a mean number of monsters as indicated by the number appearing and adjustments detailed in the explanatory material particular to the monster in question. Adjustment downwards should always be made for instances where a few monsters are encountered." [MM1 p. 5]

Of course there are also other quotes as well, such as: "As mentioned previously, the MAGIC ITEMS table is weighted towards results which balance the game. Potions, scrolls, armor and arms are plentiful.". Torn out of context (here, Potions, [...] were meant in relation to other magic items, not in general!!) such phrases can and were greatly misunderstood by eager young Dungeon Masters trying to quickly cook up an exciting adventure. Especially by inexperienced young Dungeon Masters, easily impressed with gold and magic. And that's the point: It takes a certain amount of "maturity", at least in terms of Dungeon Mastering, to not be impressed by all the magic and treasures listed in the rule books, and to keep a world sufficiently bleak, poor, and interesting. To maintain "balance" or tension between magic and weirdness and the mundane.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons lists everything, not because everything should be used, but because the Dungeon Master should have the choice over everything! And it is assumed, that the mundane and normal need not be mentioned or listed in the rule books, but that the Dungeon Master can supply that him- or herself, without explicit mentioning in the rules. Of course, that leaves much more responsibility in the hands of the Dungeon Master, and in this author's view, that's exactly what all those people who made bad experiences with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons failed at (without realizing it).

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons after all, really was made for adults, not for kids. Sure it was fun the way most kids plaid it back then, but after growing up, they shouldn't complain as adults later, that Advanced Dungeons & Dragons were an unbalanced game that results in Monty Haul campaigns. I mean yea, sure it did, back when they played it, but they didn't play it right. Or rather, they played it the way they liked it back then, or the way they thought it ought to be played, and then simply never really questioned that when they got older. Their fault, not the game's.

People who complain Advanced Dungeons & Dragons were too high-fantasy, that it would give much too many magic items and gold, etc., didn't understand the game. They took the listings literally and put in virtually every magic item and every coin mentioned or listed at any possible opportunity, not realizing those were just maximum suggestions. More magic and more gold equals more excitement, right? As a consequence, their games became gold and magic item feasts, and, much like a kid pulling the trigger on his dad's gun, who is to blame? Why, the game of course! Or if not the game, then at least dad! Well, maybe if it says for adults, kids just shouldn't handle it. Quote, Gary Gygax, Players Handbook, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 1'st Edition, 1978, page 7: "The game is ideally for three or more *adult* players [...]". (Emphasis by the author.)

Having experienced Advanced Dungeons & Dragons as an unbalanced role playing game, as a Monty Haul or an excessive high-fantasy game, or as a hack & slash game doesn't mean Advanced Dungeons & Dragons is like that. Yes, it can be, and unfortunately to very many people it was. But that's neither how it was meant to be, nor do the rules specify that that's how the game should be. To the contrary.

In this author's view, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition still is a really really great game. Exactly because it offers so much versatility and possibilities. If you're a good mechanic, and gas consumption doesn't matter, would you rather work on a 70s muscle car, or on a 2010 Japanese car? Advanced Dungeons & Dragons can be played very lean and low fantasy if that's what you like (and this author very much does!), and it offers quite realistic, or rather plausible, detailed rules for more things than most other role playing games. The drawback is, it takes more practice, much more, and as such, more time. More time to familiarize yourself with the rules, and most of all, be fluent with them in-game, and also more time to create adventures. But if you have that time and are willing to put it in, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons offers much more freedom than the limited, often almost board-game like constricted rules of simpler, idiot-proof editions.

Concluding this little rant, for most people's time budget these days, especially adult people with less time than kids, 5th Edition probably really is a great compromise. Perhaps the best of two worlds.
But if you have the time needed to be fluent and in practice with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons as a DM, and you fully understand the rules and how they were meant, playing the game in it's original, hard-core form, balanced, and in a mature way in which it was meant to be played, still has many, many advantages. But to know them, unfortunately, just like the fantasy world it creates, you have to experience it yourself. Nobody can be told. And that takes a good Dungeon Master.

[^ Back to top ^]


 
And how did Gygax get started?

This author thinks it's interesting to contemplate about how Gary Gygax (and Dave Arneson) got started. How and why did they literally invent role playing games? Before *anything* similar existed? The book "Dungeons & Dragons - Art & Arcana" is a good resource on that. Before they invented Dungeons & Dragons in 1974, they had been playing miniature war games. In miniature war games this author believes the objective is to simulate real battles (or made up ones) as realistically as possible. The pride of players is to be able to say: Napoleon lost Waterloo ( or whatever), but had *I* been general, *I* would have won!

