The OA Theory- When OD&D Became Second Edition

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
I liked the options of Zebulon's Guide, hated the resolution system. Preferred the original way of resolution in Star Frontiers. When I use Zebulon's guide it's always with a backwards conversion to the Alpha Dawn Rules.
True that.* Still, Zebulon's + Knight Hawks = a really good system. Alpha Dawn alone doesn't cut it.


*I have mixed emotions; the resolution system change wasn't great, but it wasn't terrible; just unnecessary. And the added options were completely necessary.
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
Nah, I loved that book back then, I love it now. It brought whole new worlds of adventure to the game. I'd argue that raiding a Gith fortress for their silver swords is just as old school as an old-fashioned dungeon crawl. And that Jeff Easley cover, with internal Fabian illustrations!

I will concede that Oriental Adventures does not play nicely with the rest of AD&D at that time. When I was preparing to run a 1e campaign a few years ago I looked at allowing the OA stuff as well. Only to realize that none of it fit together, that all of the OA classes were overpowered when benchlined against the standard PHB classes. The OA classes worked okay-ish with just themselves, but those two streams were not designed well enough to cross.

Also, I remember liking New Coke at the time. But take that with a grain of salt. It's probably been close to 20 years since I've had a Coke or Pepsi.

Then, everything that sucked.
1987 Manual of the Planes
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Also, I remember liking New Coke at the time. But take that with a grain of salt. It's probably been close to 20 years since I've had a Coke or Pepsi.
Heretic! You will burn!

What, are you going to say that you also were fond of Crystal Pepsi and the musical stylings of John Tesh?
 
For me OA was a game in itself. Right from reading it the first time, I thought, that it was probably not meant as an add-on to existing AD&D campaigns, but as a kind of stand-alone game. I remember thinking about integrating it into my own campaign back then, but when a very good friend (to these days) also read the book, he simply remarked, that it probably wouldn´t work, I dropped the idea.
I largely agree with the said timeline but personally I deeply enjoyed The Manual of the Planes and the DSG wasn´t so bad compared to the WSG. UA felt a bit strange, but still not too bad.
 

Azzy

Cyclone Ranger
Yeah, I have a love/hate relationship with OA.I'm inclined to put OA in the same category as UA. Some interesting things in an otherwise mixed bag of hack.
 
This feels like the bar of a pub where all the old guys hang out, slouched over their watered down ale, grumbling when loud 20-somethings come in through the door to play darts or pool, musing about Ye Olde Days. I love it.

But my only question is: Did anyone actually own 1st edition Legends and Lore, and if so, why?

Which got me thinking: the demise of Classic D&D were the orange spines. And the more professional art stylings of Easley, Elmore, Caldwell, and Parkinson - the Four Horesmen of the Apocalypse who ushered in a new era of capitalist professionalism. Sure, there was Monster Manual 2 and Oriental Adventures, but these were dead cat bounces. Or rather, the demise took a few years, beginning in 1983 and ending two or three years later.
 
p.s. I like the OP - not as a factual account, but as what (I think) it is meant to be: an improvisational, idiosyncratic, and unabashedly subjective quasi-historical re-imagining of Things Long Past.

My only issue is that I think MotP deserves mention as a bit of an island in the morass of late 1e. I remember buying DSG and WSG and liking them because they were D&D books--mostly because only one or two came out a year back then--but also wondering how I'd ever use them or what the real point was. I loved DA because I loved Dragonlance at the time, but the book was quite limited (no setting info, IIRC), and GA was all filler (although zero-level characters were cute). But MotP was a lot of fun and added depth and dimensionality to the AD&D universe.

p.s. OA is a really good show, although haven't seen season 2 yet.
 

dnd4vr

Adventurer
(1974) OD&D -> Holmes Basic -> 1e (1977)
Within 1e, you see the classics of the genre:
1977 Monster Manual
1978 Player's Handbook
1979 DM's Guide
1980 Deities & Demigods
1981 Fiend Folio
1983 Monster Manual II
1985 Legends & Lore
October 1985 Oriental Adventures
December 1985 Unearthed Arcana
1986 Dungeoneer's Survival Guide
1986 Wilderness Survival Guide
1987 Manual of the Planes
1987 Dragonlance Adventures
1988 Greyhawk Adventures

So, other than Legends & Lore and Greyhawk adventures, I still own at least one copy of each of these. I would place the decline beginning in 1984 myself. MMII was the last of the really good books IMO. However, I got a bit of something out of all the other books except Dragonlance adventures (never used it or played in it).

