Evolving Rules

Evolving Rules

Monte Cook takes a look at the genesis of roleplaying games and how it guided the way sourcebooks have been written since.

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Temple of the Frog, eh? I'll have to look into that one...

I enjoyed this article.
Very true about defined rules becoming limiting rules. I found that many DMs would allow characters without the thief's abilities in AD&D 2ed to simply roll a base stat such as Str or Dex giving those characters a clear advantage over the class that was supposedly the specialist. I even had a DM inform me that a creature was immune to crossbow 'bolts' because the monster was written immune to cones and bolts. Arrows were fine however.
I also encountered those players who would accept anything published as having to be available (even if wasn't what game world was about). They treated anything published as if had already been peer reviewed and immutable even if it was clearly broken and would dramatically alter how the game would play out. To make up rules only when there weren't any, and the game was tailored to keep out of those rules-less realms limiting storytelling.

Temple of the Frog, eh? I'll have to look into that one...

The cover shown in the article was a later version of the original Temple of the Frog adventure done for the simplified "D&D" game which came out after AD&D surfaced iirc. I believe the one Cook was talking about was the one actually in the Blackmoor supplement for the original D&D. I've got both laying around and they were basically the same. I've always had my own game world, but two settings have always fascinated me, Blackmoor and The Empire of the Petal Throne. A lot of material on Blackmoor appeared in a Judges Guild book entitled The First Fantasy Camapign by Dave Arneson. It included info on the City of the Gods (a crashed starship) that tied into the Temple of the Frog. Arneson'e campaign was published for d20 / 3.0 later by Zeitgeist Games. Still available used and new through outfits like Titan Games (which also sells through the Amazon) I believe.

Good article.

I've had several games where 'rules lawyers', as they have been dubbed by many, ruin the fun of just about everyone else. I've always followed the rules as just suggestions on how to manage non-roleplaying situations. In my last campaign, I think I altered the rules for grappling about 5 times, depending on the situation and what made sense at the time.

I love these articles. It is by far one of my favorite parts of the site. :) Keep them coming!

Stone Cold Monkey:
I found that many DMs would allow characters without the thief's abilities in AD&D 2ed to simply roll a base stat such as Str or Dex giving those characters a clear advantage over the class that was supposedly the specialist.

I use the same house rule in the D&D games I run (well, those that include the thief class, about which I'm currently trying to alter my players' perception of necessity) with a slight difference that doesn't make the class pointless: thieves get their ability scores added (as percentiles) to their appropriate thieving skills. (DEX to Climb, INT to Find Locks, etc.) That way, everybody CAN do these things - thieves are just better at it. I also allow demi-humans access to several of the thieves' skills (Move Silently and Listen for elves, etc.)

With regards to the thieves specific abilities - I always interrupted it as any character class is capable of some of those actions, but only the thief was capable of them in extraordinary situations. So any character could climb given a good surface, proper rigging, etc. Only a thief could, for example, climb a sheer and slick with rain castle wall. Likewise any character could attempt to hide in the shadows or use line of sight to set up an ambush, but thieves can attempt to hide themselves in otherwise plain sight. The thief is simply the specialist at these skills, similar to how any class is capable of fighting, but the fighter is best at it.

Supplements are a real problem for roleplaying games. Part of it is the nature of the hobby itself. You can literally buy nothing and have years of enjoyment from the hobby, but this does not help a publishing company make money. So the publishers have targeted the collector types who will buy a new supplement every couple months. This is good for the company, but not necessarily good for the hobby.

It can be bad because you can buy literally every supplement ever released and never have any enjoyment at all. Not from playing the game, at any rate. The only enjoyment comes from buying things. Buying things is enjoyable, if ultimately hollow. This is why the Home Shopping Network and Ebay are so addicting to some. So what this means for the hobby is that it has cultivated an audience that buys books but does not necessarily play although they do bitch about it on the internet.

If there is a solution to this, I am unaware of it. But I am pretty sure publishing more books to please this same audience is not it.

Personally I think the development of D&D would have been more diverse and interesting if the supplements reflected how the authors ran their campaigns rather than presenting official additions to the game. This is not a setting supplement, but rather a collection of house rules, additions, and setting information that the author created in using the D&D rules for his game.

Part of the problem is that in later editions, starting with AD&D 1e, the needs of the convention gamers began to dominate the design the game. Again the design of D&D would have remain more interesting if a separate set of convention rules were created and maintained by TSR.

It is understandable what actually happened as there is only so many hours in the day and each of the authors had their own interests.

So folks know I am the author the Majestic Wilderlands a supplement for Swords & Wizardry, a retro clone of the 1974 version of D&D. Which is a collection of house rules and additions I created while running my Majestic Wilderlands campaign. So I am somewhat biased on the matter.

The nice thing about the retro-clone movement that it allows authors to go back to the roots of our hobby and see what could be done differently. What avenues were not explored because of the commercial and personal interests of the game designers of the time.

There's something really appealing about older generations of tabletop RPGs that the newer ones lack... it's funny that leveling up and hoarding loot became so frowned on in role-playing circles, in favor of elaborate stories and character backgrounds. I think people forgot entirely that the "game" is the engaging part of the whole thing.

Keeping "score" of your victories with gold and items and experience points, not knowing if you're going to get killed by a trap around the next corner.


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