For this post, I'd like to continue the discussion started here ... but first, I need to make a statement regarding readers who may disagree with my assessment of the Blackmoor supplement.
It was clear from the first post that personal opinions about the material were going to take precedence over intellectual opinions. Players tend to reflect upon the material with deep sentimentality, gained from having first encountered the material at a tender age. Thus, every word I say is like stomping on a 9 year old's heart.
Coldly, I don't care. Nor do I wish to degrade any discussion on this blog to the level of childhood memories. Therefore, be informed that defense of the material from what is plainly an infantile perspective isn't welcome here. Yes, I understand some readers may "love" it. Yes, I understand some readers cannot help but rush to its defense, ascribing intentions to the authors, rewriting the material to fit supposed interpretations and so on. Any blind fool can see the reason for this ... but it has no place in a rational discussion.
I won't be publishing such comments. This is not censorship; the writer has the whole internet to express their opinion on such things. The writer's opinion isn't stifled. But the writer will not be allowed to take advantage of this blog to express propaganda. Talk about the material, disagree with me on the principles of the material, and I welcome your disagreement ... but fabricate your nonsense elsewhere.
Let's return to the discussion of the first 13 pages of Blackmoor, about classes and combat. Allow me to say that the material is fairly good, though disappointingly brief, disorganized and not fully examined. The beginning material is primarily written to introduce the monk and the assassin, and it lays effectively the groundwork for these classes. Here we see the invention of the 'quivering palm,' limitations on what magic some classes are entitled to use, the introduction of the grandmaster and some very base ideas for poison.
On one hand, its possible to view these things as a stroke of genius - and they are - but sadly each element carries with it a limitation in long-reaching thought that the game has struggled with ever since. Because most of these were designed for a combat game, their application to a role-playing game has always been difficult.
Should a monk really be able to kill with a touch at will? If this is not a magical ability, why should the monk be limited in his or her ability to use the ability? Are not all such limitions ad hoc, and if so, why shouldn't a 12th level monk be able to use some limited form of the quivering palm? No thought was given to these questions, or others, because it was never supposed by the authors that so many people would be playing the game today, and questioning the reason between such inventions.
What I'm saying is that within the rules as written, if a DM follows the rule as written (since so little is written upon the sense and purpose behind each rule), there's no room to move except to ignore the rule. The scattering of dictates and limitations imposed (only this magic, only these weapons) guaranteed that future players would futz, fix and fustigate with them into perpetuity.
It meant one more hurdle to encouraging new players to play. An attempt to fix the mass of problems created here was attempted with AD&D - the so-called straight-jacketing of the game. Unfortunately, AD&D did not stick to just addressing the matters Arneson introduced with Blackmoor. Unfortunately, the game of D&D having such scope, AD&D went ahead and created hundreds more half-written rules, such as the ones written in Blackmoor. Half-written rules required that the other half be written by the players themselves, no two of which wrote the other half the same way.
Accepted, D&D is a personalized game. Adding to that, D&D is dependent almost wholly upon the skill of the Dungeon Master. From personal experience, however, the rules as first designed in Blackmoor - and further obfuscated and redesigned dozens of times since - means that I am better off introducing someone to the game who has never actually played before.
Having introduced hundreds of people to the game, it has been my experience over the years that 'experienced' players are a major pain in the ass. Not all of them. Some have played in enough different games that they roll with the rules, whatever the rules are. Most, however, have played only one or two campaigns, and as such don't like it if the rules don't fit their previous DM's style of play.
A former player who has never had a chance to participate in a long-term campaign tends to make a good addition to one of my campaigns. A player who has NEVER played before tends to make a good addition also. But a player who has consistently, for years, played in someone else's campaign is usually too corrupted to play in mine.
I think this says something about the rules of this game. I also think the reason for this is the scattered, irrational reasoning of rules systems that are written as Arneson wrote them. And while Gygax sought to shape this problem by saying that the game rules had to be a "guideline," the game rules have NEVER been written as though they were a guidelike. Like Arneson, the rules are always written as the word of god ... with as little logic as god gave the subject of pregnancy.