I came across a fascinating look at how D&D was played when it first appeared in the 1970s, by way of a campaign world named Rythlondar with two DMs and multiple groups adventuring in the same world at various times. The document is a collection of typed journals of the various groups’ adventures, mailed to all of the participants between 1975 and 1977. Here is the orignal blog post describing the Rythlondar Chronicles (from 2011), also here is a direct link to the PDF: Rythlondar [PDF].
Below is a sampling of the contents, detailing a battle with a lich, a vampire and a wish spell gone wrong:
The level names give it a great flavor, that is one thing missing from the OSR retroclones that I miss (I suppose for good reason, that being copyright on artistic presentation). We have a superhero [8th-level fighting man], a myrmidon [6th-level fighting man], a swashbuckler/theurgist [5th-level fighting man, 4th-level magic-user], a hero [4th-level fighting man], a sorceress [9th-level magic-user], a vicar [4th-level cleric], and a burglar [4th-level thief]. The unexpected consequence of the wish spell is some brilliant fast thinking by the DM.
Reading through this, you can also that parties were not ‘balanced’ in the sense of being composed of a group of PCs of nearly the same level, nor were the monster encounters balanced. That concept of balance came later, probably helped along by the TSR adventure modules with sub-titles like “An adventure for character levels 8-12”. There is a hint of high-level PCs building strongholds (does anyone do that anymore?), and the ever-present megadungeon, which various parties explored on and off – clearing level four one day, and returning for level five after a break in town or after some interspersed wilderness encounters. The treasure hordes in Rythlondar were sometimes huge, but magic possessions were not that common. Here is a sample of PC stats:
All told, this is a very inspiring and fun read. It puts the concept of the ‘sandbox’ style of play in a new light, in this case, Rythlondar was truly a giant sandbox for multiple groups of PCs, all sharing a common backdrop.
Thank you for posting about the Ryth campaign. I’d never heard of it before, and reading it provided a fascinating glimpse into the early days of D&D.
It got me to thinking, it would be interesting to attempt a similar ‘expedition’ based campaign today, only using a dedicated blog to chronicle the campaign instead of a newszine format. Gameplay reports, character profiles, a ‘graveyard’ page for dead characters, a full accounting of treasure and magic items gained, major enemies defeated, castles built, etc. Incorporate the world map, of course, and perhaps even the player’s maps of explored dungeon areas.
Agreed, that is definitely the way I’d do it – a blog or maybe even a wiki. I also think play-by-post would lend itself to this style of play well, it would be sort of self-documenting. Thanks for the comments!
Pingback: Overview of OD&D Clones | Smoldering Wizard
Pingback: RPPR Episode 113: Van Art Gaming | Role Playing Public Radio
Pingback: What are role playing games like? – 1 Hit Point Left
Pingback: Artifacts from D&D History – The Word of Stelios
This is so cool! Thank you for putting it up here, and I love the name of the setting. It’s interesting how they don’t use class and race. I’d get bogged down by all those charts and such.
No problem! I love reading Ryth for inspiration. I like the use of titles in place of class and level, I think it adds flavor to the game, but if you’re not familiar with them it can be confusing what they are referring to.
Mariok Soresal Hillick said:
Oh yes, I also like titles in place of class and level! If that’s what they were then I retract my previous comment. Still – though I do love old-school gaming – I am personally not a favorite of rules-heavy and chart-heavy games of any genre.
Uncaring Cosmos said:
Howdy! This is brilliant stuff – very inspirational!
Is there any chance you could remove the link to Risus monkey? The domain expired and was taken over, and it’s now loaded with malware. I’d like to link to your page so people can view the Rythlondar PDF, but I’m worried they might follow that link and end up downloading something.
Thanks for letting me know! I’ve replaced the original link with one to the archive.org copy.
John Van De Graaf said:
Thanks for all the nice comments about our Ryth Campaign. I never thought our campaign newsletter would be available to the world. We had a lot of fun with iD&D. Gaming makes for lifelong friendships and I’m still in touch with many of our players . I do apologize for the poor quality of the mimeo text, but it’s all we had at the time. Happy gaming to everyone!
Hi John, thanks to you for originally making this available! And the quality makes it an authentic piece of 70’s nostalgia :). Every so often I’ll peruse it again for inspiration.