Of the later books, my favorites were OA (when will 5E make this???), UA, and MotP. The two survival guides were okay and dragonlance was interesting. But unlike many here (apparently) I am in the minority that I LOVE UA! Love the new classes, love more magic items and spells, love it all. :p
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
I think the cutoff was 1981. Most of the iconic adventures were published by then, and all of the books released after were just collections of things that were already in those modules and dragon magazine; not really new content.

And I loved OA back in the day. Absolutely loved it. The 80s was a special time (not necessarily in a good way in hindsight) and anyone who didn’t experience them first hand will never understand no matter how many times they watch Stranger Things. It was a whirlwind of pop culture changes and technology advancements. Think about how much music and fashion have changed since 2000. Not a whole lot. In almost 20 years. You might be able to come up with a half dozen things in that time. Well, there were a half dozen major pop culture changes and fads in just one year in the 80s.
 

Parmandur

Legend
I think the cutoff was 1981. Most of the iconic adventures were published by then, and all of the books released after were just collections of things that were already in those modules and dragon magazine; not really new content.

And I loved OA back in the day. Absolutely loved it. The 80s was a special time (not necessarily in a good way in hindsight) and anyone who didn’t experience them first hand will never understand no matter how many times they watch Stranger Things. It was a whirlwind of pop culture changes and technology advancements. Think about how much music and fashion have changed since 2000. Not a whole lot. In almost 20 years. You might be able to come up with a half dozen things in that time. Well, there were a half dozen major pop culture changes and fads in just one year in the 80s.
If you watch anything from the WB Network in 2000, and compare it to a CW show in 2009 or 2019, you can hear and see the difference. You can see the shifts even over the 7 year runs of Buffy or Angel, just for two examples.
 

S'mon

Legend
So, I have a thought that's been percolating for a while, and it's gone from inchoate to half-baked status ... which means that it's time to share!

Today, I unveil my OA Theory. Um, no, this isn't the theory about how interpretive dance can get us to parallel worlds. Instead, it is my grand unified theory that's been working in the back of my skull for a while as to when OD&D, as a general concept, ended.

Are you ready?

Are you sitting down?

The golden period, the glory years, the REAL D&D officially ended November, 1985. Since that time, we have all been in nothing more than a poor holographic simulation of a D&D game. Or maybe a zombie-filled apocalypse. Still working on that part. ahem

So why that date? We all know about the continuity of time and editions between OD&D, 1e, B/X, BECMI, and 2e (1974-2000), and that they are largely interchangeable. But there is also a difference between, say, late-period 2e and OD&D. Or between B/X and Rules Cyclopedia.

Here's the theory- before a date certain, we were all playing Old D&D. Maybe,... Classic D&D. After that date .... New D&D.* And the dividing line isn't exactly the ouster of Gygax, although it is in the ballpark.**

It's Oriental Adventures. That's right. If you look at the publication history in the 1e line, you see a clear line from:
(1974) OD&D -> Holmes Basic -> 1e (1977)

Within 1e, you see the classics of the genre:
1977 Monster Manual
1978 Player's Handbook
1979 DM's Guide
1980 Deities & Demigods
1981 Fiend Folio
1983 Monster Manual II
1985 Legends & Lore
October 1985 Oriental Adventures

Then, everything that sucked.
December 1985 Unearthed Arcana
1986 Dungeoneer's Survival Guide
1986 Wilderness Survival Guide
1987 Manual of the Planes
1987 Dragonlance Adventures
1988 Greyhawk Adventures

To be clear, I am not trying to yuck anyone's yum, or state that those people who enjoyed Kim Mohan's stewardship of the WSG should be ashamed of themselves***, just that October 1985 was the end of CD&D.

Why?

Well, it could have been space radiation. Or maybe a virus.

