Sunday, September 9, 2012

AD&D: Limitations on changes and house rules

The following is not a criticism of your campaign, your DMing style, or your house rules. Nor does the following attempt to describe my own campaigns. It's just an examination of the language in and around AD&D.

"It is the spirit of the game, not the letter of the rules, which is important. Never hold to the letter written, nor allow some barracks room lawyer to force quotations from the rule book upon you, if it goes against the obvious intent of the game. As you hew the line with respect to conformity to major systems and uniformity of play in general, also be certain the game is mastered by you and not by your players. Within the broad parameters given in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons volumes, you are creator and final arbiter. By ordering things as they should be, the game as a whole first, your campaign next, and your participants thereafter, you will be playing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons as it was meant to be."
- AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (pub 1979, August), Afterword, page 230

The above is license to change, but ONLY to a point. Only within the "broad parameters" of the game. Only within "the obvious intent of the game." The "game as a whole" is "first" – the game's needs are to be served before the needs of your campaign. The DM is first responsible for "conformity to major systems and uniformity of play in general."

To better understand the allowances granted – and not granted – by the above, two concepts of "uniformity of play" and "game as a whole" must be further explored:

"[AD&D] must have some degree of uniformity, a familiarity of method and procedure from campaign to campaign within the whole. Advanced D&D is more than a framework around which individual DMs construct their respective milieux, it is above all a set of boundaries for all of the "worlds" devised by referees everywhere."
- AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (pub 1979, August), Preface, page 7

"There is a need for a certain amount of uniformity from campaign to campaign in D&D. This is not to say that conformity or sameness is desirable. Nobody wishes to have stale campaigns where dungeons, monsters, traps, tricks, and goals are much the same as those encountered in any one of a score of other campaigns. Uniformity means that classes are relatively the same in abilities and approach to solving the problems with which the campaign confronts them. Uniformity means that treasure and experience are near a reasonable mean. Uniformity means that the campaign is neither a give-away show nor a killer – that rewards are just that, and great risk will produce commensurate rewards, that intelligent play will give characters a fighting chance of survival."
- AD&D Players Handbook (pub 1978, June?), Preface, page 6

"No two campaigns will ever be the same, but all will have the common ground necessary to maintaining the whole as a viable entity about which you and your players can communicate with the many thousands of others who also find swords & sorcery role playing gaming as an amusing and enjoyable pastime."
- AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (pub 1979, August), Preface, pages 7-8

"[D&D's] rules are designed and published so as to assure a balanced and cohesive whole. Each segment has been considered and developed so as to fit with the other parts. Each part, meshing with the others, provides an amusing diversion, a game which is fun to play and set so as to provide maximum enjoyment for as long a period of time as possible. Each separate part must be viewed as something which contributes to the whole. Pulling this or that section from the body and criticizing it is totally invalid unless the workings of that particular segment do not harmonize with the whole, thus causing the entire game to be unenjoyable."
- Gary Gygax, The Dragon #16 (1978, July), page 15. Note: Although this article refers to D&D, it might actually intend refer to AD&D, because the contemporaneously-released Players Handbook also refers to itself in places as just D&D. (e.g. the PHB quote above)

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