The Red Box Blog

Ramblings about D&D.

Tap-Tap-Tap . . . Gygax

I was reading somewhere online (for the life of me I can’t remember where) where someone was expressing concern about how to get players who are used to new school D&D (either from having always played it, or from years of playing just the newer editions) to be a little more competent in old school play. I know when my group first tried to go back to Basic this was a huge problem, though one that was largely over shadowed by the TPKs that kept happenning.

A perfect example of this problem came in the form of treasure. Treasure was very important in old school games because gold was worth XP; in fact treasure frequently made up over 90% of the XP a party was getting.

The idea behind gold=XP was that getting the treasure was the purpose of the quest, and it didn’t matter how the characters acheived that end; in effect, it was a method of rewarding characters for reaching their goal no matter how they achieved it (so brains could be rewarded as well as brawn).

Unfortunately for newer players, getting gold in old school games requires a bit of an understanding of where to find it; in old games there was generally a small amount of treasure sitting out in the open, and huge pile of it hidden beyond belief. Newer players frequently don’t find the well hidden treasure because they aren’t used to searching in the ways that they need to. Not only don’t they find it, they aren’t even aware they missed it. Then, by not finding the treasure, they lose out on most of their XP, and continue to lurk at first level till they finally get picked off.

My first attempt at a solution for this was just to tell my players they needed to search more because they were missing out on a lot; it didn’t work. They tried to search more, but they really didn’t understand how their search patterns needed to change.

So when I decided to revisit the searching issue I opened up an old Gygax module we weren’t ever going to play, and read to them just where treasure was hidden in some of the rooms. After this session they began to understand the kinds of places they needed to look, but it still wasn’t part of their style; in game they kept forgetting to apply their new knowledge.

So one time when they were going to miss out on a minor treasure in a room I said quietly “Remember, you have to think like Gygax.” A light came on and they tore the room apart, eventually getting the loot.

The next couple of outings I made a point of at least once quietly tapping my temple and saying “Gygax.” This queue would be the only time all night they would need to be reminded.

Lately it has become completely unnecessary, but for fun, and as positive renforcement I do still try to work in a Tap-Tap-Tap . . . Gygax every session.

September 27, 2010 - Posted by | Dungeons and Dragons, RPGs | , ,


  1. I push my players to tell me exactly what tey are doing/looking at when they say they want to make a “perception check” to search the room. I think the later edtions have moved to far in the other direction

    Comment by middleagedm | September 27, 2010 | Reply

  2. In the final room of a True Dungeon event at Gencon a few years ago we were stuck trying to find a clue to solve a riddle on the wall before time ran out.

    I shouted out “What would Gygax do?!” my friends immediately began tearing the place apart including pulling out all the shelves of a chest of drawers… on the bottom of those shelves were the clues to the riddle…


    Comment by Derik M | December 2, 2010 | Reply

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