Sunday, July 1, 2018

Readings In The Expert Dungeons & Dragons Rules Set & The Long Haul OSR Campaign

I've been doing a lot of rereading of the B/X box sets recently because of recharging the batteries of my old school foundations & to some extent my OSR resources. There's a certain something that goes beyond mere nostalgia here. The fact is that Expert Dungeons & Dragons has a lot to offer the OSR crowd if they know where to look. Expert is the Dungeons & Dragons set that takes the players up the long level of PC progression but there's more to then merely that. Looking over the Dungeons & Dragons Expert Wiki entry reveals certain key aspects to this;
"The Expert Set rulebook covers character levels 4-14, and begins with an introduction to wilderness adventures and playing a long-term campaign"

Here's the beginning of domain level play for players & their PC's plus the expansion of the magical abilities of wizards & clerics in Dungeons & Dragons.

"The Player's section introduces rules for adventuring in the wilderness, as well as new weapons and equipment. It expands the spell lists for the cleric and magic-user classes, and introduces the concept of "reversed spells" (in which some spells may be cast with a result opposite to their normal effect). Because of their special abilities, the three demi-human classes are given maximum levels "to help keep all the character classes in balance":[6]:3 dwarves, elves, and halflings can only rise to 12th, 10th, and 8th level, respectively. When any character reaches a specified "Name" level, depending on their class, they are permitted to build a stronghold, and thus attract lower-level NPC followers."
So I know what your thinking. So what big deal we've seen some of these concepts in original Dungeons & Dragons in early issues of The Dragon magazine. Well when you get into modern OSR settings. These levels can have fundamental impacts on a campaign setting we've seen this in OSR products like Dark Albion & Adventurer, Conqueror, King's Auran Empire

The ideas in the Expert Set dove tail into the design conceits of many latter day OSR products. But the real start of many of these Dungeon & Dragons adventure campaign anchors come straight out of the original Dungeon & Dragon campaign worlds. Greyhawk, Blackmoor, & especially Arduin push the ideas of the domain home base for player's PC's to adventure from.
"The bulk of the Dungeon Master's section provides details for creating and running both wilderness adventures and a long-term campaign, including designing the home town and area of player's characters, and combat rules for various wilderness terrain"

Gary Gygax, & Dave Arneson   knew exactly what they were doing with giving the PC's a so called 'home port' to hang their hats in. This is the same style that we'd see in war gaming at the time for long term campaign. Yes Virginia there were players in the 60's & 70's who had long range war game campaigns especially in the
SPI circles.

Information on the War of The Ring Game can be found here

David A. Hargrave went in a totally different direction in some ways with his Arduin Grimoire books. Here the idea was power for power's sake but the PC's were the movers & shakers of the campaign setting. Arduin to certain extent is smaller then Greyhawk but much more dangerous. The idea of PC death was built into the setting right off the bat. This was a conceit in old school & original Dungeons & Dragons where it was often dungeon master vs. players. But often this conceit changed during long term play. I've seen this & experienced it first hand.

The Dungeons & Dragons B/X set changed this conceit in spades making the PC's the focus for more long term campaign styles. Sure you could get a similar campaign vibe from Arduin but Dave Hargrave's world made the PC's someone of substance straight out. Expert D&D gave the DM the long haul level option.

Both design & writing campaign anchor styles have merit & are still seen today in any number of OSR products & retroclones. There are a few reasons why the 'long haul' campaign works best:
  1. This campaign style gives the players far more time to explore & flesh out their PC's during play! They will change, evolve or die during play. 
  2. Power comes from the player's actions & influence during the long haul & they will have consequences during the campaign. 
  3. Campaign Settings grow & change with the events of the campaign centered around the PC's while the world event continue. This grows & shapes campaign as a whole and this happens with PC death as well. 
  4. Long Haul campaigns have their own internal styling & staying power.  
  5. PC levels  slot into changes, growth, & military expansion especially in wilderness settings within the long haul campaign. The wilderness is tantamount to the adventure campaign where the PC's are the explorers, outlaws, & paragons of expansion for civilization. We see this time & again in Appendix N Sword & Sorcery. 
  6. Long haul campaigns are the backbone to good solid sustainable play & especially for  attracting new players to the table.

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