[Let's Read] The AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide (1e)

SuStel

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There was no expectation that the PCs would clear the dungeon in one trip or at all, and no expectation of the DM guiding the party towards accumulating all the treasure, perhaps by fudging the secret door rolls.
None at all. The dungeon was a "living" setting, constantly evolving as various groups adventured in it. It would be something of a disaster if a group were to clear it out all in one go — you'd have to completely repopulate the whole thing! The fact that the thing was too big to visit all at once was a feature, not a bug. Castle Greyhawk had more than a dozen levels, with attached sub-levels, and each level was crammed into a letter-sized sheet of 6-squares-per-inch graph paper.

Besides, there are better ways to guide players toward areas that no one has found yet. If you really want someone to find a sub-level no one has ever explored before, just stick a treasure map somewhere the players will find it that points them in that direction. Or you can introduce an NPC who knows something about that sub-level, but has a price for the information. The possibilities are endless before you have to resort to fudging rolls.
 

Raveled

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I feel like Gary Gygax wrote this book with a lot of assumptions for how D&D was played that maybe worked well with his Lake Geneva group but didn't translate everywhere. A lot of the "one true way"ism that comes through in the writing can be seen as an experienced GM assuming he's talking to other experienced GMs and experienced wargamers, when in fact a lot of people were getting their first exposure to roleplaying through this book and their situations were very, very different from Lake Geneva. It could have been written with more options and more clarity that a lot of the stuff being presented were suggestions and opinions, and if these suggestions don't make your home game more fun then throw them out the window.
 

Felix

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How common were house rules in the wargaming community at the time? I feel that for most types of games what's in the book is considered canon and probably mandatory, and RPGs are a notable exception.
 

NathanS

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The guy was writing a hobby manual for hobbyists, not trying to emotionally abuse anyone, consciously or otherwise. Unless you were sitting in his group or a group interacting with him, watching people be emotionally abused, you're just supplying an interpretation of his text and the contemporary gaming culture, and I think you're projecting heavily into it. Sometimes a sausage is just a sausage, and this is the last time I'll entertain the fairly ridiculous notion that the AD&D text demonstrates emotional abuse by Gygax.
I'm not talking about his table was like, or what any single was like, I'm talking about what a culture of passive aggressive behavior and trash-talking promotes in the long run. Also you can go back to other "Let's read" of this book and around here they are likely to go "wow this read as bad advice" and will get the "Noooo, none of this is meant as advice people just read it wrong, and anyway it's just a joke" And when so many people read it wrong, at best that means it's badly written at worst just bad advice.
 

yukamichi

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How common were house rules in the wargaming community at the time?
I feel like the question of "how common were house rules" misses the really important point that it was a very DIY hobby; when you bought a xeroxed booklet out of the back of a magazine, that whole game was basically somebody's "house rules." A big subset of wargaming at the time was very bespoke in its nature. I mean, even Chainmail was the result of Gary houseruling Perren's own bespoke rules (which I'm sure were almost certainly based on numerous other people's games).

It was not the kind of competitive wargaming that you see in the most popular games today, but stressed wargaming as basically an offshoot in one's own interest in military history. Something like Don Featherstone's Solo Wargaming, for example, was less "These are the procedures that you use to play this specific game," and more like a manifesto for wargaming as a kind of practice.
 

WistfulD

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I'm not talking about his table was like, or what any single was like, I'm talking about what a culture of passive aggressive behavior and trash-talking promotes in the long run. Also you can go back to other "Let's read" of this book and around here they are likely to go "wow this read as bad advice" and will get the "Noooo, none of this is meant as advice people just read it wrong, and anyway it's just a joke" And when so many people read it wrong, at best that means it's badly written at worst just bad advice.
Overall, I think we should be able to view this with a level of detachment where we can acknowledge bad advice as bad advice, but also acknowledge that Gary has been absolutely raked over the coals by a bunch of people who do not been particularly fair. Many who do not acknowledge the actual situation he was in, the information he had at his disposal, and what he could not foreseen about how the audience and gaming culture would change. Gary is neither saint nor sinner, genius nor fool -- he was a guy. One who was undoubtedly doing his best, although as you point out in some real ways that best should not be considered good enough. So that's why I say detachment. Is all the advice good? No, of course not. Should be still by grinding our axes on EGG's legacy? Good gods, no. Although 1e is still a game that people (self included) play (from time to time), I think anyone still playing it is well aware of the risks of treating the in-book advice as sacrosanct. It is now a informative nuance to the books, perfect for threads like this, but mostly just for understanding where we've been (and maybe a discussion of why).
 

Raveled

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Overall, I think we should be able to view this with a level of detachment where we can acknowledge bad advice as bad advice, but also acknowledge that Gary has been absolutely raked over the coals by a bunch of people who do not been particularly fair. Many who do not acknowledge the actual situation he was in, the information he had at his disposal, and what he could not foreseen about how the audience and gaming culture would change. Gary is neither saint nor sinner, genius nor fool -- he was a guy. One who was undoubtedly doing his best, although as you point out in some real ways that best should not be considered good enough. So that's why I say detachment. Is all the advice good? No, of course not. Should be still by grinding our axes on EGG's legacy? Good gods, no. Although 1e is still a game that people (self included) play (from time to time), I think anyone still playing it is well aware of the risks of treating the in-book advice as sacrosanct. It is now a informative nuance to the books, perfect for threads like this, but mostly just for understanding where we've been (and maybe a discussion of why).
I think understanding and acknowledging Gygax's legacy involves acknowledging that he brought a lot of negative things to the hobby, too. Punishing your players for listening at doors, opaque game design, and a generally adversarial nature to the game are all things Gygax's writing, if it didn't actually encourage it, at least didn't speak out against. Is there anywhere in this book where there's something like "Hey, this is a game, you're playing with your friends, don't be an asshole to your friends"?
 

SuStel

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Also you can go back to other "Let's read" of this book and around here they are likely to go "wow this read as bad advice" and will get the "Noooo, none of this is meant as advice people just read it wrong, and anyway it's just a joke"
There is a difference between giving bad advice and acting like a passive-aggressive jerk. I opined that Gygax was not doing the latter. I did not opine on the former.

I feel that Gygax's advice to both players and DMs is generally and mostly good for the gaming ecosystem it comes from. It clearly doesn't age well for those who play in a newer style, and I wouldn't expect such players to play in Gygax's style or to take his advice.
 

SuStel

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Is there anywhere in this book where there's something like "Hey, this is a game, you're playing with your friends, don't be an asshole to your friends"?
I think Gygax's response to that would be, "Don't you already know that? Why do you need me to tell you that?"
 

Raveled

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I feel that Gygax's advice to both players and DMs is generally and mostly good for the gaming ecosystem it comes from. It clearly doesn't age well for those who play in a newer style, and I wouldn't expect such players to play in Gygax's style or to take his advice.
I disagree with this emphatically. Shit like "if the players are listening at too many doors, punish them with silent skeletons" is terrible advice no matter the era.
 
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