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Dragon Reflections #14 - Dungeons & Dragons Divided!

The Dragon Issue 14 was published in May 1978. It is 36 pages long, with a cover price of $1.50. In this issue, Gary Gygax explains Basic vs. Advanced D&D, we have an interview with a rust monster, and we meet the famous Monty Haul for the first time!


It is another triumphant editorial, with Tim Kask declaring:

"This issue represents yet another milestone: it closes out the second publishing year. TD has come a long way in the past eight issues, and promises to go even farther in the coming year."

He goes on to note how much the magazine has improved in the areas of fiction, art, organization, and article quality. He also promises readers a token of appreciation in the next issue. Now, what could it be?

There is a certain science fiction bent in this issue, foreshadowed by a nice spaceship cover which proclaims "TD in Orbit." The artist, Steve Oliff, went on to win some acclaim in the comic book industry as a colorist. Between the covers, we find two articles for Metamorphosis Alpha, one describing how to play as a robot, and another containing a set of background generation charts for characters. The science fiction content is rounded out with a review of the much-acclaimed Cosmic Encounter boardgame, as well as some design notes from the creator of the Space Marines wargame.

There is an interesting article called "Lycanthropy — The Progress of the Disease" which takes a few lines from the core rulebooks and adds lots of color text and rules clarifications (e.g., what happens to your lycanthrope form when you level up). Articles of this sort would become a real staple of Dragon over the coming years.

There is a fun little article called "Interview with a Rust Monster" which provides very little information about rust monsters, but quite a bit of guidance about how *not* to explore a dungeon. It is pretty well written and was later included in the "Best of Dragon," but I can't help but feel it was a missed opportunity to do something along the lines of the "Ecology of a..." series that came along some years later.

A more influential article is "Monty Haul and his Friends at Play" by Jim Ward. It's a satirical article about the staff of TSR playing a war game together. What's interesting is that it introduced the term "Monty Haul" to the wider gaming community. It's a pun on the name Monty Hall, the host of a famous giveaway game show. A "Monty Haul campaign" is one where players acquire copious amounts of levels and loot with little risk. The term soon became a favorite amongst gamers--who grew rather too quick, in my view, to use the label.

The Sorcerer's Scroll is back - but Rob Kuntz is not! Gary Gygax has taken the column over, and it became his favorite forum to share information, discuss game design, or merely have a rant. This comment is subtitled "D&D Relationships, the parts and the whole." It is a significant column that explains the relationship between the original Dungeons & Dragons game, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and the newly released Basic Dungeons & Dragons.

To understand the article, you need to understand D&D's publishing history. The original Dungeons & Dragons set was published in 1974 as a boxed set with three books: "Volume 1: Men & Magic", "Volume 2: Monsters & Treasure", and "Volume 3: The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures". It was followed by four supplements containing additional rules and source material: "Supplement I: Greyhawk," "Supplement 2: Blackmoor", "Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry," and "Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes." Altogether, these seven books are referred to as Original Dungeons & Dragons (OD&D).

Gygax states that OD&D suffers from "too many gray areas... too many different books, too many varying approaches offered." Early on he realized that "some major steps would have to be taken to unify and clarify the D&D game system" and soon decided that "a whole new game was in order." The new game was Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D), which was then still in draft, and intended as "a better, cleaner system aimed at improving the understanding of the role playing game system."

How does this "new" game affect OD&D? The plan is to keep OD&D in print as, "Whether from a nostalgia standpoint, from a desire to collect anything pertaining to D&D, or because of the content which will be excluded from the concept of the new game, we at TSR are certain that Original D&D will always be in demand." But Gygax's preference for AD&D is pretty clear in the article.

So how does this third entity, Basic D&D, fit into the picture? TSR had long recognized that a "beginner’s set of D&D" was needed to help people learn the game. Thus Basic D&D was born, extracted from OD&D. Gygax claims that it "does not differ greatly from the Original except that it is far better structured — thus far more understandable for an individual previously not acquainted with the concept of fantasy role-playing." Because Basic D&D only takes players to the third level, the intention is that "it can lead to either the Original game or to the new, as yet unfinished, ADVANCED D&D."

And so you have three versions of D&D - Original, Basic, and Advanced. Eventually, TSR dropped the Original edition and gave the Basic edition a bunch of supplements of its own. It was a very complex brand strategy and one that caught me out a few times when I first started playing in the early 80s. I ended up playing both Basic and Advanced D&D and enjoyed both, but there was always a stigma attached to Basic players. And Basic often felt like the "poor cousin" when it came to supplemental support.

Next issue, Gygax talks spell area effects, we get a whole bunch of random tables, and Monty Haul returns!