Naturally, boasting about one's abilities as an army general, who in fact often didn't do much more in battles than push around miniature figures themselves, isn't very satisfying if clearly the battle isn't realistic. So, to be able to boast about one's better tactical abilities than real-life generals in real-life battles, the battles had to be realistic. There had to be realistic rules how horses moved, how far cannons shot, etc. So miniature war gaming, in this author's view, to be fun for those who like to boast about their (better) abilities as army generals, only makes sense when the battles, and thus the rules are as realistic as possible. In other words, when it's a simulation.

This author believes this aspect of miniature war gaming had a huge effect on Dungeons & Dragons. It's the whole issue of plausibility. If fantasy isn't plausible, it's not believable and then it's not fun. That's why, in essence, the rules invented for Dungeons & Dragons, must like the rules Gygax and his friends invented for miniature war gaming, were at their core and initially simulation rules. The objective, to simulate an alternate (fantasy) reality as realistically, or rather, as plausibly as possible (without too much effort).

But where did the interactive play-style come from? Why is there so much responsibility in role playing games in the hands of the Dungeon- or Game Master in describing the world? After all, in miniature war gaming, even if indeed eventually there probably was a referee there too, that referee didn't hardly have much to do with describing the world (the battlefield). After all, in miniature war gaming, every player can clearly see the other player's miniature figures on the battlefield. That's the whole point of using miniatures.

Completely contrary to this, Dungeons & Dragons on the other side has a hell of a lot of "Theatre of the Mind" in it. The aspect that players (and the Dungeon Master) imagine things, the entire world actually, mostly or even entirely in their heads. Without proper, and often without even any miniatures at all. And this author would say that's even Dungeons & Dragon's most important aspect. So, if things started at the game table of miniature war gaming, where no or only very little Theatre of the Mind was required, where did that come from?

Most people are deeply impressed as children. This author for instance was deeply impressed with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons as a kid. But when Gary Gygax was a kid, there were was no Dungeons & Dragons. There weren't even any role playing games yet because the kid in question hadn't invented them yet. So what was there back then? Was there television? Nope. What there was though, was radio! And back then, there was an infamous radio play, that was narrated so realistically, that many people who had missed the beginning, believed real-life live events were being reported in it.
In the play, extraterrestrials from Mars land on earth and start wrecking havoc. So it's no surprise that those who believed it was a real live report fell in panic. The play is "The War of the Worlds", written by H.G. Wells. It was originally narrated so effectively the first time on the radio by Orson Wells in 1938. After 1938 it was around and certainly played again several times, and in 1968 it was re-enacted with another narrator, even more realistically. And although the 1968 play clearly said it's a fictional play, it was narrated so well that the Canadian army deployed in search of the landed space ship from Mars (look it up on Wikipedia, the truth is sometimes weirder than fiction).

This author believes that young Gary Gygax heard this play, and like any kid, was deeply impressed by it. The fact that mass panic ensued as a result of this play, and even the Canadian army deploying because of it, proves what "The War of The Worlds" is: One of the best and strongest examples of the power of Theatre of the Mind. This author believes what Gygax did in inventing fantasy role playing games, was to connect the Dungeon Master like narration of a speaker, like the radio speaker in "War of the Worlds", in other words, the power of Theatre of the Mind, with complex simulation rules for interactive experiencing of an alternate (fantasy) reality. In simple terms, he combined "War of the Worlds" with his miniature war gaming rules to make the play interactive.

So lastly, where did the medieval fantasy setting, the monsters and the magic of Dungeons & Dragons come from? Well, that's a no-brainer. It's clear that Gygax, probably at younger years as well, just like anyone else after World War II was deeply impressed and inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" (1955).

[^ Back to top ^]


 
The Difference between Gygaxian Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and Wizards of the Coast's D&D 3, 3.5, 4 and 5th Editions

So what's the difference between the original Gygaxian Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st Edition) and Wizards of the Coast's (current) 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons (and previous 3rd, 3.5th, and 4th editions)?

Obviously countless rules have been changed. For instance, Wizards of the Coast introduced the "d20 system" and changed Armor Class to go up instead of down. Just to pick out two little details.

But that's not really what you want to know. With hundreds of rule changes, much more interesting is, what's the gist of all the changes? How does 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons (or previously 3rd, 3.5th and 4th edition) feel when you play it, compared to Gygaxian Advanced Dungeons & Dragons?

Naturally, everyone new to Dungeons & Dragons will start with the most current version because it's most heavily advertised and pushed to make money, and, perhaps even more importantly, because everyone else plays it. And because it's the newest version, people also assume it must be the best version. Like in computer programs, right? The newest version is always the best version. Right?

