Monday, January 2, 2017

First Fantasy

Tom Moldvay, in the introduction to his edition of Dungeons & Dragons, claims that “the game is most enjoyable when played by a group of four to eight people.”  Yet, with regard to number of players, the first little brown book states:  “At least one referee and from four to fifty players can be handled in any single campaign, but the referee to player ratio should be about 1:20 or thereabouts.”  This significant difference highlights an important distinction between new school and old school.  I have commented previously on this distinction.

Today, our concept of a role-playing game tends to correspond with the Moldvay paradigm – a gamemaster and five players (give or take a couple).  Each player controls a character and those characters comprise a more-or-less cohesive 'party'.  A campaign is focused on the party and is essentially is the 'story' of the party's adventures.

In 1977, Judges Guild published The First Fantasy Campaign, providing details about Dave Arneson's Blackmoor – the campaign from which Dungeons & Dragons developed.  At its height, Blackmoor accommodated dozens of players simultaneously; however, Arneson stated in a 1981 interview (published in the premier issue of Pegasus), “I usually prefer to run adventures with about four or five people.”  An old school campaign encompassed more than a single adventuring party; it was a shared environment.  Occasionally, some player characters would cooperate to loot a dungeon but at any given time, different player characters would be involved in various activities, sometimes at cross purposes.  Other early games, such as En Garde, exemplified this sort of 'shared environment' concept.

Today, we would call it a “sourcebook,” but in those bygone days The First Fantasy Campaign (hereinafter FFC) was considered a “playing aid.”  (The map shown above comes from this publication.)  The book enlightens us about what player characters did in the proto-D&D setting.  Blackmoor was a frontier region, uncivilized and essentially unexplored.  Aside from dungeon expeditions, player characters could explore wilderness areas, construct strongholds, and raise armies.  Dungeons & Dragons provides rules for these activities, but as the editions have progressed, less emphasis has been placed on such things.  Yet Blackmoor characters had even more concerns, not the least of which was spending the voluminous wealth taken from the dungeons.

In the introduction to FFC, Arneson writes, “Character motivation was solved by stating that you did not get Experience Points until the money had been spent on your area of interest.”  FFC details seven “interests.”  Motivation consists of the various scores a character has among these interests; the higher the score, the better the 'exchange rate' of gold-to-experience the character has.  For instance, a character with a SONG score of 70 gets experience equivalent to 70% of the amount of gold pieces spent on that interest.  A character's interest scores are determined based on class and/or dice results.  The seven interests are:

WINE – The character purchases a quantity of “Spirits with a relatively high Alcoholic content.”  The character imbibes “to the limits of his capacity.”  Upon recovery, the character continues to drink.  This process continues until the purchased amount beverages is consumed (or, I suppose, until cirrhosis fatally affects the character).  “Experience gained while drunk does not count but treasure does.”

WOMEN – “The player will immediately proceed to the local establishment and expend all funds desired on Room plus Extras at that place.  Slaves of the appropriate type (left to player) may also be purchased with the funds and utilized to fulfil this classification. These slaves may then be sold at reduced value...”  This is one of the dark spots of Blackmoor.  On page 5 of FFC, we learn that the annual upkeep of a “Red” female slave is 25 to 130 gold pieces; for a “White” female slave, upkeep is 35 to 250 gold pieces.

SONG – At “the local tavern,” the character pays for the exploits of other player characters.  “Damages assessed by the tavern owner count...”

WEALTH – “Merely the stockpiling of Gold, Silver and similar items of value by the player. If these items are stolen, the player loses full value immediately upon discovery and may lose levels as a result.”

FAME – “This is gained by straight combat with creatures and players in the game.”  I suppose the character doesn't actually need to be victorious; however, there must be one or more witnesses to the event.  Experience is not awarded until a celebration takes place at a tavern.  (The cost of the celebration may be paid by someone else.)

RELIGION – “Funds are given to the local Religious denomination...”

HOBBY – “This is a catch-all category left to the Judge to award details on to the players.”  A Magic-User, for example, could have Spell Research as a hobby.  Other possible hobbies include “the devising of better Torture machines, making Gold, the Building of Flying Machines, all up to the Judge to outline and define within the limits of his campaign.”  Other examples are studies of animals, learning written and spoken languages, and “Researching old books to find leads to ancient treasure or magical libraries.”  Arneson notes that a hobby could lead “to additional adventures as players would order special cargos [sic] from off the board and then have to go and guard them so that the cargo would reach their lodging and then the player would get the Experience Points.” (original emphasis)

1 comment:

  1. I know some gamers love this method of awarding experience points, but it seems like just another accounting headache to me.