This article was contributed by M.T. Black as part of EN World's Columnist (ENWC) program. M.T. Black is a game designer and DMs Guild Adept. Please follow him on Twitter @mtblack2567 and sign up to his mailing list. We are always on the lookout for freelance columnists! If you have a pitch, please contact us!
 
M.T. Black

Comments

Arilyn

Explorer
The names Basic and Advanced were unfortunate choices. Players didn't want to look like they needed a simplified version, so Basic did suffer. It was unfortunate because, in many ways, Basic worked more smoothly than Advanced. I think, at one point Gygax said Advanced was more designed for tournament play, whereas Basic was better suited for home play, house rules and adventure stories. Advanced feels more like a rule set for more formal, tactical play, but to me there is some irony, as I feel Basic is actually better balanced. Basic certainly had, and still has strong adherents and fans.

I am continuing to enjoy your articles on Dragon. Really look forward to reading them very week. Thank you.☺
 
Thanks for this. This is affirms that from 1978-1979 there were actually four paths for levelling up in D&D:

OD&D all the way
BD&D 1-3 then to OD&D
BD&D 1-3 then to AD&D
AD&D all the way

"Because Basic D&D only takes players to the third level, the intention is that "it can lead to either the Original game or to the new, as yet unfinished, ADVANCED D&D."
 
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R_Chance

Explorer
Arneson was never in the company per se. It did remove his name from the "new" AD&D game though. And, honestly there wasn't too much new about it when you include all the OD&D supplements and compare it. We collected Basic D&D (along with everything else) but never played it. We just treated AD&D and Basic D&D much the same way we had Greyhak, Blackmoor etc. and continued playing our homebrewed combo of OD&D and AD&D. D@mn we had fun :)

*edit* Additions and a chance to again say "Thanks" to MT Black for this series :)
 
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Others of us stuck with BECMI D&D

Most of us went from DnD to Advanced DnD 1st Edition and didn't really give Basic DnD a glance back then honestly.
"Most of us" refers to those of you who were of the generation who cut their teeth on OD&D and AD&D in the mid-to-late-seventies. The situation was different for those us from the next generation who began gaming around the time of the "golden year" of 1983. The release of the first three Mentzer boxed sets simultaneously in 1983 (Red Box Basic, Blue Box Expert, and Aqua Box Companion) birthed a fairly large segment of gamers which stayed with BECMI D&D all the way till the end of its run in the 1990s. I was one of those. Born in 1974, I was too young to have experienced the OD&D and the early AD&D era. I remember when I was a little kid, my two older cousins (who were girls!) once guided me through a Basic D&D adventure (in retrospect this was the Moldvay set), but I didn't understand it. Fast forward a few years...the Red Box was magic to me.

I admired the Easley-cover AD&D hardbacks in Waldenbooks, and would flip through them every time I visited, but the small font and dense rules looked too daunting. I couldn't understand "segments" and all that. And anyway, Red Box led right into the other boxed sets which were sitting there gleaming on the store shelf; plus there was a whole line of cool B, X, CM, M, and IM adventures. And the Elmore cover paintings and graphic design were iconic. That was a different situation than what y'all faced with Holmes Basic D&D and Moldvay/Cook B/X D&D, which were sparser "dead ends" compared with AD&D at that time.

The later Master and Immortals boxed sets were, in some regards, as complex as AD&D, and in the case of Mentzer's Immortals rules...*more* complex than AD&D rules. But it was a gradual build up. I loved the Known World, later known as Mystara.

To my knowledge, in late elementary and junior high, I was the only DM in our local community, and I only DMed BECMI. But by my late teens (early '90s), our D&D group in southern West Virginia had a circle of three DMs - each with their own niches: one (who was a little older than I) did AD&D Greyhawk, another (who was a little younger than I) DMed AD&D Forgotten Realms, and I still DMed BECMI D&D Known World (and a bit of AD&D Dragonlance). Even now, though I'm a sort of grognard of all the D&D settings, including Greyhawk, GH feels like it's "not mine."

I figure there's a significant segment of D&D folk who grew up almost entirely within the BECMI groove.
 
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M.T. Black

Explorer
*Arneson was never in the company per se.*

Arneson was on payroll for about a year in 1976. But he was never a shareholder and not really in management. According to Rob Kuntz, Gygax believed Arneson (and the other guys from Minnesota) attempted to engineer a takeover of the company at an extraordinary stockholders meeting that year, and that Arneson left soon after. But I don't know if there is any corroboration for this view.
 

