Sunday, November 15, 2015

An Introduction to the World of Adventure Gaming

Art by Brad “Morno” Schenk

With the exception of 'Inspiration' posts, this blog tends to examine role-playing games that are complete – or at least claim to be complete.  As such, your humble host has elected to focus on Dave Hargrave's The Arduin Adventure rather than his Arduin Trilogy since said trilogy was presented as supplementary material. Having 64 pages, The Arduin Adventure book was sold individually and as part of a boxed set that included character sheets, two sheets of “magikal” item cards, and a die with “a total of twenty (20) sides numbered zero through nine twice each number.”

In the detail of the cover image shown above, we see the subtitle An Introduction to Fantasy Role-Playing/Adventure Gaming and it is in this context that The Arduin Adventure stands out.  The Arduin Adventure (hereinafter ArdAdv) was published in 1980, one year before the release of the Moldvay edition of D&D.  So, the contemporaneous, equivalent product from TSR was the Holmes 'Blue Book'.  According to its preface, the Holmes edition was “aimed solely at introducing the reader to the concepts of fantasy role playing...”  In this regard, ArdAdv compares favorably and could arguably be considered superior.  Essentially, the Holmes edition is a 'starter' set:  “Players who desire to go beyond the basic game are directed to the ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS books.”  Hargrave references other Arduin products as options but only as options; he emphasizes that players and Game Masters can rely upon imagination.  While the Holmes edition rules “allow only for the first three levels,” no experience level limits are presented in ArdAdv.

In fact, the experience system in ArdAdv does not involve charts or large numbers.
Each character will gain one experience level (EL) for each five adventures completed (through fourth level). Thereafter it takes 20 adventures to gain each additional EL.
It's certainly not detailed, but it's satisfactory for an introductory system.

For many role-playing games, the rules begin with character generation.  This is not so with The Arduin Adventure ; the first topic after the introduction is an explanation of the Game Master's responsibilities.  Hargrave makes three points:
1.  Know all of the rules you have all agreed upon (and have the rule book(s) handy to settle disputes).
2.  Have not only the desire, but also the time to give the creation of each game’s “script” the attention it needs. It will take a good GM at least one hour to ready a game for play properly (usually the night before).
3.  Have the trust and confidence of all of the players so that they will not argue with his decisions. This confidence can only be earned as the GM demonstrates his integrity and honesty during the games. If the players feel that they are being short-changed by a GM, the play will soon become bogged down in arguments and hurt feelings. So, a GM must always maintain a detached and impartial attitude towards every player and every player’s character no matter what the GM’s personal feelings are. A good GM sees only the game, not those who play within it.
On the following page Hargrave states, “A GM never tries to run the players' game, but only operates as a referee, acting out the parts of the monsters or other things or people the characters meet.”

Later in the rules, Hargrave announces that the Game Master is really “a STORY TELLER!”  Some 'old school' aficionados prefer to distance themselves from the notion of game-as-story.  Here's a quote from Gary Gygax:
The adventure is the thing, not "a story." If you want stories, go read a book, If you want derring-do, play a real RPG and then tell the story of the adventure you barely survived afterwards. The tale is one determined by the players' characters' actions, surely!
Evidently, Mr. Gygax felt that stories are not the focus of “a real RPG.”  My philosophy is that the play of any game is a story – chess, poker, hopscotch – any game.  Gygax uses the terms “the story of the adventure” and “The tale.”  So, obviously, there's a story involved even in “real” role-playing games.  If the adventure is distinct from the story, then the adventure is the medium in which the story forms.  It is probable that Gygax meant two things in his quote:  (1) that the adventure should shape the story and not vice versa and (2) players should not influence the outcome of the adventure except through the actions of their characters.  I am not adverse to either point but, ultimately, a role-playing game generates a story.  How the story manifests is a matter of play style.  In any event, the Game Master is the impetus of the story.  (Hence the Game Master is really “a STORY TELLER!”)  In short, if you're pretending to be an elf in a make-believe world of magic and dragons, you're a participant in a story making process.

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