Via a private share on G+, I followed a link to OD&D Setting, a free PDF by Wayne Rossi of the excellent Semper Initiativus Unum blog. It’s excellent.
In 11 pages of logical observations, it pulls apart the components of OD&D‘s (paid link) implied setting — the encounter tables, the Wilderness Survival map, etc. — and uses them to infer what that setting would actually look like. Wayne’s conclusion is a handy summary:
So this is the setting of original D&D: a frontier land, perhaps with a single state in its center, with wilderness populated by creatures of myth, legend and giant creature films. It is a world of Arthurian castles, knights templar, necromancers, dinosaurs and cavemen. It is wild, and it feels profoundly like the world someone who watched every cheesy science fiction movie about giant monsters and every classic horror film would make. This is bolted onto a world with openly Tolkienesque elements – elves, goblins, orcs, balrogs, ents, hobbits – and other entries that quickly became generic fantasy because they were in the D&D books. The result is far more gonzo and funhouse than people give D&D credit for, and I think it winds up being a good mix.
Here’s one of my favorite inferences, which was confirmed by Gary Gygax (as Wayne notes in the PDF):
But the real weirdness, and this was apparently confirmed in Gary Gygax’s campaigns, is what is there when you start wandering about the wilderness. Mountains are haunted by cavemen and necromancers; deserts are home of nomads and dervishes. The “Optional” animal listings turns swampland into the Mesozoic Era – rather than alligators and snakes it is full of tyrannosaurs and triceratops. Arid plains are Barsoomian, with banths, thoats, calots and the lot, while mountains are outright paleolithic, peopled by mammoths, titanotheres, mastodons, and sabre-tooth cats.
I love this kind of D&D. It’s rawlished, it’s wild, it’s weird, and — most importantly — it sounds like an absolute hoot to play. It also makes me sad that my OD&D boxed set and copy of Outdoor Survival are buried in our storage unit, more or less impossible to retrieve.
Even if you don’t play OD&D, or want to play in its implied setting, Wayne’s PDF is a fantastic read.
The Unlucky Isles [affiliate link], the first system-neutral guidebook for my Godsbarrow fantasy campaign setting, is now on DriveThruRPG.
2 replies on “OD&D’s implied setting”
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