Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How Was This Game Ever Popular?

As I noted in the blog in January, and as I've continued to note in the ongoing list of books, I have been gradually reading through the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks for the first edition. I've been doing this mostly out of interest in the roots of the game; although my very first game was under first edition rules, I've never read the rulebooks before, nor have I ever run that edition.

Having read the 'core' rulebooks for the game (the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual), I am completely at a loss to understand why this game was ever popular. The rules are complex and badly laid out, the books are extremely dense, and there's no real sense of organisation.

The Dungeon Master's Guide, in particular, was rather shocking. I have occasionally heard this hailed as a work of genius, and that may be so. But if so, it was one of those crazy geniuses that you know is brilliant, but can't follow at all. The book was a nightmare!

Having read this I can say confidently that, had I started with this edition, I would not now play these games. And, in fact, as nearly-heretical as it is, I have to say that the much-maligned second edition is actually the better game, if only because it is significantly more approachable.

As for the popularity of the game, I can only posit three explanations:

  1. Most people actually started playing under the earlier 'original' D&D or the various 'basic' D&D sets, which had much shorter and more compact rulesets. When they moved to first edition they didn't read most of the new rules, but just continued using the old rules with the new monsters, spells and classes.
  2. Most people actually started playing under the tutelage of existing players. As such, they never read the rules, but instead just went with the flow. This is basically the 'Monopoly' approach.
  3. There was a fairly small corps of DMs in those days who had read the rules, and who served as the 'rule masters' for their respective groups. Most people just played under the aegis of these people. (This is similar to, but not quite the same as, #2 - in #2 people would gradually pick up some form of the rules; #3 posits a small, closed circle of 'expert users'.)

Or maybe I'm just old, and jaded, and tired. But a year ago, when I started picking up the first edition rulebooks, I had a notion of running a few games under the system to see how it compares. Having now read through half the books, I'm disinclined so to do. Oh well.

Thornton Highland Games 2011

The Thornton Highland Games took place a week ago on Sunday, and represented the first outing of our new Development Band. In fact, the 4A band, with which I play, were not competing at this contest. Nonetheless, several members of the 4A band travelled across to the Kingdom of Fife to support the younger members of our band.

It was a bright and sunny day, at least in the East. This was something of a surprise, as I had almost not left the house that morning, due to the heavy rain. Still, good weather makes for a better performance, so that was an advantage.

The Development Band went on, and they played very well. In fact, they actually played twice; once in the Grade 4 contest, and again in the Grade 3 contest. Both performances were good.

In the event, they came second out of three in the Grade 4, but came fourth out of four in the Grade 3 contest. This latter was entirely expected, since the other bands were all 'naturally' of a higher grade. The former was, of course, a fantastic result, not least because it was the band's first outing.

Watching from the sidelines was an interesting experience. Playing is definitely preferable! Still, I must admit to a certain pride. A few months ago, the Development Band was just an idea. It cost us a lot to get it going (in terms of finance, of course, but also in terms of the effort involved, and also in the loss of several promising young players). So, to finally see it all come together was a great feeling.

The 4A band next play at the European Championships in Ireland this weekend. The Development Band next play at the Dundonald Highland Games. Then, both bands will compete (in different grades) at the World Pipe Band Championships. Each band has three more contests before the season draws to its close.


Is it just me, or is July lasting forever? I mean, it's not as if I necessarily want to rush through it, since we're only just getting what passes for summer up here, but June is a distant memory, and there's still almost a week to go!

#19: "Watcher of the Dead", by J.V. Jones
#20: "AD&D: Dungeon Master's Guide", by Gary Gygax
#21: "AD&D: Legends & Lore", by James M. Ward and Robert Kuntz
#22: "AD&D: Fiend Folio", edited by Don Turnbull
#23: "AD&D: Monster Manual II", by Gary Gygax

Monday, July 04, 2011

The Riding of the Marches 2011

As was the case last year, the week after the British Championships, the band returned to Annan for "The Riding of the Marches", their version of the Highland Games.

It was a fantastic day - hot and sunny with just a hint of wind. I was very glad I took the last-minute decision to apply sunblock before leaving the house - the first time I have done so at a competition this year, and the first time it was necessary.

Unlike the British Championships, the bus to Annan didn't leave until just after 10, which meant that I woke at a somewhat civilised hour.

We went, we played, and it was good. Once again, we put in our best performance of the season, surpassing last week's effort. It is, however, worth noting that this week we played only our 4B set, not the somewhat harder MSR.

The rest of the day was spent in waiting. Not the best use of time, it must be admitted. And then there was the parade.

In truth, I quite admire the ingenuity of the organisers at Annan. They've found a way to get loads of bands to their gala day without having to pay them - run a competition with a big(-ish) prize, then have a street parade [i]before[/i] the prize-giving.

The band came second in our grade, having come second in piping, and first for both the drums and the bass section. A really good result, and marginally better than last year.

And then there was the journey home, which was fine but too long. There was some discussion of a stag weekend, which is apparently not to take place in Amsterdam as this is now too expensive. It sounds the sort of event that legends are made of. I wonder if I can persuade them to go without me...

#18: "Pathfinder: Wake of the Watcher", by Greg A. Vaughan