Being in the Main the Mouth of Olde House Rules

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Tick, Tock, It's About Time...

Not much of a post this month.  We don't have time, which brings me to an interesting observation about fantasy role playing; namely, that it takes time to prepare a good adventure.  This goes without saying to the grizzled veterans of the hobby, who'll probably  respond with their several decades worth of campaigning experience.  We take this for granted now; but it wasn't always that obvious.  And Gygax himself clearly thought that time was a unique requirement on par with the paper, pencil, and dice...

From Men & Magic: A quick glance at the Equipment section of this booklet will reveal just how little is required. The most extensive requirement is time.

Yes, time.  The above was from the Foreword, two paragraphs in, which proceeds to elaborate upon the referee's duties to their players and the imaginary world they'll spend hours bringing to life.  This wasn't Monopoly.  Now I can hear the veteran war gamers protesting the laborious setup of their own pastime.  No doubt about that.  But D&D and all that followed in its wake requires the creation of an entire world, not to mention a very patient referee willing to sit down with their many players.  War gaming means setting up and tearing down miniatures, while role playing is the day-to-day life of a universe

Now I don't mean to denigrate war games, and I understand that many of these are exceedingly complex and border on RPG territory.  But Gygax and Arneson, two ardent war gamers if ever there were, understood that their creation was different...

Different enough to qualify the time needed to participate, especially as the new game inevitably brought non-war gamers to the fold.  Newcomers who needed to learn what we all take for granted now; namely, that role playing is well worth the time spent on it!


  1. Obviously you have never run a full wargames campaign at a wargames club. <grin>

    Most are run in fantasy worlds (of whatever era the battles are to be fought) to avoid any sort of bias, which requires generating the entire campaign ahead of time. Wargamers are notorious for taking any advantage they can and arguing with the gamemaster until the heat death of the universe. And even worse, you can't usually leave blank bits to be filled in later in a standard campaign, because you are testing the strategic abilities of your forces. On the other hand with a role-playing agme, one of the best approaches is to let the campaign develop from a small defined state.

    [Or occasionally multiple worlds in the case of a space campaign.]

    So I disagree quite heavily with your premise. Which is why the term campaign is used in OD&D to describe the world. Because ideally it functions in the same manner - multiple players having moves in a shared world setting. It later developed into a much more adversarial one-on-one experience in Gygax's case.

    1. I didn't mean to denigrate war games, only to point out that Gygax thought the time element was important enough to cite in the first rules. D&D isn't Monopoly; but neither are war games, and I accepted that the distinction was probably there for the benefit non-war gamers attracted to the new hobby. The key word is different, and that's the term I was forced to settle on. Even so, creating an original world, even when accomplished piecemeal, still requires extra time and isn't something historical war gamers ever had to worry about. I understand, however, that not all war games are historical, and tried to cop to this as well. Even so, running individual characters means the players may be more personally invested and, short of this, they'll still find themselves interacting with the setting in ways armies simply cannot. Once again, I guess the key word here is different. Thanks for posting such a great counter argument for the benefit of our readers!

  2. Hi there!

    Off topic but...

    What happened to the G+ community?

    Best regards!

  3. Maybe Facebook could fill the gap?