D&D General The Beating Heart of the OSR, Part 1

I won't speak to the specifics of the OSR publication at hand, but I will note there was a time many years ago when I had to regularly clarify when referring to OD&D that I was talking about the three books in the little beige box; even a number of people who had been in the hobby at the time seemed to think that the B/X series was the original verision of the game and did not seem aware of OD&D proper at all (or rather, referred to B/X D&D collectively by that abbreviation).
 

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teitan

Legend
I won't speak to the specifics of the OSR publication at hand, but I will note there was a time many years ago when I had to regularly clarify when referring to OD&D that I was talking about the three books in the little beige box; even a number of people who had been in the hobby at the time seemed to think that the B/X series was the original verision of the game and did not seem aware of OD&D proper at all (or rather, referred to B/X D&D collectively by that abbreviation).
That was a near universal phenomenon for sure. I always called B/X, BECMI just "Basic" and never BECMI or BX or RC. I didn't even know there were actual differences between BX and BECMI until the OSR was a thing because I never really played Basic too much. I learned on OD&D and Greyhawk with a 1e PHB. That was my D&D for years. Still my ideal and not just out of nostalgia. It has a flavor all its own.
 

bpauls

Explorer
The variation is Thac0 was a B/X innovation adopted by AD&D later but was a common house rule before it was part of B/X anyway.
Thac0 isn't part of the Basic or Expert rules, which rely on combat matrices. I didn't encounter Thac0 until 2e, although I assumed it was a house rule that had been incorporated into the official rulebook (the 2e rules may even say this--it's been decades since I've read them.)
 
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Egon Spengler

"We eat gods for breakfast!"
I won't speak to the specifics of the OSR publication at hand, but I will note there was a time many years ago when I had to regularly clarify when referring to OD&D that I was talking about the three books in the little beige box; even a number of people who had been in the hobby at the time seemed to think that the B/X series was the original verision of the game and did not seem aware of OD&D proper at all (or rather, referred to B/X D&D collectively by that abbreviation).

That was a near universal phenomenon for sure. I always called B/X, BECMI just "Basic" and never BECMI or BX or RC. I didn't even know there were actual differences between BX and BECMI until the OSR was a thing because I never really played Basic too much. I learned on OD&D and Greyhawk with a 1e PHB. That was my D&D for years. Still my ideal and not just out of nostalgia. It has a flavor all its own.

Well into the late 90s it was standard practice to call all the non-Advanced versions of D&D "OD&D." (See: OD&Dities Magazine, which is very much dedicated to what's now called BECMI/RC.) It's not that people were unaware of LBB OD&D; it's that the "O" was used less to mean "Original" and more to mean "Not Advanced." Like… how blood type O just means the absence of A or B.

The practice was somewhat reenforced by the texts themselves, always referring to "the AD&D game" and "the D&D game" as two distinct entities; with the Mentzer Basic Set actually calling itself "the original Dungeons & Dragons game"; and both Expert Sets taking care to explain how to use them with earlier versions of D&D (white box, Holmes, and Moldvay). The continuity of the "OD&D game," such as it is, is right there in the books.

I, for one, grew up calling these games "white box OD&D," "blue box OD&D," "Otus-cover OD&D," "red box OD&D," etc., and I'm never going to switch over to the Dragonsfoot terminology (B/X, BECMI, etc.). That alphabet soup is only useful when an absolutely pedantic level of clarity is called for (i.e. hardly ever, IME).
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Well into the late 90s it was standard practice to call all the non-Advanced versions of D&D "OD&D." (See: OD&Dities Magazine, which is very much dedicated to what's now called BECMI/RC.) It's not that people were unaware of LBB OD&D; it's that the "O" was used less to mean "Original" and more to mean "Not Advanced." Like… how blood type O just means the absence of A or B.
I never saw it called OD&D back then. Non-advanced D&D was referred to as Basic, or just "D&D", as opposed to Advanced, IME.
 

