D&D General And the Druid Explodes: Understanding the AD&D Design Space's Legacy

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
A few brief words are necessary to insure that the reader has actually obtained a game form which he or she desires. Of the two approaches to hobby games today, one is best defined as the realism-simulation school and the other as the game school. AD&D is assuredly an adherent of the latter school. It does not stress any realism (in the author’s opinion an absurd effort at best considering the topic!). It does little to attempt to simulate anything either. ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is first and foremost a game for the fun and enjoyment of those who seek to use imagination and creativity. This is not to say that where it does not interfere with the flow of the game that the highest degree of realism hasn‘t been attempted, but neither is a serious approach to play discouraged. In all cases, however, the reader should understand that AD&D is designed to be an amusing and diverting pastime, something which can fill a few hours or consume endless days, as the participants desire, but in no case something to be taken too seriously. For fun, excitement, and captivating fantasy, AD&D is unsurpassed. As a realistic simulation of things from the realm of make-believe, or even as a reflection of medieval or ancient warfare or culture or society, it can be deemed only a dismal failure. Readers who seek the latter must search elsewhere. Those who desire to create and populate imaginary worlds with larger-than-life heroes and villains, who seek relaxation with a fascinating game, and who generally believe games should be fun, not work, will hopefully find this system to their taste.
Gary Gygax, AD&D (1e) DMG p. 9

Dave Arneson was prepared for Wesley's Braunstein game. It was a simple scenario ... a banana republic in the throws of revolution. Arneson would receive his points for distributing leaflets. But Arneson convinced other players, using his fake CIA badge, that he was an undercover agent and easily "won" the scenario by stealing all of the money of the country, boarding a helicopter, and casually throwing down all the leaflets on the riots and burning embers below.

What, you thought the torrents of text would start after the introduction? HA HA! No. Suck it, phone users. Anyway, I've been thinking about a few ideas that have come up recently in a thread regarding Magic Users in AD&D, and how the design differences in AD&D (1e from now on, pre-Unearthed Arcana ... aka, "Gygaxian AD&D") made the game distinct, and how those specific design decisions, while attenuated today, continue to play out in the design decisions we still see today, and in the debates over rules that we continue to see. Which is ... yeah ... a pretty big topic! So this will be a fairly high-level and philosophical look at the concepts.

But for those who feel it necessary to get to arguin' before the get to readin', the basic gist of it is this- 1e was an admixture of strongly prescribed rules (the "Gygaxian space") as well as a great deal of negative space (the "Arnesonian space") that people used to enable the basic play of the game. In the future, designers would often take note of one extreme or the other; those who looked for increased Gygaxian space might end up with a game closer to 3e, those who went to an Arnesonian space to a design like FKR or certain OSR variants, but generally, it is the admixture of the two that is closer to what people think of when they think of as "D&D."


1. The Weird and Wargamey Rules of 1e
The villain is the person who knows the most but cares the least.

One of the many legacy "rules" that we see that has remained unchanged in 5e that existed in 1e (and, technically, before) is the proverbial Druids can't wear metal armor. For people who first started playing in more modern systems, this probably seems like a bizarre rule. What happens if a druid decides to wear metal armor? What happens if a druid is captured and metal armor is forced upon them? What if a druid (due to an illusion, for example) wears metal armor? What if a Druid is taken prisoner, and there is only a suit of chainmail that they can wear while battling to escape and save all the forests in the world???? What if, what if, what if? Other than the obvious response (....the druid explodes), the modern gamer might conjure an infinite number of edge-cases and question the realism of this rule ... usually because they want to wear metal armor. I kid. Mostly. Kind of.

The thing is- to the 1e player, these are not questions. The Druid does not wear metal armor, because the druid does not wear metal armor. It is a truism, because it's the rule. It's similar to saying, "Why does the Magic User get d4 hit points, and the Fighter get d10 hit points." The reason that they do is because ... they do. Those are the rules of the game you are playing, just like if you are playing WoTC's Dungeon!, you know that a Rogue has a slightly better chance of finding secret doors ... because.

The thing is, there were all sorts of rules like that. If you were a Magic User in 1e, your only allowed weapons were a dagger, dart and staff. Period. If you were a thief in 1e, you could use swords, but not a bastard sword or a long sword. And you couldn't use a shield. If you were a monk, you couldn't use "oil" (aka, flaming oil as a weapon).

