Two Old Books

I’m not quite sure why but I find myself drawn back to two old books that I last used with students at my previous schools to introduce them to roleplaying games. Those books are the Basic and Expert rulebooks from 1981, often referred to by collectors as B/X Dungeons & Dragons.

The past few days have seen me journey back into classic fantasy roleplaying through the lens of both Original Dungeons & Dragons and the more modern solo dungeon adventure game D100 Dungeon. The former taught me the charm and appeal of the three most basic game structures in the roleplaying game scene, namely the Combat, Dungeoncrawl, and Hexcrawl. The latter reminded me that, despite offering an excellent procedural dungeoncrawl experience, the real appeal of roleplaying games is having choice in your actions and depth in the game world.

And so today I began a new quest.

For me, there has been a long-term desire to create and offer to players a secondary fantasy world which is inspired by these classic old games but also goes a little deeper. While there is nothing at all wrong with the procedural dungeoncrawl and hexcrawl – in fact, for me they are foundational to the gaming experience – what I want to add are layers of depth. Not depth in terms of lower levels in the dungeon (although, yes, I love megadungeons) but rather depth in terms of lore.

At the heart of what makes roleplaying exciting to me is the twin promise of choice – you really can choose to do anything you want with your character – and exploration. The vision I have is for a world in which there are many different clues for the player to investigate, myriad places to delve and discover secrets, and where any choice made has consequences – positive or negative.

But why am I drawn back to these two old books? I think for me they represent the simplest and most accessible starting point for learning to create and offer such a game as this.

Whether we like it or not, Dungeons & Dragons was the beginning of all this fantastic adventure, and it still holds the seeds for an enriching experience. While I know there are parts of the game I will not enjoy, I think I owe it to myself to explore it one more time. If only to exhume the bones of the oldest fantasies from my youth, because these old books provided my earliest fantasy adventures.

As I contemplate introducing another group of students at a totally different school to the roleplaying hobby I love, it seems only natural that I begin where many began back around 1981. Two old books, one red and the other blue.

Game on!

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