M.T. Black

Explorer
* Most of us went from DnD to Advanced DnD 1st Edition and didn't really give Basic DnD a glance back then honestly. *

I started playing 1983 and Moldvay Basic was my gateway in. About a year after that I started playing AD&D but kept my Basic campaign going, eventually getting the Mentzer books. I never saw a copy of OD&D anywhere - I'm not sure what year the last printing was.
 

R_Chance

Explorer
"Most of us" refers to those of you who were of the generation who cut their teeth on OD&D and AD&D in the mid-to-late-seventies. The situation was different for those us from the next generation who began gaming around the time of the "golden year" of 1983. The release of the first three Mentzer boxed sets simultaneously in 1983 (Red Box Basic, Blue Box Expert, and Aqua Box Companion) birthed a fairly large segment of gamers which stayed with BECMI D&D all the way till the end of its run in the 1990s. I was one of those. Born in 1974, I was too young to have experienced the OD&D and the early AD&D era. I remember when I was a little kid, my two older cousins (who were girls!) once guided me through a Basic D&D adventure (in retrospect this was the Moldvay set), but I didn't understand it. Fast forward a few years...the Red Box was magic to me.

I admired the Easley-cover AD&D hardbacks in Waldenbooks, and would flip through them every time I visited, but the small font and dense rules looked too daunting. I couldn't understand "segments" and all that. And anyway, Red Box led right into the other boxed sets which were sitting there gleaming on the store shelf; plus there was a whole line of cool B, X, CM, M, and IM adventures. And the Elmore cover paintings and graphic design were iconic. That was a different situation than what y'all faced with Holmes Basic D&D and Moldvay/Cook B/X D&D, which were sparser "dead ends" compared with AD&D at that time.

The later Master and Immortals boxed sets were, in some regards, as complex as AD&D, and in the case of Mentzer's Immortals rules...*more* complex than AD&D rules. But it was a gradual build up. I loved the Known World, later known as Mystara.

To my knowledge, in late elementary and junior high, I was the only DM in our local community, and I only DMed BECMI. But by my late teens (early '90s), our D&D group in southern West Virginia had a circle of three DMs - each with their own niches: one (who was a little older than I) did AD&D Greyhawk, another (who was a little younger than I) DMed AD&D Forgotten Realms, and I still DMed BECMI D&D Known World (and a bit of AD&D Dragonlance). Even now, though I'm a sort of grognard of all the D&D settings, including Greyhawk, GH feels like it's "not mine."

I figure there's a significant segment of D&D folk who grew up almost entirely within the BECMI groove.
I'm sure you're right. I was 15 in the summer of 1974 when we first played D&D with a friend and then bought our first boxed OD&D set. For us it was a straight line from OD&D to AD&D, with the original Basic D&D as a side curiosity. Oddly enough I was the youngest in my group by 3-4 years. We all played miniatures and board games together (Chainmail among them naturally). A couple in my group were lawyers (1 public defender, and a couple of DAs), the rest were college students. I was about to enter my junior year of high school. But the complexity of miniature and board game rules prepared me, and us, well for AD&Ds rules.
 

R_Chance

Explorer
*Arneson was never in the company per se.*

Arneson was on payroll for about a year in 1976. But he was never a shareholder and not really in management. According to Rob Kuntz, Gygax believed Arneson (and the other guys from Minnesota) attempted to engineer a takeover of the company at an extraordinary stockholders meeting that year, and that Arneson left soon after. But I don't know if there is any corroboration for this view.
Huh. I never knew he had any connection to TSR beyond being an author, but then the management and structure of TSR didn't really become an interest of mine until later with Lorraine Williams (if I have the "evil ones" name right...). I wonder if the "other guys" from Minnesota had connections to M.A. R. Barker (beyond location), yet another soon to be disgruntled author for TSR?
 

M.T. Black

Explorer
* I wonder if the "other guys" from Minnesota had connections to M.A. R. Barker (beyond location), yet another soon to be disgruntled author for TSR? *

The "other guys" were Dave Megarry (designer of Dungeon! board game) and Mike Carr (designer of Dawn Patrol). I believe the Barker connection was through Dave Arneson, who introduced Barker to Gygax. If memory serves, Arneson played in Barker's RPG campaign at UMN.
 

R_Chance

Explorer
* Most of us went from DnD to Advanced DnD 1st Edition and didn't really give Basic DnD a glance back then honestly. *

I started playing 1983 and Moldvay Basic was my gateway in. About a year after that I started playing AD&D but kept my Basic campaign going, eventually getting the Mentzer books. I never saw a copy of OD&D anywhere - I'm not sure what year the last printing was.
Between me and my brother we bought 4 original D&D boxed sets. A first printing in 1974 (long disintegrated from use, a third printing (still in very good shape oddly enough), and two white box 5th printings (1976 I believe which are thoroughly used but still serviceable) iirc. I know there was a 6th and (I believe) 7th printing. I think the last two were marked as "collectable" sets with Basic D&D and AD&D out about that time (1978-79). Not positive about the dates though. We just moved on to the AD&D books with the Monster Manual in 1977.
 