And there were alignment restrictions as well. If you were a druid, you had to be "true" neutral. If you were a monk, you had to be lawful (whether good, neutral, or evil). And there was no "oopsies." If your monk through choice or magical mishap changed alignment away from lawful, he "loses all monk abilities and must begin again as a first level character."

Even the rules that people like to quote, when read in full, can be seen as "gamist" and not realistic. For example, there was the infamous "Character With Two Classes." Not only was this more difficult the people remember to actually do (you needed a 15 in the principal attribute(s) of the class you switched from, and a 17+ in the principal attribute(s) of the class you were switching to, as well as keeping with the alignment restrictions, which made Clerics, Fighters, Thieves, and MUs the only viable options for two-classing for almost any character*). More importantly, even after getting through the whole weird "you can't use your former abilities if you want XP phase," you still had to abide by the "restrictions regarding armor, shield, and/or weapon with regard to operations particular to one or both classes." So if you made your sweet, sweet Human Fighter/Magic User, "this does not allow spell use while armor clad[.]" PHB 33. Nor, for example, could your two-classed Fighter/Thief use their thieving abilities while using a shield or wearing anything but leather.

*For example, the "principal attributes" of a Ranger was every score except dexterity and charisma; that meant that if you were two-classing out of ranger, you needed 4/6 15s or higher. If you were two-classing into ranger, you needed 4/6 17s or higher. For Paladins, it was every score except dexterity, which made it impossible for every person except for Derek, who always rolled his characters at home. MAXIMUM DEREK!

Now, why go though all of this ... is this just a weird flex about old rules? No. Well, not entirely. I do love old rules! Instead, it's to point out that a lot of these basic rules for 1e were not designed for what we would think of as realism; they were designed in the model of a wargame. Different units in a wargame have different attributes. Why? Partly to model the unit, and partly to make it playable within the game. Are all infantry the same? No. Of course not. But you're playing within the parameters of a game; part of that is playing within the rules. Arguing that the Magic User should be able to pick up a sword and fight with it "because of realism," was as nonsensical as saying that the Magic User should get d10 hit points "because she's really tough." Saying that the Druid should be able to wear metal armor made as much sense as saying that the Druid should be able to use swords, because they already can use a scimitar, so why not? These rules were not modeling a reality; they were part and parcel of enabling the playing of a game. Because that's what Gary Gygax had a background in; he designed games. Arguably, that was what he brought to D&D; the codification of the original idea of Arneson into a system that could be played by everyone, everywhere, because people instinctively understood how to play a game.


2. A Brief Interlude- The Case of the Unplanned Bard
People of my generation despise authenticity, mostly because they're all so envious of it.

To give a quick example of how these rules could lead to bizarre and unfortunate consequences, allow me to present the example of the "unplanned Bard." Imagine Chad. Chad rolls up a character with the following attributes:
S: 18/96 I: 12 W: 15 D: 17 C: 12 CH: 15

Chad created a Fighter, Sir Mix-A-Lot. He starts with four weapon proficiencies, and he chooses two-handed sword, long bow, lance, and awl pike. At fourth level, after finding a magic trident, he adds trident to his proficiencies. At fifth level, since he has the required 17 dexterity, he dual-classes into thief. He no longer has the ability to use any of his old weapons, and his strength drops from 18/96 to just 18 (as only fighters are allowed to have percentile strength). That's okay! He gets two thief weapons. He chooses club and dagger (why not?). At fifth level, he gets one more and chooses sling. Then, at sixth level, having the required scores, he Sir Mix-A-Lot becomes a Bard.

This is when Chad looks at the Bard tables for the first time. The good news is that Chad gets to use a club, dagger, and sling. The bad news? That's it. Forever. He doesn't get the strength back. He doesn't get any more weapons. In fact, several bard weapons (javelin, scimitar, spear, staff, bastard sword) he would have had to choose as a fighter. Moreover, bards don't have a non-proficiency penalty, so arguably he can't even use those weapons with a penalty. To quote Sage Advice in Dragon #56, "Of course, it’s good to apply some forethought; if a fighter intends to eventually become a bard, he should plan to direct his weapon-proficiency training toward the weapons which a bard can use[.]" You don't say!

Personally, I would boil this down to the following Snarf Maxim: The only thing worse than the unplanned Bard is all Bards.


