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

Hex08

Hero
It really grinds my gears when people who played [A]D&D in the early days describe their style as if it were the way it was played. I've been listening to people say that the game was, you made a couple characters, started in front of a dungeon and went in. The dungeon was always generated randomly. Brought the loot back to town, lather, rinse, repeat ad nauseum. And I'm like, no, that's the way your group played, it wasn't universal. 1e had dozens if not a hundred or more modules. Several of which didn't involve a dungeon at all.

Mostly I just hope it's not turning off the new generation to OSR/OSRIC/FG&G et. al. for no merited reason. I am very much a person who embraces the new blood and sees it as necessary and I don't want them coming in with prejudice. That is all...
Is this really that common? More importantly, does it even account for a significant percentage of old school gamers?
 

log in or register to remove this ad

I started in '82 (inventing a game based on what I'd heard about D&D) and got the magenta box in '83. We used pregenerated modules when we could find and afford them (not very often) or made up our own. Sometimes we randomly generated loot or monsters but never the dungeon itself. Mostly we made it up. And we were roleplaying from the outset, before anyone had ever heard of Dragonlance. As a couple of posters have already said, there was no "this is how people gamed back in the day". Our group evolved its own playstyle independently, just like most other groups out there. People who claim authority on how things were are talking out of their catoblepass.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Is this really that common? More importantly, does it even account for a significant percentage of old school gamers?
In my experience there are more gamers who started playing D&D a couple decades after I did exclaiming how people played in the 70s and 80s. I mean, they must have picked up those stereotypes somewhere, but they rarely reflect how I remember gaming in the 80s. Maybe some of these stereotypes were very much the case in the 70s when it was dungeon crawling mixed with above-ground wargame battles. But that period, from what I've read, was very short. Very soon after D&D took off, people started to grok the new medium's potential. There was a lot of experimentation and styles of play from the very earliest days. To say that the first D&D gamers didn't care about character and story seems silly. The game arose from war gamers wanting to zoom into the level of individual characters and to allow them to grow and follow their development from game to game. And think how much of the game is based on stories of favored characters of those earliest gamers? Where do you think attributed spells got their names from? You can read the fanzines and see how the wargame reports of battles (in which there already were the seeds of playing out a role and making a story out of historical wargame sessions) developed into sharing stories of individual parties.

Every generation of every fandom has its gatekeepers. Let them enjoy their self-constructed prisons while the rest of us enjoy playing a variety of games, in a variety of gaming styles, with an increasingly diverse and multi-generational fandom.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
In my experience there are more gamers who started playing D&D a couple decades after I did exclaiming how people played in the 70s and 80s. I mean, they must have picked up those stereotypes somewhere, but they rarely reflect how I remember gaming in the 80s. Maybe some of these stereotypes were very much the case in the 70s when it was dungeon crawling mixed with above-ground wargame battles.

There's some validity to some of the stereotypes presented as to how things were commonly done back in the first years of the hobby, but there's a narrative some Old School proponents present about how universal certain things were that is not only not really true, it comes across if you played in certain areas as actively counter-factual. Just looking at the U.S., there were some playstyles that were dominant in at least three areas (West Coast, emanating from Lake Geneva, and orbiting around MIT) that were, to be blunt, radically different from one another; and the Old School narrative you hear only describes (at best) one of the three of these. But since there's not a huge number of people who played in the West Coast or around MIT at the time who are both still around and still wedded to that style (or even D&D), you don't hear it presented as The Way Things Were.
 

GuyBoy

Hero
There is some sort of universality about D&D today, or at least about the ability to talk about it, via the internet on forums such as this one.
That didn’t exist back in the late 1970s/early 80s. Sure, there was Dragon, White Dwarf and the Dungeoneer, but their reach was only so far, so it’s hardly surprising that gaming styles were phenomenally diverse.
But I think it runs even deeper when older gamers talk about playing the game back then because they’re not just talking about playing the game; they’re talking about their lives.

