Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How to succeed at adventuring according to Gary Gygax

I just looked through my copy of the 1st ed PHB. In it are described some tips on how to be successful at adventuring. Apart from the importance of having an objective, is also mentioned that having two maps is the key to success. One map could get destroyed by a fire ball, or some other environmental hazard. It brought home to me the idea that the player's map is not just a help for the player's memory, but also an object in the game. The advice is actually something I recognize from the first place I read it, in the Swedish game Drakar & Demoner. Back then I thought it odd that it said that the DM should destroy the physical map his players had drawn if the in game map was destroyed. I really wonder how common it ever was for gamers to actually do that. A very special kind of immersion, indeed.


  1. I haven't destroyed a map but I do take it away from players if their characters are fleeing and try to have them quickly describe their directions from memory.

  2. Nice. I wonder if my players would survive that? :)

  3. Well, I guess I should have talked about characters. The players would probably turn kind of pale, though...

  4. Legend tells of Gary also taking dead PCs sheets and tearing them up in front of the players. I dunno if that's true, but I have to say if he tried to do that to me he'd have gotten a bop on the nose... so personally I'd be carefull about destroying player property without warning. :P
    I understand the concept, deny the player of the aide that is no longer in the PCs posession but... really. There is a big differance from experiencing the layout (i.e. being in the game world walking around) and just being told the layout (being the player). Not that it wouldn't be confusing for the adventurers, but I think it would be MORE confusing for the players.

  5. Yeah, that is part of why I wonder if it every was done.

    Another issue. I do remember when I was playing The Bard's Tale ages past, and I had a very detailed map of the whole city of Skara Brae, but the way to the important sites I had memorized so I didn't need the map to run back to the inn! Greg Svenson have said that he did the same thing with the original castle Blackmoor. No need to destroy that map.

  6. I did that a lot of times :)
    I usually assume that PCs know how to find their way to well known places (relevant inns, well known temples, their houses...) but they may not remeber how to get back from the inner chambers of a dungeon, or when they are running through an unknown forest.

    In these cases, I take away their maps, let them all make a roll on a relevant skill (to reward players for taking non-combat skills) and give them some clues. After that, it's players' business.

    I also tried to remove important clues needed to solve a riddle (the thief wrote them down, but he felt from a bridge into a river...) but it became really frustrating in the end.

  7. It is a balancing act not to make the game frustrating while still challenging. I feel some techniques might go to far.

    I do like that you can reward players for taking non-combat skills by letting them use those for instances where maps and clues have been lost. Good stuff, I haven't thought of that angle.


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