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TSR A New Taxonomy for TSR-Era D&D

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Like so many historical claims of "declines", this doesn't really make sense.

shrug

Call it what you will. 2e, which started as a simplification/clarification of 1e, which itself was an expansion and clarification of OD&D, was increasingly creaky. The grand sweep of 1989 was undone by a flood of options that made the base system from 1974 increasingly unusable.

TSR was flooding the market with products, and what you call experimentation in your post reflects a desperate attempt to raise more money. A lot of "classic X." A lot of reprints. A lot of "return to Y." Were there some gems in there? Of course- they had a lot of talent, still. But the quality control was gone.

Call it "before the implosion." Whatever, it's cool. If your feeling on the title are that strong, make your own! Snarf out. :)
 

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Call it "before the implosion." Whatever, it's cool. If your feeling on the title are that strong, make your own! Snarf out. :)
I think it's worth having a descriptive period name because that is genuinely a different period - I'd say it was 1985-1993-ish myself, and the second period from 1994 onward, but I think it's worth noting that experimentation increased a lot in that period, and it was more distinct from the previous, more "safe" period. Hence me suggesting experimentation. In terms of products and quality, AD&D almost flourished - that's the weird thing - normally you see companies getting nervous and pulling their neck in and quality declining as people get fired and so on. But with TSR, you instead have this wild period where more and more stuff comes out, followed by WotC arriving and going "Jesus... what the hell happened here?!".

I mean you say:
But the quality control was gone.
And I'd say, with respect, "facts not in evidence", or as kids today say "citation needed", except what I mean is, did 2E ever have quality control? I would say no. I would present as my primary evidence, much of WotC's 1989-1992/3 output, which features dozens of books which exist "because" rather than there actually being any real reason, and where the quality is absolutely all over the place - the various Complete books are great evidence for this. If anything they don't seem to gain quality control until about 1994.

EDIT - Also, to be clear, I don't disagree that they were looking for money, but I think that issue, like so many, was a combination of bad management and external forces. External forces like other RPGs, esp. WW, putting pressure on them, market-wise, and possibly MtG being perceived as stealing customers. Internal forces like the Dragon Dice decision and so on. None of which really speaks to quality.

Also, I can't speak for everyone, but I absolutely goddamn loved all the collections they put out, they blew my socks off, and I do know the people I played D&D with felt the same way. I enjoyed the "Returns" stuff too, because I'd missed it the first time around. Plus weren't they mostly the product of the whole 25th anniversary thing?
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
That's fairly typical, though I usually count OD&D and Holmes as separate from AD&D. AD&D did grow out of OD&D to be sure, but I see AD&D and the classic D&D game as two separate forks from the original. Holmes is mostly an introductory product for OD&D regardless of the occasional references to AD&D, and some of that's probably the result of Gary and Dave's legal disputes.

1e and 2e are both AD&D. Some 1e aficionados refuse to accept any part of 2e, but they're both AD&D anyway. Every single one of my 2e books says AD&D on the cover, no matter what the grognards like or dislike.

I refer to the Basic game as Classic D&D to differentiate it from 3e and onward which I group together as Modern D&D. All of them had more than just the Basic set, though Mentzer saw the most development more or less. The RC had its own Basic set in the form of the Black Box which was meant as a new starting point for the game at the time, and there were a few introductory products that were marketed as expansions for the Black Box. After a while, players were encouraged to move up to the RC and the Challenger level products that were being marketed to the more experienced players of D&D. That stuff only lasted about 2 years though because by then, 2e had grown far more popular.

I don't necessarily disagree with any of this, but I would expand it and draw slightly different conclusions.

The Arneson/Gygax OD&D is the LBBs (the Little Brown Books, the White Box, etc.). But that's not necessarily OD&D. That's the stripped down, '74, OD&D, with just Men & Magic, Monsters & Treasure, and Underground & Wilderness Adventures.

But OD&D was much more than that. From 1975 on, you had the publication of five supplements (Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry, G, DG, & Heroes, Swords & Spells) that were major expansions (except Swords & Spells, that just kind of sucked and should not be spoken of). These supplements rounded out and expanded OD&D extensively from 1975 to 1976. In addition, you had The Strategic Review (later Dragon) providing additional rules additions and clarifications. So by 1977, OD&D was fairly ... advanced. Ahem.

