Over at http://grognardia.blogspot.com/2008/08/muddled-and-confused.html the writer is doing a series of posts about the covers and to a lesser extent the content of the entire D&D corebooks line since Original D&D. In the comments section a discussion about freedom vs "following the book" has come up. I am reposting my thoughts from that because its some rather important things I think most people really should heed when running and playing in an RPG. It it seems a little jumpy its taken from the discussion in the blog post above. I cut and pasted my parts I thought were worth saving and sharing.
I've always been a "fluff" gamer. Gimme the information overload (yet keep the rules simple, streamlined, and elegant!) on the setting, the peoples, the world.
Then I can gleefully use it or twist it into whatever horrible pretzel shape I choose.
Cool players won't mind. I've thrown Innsmouth pretty much as written (outside of automobiles anyhow) into Dragonlance and the big DL fan didn't complain a bit.
My players gave me a statement of truth: You are the GM.
Obviously you have to make it logically fit, but any good GM can use or change anything he wants to fit his campaign world.
I guess I am wierd when it comes to D&D. I consider Mentzer Basic THE book any new RPGer should pick up. (The only game that could be better is D6 Star Wars, which might be one of the best RPGs ever made, even if it gets wonky at high power levels. Call of Cthulhu is in the best ever running too, but its NOT a novices game at all.)
Even though I am not very fond of the old school D&D mechanics in general, I absolutely adore the "feel and charm" of AD&D1, and the worlds and fluff of AD&D2.
OD&D I own all but the Gods book, but I don't see the point in a toolkit. Mainly because I end up with something like Castles & Crusades anyhow.
Even if my next campaign will probably be AD&D2 with Basic stat advances and almost every race and class from both AD&D editions. A little from Skills & Powers Combat, a little from Battlesystem 2, a little from Rules Cyclopedia...
Now if only the Troll Lords would do a big book of races and classes so I could just start converting classic and neo classic modules over.
I think its more gamers than the books who sort of enforce this behavior, though I cannot disagree that the later era RPGs tend to push this sort of thing subtly.
Its funny how the same audience who insist on writing fanfic and fanart, much of which is rather... deviant shall we say have trouble with any level of freedom or change.
I've even seen people in fan circles insist THEIR totally unsubstantiated and totally against canon source interpetations to be the correct one and then they proceed to verbally berate and harass anyone who dissents.
A lesser example I saw myself when I joined into a White Wolf game once. My character had a silver weapon, as he was from a campaign where Werewolves and Vampires were fighting together against really bad world destroying stuff. (I can't help it. I like people uniting against the great darkness. Its my comics and anime influences showing through..) Well I took my NPC into this game. When he was revealed to have said weapon the Wolf players in this game FREAKED OUT as if I had broken some great taboo. By their interpretation its mere proximity to their PCs would cause negative effects.
Yet by the rulesbooks it DID NOT. Here we have the other PCs pooing bricks and the GM is looking up to confirm. Once it was found I told the GM I would be happy with whichever way he wanted to run it as it was his game. I was the only one who seemed to be more interested in how the GM wanted to run things than the book or the group concensus.
FRACK CANON IF IT MESSES WITH YOUR GAME.
Gaming is supposed to be about fun. Its not a peenwaving contest. Its not a competition. Its sure as hell not a good way to pick up girls. (A good way to repel them maybe...)
If we just want to level up and not affect or change anything and follow someone else's lame-o story there are plenty of console RPGs available out there.
Why try to deal with scheduling and people conflicts and the time and expense to read all these blasted overpriced rulesbooks otherwise?
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