Listening to old-timers describe RP in the 70s and 80s


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MWLewis

Explorer
I think the caller could have been a residual from the wargaming days. I saw the Prime video about Arneson (First Campaign?) and they showed how the old wargames were run with the judge (DM) sitting in an entirely different area. The "Caller" would bring to the judge notes with every "teams" actions written on them, and then the judge would adjudicate the results.
 

There was a time when Tournament play at a convention was considered the only "real" way to play D&D in gaming circles. Anyone who played D&D in their basement was not playing "real D&D", or maybe it was seen as "practice", but still not real D&D.

For a time too.....lots of conventions made DMs "offical game masters" and you even got a piece of paper saying so. Some times there was even a quiz to prove you knew the rules. Then you could run an "Offical Tournament Game".

And there was a fad, where such GM would wear their "offical title" as a badge and say that "only they were an Official Games Master" and anyone else that just "picked up a DMG" was NOT a real DM.

Even into the 90's people were still writing into Dragon, and they would publish the letters, of people wanting to know how to be a "real offical DM".
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
There was a time when Tournament play at a convention was considered the only "real" way to play D&D in gaming circles. Anyone who played D&D in their basement was not playing "real D&D", or maybe it was seen as "practice", but still not real D&D.
I played in D&D tournaments and RPGA events in the 80s and 90s and never saw this attitude. I do think I recall seeing a distinction drawn between official RPGA DMs and regular DMs, and seeing folks who ran tournament games be proud of their rules knowledge, but none of that nonsense about non-tournament D&D being "not real D&D." How absurd.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
There was a time when Tournament play at a convention was considered the only "real" way to play D&D in gaming circles. Anyone who played D&D in their basement was not playing "real D&D", or maybe it was seen as "practice", but still not real D&D.

By whom? I never saw that sentiment anywhere on the West Coast or reported by the MIT guys back in the 70;s. It must have been pretty selective subset who thought that way.

For a time too.....lots of conventions made DMs "offical game masters" and you even got a piece of paper saying so. Some times there was even a quiz to prove you knew the rules. Then you could run an "Offical Tournament Game".

And there was a fad, where such GM would wear their "offical title" as a badge and say that "only they were an Official Games Master" and anyone else that just "picked up a DMG" was NOT a real DM.

Even into the 90's people were still writing into Dragon, and they would publish the letters, of people wanting to know how to be a "real offical DM".

This is utterly bizarre. Any of the people I knew of locally or remotely back in the day would have laughed at this.
 


teitan

Legend
This is really interesting to read because I've had a player who started with (and still occasionally plays) 5e say this exact thing to me in the last couple days. He feels that he has far more agency in our 2e game than in the 5e games he plays. I would think this is down to how the DM allows the players to approach their characters in-game, rather than something based in the edition, but it was nevertheless interesting to hear that your players feel the same.
See I ran 5e and Starfinder the same way but they didn’t have that feeling from them. The rules are kind of straight jackets. Your character can do A, D & O but not P or T because of the rules, not having proper feats or class abilities etc while DCC is A “try it” game. The class abilities are cool, giving a niche but it’s not all consuming as a niche.
 

Lanefan

Victoria Rules
We started with Moldvay Basic, and it said to use a Caller and a Mapper, so we did.
What's interesting to me is that while the game asked for a Caller and a Mapper, for the entire time I've been playing the two player-side roles that always have to be filled are Mapper and Treasurer.
What was great about mapping was that it represented a concrete record of our progress through an adventure. You start with a blank sheet of graph paper, and then little by little it grows and grows. If you're doing a one-shot, it's probably not needed. If dungeons are a small part of your expansive campaign, it's probably more trouble than its worth. But for us, playing exclusively dungeoncrawls through the 3 levels of the Basic Rules, it was great fun.
Indeed. And if the party (i.e. players) don't keep a map they're liable to get lost... :)
IMO, the great failing of the Caller was that it was never adequately explained. It always came off as one player being the leader over the other players and/or being the only one to interact with the DM. I would explain it this way.
  1. During exploration, players discuss what they want to do amongst each other.
  2. Any player can ask the DM anything.
  3. Players come to an agreement about group and individual actions.
  4. Caller relays that to the DM, essentially acting as a "Commit button".
  5. The DM then begins resolving checks, describing the surroundings, etc.
That wouldn't fly here for two reasons:
--- depending on who the Caller was, the Call might be made before anyone else had had a chance to say anything. Cue arguments.
--- depending who the other players were, the Call would be immediately over-ridden by characters doing their own thing and not going along with what the party had just decided. As in:

Party's at an intersection. Down one passage is a dim green light. Down another is an obviously-important door. Down the third is a low constant rumble coming from the darkness. Party decide to go toward the light but it's not a unanimous decision between the seven players...

Caller: "We're going left, toward the dim green light, usual marching order."
Player 2: "Not me - while they go that way, I'm going to check out that door! There's gotta be some great loot behind that thing!"
Player 3: "And I'm going to go 20' down the right passage, to try and get an idea of what's causing that rumble."
Player 4: "Sigh. OK, I'm staying put at the intersection so I can keep an eye on everyone."

Chaotic parties - and players - for the win! :)
 

Voadam

Legend
What's interesting to me is that while the game asked for a Caller and a Mapper, for the entire time I've been playing the two player-side roles that always have to be filled are Mapper and Treasurer.
For me treasure accounting was super important in 3.0/3.5/PF1e with party loot going towards party resources (cure wands, emergency diamond supplies) then divided equally with people being able to "purchase" items found from loot for half the market price, even going into party loot "debt" to efficiently keep things in the party. Unwanted magic items are sold and added to the party loot to be split evenly after party resource items are bought.

Super fair and efficient and ties directly into powerful items for most every slot owned either from loot, crafting, or buying. Christmas tree and item conveyor belt as you go with continual upgrades and the occasional neat stuff.

In B/X and AD&D accounting was moderately useful with a lot more unknown items being tracked and carried for a long time as IDing was onerous and item marketplaces irregular at best. Items were where it was at for a lot of coolness, but gold division not that big a deal after the fighters and clerics get plate mail. In B/X first level PCs had plate armor.

In 4e and 5e I don't really sweat it. Either I get stuff or I don't and I will be pretty fantastic regardless. In 4e I want the core three things level appropriate for the baseline combat math if no inherent bonuses, but otherwise it is mostly minor. In 5e if I am heavy armor after upgrading to plate I feel pretty set with other items being gravy.
 

Iosue

Legend
What's interesting to me is that while the game asked for a Caller and a Mapper, for the entire time I've been playing the two player-side roles that always have to be filled are Mapper and Treasurer.
Never had a Treasurer because the party would just split all loot as they found it depending on who could handle the encumbrance.
That wouldn't fly here for two reasons:
--- depending on who the Caller was, the Call might be made before anyone else had had a chance to say anything. Cue arguments.
If a Caller made a unilateral Call, I’d check with everyone to make sure they agree before acting on it. Then remind the Caller that their job is to poll the group, not make decisions.

--- depending who the other players were, the Call would be immediately over-ridden by characters doing their own thing and not going along with what the party had just decided. As in:

Party's at an intersection. Down one passage is a dim green light. Down another is an obviously-important door. Down the third is a low constant rumble coming from the darkness. Party decide to go toward the light but it's not a unanimous decision between the seven players...

Caller: "We're going left, toward the dim green light, usual marching order."
Player 2: "Not me - while they go that way, I'm going to check out that door! There's gotta be some great loot behind that thing!"
Player 3: "And I'm going to go 20' down the right passage, to try and get an idea of what's causing that rumble."
Player 4: "Sigh. OK, I'm staying put at the intersection so I can keep an eye on everyone."

Chaotic parties - and players - for the win! :)
I don’t see any of this as incongruent with a Caller. Having a Caller doesn’t mean the party acts in lockstep. What would happen is:

Caller: “Me, Player 5, Player 6, and Player 7 are going left, toward the dim green light, in that marching order. Player 2 is going to check out that door. Player 3 is going to go 20' down the right passage, to try and get an idea of what's causing that rumble. Player 4 is staying put at the intersection so she can keep an eye on everyone.”

When the party is chaotic, you Call the chaos! If the party split like that, I would then treat the lone players as their own Caller, or depending on the situation split the party into two groups, each with their own Caller.

The idea is to avoid this kind of thing:
DM: “Down the left passage is a dim green light. Straight ahead is a finely carved door. Down the right passage is a low constant rumble coming from the darkness.”
Player 1: “Left? Left sound good?”
(Muted agreement and noncommittal shrugs from rest of group.)
DM: “Okay, you travel 30 feet and come to—”
Player 2: "Wait, not me - while they go that way, I'm going to check out that door! There's gotta be some great loot behind that thing!"
DM: “Uh, okay. Are you listening to the door or checking for traps?”
Player 3: "If he’s doing that, I'm going to go 20' down the right passage, to try and get an idea of what's causing that rumble."
DM: “Right, okay.” (Thinking: That’s gonna trigger an encounter. Crap, which to handle first…?)
Player 4: "OK, I'm staying put at the intersection so I can keep an eye on everyone."
DM (starting to scribble on scratch paper): “So who’s doing what now?”
 

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