Which is what makes me quibble with your statement that OD&D is separate from AD&D. Despite the legal arguments of Gygax, saying that AD&D is separate from OD&D makes the same amount of sense as saying that the AD&D halflings have nothing to do with Tolkien's hobbits. AD&D is OD&D- in 1979, as envisioned by Gygax. That's it. It incorporates the supplements and magazine articles and has expansions and some rules changes, but it's OD&D. As I listed, everything (from the classes to the psionics to everything else) was from the evolution of OD&D via supplements and articles.

More simply:
The LBBs begat the Supplements begat the AD&D PHB.

Which brings us to Holmes. Holmes was specifically tasked with creating an introduction to OD&D. It is OD&D. In that sense, it is of the same line as AD&D, since AD&D is OD&D's evolution. Follow?

Which brings us to Moldvay's basic. I completely agree with you that Moldvay was tasked with creating a "basic" system and introductory system by using ... OD&D's LBBs (and also referenced Holmes). They went back to the LBBs because they were going to credit Arneson as a co-creator (which they did). But Moldvay (and later Mentzer and the RC) ended up creating a completely separate fork of the game through different rules.

In other words, because AD&D (1e and 2e) is part of an unbroken line that goes back to 2e, it is the evolutionary heir to OD&D; Basic is a separate branch that forked off after Moldvay/Cook that was based on the LBBs, but lacked the seven intervening years.
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
And I'd say, with respect, "facts not in evidence", or as kids today say "citation needed", except what I mean is, did 2E ever have quality control? I would say no. I would present as my primary evidence, much of WotC's 1989-1992/3 output, which features dozens of books which exist "because" rather than there actually being any real reason, and where the quality is absolutely all over the place - the various Complete books are great evidence for this. If anything they don't seem to gain quality control until about 1994.

Yes, discussing a subjective issue like quality with someone who says, "facts not in evidence" seems like a productive use of my time, especially after I said I wasn't engaging in this conversation with you.
 

Yes, discussing a subjective issue like quality with someone who says, "facts not in evidence" seems like a productive use of my time, especially after I said I wasn't engaging in this conversation with you.
Sorry, I meant that politely Snarf, but no worries :(

(Literally half my family and friends are lawyers and I work in a law firm which may impact my perception of terms like "facts not in evidence")
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Sorry, I meant that politely Snarf, but no worries :(

(Literally half my family and friends are lawyers and I work in a law firm which may impact my perception of terms like "facts not in evidence")

Look, Ruin, if you want to mentally give it a different title, that's cool. Discussing subjective quality is, to me, a fool's errand (roughly on par with "What edition is best" or "Quien es Mas Macho, Cesar Romero o Fernando Lamas*).

From 1995 on, TSR pumped out products trying to save the company. However, unlike the prior eras, there wasn't a single signature product in the D&D line. I don't mean to be unfair- I specifically noted that Birthright came out in '95, and that's excellent. But they weren't producing any new rulesets, their greatest campaign settings (Planescape, Spelljammer, Dark Sun for example) were produced earlier, and they were just making a lot of products that cannibalized their earlier successes of varying quality. Some of it was quite good. Some of it wasn't. But it was treading water, and unlike the last period of treading ('85 to 2e) it wasn't going to lead to TSR making anything new.

It wasn't just the dragon dice. It wasn't just the Random House contract (although ... yeah, that was massive). It wasn't just the mismanagement. It wasn't just the complete lack of knowledge and care for the IP (reading about the art alone .... sigh). It was all of it. And I think people are, and should be, thankful that (as you point out) that instead of turtling, they pumped out an extreme amount of product. Personally, I think that it's symptomatic of a decline, in the same way that a sun will expand before going supernova; but I have no issue with someone calling it something else. Whether it "decline" or "implosion" or "experimentation before death" isn't that interesting to me, I guess.

EDIT- I realized that this conversation about TSR is probably the time to invoke Hemingway...
How did you do bankrupt?
Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.



*Trick question- it's Ricardo Montalban.
 
