As I’m working on my dungeon and its heroes, I have been reading about the old Greyhawk days and early adventures. I was struck by several things, but the one that really hit me was this- you always started at level 1, and you had to earn everything. I know that for many of you this won’t be much of a revelation, but I’ve fully embraced the idea of starting a new character at whatever level you want, and going from there.
If, by rule, you have to start new characters at level 1, and you have to earn every scrap of money, experience and treasure, a level 5 hero means a LOT more to you. For my own gaming, I think that I might go this way going forward.
I was also struck by how much personal pride Gary Gygax took in the dungeons below Castle Greyhawk; several things I’ve read have spoken to how much it bothered Gary when a player outsmarted part of the complex, or when they got past a particular challenge. It seems like there were two opposing forces at work in those early days: a general desire to flummox the player characters, and a strong ethic that it had to be fair. As the DM, level 1 had to be appropriate to level 1 characters; you couldn’t suddenly have a level 7 monster that could wipe the party out. On level 7, you had level 7 opponents. If the PCs were dumb enough (or didn’t take care) not to inadvertently end up on level 7 while they were still level 1, well- that was their problem.