Friday, August 3, 2012

White Box Poll Results

At last, the poll is completed. Let me print out all the results, since I will be removing the poll from my sidebar.  Altogether there were 84 votes; the number of votes for each answer is in brackets.  The question was,

What best describes your familiarity with the White Box original D&D set of books?

11% - I don't know what it is.  (11)
42% - I've heard of it, never seen it in reality (36)
10% - I've had a few moments to glance through the three principle books (9)
  8% - I've extensively read at least one of the books (7)
21% - I've read all the books in depth (18)
  9% - I have Played a game with the books (8)
13% - I have Ran [run] a game with the books (11)
  5% - I play or run White Box games occasionally (5)
  1% - I only run games using the White Box (1)
23% - I am vaguely familiar with the Blackmoor supplement (20)
21% - I am very familiar with Blackmoor (18)
33% - I am vaguely familiar with the Chainmail miniatures rules (28)
11% - I am very familiar with Chainmail (10)

I love when a set of numbers concurs with my general expectations.  I had tried not to balance the statements to prejudice the responses - if anyone thinks so, they should indicate this in the comments section of this thread.  Then I can perhaps run a different poll with different questions to gain more insight.  The negative precedes the positive in every case, so there might be justification for another questionaire.

First and foremost, please note that this poll only describes my readers, and not the general community.  Thus, I presume with this post I am preaching to the choir.  I notice that when I look at the responses I get on Reddit (which I've been looking at lately), there are very different perceptions and motivations for how the rules are to be interpreted.  I'm well aware that 84 people on this site do not speak for the D&D community.

Still, 84 isn't a bad sampling.  I would have preferred 500 ... but meh.

Let's understand from the above that those people claiming the White Box remains 'important' to the game are full of shit.  63% of those answering have little or no direct experience with those original books - 53% have never actually SEEN the books.  There will be those who argue that without the original books, there would be no D&D, but that is like arguing that without the rotary phone, twittering wouldn't exist.  Yes, A led to B - but nearly two thirds of the people out there have received their knowledge of the game from sources that altered or improved these original books - which means the small number of pundits slapping their bellies about "original D&D" are making claim to an influence which has long since been made redundant.

Note also that none of the questions of the poll discuss any value judgement of the material.  There may be 10 people very familiar with Chainmail, but this does not say that they all like it or hate it.  It only means that they've taken the time to read the book.  It could be argued that becoming "very familiar" suggests interest ... but at the same time, many of those "vaguely familiar" may have read the first two pages and thought, wow, this is shit.

For example, at this point I would say I am vaguely familiar with Blackmoor.  In the last week I opened the book to read it, having had it built up in my mind that Blackmoor is a very important influence on D&D culture.  Now, 38 of those polled (44%) did answer some knowledge regarding this book - for the 46 people who did not, let me say this.  It's just another module.

Oh, I'll be going into it in depth later, when I can force myself to read every word of the obvious crap written within.  I only read it for about 30 minutes, so Iike I say, I'm only vaguely familiar with the crap.  I'm sure that people preach its importance on the basis of it being the FIRST or nearly first scenario published for the game, but this is something akin to being the first cheap pocket detective novel or the first issue of Boy's Life magazine.  If the material is crap, I'm not sure a claim that it was crap never before produced makes it praiseworthy.

A substantial portion of the community worships modules.  If you worship modules, and you're reading this blog after three years of my disparaging modules, you're not very bright.  Either that, or you're vaguely masochistic.

This poll, however, does not necessarily support my point of view.  Perhaps some of the 11% who've never heard of the White Box, or the 42% who've never held it in their hands would LOVE it.  It's just so obscure and difficult to find that they've never been able to slip on rubber gloves to protect the books from their greasy fingers.  My best argument that the world is not bound for a resurgence of OD&D (which was a popular cry last year but has since dried up) is the 1 responder who plays nothing but White Box D&D.  I love that he or she couldn't find a player to come on the blog and double that number.  Perhaps they didn't feel the need to prove a point ... but it does make the existence of players joining this responder suspect.

Isn't it fabulous that 11 people have run White Box games, but only 8 people claim to have played in them?  Nearly half who have run a game continue to run them occasionally ... 5 of 11.  Since we must assume all 11 of these have read all the books in depth (I hope you would if you're playing the game), that would mean only 7 in 18 people have studied the books without running a campaign with them.  I would think this might be due to not being able to find players ... since less than half the people who've really read the books have ever played.

It's too small a sample to be sure, but doesn't it sound like the White Box phenomena is something DM's like but not players?  Oh, I know the numbers prove nothing, zip, zilch.  But at least three DMs above have never actually played.

I'm encouraged to discuss the books at length, since 66 of you have never extensively read the original three books or become very familiar with Blackmoor, and 74 of you have never dug seriously into the Chainmail miniatures rules.  My goal, from the perspective of doing something positive, would be to enable the gentle reader  to BECOME familiar.  That would be a positive action on my part, to balance against the many probable negative things I'm going to write.

I hope it's understood that my purpose in writing negatively regarding the original material is to STRESS why it needed to be changed and improved.  I am disinterested in preserving crap for the sake of its sympathetic or sentimental value.  If it doesn't work, or doesn't promote the best possible game, then it should be parsed, deconstructed, improved upon AND THEN THROWN IN THE WASTEBIN.

It's continued presence only slows the benefits of progress.


Carl said...