3. The Arnesonian Negative Space of AD&D
It is so exhausting to be so bad at something I love so much.

I sometimes mention negative space, and I think it's an important concept in general. Negative space is most commonly used in art and design to describe the empty space around (or between) the subjects of an image. But as a more general concept, I think it has relevance in the sense that what is left out, what is unsaid, is often as important as what is put in. In the above quoted example, when Arneson was playing the "Banana Republic" version of Braunstein, he won by thriving in the negative space. There were the rules of what he could do, and what the character he was playing was supposed to do, and then there was the world that the game was set it. And in that larger world, Arneson was able to employ his imagination and "play the world" in order to come up with a novel method of winning.

And that's where we get to idea of negative space in the AD&D rules, and the area of Arnesonian play. In effect, no matter how codified the game rules were, there was always the aspect of those rules interacting with a shared space- the imaginary game world in which the characters were operating. And while the rules codified certain situations (Now did the Lord say, “First thou createst the Cleric. Then thou Cleric shall get d8 hit points. d8 hit points shall be the number of the hit points and the number of the hit points shall be d8. d10 shalt thou not get, neither shalt thou think about d6, excepting that thou then proceedeth to d8."), it could not possibly codify all the interactions you had with the world.

So imagine a decanter of endless water. The rules say that it can shoot out a 20' long geyser at 30 gallons per round. Could you use that to knock a kobold off a cliff? Could you use that to fill a deep pit up halfway water and cover it with an illusion of a floor to drown some pursuers? Or imagine having your spellcaster cast "continual light" and "continual darkness" on a bunch of small balls you have in pouches that you can roll into rooms or you can use to cover escape. These are banal and unexceptional cases, because you are only limited by the imagination you can bring to the game. You can use you gold to for hirelings, or to party, or get information about the local lord, or to hire a sage to locate a wondrous artifact to go seek out. At any given time, you were only limited in terms to what you could imagine your character could do in the shared world, and just declaring it.


4. The Interplay of Gygaxian Rules and Arnesonian Negative Space
Sarcasm is when you tell someone the truth by lying on purpose.

There is an old common law principle called Expression unius est exclusio alterius, which literally translated means "the expression of one thing is the exclusion of the other." For example, in its most basic form, "No dogs allowed," would mean that cats would be allowed, but not guide dogs. Or if someone says, "The pizza toppings I like are pineapple, anchovies, and kiwi fruit," you would know that this person is a monster, but also that they excluding pepperoni from the toppings that they like. This tends to have a lot of relevance, even if we don't name it as such, in rules debates in D&D when people invoke it to say that when something is covered by a rule (it is mentioned) then that rule excludes other methods from handling it. So, for example, if a particular class has an ability, then you cannot just "do" that ability without using that rule.

I will sometimes refer to the "great thief debate," as one that continues to echo throughout TTRPG history. In doing so, I am talking about the introduction of the Thief class, and why it was considered controversial at the time (and, perhaps, why Gygax subconsciously kept it so underpowered while he was in charge; if you think it was bad in the PHB, don't even think of reading his further explanation of the abilities in the DMG!). The reason for the initial controversy over the Thief class was that it made certain abilities ... like hiding in shadows and climbing walls and listening at doors ... enumerated and specific abilities within a particular class. For many players, this was an encroachment on the Arnesonian space- these were all abilities that any character, from Fighter to Magic User, should be able to do! In fact, the original thief, McDuck (played by Dave Megarry in Arnesons's pre-D&D campaign) didn't have "thief skills," they just did "thief stuff." In effect, by codifying abilities to a certain class (expressing them as thief abilities), the game system was also excluding those abilities to others.

While the Thief (now Rogue) is firmly ensconced as one of the "Core Four" classes, we continue to see this debate play out over and over and over again. The push and pull between rules codification and allowing the negative space for play within the world. In acknowledging the existence of this, I don't think that there is one right answer, or one right balance; looking back at 1e, you can see both a bizarre and overcomplicated gamist scaffolding of rules as well as a massive amount of Arnesonian negative space ... which didn't always play nicely with one another, and primarily functioned as a whole because people largely ignored any friction between them (Why can't Magic Users use swords, ever .... BECAUSE THEY CAN'T.). That said, we still continue to see this today, although we might describe it in different terms (are the rules to be interpreted qua rules/crunch, or in terms of the lore?).

With all of this in mind, I still think that D&D, through 5e, has followed a rough taxonomy when it comes to the game, showing to some extent its Gygaxian and wargaming roots along with its Arnesonian influences. Thinking of it in terms of the three pillars, D&D traditionally goes from more Gygaxian (rules-based) to more Arnesonian along the three pillars.

(Gygaxian) Combat --> Exploring --> Social --> (Arneson)


5. Conclusion
Without a soundtrack, human interaction is meaningless.

I thought this was interesting enough to put a post out there. Feel free to explain to me in excruciating detail the ways in the which I'm wrong in the comments below. As Mama Snarf used to tell me, "Snarf, you only open your mouth to change feet. Remember it's better to keep yer trap shut and have people think you couldn't even get a job as a speed bump, than to open your pie hole and remove all doubt. Now get yer Mama some of her gin and tonics and vodka sodas, hold the tonic and the soda."
 
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Charlaquin

Goblin Queen (She/Her/Hers)
I like this concept of “Arnesonian negative space” in contrast to “Gygaxian rules codification.” I suspect that, for most people who question druid metal armor restrictions, it’s not a question of realism, but an objection to a perceived arbitrary reduction in the Arnesonian space. The objection I typically see is not “it’s unrealistic for a druid not to be able to wear metal armor,” it’s “I want to know what happens if my druid character does wear metal armor.” If the answer is that they lose all Druid levels and have to start over as a 1st level character, well, ok. That may be a disappointing answer to a player who wants to play a druid and wear metal armor, but at least it’s an answer; the Arnesonian space is restricted, but at least it’s restricted because a rule says what happens if you do the thing instead of just “you can’t because you can’t.”

I think this may be more frustrating to an audience more familiar with WotC’s D&D. As you noted, in TSR’s D&D there were many such arbitrary restrictions - the only answer to why a magic user can’t use a longsword is also “you can’t because you can’t.” Whereas, in WotC’s D&D, a wizard absolutely can use a longsword. They just wouldn’t want to in most circumstances because they don’t gain whatever benefits the edition being played grants for having proficiency with a weapon. In this context, a rule that just says “Druids won’t wear metal armor” seems jarring, because such restrictions are not as commonplace. A player accustomed to such D&D expects a consequence for doing the thing their class isn’t supposed to do, rather than outright denial of the option to even attempt it.
 
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grimslade

Krampus ate my d20s
I think the tension between the codified Gygaxian game and the permissible Arnesonian style is what led to the endurance of D&D. House rules and rule ignoring pushed and pulled the game to taste for each table. Even the rules had different ways to skin a cat, Dual Classing vs. Multiclassing is a great convoluted example. A lot of my frustration with 5E comes from the hard slant towards Gygaxian codification under WotC. The current designers are so constricted by a unified rule system that they can not expand the game mechanics in even the smallest ways and the Anniversary Edition play tests have shown tepid backsliding on even minor changes. We need a little more Chaos in our D&D dangit!
 

nevin

Hero
A few brief words are necessary to insure that the reader has actually obtained a game form which he or she desires. Of the two approaches to hobby games today, one is best defined as the realism-simulation school and the other as the game school. AD&D is assuredly an adherent of the latter school. It does not stress any realism (in the author’s opinion an absurd effort at best considering the topic!). It does little to attempt to simulate anything either. ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is first and foremost a game for the fun and enjoyment of those who seek to use imagination and creativity. This is not to say that where it does not interfere with the flow of the game that the highest degree of realism hasn‘t been attempted, but neither is a serious approach to play discouraged. In all cases, however, the reader should understand that AD&D is designed to be an amusing and diverting pastime, something which can fill a few hours or consume endless days, as the participants desire, but in no case something to be taken too seriously. For fun, excitement, and captivating fantasy, AD&D is unsurpassed. As a realistic simulation of things from the realm of make-believe, or even as a reflection of medieval or ancient warfare or culture or society, it can be deemed only a dismal failure. Readers who seek the latter must search elsewhere. Those who desire to create and populate imaginary worlds with larger-than-life heroes and villains, who seek relaxation with a fascinating game, and who generally believe games should be fun, not work, will hopefully find this system to their taste.
Gary Gygax, AD&D (1e) DMG p. 9

Dave Arneson was prepared for Wesley's Braunstein game. It was a simple scenario ... a banana republic in the throws of revolution. Arneson would receive his points for distributing leaflets. But Arneson convinced other players, using his fake CIA badge, that he was an undercover agent and easily "won" the scenario by stealing all of the money of the country, boarding a helicopter, and casually throwing down all the leaflets on the riots and burning embers below.

