Sunday, 27 May 2012

The Weis-Hickman Event

Years ago Grognardia discussed Dragonlance, and its effects. I'm not going to go over the same ground. I am going to call it an Event. The W-H Event.

One of the players in my group, K, is a player who loves nothing more than to really get into character, and while in character explore exactly what being that character means. K has great role-playing chops, and like a lot of us has been at it for over twenty years. Having K in a game that has is going to focus on role-playing is a boon, and K loves a good story.

There is no coincidence that K began gaming after the Event.

The Event eventually spelled the death of a lot of the OSR style of play. But was that a bad thing?

Somewhere between the Caves of Chaos and the Tomb of Horrors something went wrong. The Caves of Chaos could be dangerous, we all have stories of the 1st lvl characters we lost there. My friends and I remember far too many DMs who viewed Tomb of Horrors as a tutorial. They made dungeons that killed parties dead.

Maybe it's a bad stat based on small sample size. Or maybe not. And it certainly is anecdotal. But it sure is my experience.

One thing the W-H Event did? It trained a generation of DMs that the point wasn't to kill the characters. Maybe it was to tell a story. Maybe not. And people could die in the story, or not. But the dying wasn't the goal of the game.

As I re-explore the new games built from the old games, like ACKS and DCC RPG, part of that process is not actually seeking a return to those roots. That lethality can remain, character mortality can exist, but it should never have become the point.


  1. Killing adventurers was never the point, and Tomb of Horrors was just one module, a specialized tournament adventure not representative of the play-experience D&D and its many other published adventures was designed to deliver.

    Holding up ToH as representative of an earlier play-style is like holding up Mazes and Monsters as representative of gamers. It's cherry-picking an outlier and calling it the norm.

  2. First, thanks for popping in from time to time. It's nice, when starting a brand new blog, to see someone reading it occasionally!

    You are absolutely correct, it wasn't the actual expressed nor the implied point of the game. And as I said, I have a small sample size, I didn't even start until '79, and Niagara was a bit of a back-water, we only had one hobby shop that sold an anemic selection of the pastel modules and the occasional rule book. I owned Tomb of Horrors and the Monster Manual (based on availability and monies gleaned from my paper-route) before I ever owned the PHB or DMG.

    However all of my friends who were gaming back then remember not just the module, but the DMs who adopted it's methodologies. My first DM in High School ('79-80 year), and my best friend at HS were both killer DMs, the latter would conspire with me at lunch hour, explaining how his "Flying Invisible Piranhas" (yes, that happened) would slaughter parties when they crossed this bridge, or that lake). C, one of my current players who I met in University over twenty years ago and have played with since, had Mr McG. Mr McG was a legend in the small gaming crowd, being one of the "game store DMs." I had the opportunity to play Champions with him in the mid-90s. It didn't go well, he hadn't lost the "killer DM" motivation.

    The lesson was there to be (mis)learned, and people learned it.

    Those of us who stayed in the hobby found our own way forward. Of the people I know who suffered under killer DMs, most left the hobby by the middle of High School, and never came back.