I was one of those who have read the three original books thoroughly but never experienced them in play. I would never run a game with those rules as written but they would be a very easy jumping off point if I wanted to cobble together my own homebrewed D&D instead of referring players to a published edition during character creation.
Of course, B/X D&D would be at least as easy of a jumping off point and Labyrinth Lord is in print, so if I get that itch to scratch I will just start with LL as it has a text only .PDF file to splice house rules into.
I went through a period of educating myself on the early history of D&D, and I have now built up a nice collection of all the earlier editions. The only product that I am impressed with from the early era (pre-AD&D) of D&D is the Empire of the Petal Throne boxed set.
Despite being published in 1975 it still beats the pants off of 99% of the crap people create for D&D today. It offers up a very imaginative alternative to role playing in a boring fantasy version of a nationalistic medieval era that never was. I still hope to start an EPT campaign someday soon when my current campaigns wind down.

Brendan said...

I didn't see your poll when it was up, but I am currently running a 3 LBB game that is pretty close to the rules as written. There are a couple rough spots, but in general I find it far more elegant than AD&D, and with fewer assumptions than B/X. Also, I like the fact that there are gaps which force individual refs to make up their own unique explanation for how something works (though you have probably already heard that particular variety of praise for OD&D and may not care for it).

It's true that most of the supplements are just content additions. More monsters, more classes, more spells, more treasure, etc. If you don't need content, or are not interested in the historical genesis of things like the monk class, they are not useful.

The underwater adventure rules in Blackmoor look promising to me, but I confess to not having used them yet.

Alexis said...

The so-called "underwater rules" from Blackmoor consist of 2 pages, one of which is a list of undersea encounters. 75% of this page is white space. The other page of "rules" includes 1/4 of the page donated to the idea that underwater adventures need rules, and how people can breathe underwater; 1/5 of the page describing "Tridents"; 1/4 of the page suggesting things that might exist underwater (which you, obviously, wouldn't think of ... really original things like sunken ships and caves). The remaining rules run all of about 400 words, with really obscure suggestions about how weapon rules might work.

If any of you read Brendan's comments thinking, Wow, I sure want to see those underwater rules which Must Surely make underwater adventure possible, you will be sorely disappointed.

In general, blathered off-handed statements like, "The underwater adventure rules in Blackmoor look promising" is like saying, "Now that I know where the heart is on the body, I'm ready to perform surgery!"

It's shit. It's shit because plainly most people are so full of shit already they can't identify shit when they see it.

Brendan said...

Shorn of the pejorative trappings, everything Alexis says is true, but is a positive for me. The rules are about the functioning of weapons and encumbrance underwater, and are short enough to remember. The tables are prompts for your own imagination (like most of OD&D).

Alexis said...

Yeah. See, they decided not to write rules. Rules would have taken time. They decided to write "prompts" instead. "Prompts" are SO much better for DMs. That's why I will be pumping out my own book soon,

"How to Perform Surgery"

Don't worry. There will be lots of prompts.

Alexis said...

Seriously, how can I not be pejorative when the argument made that a lack of imagination or effort is slapped on a page and some fucking bohunk after 40 years still thinks that the thing to do here is SOMEHOW MAKE LEMONADE of this shit? Don't worry that they didn't do the work, or that no one has, WE'LL PRETEND THEY DID, and then invent bullshit justifications for how its "prompting" the imagination.

Hey, fuckers, you know what would really make a much better game? RULES that everyone played by, that everyone wanted because they were so fucking good it would be plain dumbass stupid to play the game any other way. But oh no, we have some assfucker whose got his freaking head up his own ass talking about how he really hopes this one page of slobbering design farts will make such a great fucking adventure!!!

Players deserve fucking better than this! They deserve to be treated with more respect that this SLOP! It ain't pejorative, it's fucking true: you're a lazy, slope-headed design-deprived moron, and I am freaking sorry for your poor players who can't do better than you for Saturday nights.

Brendan said...

Alexis wrote:

RULES that everyone played by, that everyone wanted because they were so fucking good it would be plain dumbass stupid to play the game any other way.

I don't think such things are desirable (or probably even possible). The AD&D vision is standard rules that everyone plays by. That has led to rules lawyering and optimization-based play, and innumerable "one true way" systems. The OD&D vision is numerous house rules at every table.

As The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures concludes with:

why have us do any more of your imagining for you?

Alexis said...

And there it is. The bullshit argument.

Because the rules of chess destroy imagination.

As do the rules in every game.

The reason the Underworld and Wilderness Adventures book concludes with those words is because its a really, really shitty book and its trying to excuse the lack of imagination of its creators.

Brendan says that rules lead to rules lawyering. Sounds like Brendan feels rules lead to players having a right to restrict the DM from doing whatever the fuck he or she wants.

Rules don't kill imagination. "One True Way" hasn't reduced the pleasure MILLIONS enjoy from chess, go, bridge, poker, golf, monopoly, cribbage, rummoli, rummy, shoots and ladders, tag, football, baseball and fucking mousetrap. People like Brendan can't understand that the unpopularity of D&D begins and ends with people not knowing what the fuck is going on, and being told by DMs like Brendan that they don't deserve to know.

Imperator said...

I would like to see a more in-depth analysis from you of the 3 LBBs, assuming you can stomach them. I cannot stand Gygax's prose.

I agree with you on how rules are not destroying imagination. Quite the contrary, IMO. I would use Pendragon as an example of a game in which having rules for the administration of your land helps you create interesting situations in-game.

Alexis said...

Not to worry. This is me launching a long-term series on the three books, Blackmoor and Chainmail.