What, you thought the torrents of text would start after the introduction? HA HA! No. Suck it, phone users. Anyway, I've been thinking about a few ideas that have come up recently in a thread regarding Magic Users in AD&D, and how the design differences in AD&D (1e from now on, pre-Unearthed Arcana ... aka, "Gygaxian AD&D") made the game distinct, and how those specific design decisions, while attenuated today, continue to play out in the design decisions we still see today, and in the debates over rules that we continue to see. Which is ... yeah ... a pretty big topic! So this will be a fairly high-level and philosophical look at the concepts.

But for those who feel it necessary to get to arguin' before the get to readin', the basic gist of it is this- 1e was an admixture of strongly prescribed rules (the "Gygaxian space") as well as a great deal of negative space (the "Arnesonian space") that people used to enable the basic play of the game. In the future, designers would often take note of one extreme or the other; those who looked for increased Gygaxian space might end up with a game closer to 3e, those who went to an Arnesonian space to a design like FKR or certain OSR variants, but generally, it is the admixture of the two that is closer to what people think of when they think of as "D&D."


1. The Weird and Wargamey Rules of 1e
The villain is the person who knows the most but cares the least.

One of the many legacy "rules" that we see that has remained unchanged in 5e that existed in 1e (and, technically, before) is the proverbial Druids can't wear metal armor. For people who first started playing in more modern systems, this probably seems like a bizarre rule. What happens if a druid decides to wear metal armor? What happens if a druid is captured and metal armor is forced upon them? What if a druid (due to an illusion, for example) wears metal armor? What if a Druid is taken prisoner, and there is only a suit of chainmail that they can wear while battling to escape and save all the forests in the world???? What if, what if, what if? Other than the obvious response (....the druid explodes), the modern gamer might conjure an infinite number of edge-cases and question the realism of this rule ... usually because they want to wear metal armor. I kid. Mostly. Kind of.

The thing is- to the 1e player, these are not questions. The Druid does not wear metal armor, because the druid does not wear metal armor. It is a truism, because it's the rule. It's similar to saying, "Why does the Magic User get d4 hit points, and the Fighter get d10 hit points." The reason that they do is because ... they do. Those are the rules of the game you are playing, just like if you are playing WoTC's Dungeon!, you know that a Rogue has a slightly better chance of finding secret doors ... because.

The thing is, there were all sorts of rules like that. If you were a Magic User in 1e, your only allowed weapons were a dagger, dart and staff. Period. If you were a thief in 1e, you could use swords, but not a bastard sword or a long sword. And you couldn't use a shield. If you were a monk, you couldn't use "oil" (aka, flaming oil as a weapon).

And there were alignment restrictions as well. If you were a druid, you had to be "true" neutral. If you were a monk, you had to be lawful (whether good, neutral, or evil). And there was no "oopsies." If your monk through choice or magical mishap changed alignment away from lawful, he "loses all monk abilities and must begin again as a first level character."

Even the rules that people like to quote, when read in full, can be seen as "gamist" and not realistic. For example, there was the infamous "Character With Two Classes." Not only was this more difficult the people remember to actually do (you needed a 15 in the principal attribute(s) of the class you switched from, and a 17+ in the principal attribute(s) of the class you were switching to, as well as keeping with the alignment restrictions, which made Clerics, Fighters, Thieves, and MUs the only viable options for two-classing for almost any character*). More importantly, even after getting through the whole weird "you can't use your former abilities if you want XP phase," you still had to abide by the "restrictions regarding armor, shield, and/or weapon with regard to operations particular to one or both classes." So if you made your sweet, sweet Human Fighter/Magic User, "this does not allow spell use while armor clad[.]" PHB 33. Nor, for example, could your two-classed Fighter/Thief use their thieving abilities while using a shield or wearing anything but leather.

*For example, the "principal attributes" of a Ranger was every score except dexterity and charisma; that meant that if you were two-classing out of ranger, you needed 4/6 15s or higher. If you were two-classing into ranger, you needed 4/6 17s or higher. For Paladins, it was every score except dexterity, which made it impossible for every person except for Derek, who always rolled his characters at home. MAXIMUM DEREK!

