For years now, OD&D has been my preferred ruleset for kitbashing. (If I had to sit down and play on short notice or wanted to play an “old school” game without frontloading a lot of labor, I’d use B/X.) Lately, I’ve been integrating more and more Chainmail to fill the famous gaps in the original 1974 rules, to the point that my Faz rules were turning into “OD&D&C” rather than a D&D game in the normal sense.
A couple people have brought up the idea of dropping the OD&D entirely and just working on a Chainmail game. I like this idea. One problem with running the sort of deliberately naive OD&D game I prefer is that it’s so tough to strip out the cruft of 42 years of D&D-isms. With a Chainmail-only game, that problem disappears to a great degree: there are countless OD&D games, including mine, that use Chainmail to some degree, but they all have an unavoidable D&D resonance. That problem doesn’t exist with Chainmail because few people alive have played it enough to have internalized any preconceptions.
Also, it seems fun to start at the beginning and see where things could have, under different circumstances, turned out differently. You can see the seeds of D&D in Chainmail but it’s a completely different game and there’s not much pushing it down the particular path that Arneson took for his Blackmoor game.
I’ve already got a lunch hour and part of an evening invested in going back through Chainmail with an eye towards using it as a stand-alone fantasy game and it looks challenging, entertaining, and doable, which is the perfect combination.
The goal: Use Chainmail, and the materials available at the time, to develop a fantasy campaign game.
The obvious questions that have to be unpacked and answered to do that:
- How the fuck do I play Chainmail?
- What materials were available at the time?
- How do I make this into a playable fantasy game?
- How do I integrate campaign play?
Not “Chainmail + D&D.” Not “Blackmoor emulation.” Not “use Chainmail to emulate what Chainmail turned into.” There is no “what Chainmail turned into” because D&D doesn’t exist. The idea is to turn Chainmail into what I’d end up with if I opened it in March 1971, looked at the Fantasy Supplement, and thought (as others did) “this is the actual cool part, what do I do with it?”
That doesn’t necessarily involve dungeon adventuring, and it probably doesn’t with any centrality. I’d wonder who looked at a Middle-Earthy wargame and thought the obvious thing to do with it was run around in perpetuity through endless 10′ x 10′ corridors, except I already know.
Unfortunately, the version of Chainmail I have is 3rd edition, 7th printing, which differs in some particulars from the original Chainmail. I don’t have access to the original Chainmail because it’s expensive as fuck. However, I do have a pretty good idea of what little changed between editions and can easily backslide to the original rules.
Also unfortunately, finding people to playtest an insanely niche version of an insanely niche 1970s wargame may be difficult, and the mass combat system obviously does not lend itself to online play.
(For anyone wondering about Dwarf-Land, I’ve got a few more gazetteer entries written but nothing worth posting yet.)