Later this week, Judge Blythy and I will be heading into the Room of RPG Rambling to reach into the Bag of Holding and pull out post from listeners. In the next, final part to the epic Advanced Dungeons and Dragons episode, I’ll be responding to listener contributions with Hizzoner.
The next podcast will be the footnotes, the Silmarillion, the UnEarthed Arcana of the Dungeons and Dragons Episodes, with various odds and sods from pulled together from the shelves of the GROGNARD files. Odds and sods that include:
- The Potted History of D&D – rescued from the cutting room floor from the first part of the episode is the usual whistle stop tour of the history of the game
- Dirk meets the Old Scroates -Dirk hit the road to meet listeners Ric and Tim to talk about their experiences of playing different editions of D&D (and some great Runequest anecdotes too)
- Post Bag: An extra special Postbag, reviewing listener comments regarding their own experiences playing D&D back in the day and some people taking issue with the comments that we made during our discussions
If you would like to contribute to the discussion about D&D, it’s not too late, please add to the comments on this post, and we’ll try to respond to as many as possible.
We’ve got the Random Dungeon Generator covered. Brace yourself Judge B. Dirk
10 thoughts on “Post Bag of Holding – Entries Required”
Congratulations on such a great podcast. It’s one of my favourites and considering there’s about 4 million RPG related pods out there that’s saying a lot. I can only think that a big part of it is the nostalgia factor. I’ve recently returned to tabletop gaming after a 25 (?) year hiatus and, even with all the groovy modern community of role players proudly declaring both their unashamed geekery and natural 20s on social media, so much of it for me is about my love for the days of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, Citadel Miniatures and Robin of Sherwood on the telly. So I think we speak the same language
So to D&D. I think I only played a couple of times back in the 80s. In retrospect, I can’t quite forgive TSR for not making Basic D&D compatible with AD&D. After spending a whopping £9.99 on the (Mentzer) basic set i was baffled when I started getting White Dwarf (and Imagine!) and everything in it was for the grown up, hard-core advanced version. There was no way I could fork out another 30 quid (roughly equivalent to £4362 in today’s money) for three more books particularly seeing as they had much crappier art.
My first issue of White Dwarf was number 57, and even though in these circumstances it’s a cliche to say it blew my mind, it TOTALLY blew my mind. I read every word of it, and barely understood anything.
I think the reason I never played Runequest (or Cthulhu for that matter) was that I never really felt I had a way in. It seemed so esoteric, so I felt much more at home with D&D as I’d already been introduced to orcs, trolls and Mind Fl- uh, I mean Brain Slayers, in the pages of Warlock of Firetop Mountain and its follow ups.
Blythy’s assertion that 5th Edition is what he always wanted D&D to be, is bang on for me.The 80s version of the game never quite lived up to expectations, and I spent far more time reading about it in rulebooks and articles than I did playing it. I remember on one occasion, in the middle of an all day session, role playing the act of staring dumbly at an enchanted statue, trying to work out a way forward for hours, while The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and Hawkwind’s Levitation played on the stereo. I really should’ve been doing my GCSE revision so my mum was seriously pissed off with me that day i can tell you.
Like a lot of 80s RPGers we moved on to other games. Middle Earth Role Playing, Stormbringer, Judge Dredd and Star Wars, for us, but the prevailing opinion of D&D seemed for most people to be “anything but”. I guess D&D was too mainstream or something. Letters in WD proclaimed “I used to play D&D but I got bored of hack and slash”, as if that was the only way you could play, although those rulebooks didn’t do you a lot of favours suggesting other types of game.
I don’t know if D&D is more popular than it’s ever been- but it’s definitely had a resurgence. All those podcasts and YouTube videos and Twitter memes have made it seem less mysteriously cultish and more approachable for the young, and have rekindled the passion for lapsed middle aged gamers like myself. I can’t help thinking that there’s a slightly hipsterish appeal for some as well. Once you’ve played every newest generation video game out there maybe you want to get all old school- like the gaming equivalent of only listening to your music on vinyl. Whether or not that’ll continue remains to be seen but Wizards of The Coast seem to be doing alright out of it.
Getting back into Role Playing a few years back we tried D&D’s (then) new 4th Edition and it felt just as impenetrable as 1st, but at least I’d realised that if you didn’t know (or couldn’t understand) a rule you could just make stuff up. Now, having picked up 5E it feels a lot more intuitive and I’ve been inspired -by podcasts such as The Grognard Files- to start running a game for people at work – most of whom, it has to be said, weren’t even alive back in the days when White Dwarf was still good.
Robin of Sherwood was such a cornerstone wasn’t it? We used to watch it at Blythy’s house before we started the Saturday night session!
I’m surprised WD never mentioned it – everyone at our school wanted their D&D characters to be Nasir – a cool ass assassin with twin swords on his back.
Also I find it really strange that WD never seemed to mention computer games – there was a booming games industry at the time and tons of crossover. A lot of people I knew were into RPGs and EVERYONE I knew had a Spectrum or C64. Microview was just a bunch of programs for generating random planets in Traveller wasn’t it? Where were the scenarios adapting Lords of Midnight and Tir Na Nog.