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Look, Ruin, if you want to mentally give it a different title, that's cool. Discussing subjective quality is, to me, a fool's errand (roughly on par with "What edition is best" or "Quien es Mas Macho, Cesar Romero o Fernando Lamas*).

From 1995 on, TSR pumped out products trying to save the company. However, unlike the prior eras, there wasn't a single signature product in the D&D line. I don't mean to be unfair- I specifically noted that Birthright came out in '95, and that's excellent. But they weren't producing any new rulesets, their greatest campaign settings (Planescape, Spelljammer, Dark Sun for example) were produced earlier, and they were just making a lot of products that cannibalized their earlier successes of varying quality. Some of it was quite good. Some of it wasn't. But it was treading water, and unlike the last period of treading ('85 to 2e) it wasn't going to lead to TSR making anything new.

It wasn't just the dragon dice. It wasn't just the Random House contract (although ... yeah, that was massive). It wasn't just the mismanagement. It wasn't just the complete lack of knowledge and care for the IP (reading about the art alone .... sigh). It was all of it. And I think people are, and should be, thankful that (as you point out) that instead of turtling, they pumped out an extreme amount of product. Personally, I think that it's symptomatic of a decline, in the same way that a sun will expand before going supernova; but I have no issue with someone calling it something else. Whether it "decline" or "implosion" or "experimentation before death" isn't that interesting to me, I guess.

EDIT- I realized that this conversation about TSR is probably the time to invoke Hemingway...
How did you do bankrupt?
Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.



*Trick question- it's Ricardo Montalban.
Supernova would probably be the phrase I'd pick actually, good analogy!

I guess the only other quibble I have is I feel Planescape is a product of the later approach, the more experimental, product-heavy one, rather than the more cautious approach of the late '80s and early '90s. It's all Zeb of course, but I feel like until they sort of "cut loose" a product like that wouldn't have existed. But this is more down to a perception of when the change starts. For me, it seemed like 1993 is the change-over year. Suddenly the sort of products TSR was putting out changed a bit, and frankly, AD&D started being interesting again to a bunch of people who'd been converted to WW, SR, 2020 and so on (er by which I mean purely anecdotally, i.e. people I knew, online and off).
 

Laurefindel

Legend
I started D&D with 2e AD&D fresh out of the presses, and always looked to previous materials as a vague and distant mythological past where the 10-foot pole was revered as holy by all players and everything else viewed as most unholy by all players' moms.

to be honest, I still looked at early D&D as a vague and distant myth, albeit with more archeological digs proving that it actually happened and shedding some lights on the true meaning of the 10-foot pole and the role of enraged moms. D&D's history sure has the confusing convulsion of Greek mythos...
 


This came up in the discussion started by @Yora regarding the importance of Tracy Hickman. When I responded, I referred to a classification of TSR that I realized I had been using internally for some time, but I don't know that I had fully explained here before. Let me lay this out, first, by starting with the "normal" taxonomy of TSR.

1. Traditional, or Edition-Based Taxonomy.

I'm going to go through this quickly, since I'm sure most people here are at least somewhat familiar with the D&D editions. Normally, we refer to the different periods of D&D through the editions, or "versions" of the game. The main thing to remember about TSR is that, for the most part, it is all interchangeable. I don't want to go to overboard on this- the differences between OD&D in 1974 and late-edition 2e with kits are ... well, big! But the games, including the AD&D / Basic split, are largely interoperable, to the extent that it was simple to use OD&D modules for Basic characters, or Expert modules for 2e characters, and so on. I wrote a little about the interoperability previously.
With that said, the main "editions" during the TSR era are as follows:

OD&D Original D&D, the 1974 rules (and supplements and other materials) until the released of AD&D. (1974 - 1978)
AD&D Advanced Dungeons & Dragons; sometimes only referring to 1e, but also refers to 1e and 2e. (1978* - 2000)
1e First Edition of AD&D. (1978 - 1989)
2e Second Edition of AD&D. (1989 - 2000)
Holmes (1977) Strangely, Holmes Basic is NOT "Basic" D&D like Moldvay and Mentzer, but is OD&D. Specifically, it was supposed to be a codification, for beginners (a "basic" ruleset) of the OD&D rules, and ended up having a tacked-on introduction to 1e.
B/X (1981)This is the Basic and Expert sets put out by Moldvay (Basic) and Cook (Expert), so it's sometimes called Moldvay/Cook, or just Moldvay.
BECMI (1983) Also called Mentzer, this is the Basic, Expert, Companion, Master, and Immortals rules.
RC or R/C (1994) Referred to, confusingly, both ways, this is the Rules Cyclopedia that is BECM (no I) plus some additional material.