Now, why go though all of this ... is this just a weird flex about old rules? No. Well, not entirely. I do love old rules! Instead, it's to point out that a lot of these basic rules for 1e were not designed for what we would think of as realism; they were designed in the model of a wargame. Different units in a wargame have different attributes. Why? Partly to model the unit, and partly to make it playable within the game. Are all infantry the same? No. Of course not. But you're playing within the parameters of a game; part of that is playing within the rules. Arguing that the Magic User should be able to pick up a sword and fight with it "because of realism," was as nonsensical as saying that the Magic User should get d10 hit points "because she's really tough." Saying that the Druid should be able to wear metal armor made as much sense as saying that the Druid should be able to use swords, because they already can use a scimitar, so why not? These rules were not modeling a reality; they were part and parcel of enabling the playing of a game. Because that's what Gary Gygax had a background in; he designed games. Arguably, that was what he brought to D&D; the codification of the original idea of Arneson into a system that could be played by everyone, everywhere, because people instinctively understood how to play a game.


2. A Brief Interlude- The Case of the Unplanned Bard
People of my generation despise authenticity, mostly because they're all so envious of it.

To give a quick example of how these rules could lead to bizarre and unfortunate consequences, allow me to present the example of the "unplanned Bard." Imagine Chad. Chad rolls up a character with the following attributes:
S: 18/96 I: 12 W: 15 D: 17 C: 12 CH: 15

Chad created a Fighter, Sir Mix-A-Lot. He starts with four weapon proficiencies, and he chooses two-handed sword, long bow, lance, and awl pike. At fourth level, after finding a magic trident, he adds trident to his proficiencies. At fifth level, since he has the required 17 dexterity, he dual-classes into thief. He no longer has the ability to use any of his old weapons, and his strength drops from 18/96 to just 18 (as only fighters are allowed to have percentile strength). That's okay! He gets two thief weapons. He chooses club and dagger (why not?). At fifth level, he gets one more and chooses sling. Then, at sixth level, having the required scores, he Sir Mix-A-Lot becomes a Bard.

This is when Chad looks at the Bard tables for the first time. The good news is that Chad gets to use a club, dagger, and sling. The bad news? That's it. Forever. He doesn't get the strength back. He doesn't get any more weapons. In fact, several bard weapons (javelin, scimitar, spear, staff, bastard sword) he would have had to choose as a fighter. Moreover, bards don't have a non-proficiency penalty, so arguably he can't even use those weapons with a penalty. To quote Sage Advice in Dragon #56, "Of course, it’s good to apply some forethought; if a fighter intends to eventually become a bard, he should plan to direct his weapon-proficiency training toward the weapons which a bard can use[.]" You don't say!

Personally, I would boil this down to the following Snarf Maxim: The only thing worse than the unplanned Bard is all Bards.


3. The Arnesonian Negative Space of AD&D
It is so exhausting to be so bad at something I love so much.

I sometimes mention negative space, and I think it's an important concept in general. Negative space is most commonly used in art and design to describe the empty space around (or between) the subjects of an image. But as a more general concept, I think it has relevance in the sense that what is left out, what is unsaid, is often as important as what is put in. In the above quoted example, when Arneson was playing the "Banana Republic" version of Braunstein, he won by thriving in the negative space. There were the rules of what he could do, and what the character he was playing was supposed to do, and then there was the world that the game was set it. And in that larger world, Arneson was able to employ his imagination and "play the world" in order to come up with a novel method of winning.

And that's where we get to idea of negative space in the AD&D rules, and the area of Arnesonian play. In effect, no matter how codified the game rules were, there was always the aspect of those rules interacting with a shared space- the imaginary game world in which the characters were operating. And while the rules codified certain situations (Now did the Lord say, “First thou createst the Cleric. Then thou Cleric shall get d8 hit points. d8 hit points shall be the number of the hit points and the number of the hit points shall be d8. d10 shalt thou not get, neither shalt thou think about d6, excepting that thou then proceedeth to d8."), it could not possibly codify all the interactions you had with the world.

