Here’s a little nugget I stumbled across in a book on wargames. Georg Leopold von Reiswitz, the man who made the original wargame table for Friedrich Wilhelm III, and who also developed the rules in concert with other military staff. He committed suicide for professional reasons* and his son later developed the rules further. Anyway the interesting thing is:
A year after his death [i.e., 1828], a supplement** appeared that built on Reiswitz’s war game instruction manual without a single mention of it or him. Among the innovations of the supplement were the exceptional roll of the dice and an emergency die. If an improbable exceptional roll succeeded, the emergency die decided whether the exception took effect. Because if the point was “not to exclude any case that is possible in war, even so improbable a case, the game must also permit exceptions to the rule that must, however, have their own rules in turn.”–War games : a history of war on paper / Philipp von Hilgers; translated by Ross Benjamin. MIT Press, c2012.
So as early as 1828 game designers had the idea of ‘confirming’ improbable events. This reminded me of ‘confirming’ criticals in WotC D&D. I had no idea this rule had such a long pedigree.
Actually, the talk of “exceptions to the rule” “hav[ing] their own rules in turn” is pretty much a thumbnail sketch of 3rd edition as I understand it. I’m beginning to wonder: is the divide between ‘old school’ and ‘new school’ D&D really a divide between which of the roots of D&D is more important (old school perhaps preferring the free-form Braunstein and new school hearkening back more towards the Prussian Kriegspiel)? Maybe the influence of MMOs and collectible card games that old school edition warriors bemoan is less essnetial to WotC D&D than the echoes of Kriegspielers…
*That is, not over the game, but because his superiors passed him for promotion and gave him crummy assignments. I will try to use the phrase “committed suicide for professional reasons” more though, it makes me smile.
**The anonymous supplement mentioned is cited as: “Supplement zu den bisherigen Kriegspiel-Regeln.” Zeitschrift für Kunst, Wissenschaft, und Geschichte des Krieges 13(4): 68-105. 1828.