Well into the late 90s it was standard practice to call all the non-Advanced versions of D&D "OD&D." (See: OD&Dities Magazine, which is very much dedicated to what's now called BECMI/RC.) It's not that people were unaware of LBB OD&D; it's that the "O" was used less to mean "Original" and more to mean "Not Advanced." Like… how blood type O just means the absence of A or B.

Except the people I talked to at the time actually did seem unaware of it. They were people who'd come into the hobby after OD&D was a dead letter, and simply didn't know it existed. They knew about B/X and AD&D but were not aware anything predated the former (in fact, in at least one case, they were really puzzled that AD&D had gone "away" from race-as-class).

The practice was somewhat reenforced by the texts themselves, always referring to "the AD&D game" and "the D&D game" as two distinct entities; with the Mentzer Basic Set actually calling itself "the original Dungeons & Dragons game"; and both Expert Sets taking care to explain how to use them with earlier versions of D&D (white box, Holmes, and Moldvay). The continuity of the "OD&D game," such as it is, is right there in the books.

Apparently the people I talked to either hadn't noticed or didn't know what "white box" referred to.

I, for one, grew up calling these games "white box OD&D," "blue box OD&D," "Otus-cover OD&D," "red box OD&D," etc., and I'm never going to switch over to the Dragonsfoot terminology (B/X, BECMI, etc.). That alphabet soup is only useful when an absolutely pedantic level of clarity is called for (i.e. hardly ever, IME).

I think there's at least a big enough difference between some of them mechanically (as noted, the whole race-as-class thing seemed positively weird to me when I heard about it, and certainly far more inflexible than needed (I already thought the lack of PC dwarf clerics was pretty odd) that the distinction between OD&D proper and the offshoots is not trivial.
 

GreyLord

Legend
Thac0 isn't part of the Basic or Expert rules, which rely on combat matrices. I didn't encounter Thac0 until 2e, although I assumed it was a house rule that had been incorporated into the official rulebook (the 2e rules may even say this--it's been decades since I've read them.)

THAC0 was initially an AD&D DMG thing. It was sort of an optional item that you could use, at least in a hinted sort of way. It wasn't really brought truly to light until a few modules into AD&D where it was referred to directly.
 

GreyLord

Legend
Except the people I talked to at the time actually did seem unaware of it. They were people who'd come into the hobby after OD&D was a dead letter, and simply didn't know it existed. They knew about B/X and AD&D but were not aware anything predated the former (in fact, in at least one case, they were really puzzled that AD&D had gone "away" from race-as-class).



Apparently the people I talked to either hadn't noticed or didn't know what "white box" referred to.



I think there's at least a big enough difference between some of them mechanically (as noted, the whole race-as-class thing seemed positively weird to me when I heard about it, and certainly far more inflexible than needed (I already thought the lack of PC dwarf clerics was pretty odd) that the distinction between OD&D proper and the offshoots is not trivial.

This pretty much reflects my experience of it.

I started with D&D (that's what we called it at the time and was the default of what I called it until...well...a LONG time later). It's now known as OD&D, but I just called it D&D. That was the D&D for many years.

When Holmes came out that was more of the New box introduction. I don't think I actually had a name for it. I was playing D&D with the guys but never had a set of rules until I got the Holmes box. Later I got my own set of what we now know is OD&D. I intermixed Holmes and OD&D when I finally got my set. Didn't get AD&D until later.

I started AD&D and played that in place of OD&D (which I knew as just D&D).

I just knew BX and BECMI as Basic D&D. I got both of them mixed up and jumbled together for many years. Even now, if I want to play a game of BX or BECMI I'll combine rules from both sets together and have them intermixed. Normally I think I prefer Mentzer's Red box but use BX's Expert box in play. It is probably because I prefer the variable damage and such to other items.

Even with all that, I still kind of called it the Basic D&D or Basic set (of course it had the rest of the sets, but didn't start calling it BECMI or BX until after 3e came out if I recall correctly, as others started these naming conventions).

