Topic: Vanilla is good, but there are countless other good flavors, too.

The 1974 D&D rules have a specific flavor to them, which I will here refer to as "vanilla".

The various versions of A/D&D through the decades (as well as their support products) have not travelled far from 1974 in terms of flavor. Thus we have "French vanilla", "vanilla bean", "vanilla with nuts", "vanilla with chocolate syrup", "vanilla with ______", etc.

Consider: "This setting has crusty dwarves who have wars with goblins who have chests full of gold and elves living in forests with dragons flying overhead while regenerating trolls live in caves and every town has a cleric to heal people and magic-users will zap you with fireballs and etc."

I just described almost every published D&D product. Those that supposedly "innovate" from that merely A) add more stuff to that mix (" laser guns and crashed spaceships and robots!"), and/or B) give the above mix some twists ("In this campaign, elves live in the desert and ride anhkhegs.").

The only two publishers that I know of who are giving us actual innovation are Lamentations of the Flame Princess and Goodman Games (with their forthcoming DDC RPG and with James Raggi's Random Esoteric Creature Generator).

Next post: How we got into this mess.

Last edited by Geoffrey (2011-08-29 21:39:01)

Re: Vanilla is good, but there are countless other good flavors, too.

Ever since the 1970s, people have typically failed to distinguish between A) the D&D game and B) the sample playing pieces included with the game. Just about every D&D product is full of monsters from the standard lists, magic items from the standard lists, spells from the standard lists, and etc. I think that shows a reticence to really unleash the imagination.

As far as I'm concerned, all of the D&D monsters, magic items, and spells are merely suggestions/options/examples. I chucked all but 6 of the standard monsters from Carcosa, and I dumped ALL of them from Isle of the Unknown. All the standard magic items are absent from both those products, as well as all the spells and even magic systems. Demi-humans aren't there, either. All gone!

The bedrock, the basis of the game is pretty much the standard character generation system for making a human fighter, plus the rules for him to operate: to hit, saving throws, etc. And I think that's it. Even the equipment lists and prices are merely options. Everything else is wide-open for the referee to make as he wills.

By perceiving all these options as necessities, all too many people will say, "Yeah, but without magic missiles/orcs/dwarves/you-name-it, it just isn't D&D anymore!" Which is like saying, "If it's not some kind of vanilla, then it just isn't ice cream anymore!"

Next post: Am I making this stuff up?

Last edited by Geoffrey (2011-08-29 21:41:43)

Re: Vanilla is good, but there are countless other good flavors, too.

I have as my authorities the very highest: Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

They write at the beginning of the 1974 D&D rules under "Scope": "DUNGEONS and DRAGONS will provide a basically complete, nearly endless campaign of all levels of fantastic-medieval wargame play. Actually, the scope need not be restricted to the medieval; it can stretch from the prehistoric to the imagined future..."

Then, on the very last page of the rules in the "Afterward": "We urge you to refrain from writing for rule interpretations or the like unless you are absolutely at a loss, for everything herein is fantastic, and the best way is to decide how you would like it to be, and then make it just that way!"


D&D can have any setting whatsoever, from the prehistoric to the farthest of futures. And YOU decide (based on your whim alone) how EVERYTHING will be.

That's from Gygax and Arneson in January 1974.

It's too bad that those three sentences have been basically ignored by virtually all publishers of D&D material. There is enough published D&D stuff (of all the vanilla variations) to last anyone 20 lifetimes. I for one have no desire to see another orc or another +1 sword. I want to reach back to the exhortations in the 1974 rules and have some really imaginative stuff published.

So I am very thankful for Lamentations of the Flame Princess and for Goodman Games. They are driving the OSR truck through unexplored terrain rather than keeping to the safe, well-trodden paths.

There is nothing wrong with vanilla ice cream. Just don't neglect all the other flavors. I occasionally play a game of vanilla D&D, but most of my D&D games are of various other flavors. Variety is the spice of life!

Last edited by Geoffrey (2011-08-29 21:44:56)

Re: Vanilla is good, but there are countless other good flavors, too.

I would also consider Pars Fortuna a twist on all these standard monsters, spells and items, too.

And what about settings completely different from the standard medieval assumptions (Victorian steampunk-horror; late medieval era invaded by Nazis because of an unsuccessful time travel experiment; neanderthal men, crashed alien spaceship, dinosaurs and dire animals), yet without much alteration to the "flavour"?

These "flavours" surely help setting a different feel and tone, but I doubt it is that important, as other factors might also differentiate one campaign setting or game from another (consider Mazes and Minotaurs or Melan's Sword and Magic, especially used with Fomalhaut, for instance). Anyway, I guess you are right that at publishing level and regarding "flavours", only those two publishers have showed up and given us innovative content.

Re: Vanilla is good, but there are countless other good flavors, too.

I think James Raggis modules have driven to new directions as they keep suprising me and they have challenged some core assumptions about adventures you play with D&D-like games. There is palpable sense of wonder on what the guy will come up with next which make me really forgiving on little details on the products. There really should be updated version Death Frost Doom, or at least new print for the rubes who didn have chanse to get it.

I really can share opinion that Goodman Games would have ridden to "unexplored terrain rather than keeping to the safe, well-trodden paths" their modules are all about safe well-trodden paths down to their marketing spiel, and they give exactly what it says on the tin, dungeon crawls that imitate down to trade dress the old modules. If they have not changed their marketing rhetoric I think they are honest about it too. Good products if is it's the kind of thing you are looking for but not really innovative or groundbreaking.

Last edited by MutieMoe (2013-03-20 15:30:55)

Re: Vanilla is good, but there are countless other good flavors, too.

Goodman Games's modules (from my limited experience) aren't quite what's advertised - there is sometimes an elaborate and well-described plot, interesting NPCs, etc. I don't mind that at all, but it's a far cry from plotless, hack & slash dungeon crawls. My guess (and please correct me if I'm wrong0 is that Geoffrey was referring to DCC RPG, not DCC modules.

Re: Vanilla is good, but there are countless other good flavors, too.

sirravd wrote:

Geoffrey was referring to DCC RPG, not DCC modules.

Exactly. There are a lot of fresh and new ideas in the DCC RPG.