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

R_Chance

Explorer
Hey R_Chance, any chance you'll publish your truly old school campaign setting? Do you have a website?
It's old and I like it, but then so am I (I turn 60 this month) :) I don't think it's in any shape to be published without far more time than I have to get it ready. And I've never considered doing so. Nor do I have a website. I've spent well over 40 years running it, expanding it, reworking it, updating it to new editions, and so on. There are parts of it that are still OD&D and parts that are updated to 5E and everything in between. Plus a lot of home brew stuff. A lot of what is updated depends on my players. What they want to do, and where they choose to go. It's a sandbox with adventures inserted into the larger framework. I am looking forward to more time to work on my game (and play) when I pull the plug and retire in a couple of years. Right now I have a city map to re-do (graph paper, a 42" wide roll of it). My current map is starting to fall apart. That alone is a time sink. And when I retire... assuming the wife doesn't have other plans for my suddenly expanded spare time... I have a lot to do to the rest of the game world.

Then too, my campaign is largely an old fashioned feudal fantasy world like so may others. Not in fashion these days... but still fun.
 
It's old and I like it, but then so am I (I turn 60 this month) :) [...] Then too, my campaign is largely an old fashioned feudal fantasy world like so may others. Not in fashion these days... but still fun.
Yeah cool - regardless of whether it's an old fashioned feudal fantasy world, D&D may be around for several (or many) more generations, and there are only so many D&D campaigns still in existence which extend back to the OD&D foundation. I hope, if the stars are right, that your vintage collaborative world (a kind of social artwork) might find a public venue, for the record.

Does it have its own world map?
 
I started with the Red Box from BECMI, then advanced to the Blue and Green boxes, and then to AD&D (2nd Ed had just been published). In hindsight, a great many of the 'advancements' of the latter game were nothing of the sort. Though splitting race and class was one genuine improvement. :)

It's always somewhat amusing reading these one-sided accounts of what was 'really' going on. Especially with the benefit of now knowing at least some of what was behind the scenes.
 

Jhaelen

Villager
I never cared much for Basic D&D. I'd play it if no AD&D group was available, but didn't really enjoy it.
It was too simplified for my taste and I thought having races (elves, dwarves, gnomes, ...) as character classes was really stupid.

One of my friends was a fan, though, and always tried to convince me that the game would really pick up in the later sets.
But what's the point if you never manage to reach name levels?

It makes a lot more sense to put the fun parts where it's actually experienced by the majority of players. But that's a lesson that took a few editions for the D&D developers to learn.
 

AriochQ

Explorer
"always a stigma attached to Basic players. And Basic often felt like the "poor cousin" when it came to supplemental support."

So we weren't the only ones! I started playing as AD&D was rolling out, so we had access to PHB right away (MM and DMG soon after). We also viewed Basic players with a cross between pity and amusement.
 
I never cared much for Basic D&D. I'd play it if no AD&D group was available, but didn't really enjoy it.
It was too simplified for my taste and I thought having races (elves, dwarves, gnomes, ...) as character classes was really stupid.

One of my friends was a fan, though, and always tried to convince me that the game would really pick up in the later sets.
But what's the point if you never manage to reach name levels?

It makes a lot more sense to put the fun parts where it's actually experienced by the majority of players. But that's a lesson that took a few editions for the D&D developers to learn.
It was a great introduction to D&D. It was a game in a box, and less of an investment than buying three or four hard cover books just to play a game that you don't even know if that your going to like. Elves and dwarves were character classes so as to simplify the rules. Elves were all fighter-magic users basically, their main advantage was they could multiclass, if you were a human, you could only be a fighter, magic user, cleric or thief.
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
Also one of those that started with the classic Red Box. In hindsight, I honestly can’t remember why we made the switch to AD&D from BECMI D&D. We made it as far as the Master’s set, then began with AD&D. If I had to guess, it was the content in Dragon magazine, which was almost exclusively AD&D material, that was the impetus.

In hindsight, the BECMI boxed sets were far better organized and presented than the AD&D core books.

As far as Monty Haul goes, yep, I remember my early campaigns had a lot of that. The one thing I had the sense to not do, at the least, was hand out artifacts like candy. In the span of six years, I think there was only one that made it into play.
 

R_Chance

Explorer
Yeah cool - regardless of whether it's an old fashioned feudal fantasy world, D&D may be around for several (or many) more generations, and there are only so many D&D campaigns still in existence which extend back to the OD&D foundation. I hope, if the stars are right, that your vintage collaborative world (a kind of social artwork) might find a public venue, for the record.

