DMs Block Episode 111: Let’s Split Up the Gang mentioned what I see as one of the major differences between AD&D in the 1980s and D&D 5E today.
To be brutally honest, the D&D world back in the day was much more lethal. All of us DMs back then tended to follow Gygax’s lead of setting up an adventure and letting the dice roll how they may. Most DM die rolls were in secret, and if a DM got caught fudging rolls in favor of the party, that DM hung his head in shame at being a softy.
Today, the emphasis is even more on role playing and building a story in a cooperative world between the DM and players. And I think this is a good thing.
This is very evident in this podcast’s topic of ‘splitting the party’. Splitting the party was a huge no-no in AD&D. DM Mitch (or Ian, I can’t remember) pointed out that back in the day, if a party split up and went into a room with monsters, the now reduced party faced the full monster roster in the room. If the room was written to contain 16 orcs and 3 ogres, and the thief and a fighter split off from the rest of the group of eight players, they now had to face the full 16 orcs and 3 ogres by themselves. And this is how the ‘never split the party’ philosophy was born.
Today, a DM would be expected to scale the encounter back to take into account the reduced number entering the room. A DM might scale that encounter back to a handful of orcs and one ogre. It seems like DMs today are expected to make things up on the fly even more than they were back in the ‘80s.
There are many valid reasons to want to split the party, and DMs Mitch and Ian over at the DMs Block have a great episode here looking at those reasons to split the party.
In one way, I think this is an awesome advance in the way the game is played. It does make a lot more work for the DM, but I think it pays off in the long run and gets even more buy-in from the players.
And I don’t have to feel bad as often over a TPK.
If you missed the link above, here’s another way to get to that podcast episode…