*Dates have to be approximate in some cases- for 1e, I went with the PHB date.

With those editions in mind, many people roughly separate the editions of D&D, and thus the eras of TSR, into:
Main Line
OD&D & Holmes Basic (1974-1978)
1e (1978-1989)
2e (1989 - 2000)

Basic Line
Moldvay (1981 - 1983)
Mentzer (1983 - 1994)
RC (1994 - 2000)

And that's definitely one way of looking at it! But the more conversations I have, the more I think about it, the more I hear about the experiences of other players, and the more I look at the products and the ethos of different times of TSR, the more I think that this isn't the best, or easiest, way to think about it.

And let's face it- TSR has been in the news recently. Well, a nasty and revivified rotting corpse called "TSR" that no one want around, but ... still.


2. Snarf's Stupendous Sorting System.

I propose sorting the TSR era into three separate times as follows:

1. 1974- 1984 Early D&D (aka, the Gygax Era)
This is the founding era, when the game evolved from OD&D to 1e. We have a certain unity of art, and it was the "classic" era look (Otus, Trampier, Dee). Moldvay and Cook still was more widespread than Mentzer (which was coming on strong, as it was published in 1983). The majority of the classic modules were pumped out, as well as some deeply weird stuff for the time (Barrier Peaks, the Wonderland modules, and so on).

2. 1985 - 1994 Modern 1e (aka, the Zeb era)
I would actually say that the real beginning of 2e started with a good book and a bad book (my judgment, not fact). OA by Zeb Cook, despite not aging well in many ways, introduced a lot of game concepts that would make their way into 2e, such as NWPs and dex-based melee characters (the 2e ranger). UA, by Gygax, was a cash-grab consisting of Dragon Magazine articles, that seriously unbalanced the game (this is a trend in the history of D&D). That said, concepts from it also continued on throughout D&D. Most importantly, this is the time period that we saw the ouster of Gygax from TSR, and a completely new direction in the art department- this is the time of Elmore, Easley, Parkinson, Caldwell, and so on. We began to see increased emphasis on settings (first with hardcover rulebooks, like GHA and DLA, and later with boxed sets). The expansive character options in UA later saw light again as player-facing kits, in various handbooks. Continued support of the Mentzer line and Gazetteers. Not to mention Planescape.

3. 1995 - 2000 The Decline (Emptying the Cupboard)
Finally, there's the end. How about reprinting all of the BECMI stuff as the RC? How about reprinting the PHB and DMG? People like those kits, right? How about we just give them all sorts of player options-combat, spells, whatever? I don't mean to demean the products that good people were producing (Birthright, for example, came out in 1995) but by this point, we are looking at 20 years of roughly the same mechanics, and a company that was circling the drain.

So why bother with this? In the immortal words of Jake, who continues to insist that Jonathan Archer is the bestest Star Fleet captain ever .... "WHY BOTHER WITH ANYTHING???? SCOTT BAKULA IS THE MAN!"

Those are some thoughts. Hopefully, this will be a non-dumpster fire TSR thread. I promise that no Michaels were harmed when writing this.
Yeah, I agree with you, to a point. That is, 'Basic' and 'Advanced' were never really the most important divisions. My mental map of D&D is slightly different though:

Early D&D really covers the 'Uncodified Era' of D&D, from its prototypal origins in the early 1970's through the publication of the AD&D 1e Player's Handbook in 1978. While the MM and PHB for 1e are 'AD&D' and part of Gary's codification of the earlier systems, plus a few mods, when they came out they didn't really conflict particularly with the existing OD&D/Holmes rules. We simply grafted on the monsters and class definitions in these books to existing play. Any rough edges were no more significant than variations in rules between tables in OD&D, who's rules are very murky and require heavy interpretation anyway.