Does it have its own world map?
Yes. We were miniature and board game wargamers. Naturally, it's a hex map done at 30 miles / 10 leagues per hex. The world is flat of course and you can fall off the edge. The world was originally much smaller (with no edges to fall off), it was a campaign map for miniature gaming and it had to include all the usual suspects on it in an area small enough to have a map based campaign which would produce miniature battles. When I moved it to D&D I expanded it to give a reasonable amount of room for all the races / cultures I wanted in it. Needless to say there are similarities to many historical areas in the real world. It became less derivative and more complex as the years rolled on and my own knowledge base expanded. The conceit of making it a flat table early on was my own inside joke. It also follows my decision to make the world "look" as normal as possible on the ground while making it fantastic "under the hood" as it were.
 

pogre

Adventurer
I started playing with O-D&D, but honestly the game did not completely click for me until the first basic set came out. I still remember filling out the rooms for B1 In Search of the Unknown.

I know in 1984 at GenCon they were still selling white box O-D&D.
 
Yes. We were miniature and board game wargamers. Naturally, it's a hex map done at 30 miles / 10 leagues per hex. The world is flat of course and you can fall off the edge. The world was originally much smaller (with no edges to fall off), it was a campaign map for miniature gaming and it had to include all the usual suspects on it in an area small enough to have a map based campaign which would produce miniature battles. When I moved it to D&D I expanded it to give a reasonable amount of room for all the races / cultures I wanted in it. Needless to say there are similarities to many historical areas in the real world. It became less derivative and more complex as the years rolled on and my own knowledge base expanded. The conceit of making it a flat table early on was my own inside joke. It also follows my decision to make the world "look" as normal as possible on the ground while making it fantastic "under the hood" as it were.
That is really cool. Does your flat world or campaign have a name?
 
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Jhaelen

Villager
It was a great introduction to D&D. It was a game in a box, and less of an investment than buying three or four hard cover books just to play a game that you don't even know if that your going to like. Elves and dwarves were character classes so as to simplify the rules. Elves were all fighter-magic users basically, their main advantage was they could multiclass, if you were a human, you could only be a fighter, magic user, cleric or thief.
I disagree.
First, I actually believe that D&D has never been a good introduction to roleplaying games. Among all the different RPG systems it's the one that shows its miniature wargaming roots the most. If you weren't introduced to roleplaying by someone else, you'd have had a hard time to figure it out.

And what does cost have to do with anything? A bad low-cost introduction is still bad.

As I already stated Basic D&D was too simplified for my tastes. It probably matters that D&D wasn't the first RPG system for me. It allowed me to be quite clearly aware of D&D's flaws right from the beginning. E.g. once you'd played Runequest you were spoiled for the rest of your life!

For me it wasn't until 3e that D&D became a good RPG system.
 

Flexor the Mighty!

18/100 Strength!
Thinking back thisd weekend my brother had a friend who was playing AD&D with some other friends. My brother got us into it and we pretty much mixed the Elmore cover B/E with AD&D as we didn't know they were seperate though it was strange how an elf was in one version and the other at the time. Finally we dropped the BECMI stuff and were pure AD&D. Looking back if the classes were tweaked, thieves mostly, and the races were races not classes I'd much rather play BECMI than AD&D, though like many we played AD&D using mostly the basic setup for combat and other issues.

And now I'm running a OD&D clone. So it all comes around I guess.
 

R_Chance

Explorer
That is really cool. Does your flat world or campaign have a name?
The Broken Lands. There are numerous large craters which marred it's original shape. The craters are from falling stars used as weapons in an ancient war (stars are huge arcane lanterns on the inside of the sphere that contains the world and it's air). The shapes of the land and seas were altered as a result, marking a major change between the Ancient World and the modern world of "the Broken Lands". It let me go wild with the map :)
 

evildmguy

Explorer
I started in '80 under my brother and he and his group were already using AD&D, so that's what I did. I also found the concept of a race also being the class weird. I think I reversed it? I didn't look down on those who played Basic but was happy I was smart enough? good enough? to play Advanced!

When my brother ran a game, his friend hosted it and they had the whole basement for themselves. The game room was in one area, and a TV area in another. Back then, you were sent out of the room if your character wasn't involved. There was a lot of Atari 2600 games and the hand held football game played! We also had to do training, iirc, and it cost some amount but I don't think I never had it.

I think the part that I look back on and am sad is that a) I never played an "iconic" dungeon/module and b) I don't remember the games my brother ran in terms of story. My brother did all home brew stuff, so he never used modules. I never played in the Tomb of Horrors, Temple of Elemental Evil, Scourge of the Slavelords, or Against the Giants as a kid. It's more that I couldn't participate when the few other people I met that played talked about it. With regards to story, though, I don't remember big plots or why we were doing things. I enjoyed it but I can't say what we did.

Thanks again for doing these articles!
 

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