R_Chance

Explorer
* I wonder if the "other guys" from Minnesota had connections to M.A. R. Barker (beyond location), yet another soon to be disgruntled author for TSR? *

The "other guys" were Dave Megarry (designer of Dungeon! board game) and Mike Carr (designer of Dawn Patrol). I believe the Barker connection was through Dave Arneson, who introduced Barker to Gygax. If memory serves, Arneson played in Barker's RPG campaign at UMN.
Interesting. And yes, Arneson introduced Barker to EGG and played in Barker's game. His character "Captain Harchar" (iirc) was in Barkers game off and on for years.
 

GreyLord

Adventurer
Most of us went from DnD to Advanced DnD 1st Edition and didn't really give Basic DnD a glance back then honestly.
That sounds about par for the course.

I think the later comment about those who came in during the 80s also holds validity though. I've heard many comments from people about how they got their start with B/X or BECMI, or started with one of those Basic sets and applied the Basic rules to AD&D character classes and monsters as they played.
 

Von Ether

Explorer
In high school, I was B/X DM until we played Gamma World and TMNT. But the time I went to college.

I played AD&D but GMed GURPS and Traveller and was getting frustrated with the pushback from players who only wanted to play D&D. Eventually I got bitter as a GM until Storyteller opened players up to something other than D&D. I had just felt that fantasy, as I knew it at the time, was stale. I snagged Dark Sun, but was agog over how many pages of rules had to be in place to make the game work in AD&D.

Years later, D&D 3.0, Castle and Crusades and DCC brought me back into the fold.
 

GreyLord

Adventurer
Between me and my brother we bought 4 original D&D boxed sets. A first printing in 1974 (long disintegrated from use, a third printing (still in very good shape oddly enough), and two white box 5th printings (1976 I believe which are thoroughly used but still serviceable) iirc. I know there was a 6th and (I believe) 7th printing. I think the last two were marked as "collectable" sets with Basic D&D and AD&D out about that time (1978-79). Not positive about the dates though. We just moved on to the AD&D books with the Monster Manual in 1977.
I didn't have the rules when I started. I started later than 1974 though (Aka, I wasn't playing in 1974)...didn't even know the rules were available in 1974. I didn't have the rules to begin with at all. We had one person who knew the rules and dictated the game to the rest of us.

I'm not sure when the last printing of the OD&D run with TSR was. If you kept an eye out an about you, they were still available later on. I think they got re-releases later on as well (Silver anniversary?), so maybe sporadic releases? Don't recall seeing a release during the 80s though...that was the BECMI and BX ruling that decade along with AD&D.

Personally, after I got a taste of Greyhawk (supplement) I would never run an OD&D game without having it if I have/had a choice. People always are crazy for the original 3 booklets, but to me, it was Greyhawk that changed the game to what we know it as today.
 
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R_Chance

Explorer
I didn't have the rules when I started. I started later than 1974 though (Aka, I wasn't playing in 1974)...didn't even know the rules were available in 1974. I didn't have the rules to begin with at all. We had one person who knew the rules and dictated the game to the rest of us.

I'm not sure when the last printing of the OD&D run with TSR was. If you kept an eye out an about you, they were still available later on. I think they got re-releases later on as well (Silver anniversary?), so maybe sporadic releases? Don't recall seeing a release during the 80s though...that was the BECMI and BX ruling that decade along with AD&D.

Personally, after I got a taste of Greyhawk (supplement) I would never run an OD&D game without having it if I have/had a choice. People always are crazy for the original 3 booklets, but to me, it was Greyhawk that changed the game to what we know it as today.
We started with a friend pretty much the same. But we were used to buying miniature rules (including TSR) from our FLGS. One special order later we had our own set.

I'm not sure about the last OD&D printing either, by then we had moved on to buying the AD&D books (from our FLGS).

And yes, no going back to just the original three little booklets for us after Greyhawk. Greyhawk vastly improved the game. It's interesting to go back and look at the original boxed set and then again with Greyhawk. The game is more recognizable after Greyhawk.

*edit* Just thinking... before Greyhawk we played D&D with Chainmail as a part of it. It was an extension of the fantasy supplement Chainmail games we were already playing to an extent. The campaign setting I developed for our fantasy Chainmail games was the setting I ran (and still run) D&D in. After Greyhawk D&D became more of a separate game. Chainmail only came out for mass battles (until Swords and Spells came out anyway).
 
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