Well, in Dungeons & Dragons this might not be so, although this reader thinks it's clear that 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons is far better than any other Wizards of the Coast edition. - Exactly because it allows much more Advanced Dungeons & Dragons like play style than any other Wizards of the Coast edition.

All Wizards of the Coast editions of Dungeons & Dragons are, very much like their previous card game "Magic: The Gathering"; a game.
Gygaxian Advanced Dungeons & Dragons is more than a game. It's a fantasy reality simulation. With theoretically no limits what you can do, or what can be done.

The outset, or frame of mind, the goal of Gygaxian Advanced Dungeons & Dragons is this: You are in another world, a fantastic world, and you can do whatever you want, just exactly as if YOU WERE REALLY THERE!! And it's the Dungeon Master's (and the collection of rules available to him) responsibility (and only his), to transfer that into a plausible (a.k.a. "realistic") outcome. Into something that's believable and thus fun.

The outset, or frame of mind, the goal of Wizards of the Coast Dungeons & Dragons is very different. It is this: We are playing a game of fantastic characters in a fantastic world. You can't do anything, because it's a game with specific rules, just like chess or monopoly, and as such, it has specific rules what you can do. There are certain "moves", certain "actions" which every figure (character) can do, just like a chess figure in a chess game, only much more complex and much more of course. And it's your responsibility as a player to learn the large, but ultimately very clearly and defined limited number of moves or actions your "figure" can do.

Do you see the difference in mindset? Gygaxian Advanced Dungeons & Dragons sets out to really simulate reality. Much like a fantastic radio play, where anything is possible. Wizards of the Coast Dungeons & Dragons is a game, much like "Magic: The Gathering", only more complex. Just like chess, only more complex, it has a very finite, very firm, and very limited set of rules what every figure (character) can do or perform. And although those moves or rules might be many, they are very finite and limited, so everyone can learn them. The goal is absolutely not to allow for players to do anything they can think of. Much rather, players are expected to know what "moves" or "actions" their figures can perform, much as if they were playing a card in "Magic: The Gathering", and then play those moves or actions as good as possible.

Because Wizards of the Coast D&D is far less open, less "sandbox" perhaps, because it is a very strictly confined set of interlocking rules, much like a chess game, the rules are indeed much, much more concise. And because players are expected to learn the different "moves" or "actions" which their figures can "perform", much like a card in a "Magic: The Gathering" game, naturally, those rules must be much easier to learn, and need to be very consistent. That's what a lot of people like about Wizards of the Coast games. Their rules are very consistent and well-rounded off. Just like in a game of chess.

In Gygaxian Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, players are *not* expected to learn or even know the rules at all! Far from it! Dungeon Masters are even encouraged to discourage players from learning rules! For instance, they shouldn't read the Dungeon Master's Guide! Knowing the rules is solely and only the responsibility of the Dungeon Master!

Instead of giving players a limited (small) number of set rules which they must abide by, Gygaxian Advanced Dungeons & Dragons tries to provide any number of rules necessary, for any possible situation, to make any kind of fantasy plausible. With no boundaries and no limits or constraints! That's a difference in mindset.
As such, Gygaxian AD&D, as said, is much more of a fantasy simulation, than a "game", like chess for instance, with a firm and consistent set of rules that everyone is expected to know so they can play. Instead, in Gygaxian AD&D, the player just does what he would do if he really were in the situation of his character, as described by the DM like in a radio play, and it's the Dungeon Master's job to transfer what players say they do, in a plausible and believable simulation or outcome. Naturally, that requires much more rules, sometimes rules have to be made up ad-hoc, and it's certainly much harder to keep track of all the rules. And some may very well even contradict each other (even if that's certainly not the goal!). The advantage of this mindset, and these much more unlimited rules is, that it's much more of a "first person" perspective. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, at least to this author, fells more like you were really experiencing an alternate reality, as if you were really there, than as if you're just playing "a game".

I'm not saying 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons isn't fun. Far from it! It's a fun game! But it's still just "a game". It's not a fantasy simulation. Wizards of the Coast editions of D&D feel more like you're moving around figures on a game board, according to specific rules. Even if the use of miniatures has been made tremendously less important in 5th edition compared to previous editions.

Anyway, like already said elsewhere, to really get to know the difference between Gygaxian Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and Wizards of the Coast games, you really have to play both. You have to experience it yourself. And because mastering Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules are so difficult and inconcise, you need a very good Dungeon Master for AD&D. Because Gygaxian AD&D is such an open or "sandbox" game, there really are many pitfalls to make AD&D a bad game if the Dungeon Master is not capable. Probably much more, and most of all, more serious ones that will falsely reflect poorly on the system, than in Wizards of the Coast games.

[^ Back to top ^]