The is era is typified by the lack of significant structure in the rules, a great deal of extrapolation, lots of 'tribal knowledge', and large parts of both the rules and campaigns being invented and extrapolated by DMs either on the fly or systematically. 3PPs published a lot of 'filler material', like Arduin Grimoire and JG stuff. The earliest modules, like B1, and the G and D series arose at this time, though I think the original texts of many of the other modules of the 1e period were also authored at this time as tourney adventures that were then later published by TSR (G and D definitely fall into this category but were printed earlier than the rest).

The next period was the one between the publishing of the DMG and the departure of Gygax. It includes the creation of the two classic Basic editions, the 1e DMG, and various supplements up to and including Oriental Adventures. TSR also published MANY modules, the World of Greyhawk, and some other settings more aimed at Basic, plus Dragonlance, though that didn't have a direct source book, just some modules and novels. This was the period of wild TSR growth, the Satanic Panic, Red Box D&D in every book store, the cartoon, etc.

With the publication of the DMG the rules for AD&D are pretty nailed down (as much as TSR was ever able to nail them down). All the material is still compatible, mostly, with the original game and nobody even batted an eye at using B2 with AD&D even though it was technically a Basic module, for example. TSR came down on all the 3PPs and pretty much wiped them out during this period. Play evolved from the early model of 'troupe play' and wargame-like play to generally more of an attempt to do heroic action-fantasy, with mixed results. There was a lot of evolution in RPGs generally, though I don't think there was a lot of perception that games much different from traditional D&D were really possible.

Late TSR D&D starts with the departure of Gygax, really you could call OA the first of the 'late' books. It has all the hallmarks of rule systems and agenda that were fully developed by Cook later in the 2e books. OA, WSG, DSG, these have all the skills rules and whatnot that 2e makes officially core (technically 'optional') rules. You could pretty much use these books with 2e, and in fact TSR never really did exactly create 2e versions of the material in them, though bits and pieces appeared in the 'Leatherette' series of supplements.

Modules continued to be produced during this period, but they were more diverse. There were not so many of the straight up dungeon crawl types. There were things like Battlesystem modules, and whatnot (and Battlesystem itself). Settings proliferated, supplements proliferated, and the 2e rules sort of morphed into a huge blob of option books and whatnot that was not even entirely consistent with itself. Where in the early days you had people filling in the cracks in the core rules to make a working game, in the late TSR period you had DMs trying to wrangle 20 supplements and decide which parts MIGHT or might not be usable (and a lot of it was dreck, TSR allegedly stopped playtesting at some point during this era).

And then of course you get into WotC-Era D&D, a whole different beast...
 

Laurefindel

Legend
Supernova would probably be the phrase I'd pick actually, good analogy!

I guess the only other quibble I have is I feel Planescape is a product of the later approach, the more experimental, product-heavy one, rather than the more cautious approach of the late '80s and early '90s. It's all Zeb of course, but I feel like until they sort of "cut loose" a product like that wouldn't have existed. But this is more down to a perception of when the change starts. For me, it seemed like 1993 is the change-over year. Suddenly the sort of products TSR was putting out changed a bit, and frankly, AD&D started being interesting again to a bunch of people who'd been converted to WW, SR, 2020 and so on (er by which I mean purely anecdotally, i.e. people I knew, online and off).
An aging TSR collapsing under its own weight, blowing up in one colossal explosion, and leaving a black hole behind?

that sounds about right...
 


Mercurius

Legend
Jumping in a bit late, I wanted to comment on something I think @Ruin Explorer said - that TSR became more "experiemental" later on. I'm not sure this is actually true. If you look at the actual product out-put of TSR during the 2E era (1989-2000), the only real difference--or at least the most marked one--is the increase in quantity, more than doubling from 1989 to its peak in 1995.

2E was, pretty much from the beginning, focused on settings. In 1989, they published products for four settings: The Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Dragonlance, and Spelljammer, which is about as experimental as anything that has ever been published for D&D, TSR or WotC. Then you had another quite "experimental" setting in Dark Sun added two years later.

