OD&D as a 4e Adventure Design Tool

I just saw a blog post by Mike Mearls, Build Your Adventures in OD&D, where he suggests doing the initial design work for 4e adventures as if the adventure was being written for OD&D. According to Mike, because OD&D characters and monsters are simple without a lot of flashy powers and abilities to steal the show, designing for OD&D leaves the designer “with only one option for making a dungeon or adventure interesting: Compelling locations, mysteries, puzzles, weird phenomena, *stuff* that the PCs can poke, prod, and inspect.” In other words, this approach forces designers to create a dungeon (or other adventure setting) that is interesting in and of itself, instead of slipping into dependence on tactical combat as the sole major source of interest.

I don’t often agree with Mike these days, but I think he has a good idea here. An idea that almost every published adventure I’ve seen for 4e could have really benefited from. For those 4e GMs who would like to try this but don’t own a copy of OD&D, either Swords & Wizardry or Microlite74 would probably do just as well.

The Brown Box Dungeons and Dragons Goodies Cancer Fund Drive continues for a few more days (until February 15th). For more information on this giveaway and fund drive see this post: Brown Box Dungeons and Dragons Goodies Available (for Cancer Fund Donors).Lots of donated D&D items to give away in a very good cause.

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2 Responses

  1. Timeshadows says:

    I'm holding my breath on the D&D Essentials.

  2. MJ Harnish says:

    Don't hold your breath… everything I've read about them suggests they're just repackaged/compiled versions of all the splat books that have been released with some extra builds in them to sucker established players (who will be the only people buying them anyways I predict) in to buying them. The Red Box, which I love the idea of, is completely crippled by the fact that they decided to limit it to levels 1-2 meaning that beginners will have to go and buy more books within 2-3 sessions of starting the game. That's ridiculous.

    Back to the original post: Yeah, I can appreciate Mike's sentiment but I feel it's kind of pandering to the old-school movement (he and some others spend way too much time trying to convince people that 4E is taking D&D back to its origins which is both disingenuous and not useful). As such, there's really nothing "new" in the idea – basically he's just saying "create the location first and then fill it in" rather than "build the encounters and then figure out where to set them." In many ways, I think the latter is actually more useful since what you're focusing on is creating exciting situations rather than creating a maze of rooms and then trying to figure out what goes in to them…but that's me.

    And before you think I'm just a 4E-fanboy troll… I run AD&D on a weekly basis for a bunch of teenage kids and am in the process of recollecting all the basic & AD&D stuff from my childhood. :o) I also run 4E and like it as well but for very different reasons.