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OD&D Dave Arneson's Origins 1977 Tournament

Russ Morrissey

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(which include a werewolf!)
Sounds like early D&D! A lot of accounts from back in the early days seem to involve people playing stuff that would have been considered totally not okay in later editions, though I feel like people have chilled out a bit on it now.

Also good grief character #12, "Oh +10 to hit, x3 damage, no biggie...".

I have to wonder what Vicar, Lord and Patriarch classes were like too (especially how Vicar and Patriarch differed - presumably more than "one has a big bushy beard").

Also those are some really honestly-rolled-looking HP - 6th level Hobbit Thief with 9 HP owwwwwwwww.

The accounts are fascinating, albeit very "of their time". Really interesting comment re: the magic system though - they're basically already running it like a Sorcerer from now! He says this a combination of the Gygaxian and Mahler systems. I wonder what the Mahler system was? Lost to history probably :(
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
I have to wonder what Vicar, Lord and Patriarch classes were like too (especially how Vicar and Patriarch differed - presumably more than "one has a big bushy beard").
Those aren't classes, they're level titles. A 'Lord' is a Fighter of 9th or higher level. A Vicar is just a 4th level Cleric; a Patriarch is a Cleric of 9th or higher level.

In 0e and 1e every class level had a title, up till (for most classes) 9th when you got your final title (Lord/Lady for Fighters, Pat/Matriarch for Clerics, etc.) - this is where the term "name level" originates.

Also those are some really honestly-rolled-looking HP - 6th level Hobbit Thief with 9 HP owwwwwwwww.
Given as the Hobbit has Con 17, either they didn't give out Con bonuses for hit points or (more likely IMO) it's a typo.
 

Those aren't classes, they're level titles. A 'Lord' is a Fighter of 9th or higher level. A Vicar is just a 4th level Cleric; a Patriarch is a Cleric of 9th or higher level.

In 0e and 1e every class level had a title, up till (for most classes) 9th when you got your final title (Lord/Lady for Fighters, Pat/Matriarch for Clerics, etc.) - this is where the term "name level" originates.
Makes sense, it's been a while, I did used to know that, long, long ago.

Given as the Hobbit has Con 17, either they didn't give out Con bonuses for hit points or (more likely IMO) it's a typo.
I kinda suspect they didn't do CON bonuses because one of the accounts says a group kept the halfling in the middle to prevent him from getting hurt.

Also interesting that the Elf is "Elven Magic User", not Elf like in BECMI.

I also didn't notice the 1970s twin-magic and the disclaimer to prevent anyone taking anyone else's magic items the first time around.
 


aco175

Hero
Wow, I only remember parts of this. PCs with only 15 in the primary stat and +3 weapons at mid level was fun times. Dying at 0HP not so much.
 

Back then, your class and level determined how competent you where with a sword, not your strength.

Stronger characters getting +to hit then started slow, got biggest in 3e/4e, and got partly back under control in 5e.

As d20 modifiers are deceptively powerful, this lead to cookie cutter PC stats.
 

Oreot

Explorer
He says this a combination of the Gygaxian and Mahler systems. I wonder what the Mahler system was? Lost to history probably :(
This article explains it a bit.

"a point-based magic system, which is described herein. It actually made it a bit tougher to be a magic user, as spells typically took a full round to cast and then went off the next round, with rules for being damaged while casting and losing the spell in progress, based on the ratio of damage taken to your current hit points (meaning, you needed to recalculate each time you were hit, as the threshold would change), and the number of spell points you got back each day (after 12 hours of sleep — none of this wimpy eight hours crap!) was based on your intelligence and how much you’d used… so you if you shot your wad completely, you wouldn’t be fully recharged by the next day. A very ahead of its time system, frankly. "
 



MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
This article explains it a bit.

