The Problems with D&D

A lot of the motivation for writing this book was because A,D&D never seemed to live up to its promises. The newer editions were a clear improvement, but never seemed to release the original game's shackles.

An image of burly men, bursting through a door, ready to destroy anything in their path covers the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide. This was a clear example of antagonistic NPCs, out for blood; but couldn't it just have easily been a barbaric adventuring party?

The clear answer was unfortunately 'no'. The group clearly contained no magic-user, nor priest.

Without a priest, the standard flow of 'move, fight, heal, repeat', would lack that 'heal'. As a result, the rowdy barbarians would be in constant danger until they had stopped all adventuring in order to rest for a few months.

If memory serves, the original AD&D had PCs heal 2 HP per day's rest. The result was that a half-dead, 1st level Wizard with 2 HP, would be back on their feet within a day, while a 5th level fighter, with 30 HP, might require 2 weeks' rest before confidently moving out to adventure again.

Furthermore, the DM's book cemented this promise that a campaign could be set anywhere, and have players do anything - perhaps they could even by 18th Century Italian guards, meeting famous playwrites and architects. But once again, this would be impossible. 18th Century guards would require a priest who could perform miracles of healing, like any D&D party, which would put a serious burden on the plot.

Soon after digesting the DM’s Guide, I picked up the Players Guide to Elves, which remarked that elves were "mysterious", and "inhuman" creatures. I was excited.

Unfortunately the elves presented during the rest of the book were essentially normal people with pointed ears. There were elf-kings and elf-farmers, elf-soldiers and elf-mages. They were humans with pointed ears.

Some years later I picked up books on Anthropology, and read about rather distant people. The Yanomamo could build an entire village within a day, without the use of metal. The Piraha had no use for phatic communication - no 'hello', or 'goodbye' - they only use factual statements, and are grammatically incapable of spreading rumours. One !Kung woman hunted and slew a giraffe, then dragged it home. All of these groups found it normal to wander naked.

These people are presumably very boring to themselves, but from a foreign point of view they are amazingly novel, unlike the elves of D&D. Overall, D&D elves were less exciting and had less range than real humans.

This is a point I felt I needed to emphasise with BIND. The elves and dwarves would be weird.

Elves would wear no clothes, and have no kings. Their society would be partially structured around their magic, just as human societies are formed around their technological ability.

That book of Elves also had a story about an elf who wanted to be the world's greatest swordsman, but later decided to take up magic. This was something strictly prohibited by the rules - any "demi-humans" who wanted both martial and magical abilities had to learn both at the same time, for reasons that were never entirely clear. Elves were strictly prohibited from learning any class abilities which they did not know at level 1.

The flavour text sat at complete odds with the book, and only served to highlight what players could not do.

Here, again, things should be different in BIND. This isn't just about the failings of AD&D, since Pathfinder and later D&D editions have overcome these challenges.

This is about making sure the system allows and even encourages the things that make fantasy stories interesting.