“One of the most difficult tasks men can perform, however much others may despise it, is the invention of good games and it cannot be done by men out of touch with their instinctive selves.”
– Carl Jung
Original, 0e, “White Box” D&D was impossible to learn to play by just reading the rules. You had to have someone else, who had been taught by someone else, teach you how to play. D&D was, at that sweet, sweet point in the ’70s, an initiatory system. Someone taught you and, if you were like me and the game “possessed” you, you went on to teach others.
So it went.
“There are many retro-clones
Of that old game D&D
But the one called Swords & Wizardry
Always seemed the best to me.”
Everyone has their favorite clone – just like everyone has their favorite edition. Over the last year, I’ve come to appreciate each of the clones I have studied. All have strengths and all have weaknesses, just like each of the editions they seek to emulate. Of course, given the unique features of this particular enterprise, some of what appear to be weaknesses and failings are actually strengths and some of the supposed strengths turn out to be weaknesses. All of that said, S&W is still my favorite clone.
Much has been made about the shifting role of the DM as D&D changed – or, for some of us, devolved. The DM started out strong, in complete control and was empowered to adjudicate all matters. In time, however, “game balance” and intensive character generation began to predominate.
I always admired how the Judges Guild people used the material in Gods, Demigiods, and Heroes – the 4th OD&D supplement – in their supplements. In the CSIO, for example, some of the gods listed are formally worshiped in the city’s temples and other happen to be hiding out, incognito, in the city itself, mixing it up with the rest the colorful denizens on the streets and shops of that fantasy metropolis.