I’ll try to explain further: I’ve just turned 60, so I’m one of the older gamers on here, but I was just a kid back then ( and I suspect most of the others on here who remember were the same) so my memories of playing are entwined by my memories of growing up.
In my case that rolls in D&D with late 70s punk, being in care, school, friends, sport, romances, politics, London and so much else. Other people’s filters will be different so their D&D memories will be different, simply because their youth-culture experiences will have had an impact on how they played. A kid growing up in rural Montana will have had a whole different set of experiences than me, and therefore their D&D was probably different too. Not better, not worse, just different.
Of course, a rural Montana teenage experience is still pretty different from a London one, but kids can now get on Roll 20 and play a game together.

Anyway, just some thoughts to this lovely thread.

PS if I could have one “D&D wish”, it would be to play one more game with the same friends from 1980.
 

And we had to carry our miniatures round in fishing tackle boxes, with torn-off sheets of kitchen roll or toilet roll to protect them from scratching. And used dungeon geomorphs. And stole graph paper from the Maths Department at school.

1678127771236.png
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Now THIS actually WAS universal--assuming you weren't cheating!
Caveat about how we all played differently.

Now that that's out of the way, I largely agree with you. With the lethality of 1e, and the slow xp progression tables, high level (teens or higher) characters were rare unless you started at high levels, or you played Monty Haul. This is anecdotal of course, but from 1981 to 2012 (where I played 1e exclusively) I've had two PCs higher than level 10. One at 16 and one at 12. Every other high level PC we had during those decades got to be high level because we played games where xp was handed out in abundance--far greater than what you'd normally expect RAW. There is a reason name level was level 9. As far as higher level adventures (GDQ, etc)? That's because...

I agree with the original poster...and disagree. Many of the TSR modules literally start at the doorstep of some ruin or dungeon or a keep just a hop skip and jump away from a cave complex. Many people literally started their games that way. But, as characters started to survive and level up, the campaign began...then the world building. I bet this is the order of operation for 75%, if not more, AD&D/ODD/B-E games ran back in the 1970's through 1985. Now, all these years later, I like to worldbuild first (and not in great detail) or use Greyhawk, get some players, plop them down somewhere and run a mix of homebrew hijinks and classic TSR. I'm amazed at the number of oldsters who never played some of the classics and love to run them. And also, I agree with all the posters saying high level characters were unheard of. That's why TSR didn't publish many high-level modules. Just my take.
...Most of the modules were made for tournaments. They were explicitly designed to get started right away. And you started at higher level out of the gate.

For non-tournament modules, having the dungeon right at the doorstep was more rare. Wilderness exploration was much more involved. Off the top of my head, UK2/3: Sentinel, Most of the X series (Isle of Dread, Temple of Death, etc.). Heck, Moldvay/Cook's Expert set was very much stressing the importance of wilderness exploration.
 

Hex08

Hero
Just remember, some day you will be the old fart talking about the good old days of 5E (or whatever edition) and the people playing 9E will hate how you view your glory days playing the game.

People tend to naturally assume that those around them view the world the same way they do. It's why a casual work acquaintance with start talking about politics to you as if you had the same outlook without actually knowing if you do. It happens to me all of the time, people just assume I am Christian even though I am not. Why should gaming be any different?
 
Last edited:


In my experience there are more gamers who started playing D&D a couple decades after I did exclaiming how people played in the 70s and 80s. I mean, they must have picked up those stereotypes somewhere, but they rarely reflect how I remember gaming in the 80s.
This was my experience when I started gaming with the influx of gamers during the big wave of new 5e players. I couldn't figure out where they were getting all these ideas from. Lots of hot takes from YouTube videos? I dunno. It led to some very cool conversations, though, sharing our experiences and ideas and approaches with each other. Half my current gaming groups started in the 5e era, but they're playing BX and AD&D with me quite happily. Diversity in experience and background and playstyle is a good thing but also not a new thing :)
 

Voidrunner's Codex

Remove ads

Top