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D&D General Younger Players Telling Us how Old School Gamers Played


Victoria Rules
I don’t think he was speaking specifically of DMs, and I certainly expect there were plenty of players who weren’t aware of it, especially since a lot of DMs didn’t use it.
If he'd read the 1e DMG he would be speaking only of DMs: as the DMG was off-limits to players, it only follows that players would tend to be unaware of its contents.
Maybe poor choice of phrasing here, but the broader point is to contrast a play style that was very focused on dungeon exploration to one that’s more focused on serialized storytelling.
Yes, and this is a valid point.
That doesn’t contradict what he said though. Is it not true both that groups often had consistent cores and that players wouldn’t always play with the same group?
That hasn't changed, though, at least IME. Players still play in more than one game at a time, and overlap between games - it's kind of a six-degrees-of-separation thing. :) My guess is his gaming experience has only been with one set group at a time, which to me makes him unusual.
I think he assumed this because, as he says in the video, he has experience with West Marches play, where this is often the case, and he has conflated that experience with old-school play because of other ways they are similar. At any rate, it’s not untrue that there were games played this way.
There were games played this way, yes. But I think they were in the minority after 1e was released.
It certainly overstates the degree to which this was a thing. But is it not true that people would (sometimes) bring the same character to different DMs tables, and that things like XP and items would (sometimes) carry over between different tables?
It happened, yes, but again not to the near-universal extent posited. Then again, on typing the below it occurs to me we have swapped over a fair number of characters in our crew - it's just so minor a thing that I don't even give it any thought. So maybe I have to concede this one to the video guy.

Myself and another DM have pretty much always gone with Gygax's idea of connected worlds, and over the years there's been a fair bit of bouncing back and forth between our campaigns. As of right now, there's one PC from a world of mine active in his game and one PC from his active in mine. 20-odd years ago, a party from my campaign jumped to his world, he DMed them for an adventure, then back they came.

I've taken in maybe two characters previously played in anyone else's campaigns; one because its original campaign only lasted about three sessions and another because it was a favourite of its player (and yet, to the player's credit, not stupidly overpowered or wealthy), Oddly enough, the second one (in-character) ended up going back to its original campaign/setting after a few adventures in mine.

I've had three big campaigns/worlds over the years, and characters have bounced between them now and then (usually an old favourite being brought forward), but I see that as a bit different in that those characters have never had a different DM. I've also had a few characters bounce out of my campaigns into others and not come back, and in one case an entire party (I was overthrown as DM; the incoming DM took the existing party and moved it to his setting, and I became a player).
Certainly this was far from universal, but give the guy a break. He’s just recently learned that this was ever a thing at all and excited to talk about it. Can we not forgive him for making the mistake of thinking it was more common than it was? Do we even have data on how common or uncommon it was?
Overall data, no. For my own games, I could whip up the numbers pretty fast if you like.

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Victoria Rules
If there’s one thing I know about ENWorld, it’s that we will find a way to argue about anything.
Sounds like some tables I've played at. :)
But if there are two things I know about ENWorld, it’s that first thing, and that we are not even a little bit representative of how most people play. I think to most players these days, the notion of such play outside of organized play like AL, is pretty outlandish. Some of the more dedicated fans will have heard of West Marches and might or might not know that it sometimes works this way.

I think people are reading him very uncharitably. I’m 100% sure he knows that not everyone did it. He probably overestimated how common it was, maybe by a lot. I think that’s a far cry from “telling old-school gamers how they played.”
Fair points.

Soon the new players are going to be told by the ever-newer players how the then not-so-new players played and so the cycle will continue. I also think some of his misunderstanding comes from thinking everyone played similarly/uniformly back then like it has been done more so for the later editions.


Follower of the Way
Soon the new players are going to be told by the ever-newer players how the then not-so-new players played and so the cycle will continue. I also think some of his misunderstanding comes from thinking everyone played similarly/uniformly back then like it has been done more so for the later editions.
A wrinkle: Play prior to the turn of the millennium depended on a culture-of-play transmission through oral history (word of mouth, teaching genealogies, spontaneous group formation in gathering-places) and easily-lost written history (mostly magazine articles, but also bulletin boards both digital and physical, snail mail, binders of house rules, etc.) Play after the new millennium has had a much more robust catalogue of information and advice, both intentionally (Wizards' website) and unintentionally (Internet Archive, Youtube and social media, PDF availability, etc.)

In a very real sense, we are actively and passively preserving more of our play-culture "as it happens" than the first 20-30 years of D&D could ever hope to do. Even if 90% of the materials created are lost, the sheer volume of said materials would mean that a reasonable selection thereof would remain, permitting at least acceptable approximations of the original.