During 2E, you have the following settings being supported to some degree (that is, having products published):

1989-00: Forgotten Realms
1989-94/98-00: Dragonlance
1989-93/98-99: Greyhawk
1989-93: Spelljammer
1990-99: Ravenloft
1990-93/95-96: Lankhmar
1991-96: Dark Sun
1992-94/98: Al-Qadim
1994-98: Planescape
1994-96: Mystara (for AD&D)*
1994: Council of Wyrms
1995-98: Birthright
1998: Jakandor

(*Obviously Mystara started as the default setting for the BECMI line, with the gazetteers published from 1987-91, but as BECMI faded in the early 90s, TSR published a series of Mystara products for AD&D).

So you have an increase in number of settings--and resulting products--from four in 1989 to eight in 92-93, then a "swapping out" of settings over the next two years, and then the contraction in 97 as things switched over to WotC.

As far as non-setting products, I don't see a huge difference. You have the "faux leather series" of books (the "Complete" options and DM equivalents) published from 1989-96, and then various accessories replacing them starting in 95. You had various box sets and miscellaneous adventures. And then, post-TSR, you have WotC's various products, like the classic module series. But these products were but a fraction of the campaign setting stuff, especially during the TSR era.

Again, the point being that I'm not sure there's a real bifurcation between a "safer" earlier period and a more "experimental" later one. It is just changing flavors, with the Forgotten Realms being the connecting setting throughout all 12 years of 2E publications.
 

Jumping in a bit late, I wanted to comment on something I think @Ruin Explorer said - that TSR became more "experiemental" later on. I'm not sure this is actually true. If you look at the actual product out-put of TSR during the 2E era (1989-2000), the only real difference--or at least the most marked one--is the increase in quantity, more than doubling from 1989 to its peak in 1995.
Hmmmm.

To me it looks like your own list backs when I was saying, but I guess people can read things differently.

I'm not just talking about settings though - I'm talking rules, formats, and so on.

Also you missed out Taladas!
 

Mercurius

Legend
Hmmmm.

To me it looks like your own list backs when I was saying, but I guess people can read things differently.

I'm not just talking about settings though - I'm talking rules, formats, and so on.

Also you missed out Taladas!
Taladas = Dragonlance, and it came out in 1989. So I'm not sure how my list backs what you're saying, given that "experimental" stuff was relatively distributed through 2E's run.

As I pointed out, most of the 2E output was setting related. I'm not sure how rules became more experimental later on, although that tends to be the case in every edition (e.g. latter-day 3.5). Format? That seems a secondary element.
 

Taladas = Dragonlance, and it came out in 1989. So I'm not sure how my list backs what you're saying, given that "experimental" stuff was relatively distributed through 2E's run.

As I pointed out, most of the 2E output was setting related. I'm not sure how rules became more experimental later on, although that tends to be the case in every edition (e.g. latter-day 3.5). Format? That seems a secondary element.
Well, I think it is fair to say that late TSR-era 2e had a HUGE amount of optional rules cruft larded onto it. I mean, 1e in its entire run got very little of this stuff, basically UA and that was about it, unless you count WSG and DSG, which were only released at the very end of the 1e era.

From day 1 2e was pumping out supplements covering every aspect of play, those leatherette books were really an unprecedented experiment, not just in terms of publishing format, but also in terms of making 2e a much more 'extensible' game, with kits, sub-class templates, and lots of other player-facing options, none of which really existed in 1e (unless you went outside of TSR to look for material).

So, in that sense, I think TSR did get more 'experimental' over time. As you say, most game systems tend to do that, but it was rather remarkable at the time, at least for D&D. Of course by the mid 90's game systems were so common that it didn't seem quite as crazy as it might have 10 years earlier in the 1e era.
 

Orius

Adventurer
Jumping in a bit late, I wanted to comment on something I think @Ruin Explorer said - that TSR became more "experiemental" later on. I'm not sure this is actually true. If you look at the actual product out-put of TSR during the 2E era (1989-2000), the only real difference--or at least the most marked one--is the increase in quantity, more than doubling from 1989 to its peak in 1995.

2E was, pretty much from the beginning, focused on settings. In 1989, they published products for four settings: The Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Dragonlance, and Spelljammer, which is about as experimental as anything that has ever been published for D&D, TSR or WotC. Then you had another quite "experimental" setting in Dark Sun added two years later.

