I love playing with rules that are older than D&D. Chirine ba Kal calls them “pre-school” rules, I prefer to call them proto-D&D, though they don’t resemble D&D as most of us know it; names are smoke and mirrors, anyway. One thing that especially the old guard of roleplayers criticizes frequently is that most modern gamers read rulebooks instead of “real books” (novels, non-fiction works). I play other systems, too. But one of the many reasons why I keep coming back to proto-“D&D” is because it’s so easy to turn any description of any character into a gameable asset.
Let’s try Thundarr, one of my favorites (yes, I’m a man of simple tastes):
Wikipedia knows this:
Thundarr (voiced by Robert Ridgely)
The main protagonist of the series. He is a barbarian who was once a slave to Sabian until he was freed by Princess Ariel and given the Sunsword which he uses as a weapon in his fight against evil wizards and other villains. Thundarr was known for frequently uttering such pronouncements as “Demon dogs!”, “Lords of Light!”, and the Thundarr war-cry “Aaaaahh-ee!”. Thundarr, along with his friend Ookla, are largely unknowledgeable about the world and rely on Ariel’s guidance, but Thundarr is respectful of knowledge gained. When once asked what kind of man he was, Thundarr simply replied “Free!”
This paragraph contains everything we need to know to play Thundarr.
He’s a barbarian, so he’s strong and can fight with simple weapons and unarmed.
He’s a former slave, so he has probably more resilience than others.
His Sunsword might deal extra or special damage.
“He is respectful of knowledge gained” – that’s an acting advice, right there.
He loves freedom.
Pouring all this into a character class for my minimald6 game:
Barbarian (pick 2): strong as an ox, knows how to fight, loves freedom more than anything else, former barbarian, wields the Sunsword, tough as nails
Everything else will develop in-game, and it will work differently for every group. That’s why I love proto-D&D.