My Ideal D&D Original Edition

Earlier this week Wizards of the Coast announced they would be reprinting the original edition of Dungeons & Dragons, the famed "white box".  This set will consist of the following:

  • Volume 1: Men & Magic
  • Volume 2: Monsters & Treasure
  • Volume 3: Underworld & Wilderness Adventures
  • Supplement I: Greyhawk
  • Supplement II: Blackmoor
  • Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry
  • Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes
I first started playing with the "magenta box" version of the D&D Basic Game. Prior to this the Advanced D&D Game, the "blue box" Basic Game, and Original Edition were released. AD&D 1st edition was still very active and would be for years to come; it was the game we probably played most in the early 80s though by the late 80s I'd switched to science fiction games. It wasn't till years later that I managed to get copies of the Original Edition and blue box version of the Basic Game. I also have PDFs of all these versions. Thankfully Wizards of the Coast has again begun releasing their library in PDF format again. I've a hunch that anything they are releasing premium reprints of though won't be released in PDF for some time, though I could be wrong.

I'm glad Wizards of the Coast is releasing this, albeit at a pretty steep price ($150 US). It's probably only a dream, but some day I'd love to see a "cleaned up" version of the Original Edition. By careful use of the Open Gaming License and System Reference Document for D&D 3.0/3.5 people have been able to produce "retro-clones"of the Original Edition - Swords & Wizardry being the best known with Delving Deeper having been recently released. These games are far, far better organized than the Original Edition. I love the Original Edition but, organizationally, it is an absolute mess. In some ways that's part of its charm, with its very vagueness encouraging the Dungeon Master to make his or her own rulings. However, even with this charm it's often difficult to find what it does spell out. For example, penalties giants have to hit dwarfs are listed in the monster book instead of the player section. 

While the retro-clones are far better organized they are limited by just how close they can copy the original rules. A lot of the terminology can be found in the System Reference Document but some of the terminology from older versions do not appear in it. Similarly while you cannot copyright a formula not all of the tables in the Original Edition follow formulae. So there is a limit in how "true" these retro-clones can be. 

Basically, I'd love to see a 0.5 edition of the D&D game be released - keep the same rules (including where they are vague) but give it far greater organization. With digital publishing one could have different variants of the game, allowing a group to decide which supplements they want to use - indeed which rules from which supplements they want. The result could then be organized in an order that makes sense - keep all the class information together, the spells together, etc. In some ways this is what Advanced D&D was meant to do, but I'm looking more for a consolidation and organization vs. all the new stuff and changes that AD&D added.

Failing that another interesting product could be an annotated version of the rules. Ron Edwards is in the process of producing an annotated version of his Sorcerer RPG and, having access to the draft material (due to funding the Kickstarter campaign) I have to say the result is very interesting. The product is still a usable game but the author is also able to indicate what he was thinking with certain rules, what he would change, etc.

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