"a point-based magic system, which is described herein. It actually made it a bit tougher to be a magic user, as spells typically took a full round to cast and then went off the next round, with rules for being damaged while casting and losing the spell in progress, based on the ratio of damage taken to your current hit points (meaning, you needed to recalculate each time you were hit, as the threshold would change), and the number of spell points you got back each day (after 12 hours of sleep — none of this wimpy eight hours crap!) was based on your intelligence and how much you’d used… so you if you shot your wad completely, you wouldn’t be fully recharged by the next day. A very ahead of its time system, frankly. "
Big deja vu reading this. I remember playing magic similar to this but don't remember the system. Perhaps it was a third-party or home brew to D&D. Where there other systems in the 80s that had point-based magic, casting time delays that could be disrupted? I played the first edition of War Hammer fantasy in the 80s, but forgot how magic worked in that game.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
This article explains it a bit.

"a point-based magic system, which is described herein. It actually made it a bit tougher to be a magic user, as spells typically took a full round to cast and then went off the next round, with rules for being damaged while casting and losing the spell in progress, based on the ratio of damage taken to your current hit points (meaning, you needed to recalculate each time you were hit, as the threshold would change), and the number of spell points you got back each day (after 12 hours of sleep — none of this wimpy eight hours crap!) was based on your intelligence and how much you’d used… so you if you shot your wad completely, you wouldn’t be fully recharged by the next day. A very ahead of its time system, frankly. "
I started attending Princecon back with Princecon 17 when the Mahler spell system was still very much in use. Great convention, very different than any others. This year is Princecon 45 - I have my ticket but it was postponed from it's usual Princeton spring break weekend due to coronavirus and it's not in October. Though we switched to 5e a few years ago, and before that a modified version of 3.5, so Mahler system isnt' around any more. The PDFs of the Con books should be available to the public somewhere, maybe our web page. ("Our" is presumptuous - I did help run and DM for several years, but I've been in a haitus for a few. But still I'm protective of it, so "our".)

As a convention, it's more like a mini campaign. It's a bunch fo DMs with 4-6 linked sessions, all that are part of the metaplot that is going on in the setting of the year. DMs cross fertilize with clues and items needed/useful for other DMs, and sometimes even there are crossovers between runs of different DMs. You create a 5th level PC when you show up and keep them all weekend, gaining XP and items, ending around 9-11th if you game the whole time.

There are no slots, games run as long as they run and it is not uncommon for players to come back early without accomplishing all the imagined goals or go past what the DM envisioned as the end and accomplish more. Actually, player success is not counted on, and DMs are changing later scenarios on the fly based on the results of earlier scenarios and changes that affect the meta-plot. I've many time had a runner from Hireling Hall (the front desk and where you form up parties) come to the room I'm running to let me know about some world-spanning change that the players can/will notice right now, mid-run.

When you get back to Hireling Hall, you can sleep, eat, or grab a party, a waiting DM, and go back out. There were years back in university where I would sleep just cat-naps between runs and go for the 46 hours of runs (and another 2 hours of wrap up) on just those.

Magic items are given out on item cards we sign with our "magic pens", and can be freely traded or given between players on a run or at Hireling Hall. It's a regular thing that happens, cards getting to those who can use them the best.

At the end, the DMs have a (frantic) conversation about the results of the various runs on the over-plot, and then come out and give a wrap up to the players in what they succeeeded in. It's often bittersweet, with players generally succeeding but at cost, as some things go great and others the plaeyrs were unable to accomplish. They they finsih it up with a quick(ish) overview from each DM of their runs, and some amusing stories like "With Friends Like These..." about characters that inadertantly (usually) screwed over others. And awards.

Not like any other convention, no dealer rooms, slots, or other games. It's run by their undergraduate Simulations Games Union, those there was some lean years the SGU had just a handful of undergrads and the con was done mostly by alumni and others, but that's reversed and the SGU is happy and active.

If you're in NJ, US this October or any upcoming March and want to drop $20 on a full weekend of gaming, give it a try. It's my favorite convention by far.

EDIT: I just got around to reading the article. Wow, some of the rough edges were gone by the time of Pcon 17. As was Howard Mahler. But not Bob West. Referred to with his full "Robert West" in the articel, Bob West was the only person to attend every Princecon from the first until Princecon 42. He passed in October of 2017, but he was an absolute joy to be a player with or to run alongside. Known for very long runs full of lot and lots of RP. I still tell Bob West RP stories that happened decades ago. Raise your glass.
 
