Saturday, May 18, 2024

The Culture: The Origin Of Conventional Play Identified

Jeffro this past week put out a great post arguing that Tunnels & Trolls was Conventional Play's first product. Go read that.

This is the one-two punch that has folks reacting as they usually do.

D&D is not a role-playing game. It is a framework for creating a type of continuing campaign that is much more in line with the things you see written up in Arneson’s First Fantasy Campaign than anything really that came after. So, what is a roleplaying game? Rpgs are derivative of Original Dungeons & Dragons. But they did not evolve from it. Rpgs are what people created when they wanted to play D&D but could only understand fragments of its rules. The only way they could play it was if they created their own game out of just the parts that they could understand.

This new type of game tended to eject the 1:1 time rule of OD&D. It shifted from being a sprawling wargame campaign to focusing almost entirely on the exploits of a single party. Dungeon exploration became the primary focus in this initial phase of rpgs with nearly every other gameplay mode being relegated to handwaving and ad hoc rulings. So many needful rules got thrown out that a very early paraphrase of the idea of “rulings not rules” quickly emerged as a means of holding this new amateurish type of non-game together– typified by the phrase "be reasonable." All of the premises and assumptions games like Rifts and GURPS and the B/X branch of D&D can be traced back to this point.

But wait, there's more.

Fluid The Druid took that pass from Jeffro and slammed it into the basket. You see that post here; read that too.

Yes, there's also a gut-punch of a point made here.

What does this add up to? Privateers and Gentlemen is not a role playing game in the same sense as Tunnels and Trolls is. But, it is a second D&D. Maybe the first second D&D. Someone would have to do a more complete historical review to be sure, but Privateers and Gentlemen, might well be the only true successor of Dungeons and Dragons.

What we have here is the identification of Conventional Play.

What we also have is a verifiable (because of these receipts) Point Of Divergence. Remember that I often said that the way to unfuck things is to turn about and go back the way you came and undo every change done, step by step in reverse order, until the dysfunction stops and proper function resumes.


We have retraced the steps. We have undone the changes, step by step. We have now found the point where dysfunction entered the system.

Now we have the next point in the Unfucking Process: The Point Of Severance. This is where you cut off the dead end road that you just came back from, toss it away, and take the road heretofore untravelled.

This is a huge accomplishment for the tabletop gaming hobby, and it too will end with a revitalized hobby scene- especially as the need to go back underground and non-commercial becomes more obvious.


Now it is time to move forward in a new direction with this hobby. Everyone else can catch up in a few years. Again.

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