Sunday, August 20, 2017

Tom Moldvay Basic: Why It's Great and Where to Find it. #RPGaDay 2017

It's time to catch up on my #RPGaDay writing again. This time the questions seemed initially unrelated, but once I found my answer to the first question it became clear that they should be combined into one post. The role playing game that I believe features the best writing in long out of print and therefore someone interested in finding it might need advice on a good source for out-of-print RPGs.

Day 19 -- Which RPG Features the Best Writing?

I can imagine a lot of bloggers answering this question by waxing poetic on how this or that meta-narrative game has the best writing. I can almost see them typing away to praise Vampire the Masquerade for its evocative text, or Pendragon for its ability to capture the tone of courtly love. Both these statements are true, but neither of these games captures the best writing I've read in a role playing game. That honor falls squarely on Tom Moldvay's Basic Dungeons and Dragons.

Never before, and never since, has there been a role playing game rule book as well written as this edition of D&D. It was the first edition of the rules that the average person could pick up, read in an hour or two, and play the game. Holmes' first Basic set was a huge step in this direction, and was the first edition of D&D that was actually written with playable rules that didn't require too much interpretation, but it didn't quite capture it. Steve Perrin and Ray Turney's Runequest is very well written and clear, but isn't quite as approachable to the new gamer as Tom Moldvay's work.

Tom Moldvay did something quite challenging. He addressed not only how to play D&D mechanically, but how to play it socially as well. By including an "example of play" and answering questions as simple as how to read a four-sided die when you roll it, he made role playing more accessible than it had been up until that time. Later writers focused on getting more evocative in their world descriptions and providing interstitial prose that seemed straight out of a novel or short story, often very well written, but they forgot that they were writing a game too. Or at least they seemed to forget they were writing a game. Many "storytelling" and "less crunchy" games have rules far more sophisticated than D&D, and when they have even simpler rules - as is the case with Cortex+, FATE, or Apocalypse World - they often get too caught up in their jargon and end up obscuring what are wonderful gems.

Well written role playing game rule book doesn't require you to "see it played to learn it." A well written role playing game is playable out of the box, and Moldvay's is a perfect example of how do to it.

Day 20 -- What is the best source for out-of-print RPGs?

No long answer here. The best places to find out-of-print RPGs Noble Knight Games, Board Game Geek, and eBay. That's it. The important thing isn't the "source," it's your level of patience. You have to be willing to pass by offers that are too expensive on eBay or Noble Knight and wait for the right offering. You also need to decide whether you are collecting to collect as artifacts, or whether you are collecting to play. I collect to play, so I don't buy the most expensive copies. I am not collecting to resell as an investment. I want to play and to have future generations play. To that end, I peruse these sites for deals.

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