So imagine a decanter of endless water. The rules say that it can shoot out a 20' long geyser at 30 gallons per round. Could you use that to knock a kobold off a cliff? Could you use that to fill a deep pit up halfway water and cover it with an illusion of a floor to drown some pursuers? Or imagine having your spellcaster cast "continual light" and "continual darkness" on a bunch of small balls you have in pouches that you can roll into rooms or you can use to cover escape. These are banal and unexceptional cases, because you are only limited by the imagination you can bring to the game. You can use you gold to for hirelings, or to party, or get information about the local lord, or to hire a sage to locate a wondrous artifact to go seek out. At any given time, you were only limited in terms to what you could imagine your character could do in the shared world, and just declaring it.


4. The Interplay of Gygaxian Rules and Arnesonian Negative Space
Sarcasm is when you tell someone the truth by lying on purpose.

There is an old common law principle called Expression unius est exclusio alterius, which literally translated means "the expression of one thing is the exclusion of the other." For example, in its most basic form, "No dogs allowed," would mean that cats would be allowed, but not guide dogs. Or if someone says, "The pizza toppings I like are pineapple, anchovies, and kiwi fruit," you would know that this person is a monster, but also that they excluding pepperoni from the toppings that they like. This tends to have a lot of relevance, even if we don't name it as such, in rules debates in D&D when people invoke it to say that when something is covered by a rule (it is mentioned) then that rule excludes other methods from handling it. So, for example, if a particular class has an ability, then you cannot just "do" that ability without using that rule.

I will sometimes refer to the "great thief debate," as one that continues to echo throughout TTRPG history. In doing so, I am talking about the introduction of the Thief class, and why it was considered controversial at the time (and, perhaps, why Gygax subconsciously kept it so underpowered while he was in charge; if you think it was bad in the PHB, don't even think of reading his further explanation of the abilities in the DMG!). The reason for the initial controversy over the Thief class was that it made certain abilities ... like hiding in shadows and climbing walls and listening at doors ... enumerated and specific abilities within a particular class. For many players, this was an encroachment on the Arnesonian space- these were all abilities that any character, from Fighter to Magic User, should be able to do! In fact, the original thief, McDuck (played by Dave Megarry in Arnesons's pre-D&D campaign) didn't have "thief skills," they just did "thief stuff." In effect, by codifying abilities to a certain class (expressing them as thief abilities), the game system was also excluding those abilities to others.

While the Thief (now Rogue) is firmly ensconced as one of the "Core Four" classes, we continue to see this debate play out over and over and over again. The push and pull between rules codification and allowing the negative space for play within the world. In acknowledging the existence of this, I don't think that there is one right answer, or one right balance; looking back at 1e, you can see both a bizarre and overcomplicated gamist scaffolding of rules as well as a massive amount of Arnesonian negative space ... which didn't always play nicely with one another, and primarily functioned as a whole because people largely ignored any friction between them (Why can't Magic Users use swords, ever .... BECAUSE THEY CAN'T.). That said, we still continue to see this today, although we might describe it in different terms (are the rules to be interpreted qua rules/crunch, or in terms of the lore?).

With all of this in mind, I still think that D&D, through 5e, has followed a rough taxonomy when it comes to the game, showing to some extent its Gygaxian and wargaming roots along with its Arnesonian influences. Thinking of it in terms of the three pillars, D&D traditionally goes from more Gygaxian (rules-based) to more Arnesonian along the three pillars.

(Gygaxian) Combat --> Exploring --> Social --> (Arneson)


5. Conclusion
Without a soundtrack, human interaction is meaningless.

I thought this was interesting enough to put a post out there. Feel free to explain to me in excruciating detail the ways in the which I'm wrong in the comments below. As Mama Snarf used to tell me, "Snarf, you only open your mouth to change feet. Remember it's better to keep yer trap shut and have people think you couldn't even get a job as a speed bump, than to open your pie hole and remove all doubt. Now get yer Mama some of her gin and tonics and vodka sodas, hold the tonic and the soda."
Well with your bard there is one thing. The character can always use any ability of the other class when dual classing. They simply lose all Experience for that entire session when they do so. This is honestly what made Dual classing so freaking painful. do you give up your experience in the new class to save marty the mage? It's not that they lose the abilities. they simply lose the ability to advance in the new class if they use them.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I like this concept of “Arnesonian negative space” in contrast to “Gygaxian rules codification.” I suspect that, for most people who question druid metal armor restrictions, it’s not a question of realism, but an objection to a perceived arbitrary reduction in the Arnesonian space. The objection I typically see is not “it’s unrealistic for a druid not to be able to wear metal armor,” it’s “I want to know what happens if my druid character does wear metal armor.” If the answer is that they lose all Druid levels and have to start over as a 1st level character, well, ok. That may be a disappointing answer to a player who wants to play a druid and wear metal armor, but at least it’s an answer; the Arnesonian space is restricted, but at least it’s restricted because a rule says what happens if you do the thing instead of just “you can’t do because you can’t.”

