I spent an extended weekend (Friday through Sunday) with a group of friends and their families in a small, 900 year old castle, having a good time and playing some games. We slept in various places on the ground floor and on the second floor, and played several card games like Phase 10, The Game, Munchkin, and others, and the board game Talisman with three extensions.
There was only very bad internet connection and spotty cell phone reception.
In advance, we were discussing roleplaying session from our ongoing campaign (non-D&D), but I argued against it because only a few of us were in that campaign, and it would be weird for the others. Instead, I offered to run an open table game of Original Dungeons & Dragons of 1974, brought the Single Volume Edition, pencils, paper, and enough dice-packs for more than 15 people, because I expected everyone to forget to bring theirs [which turned out to be an accurate prediction].
And then something very old school D&D happened:
What would it be without Edition debates…?
One other player was excited to hear about the D&D idea and offered to bring his own rule books and character sheets, because he also liked Original D&D. His “original D&D” turned out to be, in fact, a German translation of Mentzer’s Basic and an English version of the Rules Cyclopedia, and he had already prepared a character, an Elf, and helped two other players create theirs, a fighter and a Halfling.
I expressed my opinion that it was not “Original” Original, but that it was fine. He tried to prove to me that the Mentzer set was indeed the Original D&D, because it said under “Authors”: Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. Frank Mentzer, bless his modesty, has his name in small print under “Edited by”.
… and compromises!
The very old school D&D thing that followed was that we compromised to play a version that was about 60% Moldvay’s B/X overall, with some 20% Mentzer here and there and some 10% principles from the pre-Holmes-era / 10% rules of thumb. In other words, we played our very own mix of D&D rules from various sources. And thanks to knowing B/X almost by heart and having the charts and monster stats from OD&D and Mentzer at the table it worked very well.
With the exception of Mentzer-owner and me, none of the other players had played Dungeons & Dragons before, although a majority had various degrees of experience with other rules systems.
Fast Character Generation and House Rules
One big boon was the fast character creation. We rolled 3d6 in order, start at level 1, and declared that the magic users had all the 1st level spells in their books, so they could pick a different one every day. The Cleric-players were dismayed to learn that their “Healer”, as they called their class, was not able to magically heal… but they took it like champs, as a motivation to work towards level 2 fast.
House rules: I allowed the clerics to do First Aid by rolling under WIS. Success meant 1 HP restored, a natural 1 meant 2 HP restored. A character who dropped to zero or below was dying fast, but if first aid was applied successfully within 1d6 rounds, the downed party member could attempt a Death Save to survive. The BECMI-player proposed we should play with a minimum of half HP at level 1, and I agreed to that.
By the Mentzer book, Dwarves could not use the archetypical dwarf axe, but I allowed it when the issue came up. And I played with Critical Hits and Fumbles, deciding based on the situation what each meant.
We played with DAC, and it was zero problem. I assume that was because I did not bother to introduce any alternatives. When players noticed in the equipment list that better armor had lower numbers, they were confused, but when I said “1st place in a race is best, 2nd place is a bit less good, 9th place is last”, that cleared that up. I also explained “You all start with 19 to hit AC 0. When you roll to hit AC 5, just go 5 down from 19 — that is 14. Roll that or higher. If you don’t know the target AC, just tell me how much under 19 you rolled: That is the best AC you hit.
Everyone understood that within 5 minutes, and things were clear.
I, personally, took a lot longer ot understand the concept of descending Armor Class, and I assume the magic secret of quick understanding Descending Armor Class is to focus on understanding it, as opposed to focusing on comparison to other target systems and looking for differences.
We played “open table”, with many players dropping in and out over time. Player count was between 7 and 10 at all times, but competing with other games, fresh cake, grilling, etc, there was some cycling through. So played it very loose with the drop-in, drop-out.
That was quite easy to do in the narration because I set my game in an area full of adventuring parties in various camps; a faux Mesoamerica with private conquistadores hungry for treasure.
The game ran for four sessions, one on the first evening, two on day two, and one final session on the third day. It was very well received, a core of players was highly motivated and hungry for level-ups. Especially the clerics were very driven to gain XP, because they felt it was unfair that they were “healers who could not heal” — still, they liked that they were stronger and could wear armor, as opposed to the arcane magic users, and especially that their level-up threshold was lower than M-Us or Elves.
When we ended our last session, several players expressed hopes that we would soon gather again and continue the campaign. They carefully filed away their character sheets or made photographs of them and of notes taken, and of maps, to lose no valuable information.
General judgement of Dungeons & Dragons was that it was an excellent system, especially that it was very easy to grasp and fast to play, not as complex as many other games (notably the German system Midgard). Players remarked especially about the fact that combat was so fast and easy, not at all the tedious slog that it could become in other systems.
I was happy to see that the players chatted a lot about the game and what had happened, amongst each other as well as with others who had not been at the table.
The detailed Campaign Report can be found here: