D&D was not even a full wargame, though it proved it could stand on its own. The original rules were meant to be played in supplement to another wargame called “Outdoor Survival” produced by Avalon Hill in the early 70s. I am fairly certain that the term “Roleplay” did not surface until the 1977 release of the second edition, which was know as the “D&D Basic Set” (Blue Box). From a rules standpoint, the Basic set could be considered a simplification of the rules; its 48 page rulebook did not include a good bit of the material already available in the original rules plus the 5 supplements (Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry, Swords & Spells, and Gods, Demi-Gods and Heros). Some two years later, the first printing of the AD&D Player’ Handbook hit the street. Not that many of us knew what to do with it because the DMG did not print until 18 months later, nearly Christmas of 1979.
As the 80s came and went, we had the evolution of the game through fire and brimstone. There was the attempted link to satanic rituals, the 60 Minutes report, James Dallas Egbert III and the steam tunnels of Michigan State, and Rona Jaffe’s “Mazes and Monsters.” None of which shined a very good light on a hobby still large only enjoyed by academia and those resilient grognards (many of whom were already accustom to being outcasts of society). But through all this, and maybe to a degree because of all of this, the hobby began to grow and could even be called mainstream.
Amidst all this, there was a change in the community, though I cannot pinpoint where it started or why. D&D was wrenched out of the hands of the grognards; those beloved little nerds with their pocket protectors and TI calculators hanging from their belts. It became a game for the “Roleplayers”; those mighty souls who sat in high judgment and decreed what it right and what is munchkin. And so it was that the great rift was created, those who thought of D&D as a wargamer became known the “powergamers” and were cast down.
It is quite hard for an old-timer like me to understand, for surely the rules over time have not changed so drastically. Any avid D&Der of this century would instantly recognize the rules in “Men & Magic” as D&D rules. Most of the core game rules, even the really bad rules like the spell slot magic system, have remained largely unchanged. Only the character creation and development has gone substantial revision, and not all for the good. Most of the rules have just been expanded on, clarified, and codified. That world that once belonged to the Grognards is not so different from the new world so harshly ruled by “Roleplayers.” Why all the divisiveness?
I admit, freely and proudly, to being one of the old guard, one of the grognards. I play the game as a wargame, an epic struggle flowing within the framework of a fantasy story. Oh yes, we grognards enjoy the story and we always have. We interact with the NPCs, though maybe in third person and not in first. We look for tactical advantage the same way we looked for a solid move in Squad Leader. We plan with strategic emphasis, just as we did over the map board and cardboard counters of Third Reich.
We are not powergamers, we are not munchkins, and we are not rollplayers.
We are gamers.
Thanks once again, Segal!