27 April 2013

X is for Xylophone


Xylophone: a weird looking instrument that really doesn't fit into any other category; it usually gets lumped in with percussion although it is not a percussion instrument. I'm using it here as an example of something that is out of place and does not belong. "How does that apply to AD&D?" you ask.

The PHB (p. 118) states the following concerning bards: "He or she must always have a stringed instrument." Note that it specifies a "stringed instrument." I bring this up as an example of the differences between 0E and 1E. As I've read different blogs of the OSR over the past month, I've noticed the fact that the pre-AD&D rules were truly more of a set of guidelines; AD&D was more structure and more defined, maybe excessively so. Gary did intend for AD&D to be the "tournament ruleset" that clearly defined gameplay so people at conventions would have the same base from which to play and interact. "Dictums are given for the sake of the game only, for if ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is to survive and grow, it must have some degree of uniformity, a familiarity of method and procedure from campaign to campaign within the whole. ADVANCED D&D is more than a framework around which individual DMs construct their respective milieux, it is above all a set of boundaries for all of the "worlds" devised by referees everywhere. These boundaries are broad and spacious, and there are numerous areas where they are so vague and amorphous as to make them nearly nonexistent, but they are there nonetheless." (Gary Gygax, "Preface," DMG, p. 7)

"More like a set of guidelines, really."
"Basic" D&D, both B/X and the later BECMI were not really intended to be "gateway" games; they were the continuation of 0E as the ruleset for causal home games. AS the blurb on the back of the Moldvey Basic set says, "The rules have been reedited and organized so that people who have never played the game before will be able to begin playing with a minimum amount of preparation. The entire family will enjoy a Dungeons and Dragons adventure." If B/X was intended as a "gateway" game, it would have remained organized as Holmes D&D was: a limited amount of levels. B/X was to have been a complete game in its own right designed for new and casual gamers. It was never completed as such because the rebranding of  TSR created Mentzer's BECMI and it is definitely a complete game! It even goes into realms that AD&D never really did: PCs aspiring to deity status!

And thus, the humble xylophone. Playing strictly by the rules, as AD&D was intended to some extent, the player who wants a bard is really out of luck. The dictum is in place: stringed instrument. But, with D&D, have fun. An, yes, i know there are TSR assassin squads who would break down by door for fiddling with the AD&D rules, but I do firmly believe that there was this intended dichotomy in the early 1980s.

Until Monday, gentle readers!
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