Also, on a completely unrelated note why did Citadel miniatures never do a line of Fighting Fantasy inspired miniatures? I know they did *technically* – ie. Bung the brand name on a bunch of stupid plastic generic skeletons and stuff, but there were so many great looking monsters and characters in those books they would’ve made amazing minis
If you look at some of the letters in the letters page at the time, Microview was greeted with deep suspicion by some – “we don’t need none of your new-fangled computers round here thank ‘ee very much, this ‘ere’s RPG country”. Ironic when you consider Ian Livingstone’s subsequent influence on the UK computer games industry.
Cheers for sharing – I have a similar story – 25 year hiatus! Know what you mean about RQ and CofC – without an entry point they’re off-putting. Having read tons of Lovecraft, it makes sense now! RQ? Still not there. Currently diverted by Wargames (Frostgrave, Kings of War) but playing red box D&D and Cthulhu…using Fighting Fantasy rules. Hey, it worked for House of Hell…
Interesting to hear of other people who had some issues with Chaosium games. I launched into RQ enthusiatically when I first got it, but had a real crisis of confidence when I felt overwhelmed by all the Glorantha material (I spoke a bit about this in the first Grog pod).
I think that’s why AD&D always appealed to me – it hit the sweet spot between no background material at all (I’m looking at you Traveller), and too much background material (how I felt about RQ at the time). I could see how the books I was reading then (Leiber, Moorcock, etc.) could be translated easily into the game, but on my terms.
To be honest, I suspect many AD&D aficionados would have been appalled at how we used to play AD&D back in the day – our adherence to the rules was pretty fast and loose, with much hand-waving. But I always remember it as being fun, which is what counts I suppose.
Did you ever read Dragon magazine and what did you make of it? I did, mainly after the White Dwarf changed and things like Adventurer disappeared, so it was the only RPG magazine on the shelves of my newsagent. It was not what I was used to. Sorry, you don’t have to answer this, just thought I’d join in.
It’s interesting, when White Dwarf changed, it was the point when we were moving away from the hobby. WD’s transformation to a Warhammer organ, coincided with life getting in the way of gaming. We didn’t read Dragon, but I did have several copies of the Chaosium house magazine DIFFERENT WORLDS. Also, I was a fan of Imagine, TSR UK’s magazine (we’ll be doing a special on that, later in the year).
I bought the odd issue of Dragon, but I can’t say it ever inspired my gaming the way White Dwarf did. I also liked Imagine, and do remember the odd issue of Adventurer too (I don’t think that lasted very long?).
I am back at the hobby again after around 30 years away, and 2 years after I started selling off my RPG stuff. We had moved, and I realized that I had no reason to keep moving copies of Gamma World and Pirates & Plunder with me from place to place.
D & D was the gateway drug for me. It was never the destination. We dropped D & D after we started playing Runquest, and during that time we played plenty of other RPG’s (Boot Hill, Top Secret, Champions, Gamma World) but no other fantasy RPGs except that one time someone brought in a copy of Tunnels & Trolls and we played that but did not enjoy it because the DM (TM?) was obnoxious. Glad that guy didn’t run Runequest or we never would have played it again.
The first edition I had was the Holmes basic set with the dungeon geomorphs. Then maybe the Monster Manual. Then the OD&D box and the supplements while we waited for AD&D to trickle out.
I sat down with the OD&D box after Gary Gygax died. There is no way to learn the game from the rules. None. It’s very weird and mysterious, and references other games. From what I can tell, the point of the printed game is to become some kind of Lord and have lots of followers. Or something.
The supplements are better written and organized, and you can see the game solidify as you read them.
I’ve taken a few glances at the AD&D Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide since then and they seem to be bafflingly organized to me. I remember playing and DMing AD&D, but I don’t remember much about the actual play except that my 1st level Paladin died of a centipede bite in the first room of his first dungeon.
Surprised by how much Dave Trampier’s art stands out from his peers, even now. He was the one good draftsman and designer in the early TSR days. His illustrations are several cuts above the others in the early D&D books, except for Dave Sutherland’s illustration of a Succubus in the Monster Manual.
The group I am in now plays 5th edition regularly, and it is a much less eccentric implementation of D&D. It seems a lot less arbitrary – a lot of OD&D and AD&D rules seem to be something made up on the spot and then codified. (Roll a 6-sided die to determine if you did this thing, a 12-sided die to determine if you did the other). I like it, although I’d like to see a bit more RQ in the combat. Armor still works wrong to me, but at least the armor range isn’t as weird or arbitrary as it was in the old editions. And I see they have rules for parrying – if you are a certain kind of fighter with certain specialties – and then parrying is pretty much a desperation move.
Blythy (and I hope I spelled that right) compared D&D to a superhero game and that’s exactly what it is. A sort of faux-Tolkein superhero game. More so in fifth than in the earliest editions.
The current edition seems to have moved further away from it’s miniatures roots – which is fine by me. I don’t have to have to remember if one inch equals 10 feet or 10 yards depending on whether I am indoors or outdoors. For that matter, I don’t need to be reminded that I’m still stuck just about the only non-metric place on earth.
I’ve enjoyed the podcasts a lot. You’ve mostly hit on the games we played back in the day. Of the games you covered, we never played Stormbringer for some reason. Maybe we already had Runequest and didn’t need another Chaosium FRPG. Or maybe because I mainly knew Elric as the character being parodied by Elrod the Albino in Cerebus.