When I first played Dungeons and Dragons, it was 1st Edition AD&D and the only book we had was a borrowed Player’s Handbook. After a couple of months I picked myself up a DMG, but it wasn’t until several more months had passed that we got our hands on a Monster Manual. The DMG had basic monster stats in an appendix, so we were able to get by.When that Monster Manual finally joined the party (and that is a bit of a story in itself) I kept it “secret” and didn’t allow anyone else to look at it. My excuse was that only the DM needed to know the details about the monsters, and that players reading through “DM material” gave them an unfair advantage. My brother returned the favor when he bought himself the Fiend Folio and didn’t allow me to peruse its pages.
Lately, we’ve been playing Labyrinth Lord. I’ve also got a few things cooking for the White Box edition of Swords and Wizardry. The free availability of these games in PDF form is a major bonus over going about acquiring legal copies of the games, and 1981 B/X’s nonavailability as a PDF even before WotC yanked all PDF sales was a major reason why I went with Labyrinth Lord in the first place.
Printing these up for players, though, has got me wondering about something. The rule sets come as one volume, but it’s easy to print up a “player’s section” and give that to players and have a “full” version for myself. However, I’m wondering if that’s really necessary. After all, the versions of the game these retro-clones re-create did not come with separate player and GM books, at least not when you bought them; the entire game was purchased at once.
I believe the separate books bought separately gave me the impression that two of the three AD&D books were for dungeon masters only. The second edition of the game actually reinforced this belief by including a number of formerly-DMG sections into the new Player’s Handbook. If the DMG was for everyone, why bother moving combat tables into the PH?
The more I think about it, the more I feel that there’s no harm in “letting” players see monster stats and info on things like magic items. After all, if they really want to see it, it’s not like I can hide it from them. Maybe restrict reference at the table during a session, but to try and somehow keep them from finding out how many hit dice a green dragon has would be futile even if I thought it was a good idea.
How was this looked at in the early days? I realize that waaayy back in the day, maybe only one person actually owned a copy of the rules. But with the publications of Holmes and especially AD&D and B/X, the availability of rule books was virtually unlimited.
Besides, many players also DM. They know these things anyway. Were we just strange by trying to limit others’ access to the monsters?