I've found over the years that VERY FEW were actually familiar with what OD&D was actually like at the time. S&W is a good example(of what it appears as at least to me) of someone who took a good guess at what it was like, but was more familiar with BX than with the white box (at least it APPEARS that way). I pointed out some of the items from the document when I d/l'ed it. Beyond just the elf, they had variable weapon damage, Armor class below 2, To hit tables below 2 AC, etc...etc...etc. That's the white box version they originally released...not even the core rules. Core rules it gets even MORE BX centered from the original rules.

It's not a big problem, not a bad thing, but I tried to point out what the original Three booklets were like from long ago to those who thought it was basically BX or BECMI. If they CONTINUED to make claims it was OD&D after being corrected, that was a little irksome at times.

PS: PERSONALLY, though, these days, I refuse to play OD&D UNLESS we are using the Greyhawk supplement. Greyhawk was SUCH a GAME CHANGER in the game. It is like night and day of a difference between playing with it and not playing with it.

If something is completely based on the 3 LBBs though and claim it, they should be faithful to the 3 LBBs. On the otherhand, including all of OD&D or some supplements is more of my preferred style, but I don't know what OSR products actually claim to be based on the complete or all of OD&D as a whole (or the 3 LBBs+supplements or some of the supplements, etc).

Would be fun to play an OD&D based OSR game based on the 3LBBs + some of (if not all of) the supplements. Toss in some of the strategic review stuff and it could be really interesting. (in the change to AD&D some of the stuff changed from the supplements and Magazines. Some of the classes were different for example).
 
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It's not a big problem, not a bad thing, but I tried to point out what the original Three booklets were like from long ago to those who thought it was basically BX or BECMI. If they CONTINUED to make claims it was OD&D after being corrected, that was a little irksome at times.

You even got into some terminological wars on occasion back then who insisted that the offshoot games be called OD&D (and, notably, only them). Of course some people either only knew one of the two or conflated them together (I'll admit to the latter, since I never played them I was only aware of the difference some years later, but these were people who avowedly played at least one).

PS: PERSONALLY, though, these days, I refuse to play OD&D UNLESS we are using the Greyhawk supplement. Greyhawk was SUCH a GAME CHANGER in the game. It is like night and day of a difference between playing with it and not playing with it.

Its always hard for me to judge, as I got into D&D right after Greyhawk came out, and never played without it. It seemed to be pretty universally used by the West Coast D&D players I encountered at the time.

If something is completely based on the 3 LBBs though and claim it, they should be faithful to the 3 LBBs. On the otherhand, including all of OD&D or some supplements is more of my preferred style, but I don't know what OSR products actually claim to be based on the complete or all of OD&D as a whole (or the 3 LBBs+supplements or some of the supplements, etc).

Well, even at the time there was some progressive drop-off as supplements were added. You'd find more people using the SR classes than you would the Assassin or psionic material from the latter books (of course there were all kinds of custom psionic classes too, because a fair number of people seemed to prefer that to the random add-on that EW psionics was). I didn't hit a lot of people who ignored the paladin or the thief, though, or didn't use the Greyhawk monsters.

Would be fun to play an OD&D based OSR game based on the 3LBBs + some of (if not all of) the supplements. Toss in some of the strategic review stuff and it could be really interesting. (in the change to AD&D some of the stuff changed from the supplements and Magazines. Some of the classes were different for example).

The Bard being probably the biggest standout there.
 

teitan

Legend
Thac0 isn't part of the Basic or Expert rules, which rely on combat matrices. I didn't encounter Thac0 until 2e, although I assumed it was a house rule that had been incorporated into the official rulebook (the 2e rules may even say this--it's been decades since I've read them.)
It was in the monster charts in the DMG but never explained or referenced. It was explained in a basic module I owned from back in the day before it was ever explained in anything else I ever saw judging by copyright date. It was just kinda… there. As an official rule it is first explicitly adopted in AD&D2e.
 

teitan

Legend
Yeah I learned to play with OD&D white box and Greyhawk as well. White Box itself even feels wrong to me sometimes! Greyhawk added so much that seem essential to D&D but then older me now looks at it and say… all this stuff is cool but do we need the thief class? Part of me feels like that’s where D&D jumped the shark these days. Warrior, Wizard, Priest and any of them can attempt to steal, sneak and back stab. Done.
 

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