Next month's campaign is a classic Old School dungeon crawl, and as usual I'm working pretty far in advance to be able to keep up with the promised three-day-a-week posting schedule for the new campaign data. This means I'm already fairly far along on next month, but the research is turning up some interesting tidbits in my memory. For the first time I'm not building a system from scratch, nor am I tweaking a set of rules I know really well. Instead I'm going back to the recently re-released in PDF Moldvay/Cook D&D Basic and Expert Sets, which must have read the hell out of when the came out in 1981 but which I abandoned in 1983 when I 'graduated' to AD&D. rereading them now I'm struck by a couple of things:
First, exactly how much the illustrations burned themselves into my reptilian hindbrain. There's not a one that I don't look at and have a fond rush of memories of when I first learned to play the games that would be such a large part of my life.
Second, the relative clarity of the rules. In my research into the Old School Renaissance I've been pulling out and flipping through my AD&D rules to find them a delightfully chaotic mass of data, obscure rules (Fun gamer trick - flip to a random page in the 1E DMG and find the minimum of one rule that you never used when playing AD&D!) and unspoken assumptions. The Moldvay and Cook edited red and blue box sets were in contrast a model of clarity. They were things that suburban kids who had only heard about D&D could pick up, read through and begin to play with a high degree of certainty that they were doing it right. In my growing love of Gygax's unique stylings I had forgotten that.
This is not to say that the D&D rules made perfect sense, as they had their lacunae and design decisions that seem decidedly odd in 2013, but they were clear and they worked. That makes my job much easier, as all I have to do is tweak an existing working engine for flavor - once I relearn it - than try to deal with re-teaching myself AD&D, a task I'm not sure I could do at this age. Indeed, my biggest challenge is figuring out which direction to go in personalizing the things that are there without losing the feel. I'm torn because part of me wants to keep the descending armor classes out of a sense of history, and the rest of me wants to go to ascending AC because it's what everyone is now used to. Hardly an insurmountable challenge, but you'd be surprised how much I vacillate.
None of this has much relevance, of course, but I figured I'd share my reminisces.