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This article explains it a bit.

"a point-based magic system, which is described herein. It actually made it a bit tougher to be a magic user, as spells typically took a full round to cast and then went off the next round, with rules for being damaged while casting and losing the spell in progress, based on the ratio of damage taken to your current hit points (meaning, you needed to recalculate each time you were hit, as the threshold would change), and the number of spell points you got back each day (after 12 hours of sleep — none of this wimpy eight hours crap!) was based on your intelligence and how much you’d used… so you if you shot your wad completely, you wouldn’t be fully recharged by the next day. A very ahead of its time system, frankly. "
Wow, thank you. That is fascinating, and yeah that system is hilariously ahead of it's time (the interrupt mechanic being very similar to Concentration among other things).

The whole article is hysterical because so much of it is like proto-3E, centuries earlier, but really messed up and over-complicated. Not super-surprising, because I had a player who had some similar ideas for a revision of AD&D he proposed in about 1992*, as did a number of "fantasy heartbreaker"-type systems.

Hell, now I think about it, in a lot of ways 3E really was just a very official "fantasy heartbreaker" (as much as an official version of the game can be).

* = We had to finally shoot his system down when he revised it the next time he showed it to us and insisted that there would be no rolled mental stats, we'd just rate the players (using an elaborate blind voting system) and apply it to the characters, because otherwise "that's not fair on smart players" - oh buddy, did you really want us to write 6 CHA on your character sheet?
 

darjr

I crit!
simplicity in rules that are obvious after the fact are all but obvious before the fact, thus the seemingly needless complexity in many older attempts at similar things.

Sometimes trial and error make the best recipies.
 

simplicity in rules that are obvious after the fact are all but obvious before the fact, thus the seemingly needless complexity in many older attempts at similar things.

Sometimes trial and error make the best recipies.
Yeah but I think more often good design from good basic principles makes the best recipes. The triumphs of design in 3E-4E-5E weren't formed by trial and error, but taking a fundamentally different approach to game design, a far more forensic one, and one which values simplicity (which a lot of the designs evident in the full Princecon document do not - and the people at the time realized this, I note).

This is part of the big change in game design from the 1990s to the 2000s (albeit 3E is in large part more like a 1990s design, but not entirely).

In the 1970s, designed seemed to be almost entirely "seat of the pants", with surprisingly little math or holistic consideration of the effects of things, and people just Rube Goldberg-ing systems together to produce results, and happily jamming further, inconsistent systems in there if it helped them, in the short term, get a result that they aesthetically enjoyed.

In the 1980s, there were attempts at more rigorous and reasoned systems, but there was much thought given to simulating certain things happening, and how to do that, and very little thought given to how certain systems promote certain styles of play, reward certain approaches, and penalize others (often going against the stated goals of the game - yeah I'm looking at you HERO/Champions, which has the mechanics of a particularly po-faced squad-combat game when trying to simulate wild superheroics). And some 1970s stuff continued. 2E was very much a mish-mash of rationalization of various degrees, and strange retained systems that made little sense.

In the 1990s, systems tended to be designed with more of an eye for the gameplay that they promoted, and for all its problems, the World of Darkness and associated games really pushed this idea forwards. Generic systems which didn't necessarily emulate genres well continued to be popular, but started to make concessions to those genres, to add sub-systems which emulated genres, and some games really focused all their efforts on ensuring mechanics and lore were in alignment to produce a game that played like what it described (I tend to remember Feng Shui as the first game I saw which clearly managed this on purpose).

In the 2000s, we saw a new kind of mechanical rigour, one derived from a decade of things like MtG, where even as some games were a total mechanical disaster (White Wolf's Scion, for example), others far more rationalized mechanics, and started taking a real step back and saying "Why have we been taking this approach? What's our goal? Is this a better way to do it?". It was no longer good enough to have mechanics which theoretically supported a specific genre or style of play, the needed to actually do it.

Anyway, I've gone on too long, but I'm really saying it's not trial and error that made stuff better in the sense of people just trying things until they worked, but rather people stepping back and thinking about how to make things work in a far more rational, holistic, and less haphazard manner.
 

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