Many of you approached me during PAX East to thank me for the D&D news posts I make. As a DM I know how hard it can be to find inspiration some times. As long as I'm running a game I'll keep posting the crazy stuff I throw at my players. In fact, here is the latest experiment I ran on them.
As so often happens in fantasy worlds, their characters stumbled across a magic artifact. This particular item when used, sent them all back in time. Here is an excerpt of the email I sent out to all of them a couple of weeks before the game:
You have been dragged back in time and placed in the bodies of new characters, each of them a key player in the story of the Eladrin in the Estwild. The world has been spun back hundreds of years. Your characters are in a much different time with much different rules. But they are not the only ones who will travel back in time for this adventure. Each of you has also been taken back to 1974 and Original Dungeons and Dragons.
Ancient mechanics for an ancient world.
Before you quit D&D forver let me tell you that we won't be using Original D&D exactly. Rather I've cooked up a system using original D&D systems along with some new ideas as well. The goal is to play a game with the soul of Original D&D, but significantly more humane to the player.
The model here is really Disney Land. Immagine yourself in adventure land near one of their western saloons. The facade is there, the details are right, it could almost pass for the real thing. But inside it is air conditioned and you can buy a Dr. Pepper. If they had a ride there called Original D&D, this would be it. The idea is to have a lot of fun without anyone getting hurt.
After a lot of research I ended up settling on a system called Swords and Wizardry. As a set of rules it draws heavily on OD&D but includes things like an ascending AC scale rather than THACO. I pulled what I liked from Swords and Wizardry and then grabbed a few things from OD&D as well. The end result was much like what I described in my email to the party. A sort of OD&D roller-coaster with all the twists and turns of old school gaming but minus the freedom and danger.
During the game I used the television behind me to display a slideshow of old artwork from the history of D&D. My players all started D&D with 4e like I did. This game was really about taking a look back and appreciating the roots of Dungeons and Dragons.
I remember when I was a kid my parents took me to Fort Clatsop in Oregon. It's a winter encampment built back in 1805. Today it's a tourist attraction populated with peopled dressed in period clothing. I watched re-enactors churn butter and load muskets. It's difficult for a young person to imagine time before they existed. This was a real physical place though full of real people even if they were just actors. The experience was really powerful for me and I can remember laying in the back seat of the car during the next leg of the car trip just thinking about what it must have been like to be alive back then.
I hope that as my players picked up their dice and got in their cars to drive home they had similar thoughts about the gamers that came before. People starting campaigns with characters that only had 2 hit points. Characters getting hit and losing levels. Magic items breaking and armor deteriorating. Maybe seeing for just a night what it was like back then, will give them a greater appreciation of the game they're playing now.