Saturday, February 20, 2021

A Game of What-if Pt 1

 It has always been on my mind, the familial bond between Chainmail and D&D. I have always been entranced by the OSR titles that explore that DNA. I have pondered my own take on how to meld the two, even to the point of devising my own half-baked attempt. The thing, though, is this: I have always looked at it from a standing start. In other words, I have approached the exercise as if D&D hadn't been written. Alternatively, I have approached it with more of a piece-meal attitude, intent on replacing certain aspects, such as the alternative combat system with that from Chainmail. Yet, in either event, in my mind, my starting point was that whatever I had was the origin point. So, in my design space, my conceit was that I was trying to merge the Chainmail combat system with D&D, and pretend that was the way it was when I opened the box.

I know that sounds weird. It would be difficult for me to express the influence that nostalgia has on my gaming. It informs so much of my gaming, from ordering old Avalon Hill games off Ebay, to how I approach developing ideas for D&D. I want to put my mind in 1976 and approach D&D from there. It may sound delusional at best, or a misguided effort doomed from inception at worst. But it's my time spent with my hobby, and I pursue it for relaxation. If spending some time in 1976 will relax me and bring me some edification, then it was well-spent.

This is intended to be a design log of yet another effort to reconcile Chainmail with D&D. This time is different though. This may be nuanced to the point of nothing more than semantics. It may be putting too fine of a point on it, but this time really is different. The perspective I am approaching from is this:

I've played Chainmail, even fighting battles with the fantasy supplement. Now, it's sometime in 1975 and I've gotten my hands on D&D. I love the ideas and potential I see in it, but I'm not thrilled with how it abandons so much of Chainmail. So, this design log will be all about how I take the finished product of D&D and retool aspects so that they draw more from Chainmail, rather than all-new systems created whole cloth.

In future posts I intend to explore the following:


  • Bring Fighting-Men more inline with the Heroes and Superheroes of Chainmail
  • Give Magic Users more of the "fire at will" aspect of Chainmail wizards, while keeping Vancian casting, because it is flavorful and keeps magic users from dominating the campaign
  • Examine Clerics more as members of militant religious orders, rather than priests.
  • Thieves will be based more on the GPNL thief, which went on to inspire the Greyhawk thief.


  • Reconcile the three combat subsystems into a seamless, integrated whole


  • Crack the "code" of the Fantasy Combat Table in order to plug "new" creatures  from M&T into the system.


  • Reconcile magic swords and armor with the D&D classes and Chainmail combat system.

It is my desire to divorce specific experience I have from my thinking on this project. In other words, there won't be any ascending AC, stat-based saves, or even single save numbers. I will only consider including things that were available as of my (admittedly arbitrary) start date. That will probably include Greyhaw, Strategic Review, and possibly Blackmoor and maybe early issues of the Dragon. That doesn't mean that anything from them will be included, I'll just consider them available.

So, there it is, the foundational philosophy of this project. As always, comments, advise, thoughts, and encouragement are always welcomed.


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  9. This is an incredible project! I love your dedication to exploring the roots of D&D through Chainmail. Your approach to integrating elements from both systems is fascinating, and I'm excited to see how you bring Fighting-Men, Magic Users, Clerics, and Thieves into this blend. The idea of retooling D&D with a nostalgic 1976 mindset is unique and sounds like a lot of fun. Your meticulous plan to tackle classes, combat, monsters, and treasure is well-thought-out. I can't wait to read more about your progress and discoveries. Keep up the great work—your passion for the hobby shines through!
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