I think this may be more frustrating to an audience more familiar with WotC’s D&D. As you noted, in TSR’s D&D there were many such arbitrary restrictions - the only answer to why a magic user can’t use a longsword is also “you can’t because you can’t.” Whereas, in WotC’s D&D, a wizard absolutely can use a longsword. They just wouldn’t want to in most circumstances because they don’t gain whatever benefits the edition being played grants for having proficiency with a weapon. In this context, a rule that just says “Druids won’t wear metal armor” seems jarring, because such restrictions are not as commonplace. A player accustomed to such D&D expects a consequence for doing the thing their class isn’t supposed to do, rather than outright denial of the option to even attempt it.

I think that's a very accurate assessment. Early D&D had a lot of prohibitory rules, which are largely absent from modern D&D.

I'd almost go so far as to say that this a major, and oft-unremarked, major difference between early D&D and modern D&D. I'm not so sure that I'd go as far as to call the prohibitions arbitrary; while they might seem weird today, there were strong game reasons for letting the fighter use all weapons and all armor, and keeping the same from magic users. But the idea that certain restrictions were just there, and that's the way it is ... that's definitely something that's faded.
 

jolt

Adventurer
Also, in dual classing, once the "new" class hits the same level as the "old" class, those abilities can be used again without penalty. In the very first Baldur's Gate game, my first character went to level 4 as a Thief and then dual classed to magic-user. I think BG1 just prohibited me from using the thief abilities at first until my magic user level was high enough rather than deal with XP loss.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Also, in dual classing, once the "new" class hits the same level as the "old" class, those abilities can be used again without penalty. In the very first Baldur's Gate game, my first character went to level 4 as a Thief and then dual classed to magic-user. I think BG1 just prohibited me from using the thief abilities at first until my magic user level was high enough rather than deal with XP loss.
Until the new class exceeds the level of the old class, but yeah.

You did get to keep all your accumulated hit points, at least, so that did make it easier to survive this period.
 


Voadam

Legend
Feel free to explain to me in excruciating detail the ways in the which I'm wrong in the comments below.
OK :)
The thing is- to the 1e player, these are not questions. The Druid does not wear metal armor, because the druid does not wear metal armor.
D&D players contain multitudes. 1e contains multitudes. Gygax contains multitudes.

To a number of 1e players these were not questions, but to a number they were.

Some things have no explanation and are just rules. Other things have brief explanations. Others have in-depth explanations.

In one sense the table of weapons and armor usable by class is just a rule.

Druids in 1e though have a brief partial explanation for armor restrictions:

"The more powerful druidic spells, as well as their wider range of weaponry, make up for the fact that druids are unable to use any armor or shields other than leather armor and wooden shields (metallic armor spoils their magical powers)."
 

Voadam

Legend
1. The Weird and Wargamey Rules of 1e
I think this is a big piece.

D&D came from chainmail where you have wizard miniatures showing Gandalf and Merlin in robes and pointy hats alongside Gimle the Dwarf and Sir Lancelot in heavy armor wielding big weapons.

The wargames had rules for base men at arms units, and special unit magic users and heroes who were tougher and could do special things. So the rules for the wargame were that armored heroes were tough and magic-users were not front line tough but artillery stand ins. This was a balance of game logic for specializing war game pieces and a bit of narrative logic to match the desired fantasy iconic images.

Arneson turned the men at arms into individual PCs for roleplaying. So some Chainmail rules transfer over as rules. And the thinking in D&D is a bit the same of game balance design with clerics being slightly less good fighters with not being able to use magic swords standing out as a game dynamic limitation. Druids are nature clerics and can use sickle swords (part of the catchall group of curved swords under the umbrella scimitar term in 1e) because druids and sickles are iconic imagery and balanced against normal clerics who cannot use swords at all but can use metal armor. And the druids in non metal armor only matches up a bit narratively with the Merlin imagery and Asterix and Obelix druids wearing robe type stuff and not chain mail.
 

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