Wait, why do I think that this marks the end? It's a stylistic thing. Oriental Adventures, and books prior to it, whether you like them or not, have a distinct P.O.V.; this changes diametrically in the two books following: UA (an explosion of options, cantrips, and poorly-thought out ideas) and DSG (the beginning of the "splat books" we would see in 2e).

So, there's my theory. Classic D&D ended in November, 1985.




*1985 was also New Coke, and Classic Coke. Coincidence, or CONSPIRACY?

**The fateful meeting was October 1985, but it wasn't decided until October 1986.

***I won't discourage it, either.
With its introduction of Proficiences et al I'd think OA belongs much more with the post-85 lineup, and indeed initiated that lineup!
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
For the sake of creating a dividing line in what is inherently a subtle incremental evolution, I prefer the year 1980. I would characterize everything from Blackmoor to Original D&D 0e to the core three books of Advanced D&D 1e as ‘formative’ D&D. In other words, the three core books of D&D 1e and everything before it are formative D&D.

Features for Blackmoor appear from 1970. An announcement for people to come join the campaign, described as a Medieval European variant of ‘Braunstein’ was published in 1971. The name ‘Blackmoor’ appears from 1972. D&D 0e mainly codifies rules inspired by Blackmoor. Gygax tried to publish D&D 1e without Arneson, but it derives from the collaborative work of both Arneson and Gygax. The legal settlement between Arneson and Gygax effectively buys out Arneson’s ownership of D&D 1e.

Everything after the 1e core three is post-formative. This also corresponds to the difference between D&D with Arneson and D&D without Arneson. Gygax leaves TSR in 1985. Gygax planned to create D&D 2e to consolidate his own developments of D&D 1e. But this second edition happened without him.

The time conveniently corresponds to decades. The 1970s are mainly about Arneson. The 1980s are mainly about Gygax. Even when Gygax leaves in 1985, his version of the D&D game lingers on.



FORMATIVE D&D

BLACKMOOR, by Arneson

1971 Blackmoor (Medieval Euro setting for Braunstein, innovating player roleplay and DM adjudication)

D&D 0e, ORIGINAL, OLD, by mainly Arneson

1974 Dungeons & Dragons
1975 Greyhawk
1975 Blackmoor
1976 Eldritch Wizardry
1976 Gods, Demigods, and Heroes
1976 Swords and Spells

D&D 1e, ADVANCED, by both Arneson and Gygax

1977 Monster Manual
1978 Player's Handbook
1979 Dungeon Master's Guide



D&D 1e SUPPLEMENTS, by Gygax without Arneson

1980 Deities & Demigods
1981 Fiend Folio
1983 Monster Manual 2
1985 Legends & Lore
1985 Unearthed Arcana
1985 Oriental Adventures

D&D 1e SUPPLEMENTS, by TSR under Williams without Gygax

1986 Dungeoneer's Survival Guide
1986 Wilderness Survival Guide
1987 Manual of the Planes
1987 Dragonlance Adventures
1988 Greyhawk Adventures

D&D 2e, by TSR under Williams, planned by Gygax to consolidate 1e but evolved without him

1989 Dungeon Master’s Guide
1989 Player’s Handbook
1989 Monstrous Compendium
 
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Shadow Demon

Explorer
The above gives Arneson way to much credit. The 1971 line item is only correct item that gives him credit for the role-playing concept. The only mechanics that made it in D&D by Arneson were contributed in Blackmoor OD&D supplement; the rest were by Gygax plus many others. Arneson had zero contribution to the game post-1975 with TSR.
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
I love Oriental Adventures - but it needed some fixing. The non-weapon proficiencies needed work in that format and were much better after the concept was reworked in the Survival Guides and 2e.

That said, it had a lot of very interesting stuff including an better barbarian, a monk that didn't completely suck, and great concepts.
 

Sacrosanct

Slayer of Keraptis
The above gives Arneson way to much credit. The 1971 line item is only correct item that gives him credit for the role-playing concept. The only mechanics that made it in D&D by Arneson were contributed in Blackmoor OD&D supplement; the rest were by Gygax plus many others. Arneson had zero contribution to the game post-1975 with TSR.
There’s an entire thread correcting this assumption by none other than Rob Kuntz himself. And great news! It’s on the front page. So we don’t need to rehash the whole thing again here....
 

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