The Game Board of OD&D

Author: DHBoggs / Labels: ,

"Off-hand adventures in the wilderness are made on the OUTDOOR SURVIVAL playing board (explained below). Exploratory journies, such as expeditions to find land suitable for a castle or in search of somelegendary treasure are handled in an entirely different manner.” Underworld and Wilderness Adventures, P. 15

“REFEREE'S MAP is a wilderness map unknown to the players. It should be for the territory around the dungeon location. When players venture into this area they should have a blank hexagon map, and as they move over each hex the referee will inform them as to what kind of terrain is in that hex. This form of exploring will eventually enable players to know the lay of the land in their immediate area and thus be able to select a site upon which to build their castles. (Castle building and its attendent requirements will be covered hereafter.) Exploratory adventures are likely to be the most exciting, and their incorporation into the campaign is most desirable.”
UWA, p 16

You might have to read that again, because 40 years of habit have all but obliterated the simple fact that in 1974 Gygax and Arneson expected Dungeons and Dragons, players to have a game board on the table.  That’s right D&D was designed as a board game!
Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit, but not much. The "map board" game came onto the table after the dungeon, so it wasn’t meant to be present at every gaming session, but the statement that “exploratory adventures are likely to be the most exciting.” definitely encourages the hexcrawl exploration on a tabletop map and tells us that wilderness travel wasn't intended just to be hops between dungeons, but an exploratory expedition itself.
Champions of Zed takes this idea at face value.  Sure you don’t have to play this way, but having players fill out a hex map as they move from place to place is fun!
The underlying assumption throughout OD&D is that the” wilderness” will be created as the game progresses, dens and lairs will be fleshed out, castles and towns will appear, distant kingdoms will be named and so on, and there will always be more to see just over the horizon.  Sure, you can go buy MegaWorld and place your game in it – sometimes there’s a place for that – or you can design your own Megaworld – that can be fun too – but the old games – Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Khalibruhn, Fred’s World, even Magira – these were community projects where players and dungeon masters and dice collaborated, one hex, town, and dungeon at a time.
This is why CoZ starts off not with character creation, but world creation.  The emphasis is on the adventure, the exploration, not the explorer per se.   Just a few days ago, Michael Mornard, who played in both Greyhawk and Blackmoor before D&D was even published made this very interesting comment on Finarvyns ODD74 forum “…And that was the first year or so of how the game grew... "Hey, who wants to explore MY dungeon?" The game was centered around the referee, and the idea of the game was to explore the referee's world.  At some point this changed. The mindset became, "We want play being a bunch of heroes, who can we talk into refereeing?" The game became centered on the idea of the players' adventures rather than the referee's world.”
Next post I’ll go “under the hood” of CoZ and look at the sources for the section on Hex map creation.


Chris Kutalik said...

One thing I noticed--and really liked--in FFC was the constant mention of "the board" especially in all the interesting write-ups for the domain investments.

So new farmers coming into to tame your land travel "in from the edge of the board." Church contributions travel off board. Etc. Etc.

I think it definitely supports the notion that the play area was a small defined place surrounded by an "off-board" greyness.

kesher said...

That Mornard post was dead-on. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the implications (especially given my almost 30 years of ingrained habit...)

I've not heard of either Fred's World or Magira, which makes me blush.

Chris Kutalik said...

I did a whole thread on Magira (of which I didn't now a lot about either before picking at it):

kesher said...

Wow--thanks for that link ckutalik!

Yet another glorious timesink... :)

DHBoggs said...

Freds world:

Anonymous said...

DH, this is off topic, but...I just bought DaD and the 98 page supplement. Haven't had a chance to do more than skim them a bit. However, it is safe to say you rock. Thanks for this.

Anonymous said...

'The game was centered around the referee, and the idea of the game was to explore the referee's world.'

When D&D started, the first DMs were responsible adults who could be trusted to be the center of attention without allowing their egotism to take over the game entirely.

When TSR marketed D&D to ten-year-old kids, that maturity level was not there. Allowing a ten-year-old DM to be the center of attention, and to have unlimited discretion over the events of the game, leads to disaster.

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