I agree with that. 1e didn't push itself too far, it was mostly a standard sort of setting which was presented in the form of Greyhawk. The Realms wasn't too terribly different from Greyhawk, there's a bit of flavor difference to be sure, but they're both mostly vanilla. Dragonlance did shake things up a bit, but didn't stray too far from the core of 1e. There's also OA and Kara-Tur, but that was about presenting a D&D setting that wasn't based on European culture. The Bloodstone module series is the only other thing which did anything to push 1e's limits but that was primarily all about high level campaigning.

2e OTOH, had settings which really pushed the boundaries of what kind of fantasy the system could support, and the most exotic stuff were Spelljammer, Dark Sun, and Planescape. Ravenloft pushed things a bit with elements like the Mists and the Dark Powers or whatever they were called, though much of the setting was based on more familiar gothic horror tropes. Al-Qadim wasn't terribly too far out there either, since Arabian flavored stuff tends to be somewhat familiar, and isn't all that uncommon in D&D anyway.
 

Jack Daniel

Engines & Empires
Which brings us to Moldvay's basic. I completely agree with you that Moldvay was tasked with creating a "basic" system and introductory system by using ... OD&D's LBBs (and also referenced Holmes). They went back to the LBBs because they were going to credit Arneson as a co-creator (which they did). But Moldvay (and later Mentzer and the RC) ended up creating a completely separate fork of the game through different rules.

In other words, because AD&D (1e and 2e) is part of an unbroken line that goes back to 2e, it is the evolutionary heir to OD&D; Basic is a separate branch that forked off after Moldvay/Cook that was based on the LBBs, but lacked the seven intervening years.

The common view among people who know and care about such things is that OD&D gave rise to twin, coequal branches with Advanced D&D and Basic D&D. This view has at least one good argument in its favor: neither AD&D nor Basic D&D is directly rules-compatible with original D&D.

It's also not uncommon among OSR and B/X fans to treat TSR D&D as a single unbroken line from the white box through the Rules Cyclopedia, which makes AD&D (and thus WotC D&D) the aberrant "fork". This, at least, has some textual evidence to back it up, since TSR (and thus the books they published) treated D&D as one game, and AD&D as another separate game.

You, however, seem excessively invested in this alternate narrative, that OD&D leading to AD&D is the unbroken "primary" lineage, while Basic D&D is the branching fork, and that B/X was some sort of break-point. I don't quite get the obsession, but I have written before about the evidentiary problems with this point of view ("There's No Such Thing as D&D 0th Edition"). And that's the key here: evidence-based arguments are worth listening too, and bare assertions aren't.

Or you can keep your head buried in the sand and ignore any evidence that contradicts your opinion—which is frankly what I've come to expect by now.
 

Mercurius

Legend
The common view among people who know and care about such things is that OD&D gave rise to twin, coequal branches with Advanced D&D and Basic D&D. This view has at least one good argument in its favor: neither AD&D nor Basic D&D is directly rules-compatible with original D&D.

It's also not uncommon among OSR and B/X fans to treat TSR D&D as a single unbroken line from the white box through the Rules Cyclopedia, which makes AD&D (and thus WotC D&D) the aberrant "fork". This, at least, has some textual evidence to back it up, since TSR (and thus the books they published) treated D&D as one game, and AD&D as another separate game.

You, however, seem excessively invested in this alternate narrative, that OD&D leading to AD&D is the unbroken "primary" lineage, while Basic D&D is the branching fork, and that B/X was some sort of break-point. I don't quite get the obsession, but I have written before about the evidentiary problems with this point of view ("There's No Such Thing as D&D 0th Edition"). And that's the key here: evidence-based arguments are worth listening too, and bare assertions aren't.

Or you can keep your head buried in the sand and ignore any evidence that contradicts your opinion—which is frankly what I've come to expect by now.
A bit harsh, but I've always kind of thought that AD&D was the version EGG came up with after a few years of development and rules-morphing, while B/X/BECMI was created for those that wanted something that remained closer to OD&D.

So, in a way, both are successors to OD&D in different ways: B/X as closer in form and feel, and AD&D as a development and next iteration.
 


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