So, I'm enjoying these OSR discussions. People are really digging into the hows and whys of early forms of D&D play.
Awesome, But there do seem to be some mysteries in a modern context about why some of the things exist the way they do, and what they imply.
I think it helps to understand the wargaming culture that existed as those rules/mechanics/approaches were being developed.
I'm still piecing it together myself. Some of it by discussions with older gamers, some by reading, some by looking at current wargaming approaches that are closer to those late '60s/early '70s situations.
Oddly, I'm not really talking about the nitty-gritty mechanics that are wargame-like and obvious. I'm not talking about movement rates and ranges in inches, or morale checks, or even hit points ( okay maybe a little on that one later). I'm talking about how those things fit into the context of play.
The most common, broad variety of miniatures wargame rules you'll run into today at the FLGS:
Typified by the very popular games Workshop Games, the miniatures rules are two player, referee-less, competitive, buy your own army, battle games.
Let's talk about those characteristics.
The rules are set up to be played by two people, head to head. Any variants tend to be team on team ( still two sides), and multi-player, multi-sided fights are generally a bit fragile. But that's fine! Easier by far to find one person to play with at a time anyway.
The rules are written to have no need of a third, neutral party, provided both players know the rules thoroughly. Refs are still common, but unnecessary. Again, ease of play, since you don't need a third person present. The downside is that you can't try weird stuff and shoot the decision over to a ref to make a spot ruling.
Buy Your Own Army
Yup, it takes money and time to do so. OTOH, you only have to care about your stuff. And it is an army, not a single guy like in an RPG. And you play with it over and over, regardless of what happened in the last match up.
It's clearly a game. Not much in the way of working together at all, unless in team on team play.
The rules are designed for a single encounter. There's is little from one match to the next that carries over. Essentially, you restart from your army's initial status each following game. Campaign rules are limited and a bit fragile, and may well be built around encounters ( battles) between various opponents more like matches between teams in a sports season than an ongoing war narrative.
Are there variations? Sure, but that's the core of the experience.
It isn't the only way people have ever played minis wargames. People were doing lots of experiments with other styles of play in the '60s and '70s, and D&D was one off shoot from them.
That thing I describe above? Yeah, that too is another off-shoot, and in some ways has as much to do with successfully selling product as it has to do with wargaming experimentation.
I'll go into what is going on in '60s/'70s wargaming, and why the D&D family tree off-shoot ends up working in the next post.