The D&D Arms Race

I wrote a little piece today in response to the often-revisionist commentary that Gary Gygax invented a bunch of stuff just to “put players in their place.” He sort of did, but that’s not the thing you should take away from observations on Rust Monsters and save-or-die traps. There was a kind of spirit of fun in the “adversarialism” (pretty sure that’s not a word, but maybe it should be) of early D&D. There was an arms race between the skills of the players and the DM – Who could imagine and/or logic out the best stuff within the framework of the evolving D&D world? From the DM perspective wasn’t about punishing players, but about challenging them. (Maybe I should say it wasn’t “just” about punishing them, because sometimes it was. But punishment was more about players who overtly tried to break things, perhaps, and challenging was more about getting play to the next level, or exploring just how good players could get.) Anyway, if you are interested in my full thoughts, they are here and they begin with a joke.

I’m curious as to your thoughts on this topic and any examples you want to bring up.


Nice write up, I’ve been rather skeptical of folks who love to re-write the history of our hobby’s reasons and why’s for everything that was done or happened. While I’m certain there is a lot we will never know, and will only sorta-kinda learn about, it doesn’t bother me. Sometimes I read stuff and think, “Huh… wonder what that was about?” and that’s usually good enough for me :slight_smile:

That said, sometimes I have to admit it’s fun to argue/discuss the whole, “No, no, no… THIS is what the real story is” from time to time :slight_smile:

OH, and have you ever read the preface to the Return to the Tomb of Horrors? Gary wrote it and it’s kinda cool/insightful.


Pedantic note- I speculate you were shooting for adversarialism (you missed the “v”), and no, it’s not a word. But your point is well taken. And it’s a not-word I use as well.

Also, I suppose my perspective is that… why rewrite history. I agree, people DO try to do it. But WHY? I feel (and I’m probably wrong) it’s people looking for an excuse to dislike something. “I hate Save or Die, and it’s because Gary wanted to kill PCs.” Why not “I hate Save or Die, so we’re not using it.”

I hate level drain. The Castles and Crusades campaign I’m running had a Wight, and it hit the monk twice. I don’t KNOW for sure what the effect will be, but for now, the party knows that there is a large patch of black, dead, necrotic skin, with little black tendrils leading out from it. Does it matter WHY level drain is there? Not to me.


Thanks! I’ll take any and all pedantic notes as I am one myself when it comes to typos, grammar, and such. (Up to a point, of course.)

Level drain. Yeah. Ugh. I just do stat damage with it, which takes longer to heal. (Playing OSE Core and OSE AF right now. Oh, and 5e, but I’m not running that game.)

I couldn’t find the instance of the missing v. Can you give me a few words from the sentence?

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This missing “v” is in your introduction to your new blog piece. It is here, your first post in this thread.

But also, if you really want proofreaders, I found a missing apostrophe in a sentence containing “adversarial.” :wink:

“And maybe don’t be so hasty to discount adversarial style play if its conducted in a spirit of fun and fairness.”


Ha! Thanks. I was looking at the blog.