Hence, the cycle may break, after a fashion, not because people change their behavior, but because it's so easy to just...go look up the information. Even information from 20 years ago is still often readily available if you just use a handful of resources (like the aforementioned internet archive--great source for tracking down a bunch of deleted WotC websites. I've used it several times for citing from Rob Heinsoo's interview regarding 4e design.)

Information being easily available doesn't stop people from saying dumb things. But it does reduce the rate at which that sort of thing happens.


If people under 50 make mistaken assumptions about what people did in the 70s, it's because there is very little interest among the grognards to engage with them and share their stories of the olden days.
People are eager to hear them, but there seems to be no desire to reveal their secret lore.
To a certain extent I think older players/DMs consider it bad form to share campaign and character stories. I personally doubt are many "people" that are eager to hear them, but it is cool there are some folks who do. I am not dismissing the idea that there is a certain element of gatekeeping among older players.

Having said that, there have been plenty of forums with tales of the old days. Check out some of the OSR and other RPG forums.

IMO - as a guy that has played D&D for 47 years the game is better than it ever has been. We had a lot of great games and campaigns, but I think there is a lot of rose-colored glasses views. What was definitely true is we played a lot more D&D back then. There was a lot less quality competition for leisure time.

OK, @Charlaquin - here's the points list. Here's what he gets wrong, IME:

Wrong. Most people - DMs at least - knew about it, but intentionally chose to ignore it.
he actually said that most either didn't know or ignored it... so you are confirming what he said.
They did both; most commonly starting with a dungeon or two and then expanding from there as needed until suddenly it's a world - or enough of one to support a long and diverse campaign, anyway.
this is also what he said that old school started with and put emphasize on the dungeon.
Wrong. In the DMG Gygax points out how cool it can be if DMs connect their worlds such that characters can jump from one to another; and this was fairly common among groups where some players overlapped. But all D&D games taking place in one shared world? Hell no!
again not what he was talking about, he is talking about groups of people that were more then a table full shareing a world, not every table shareing 1 world
Completely wrong; and doesn't agree with the point at 3:15. Weekend-warrior games existed, no question there, but they were far from universal. Most games already worked as they do today, where you pick up next session right where you left off this one - same in-game time, place, etc. - even if the players were a bit of a rotating cast (the PCs of no-shows became party NPCs for that session)

This is almost a repeat of the point at 2:58, just phrased differently. It's still wrong.
again he even says that early on that what you just said is how the game flowed, but that the rules and ideas that made the other way work got kept...

he makes a whole cooking analogy I am not retyping but everything in this post you just made shows he had at least the right idea if not all the right details

I think it is considerably different, given that I played LBB white box D&D, Holmes, and 1e, etc. That is, by 1989 when 2e came out, the whole sense of what D&D is and how it is played felt fairly different. In the REALLY early days, it was different. People treated the LBBs pretty much like a bunch of notes for doing an FRPG. The IDEA of an FRPG, along with some of the basic mechanics (classes, hit points, etc.) were fairly established as 'this is part of D&D', but the REST of it? Not really. However, I knew all the rules, I read those books through 10x over. I just didn't use a lot of it, or tweaked it.
okay and again, he says this... now he says 'ignore the rule' when I think 'tweaked' or 'house ruled' is more accurate

also the point of me saying I am not much younger is being 50 isn't that different then being 60... a far cry from the difference someone that is 50 has with someone that is 20


He'll flip ya...Flip ya for real...
In fairness, we learned from the best; I've had dozens of older players telling me how new-school games play. Usually in blatantly scathing terms.
Aint that the truth, sadly. I often wish folks would learn to articulate their tastes and build communities around it, instead of putting so much effort into tearing apart others.

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
To a certain extent I think older players/DMs consider it bad form to share campaign and character stories. I personally doubt are many "people" that are eager to hear them, but it is cool there are some folks who do. I am not dismissing the idea that there is a certain element of gatekeeping among older players.

I don't think that is true, and I almost universally reject what @Yora is saying.

It's not that old gamers refuse to share campaign stories; rather, that for most of us, old campaigns are like dreams. It might mean a lot, but telling the story of it almost never means a lot to the person to whom you're telling it.

Seriously- go up to someone and watch their expression when you say, "Hey, let me tell you about this dream I had ..." Most people don't want to hear about your past dreams, how your fantasy football team "pulled one out" over the weekend, or this really cool campaign you were part of in the '70s.

If asked, we share. Sometimes .... we OVERSHARE. It's profoundly easy to get people to talk about themselves- but most of us don't ask. Because, in fairness, most of us don't care. The reason I reject what @Yora is saying (and the general approach in the thread, but that's my next post) is because there is plenty of information out there. There are people to ask. There are people talking about it. There are histories in written form. There are documentary movies. If you don't know, it's because you don't want to know ... which is fine! You don't have to care about the history of the game to play. But don't blame others for your lack of curiosity. "Gatekeeping" isn't stopping you from buying a book, or watching a documentary, or asking people.
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