REFEREE: The chest with the poison needle is full of copper pieces – appears to be about 2,000 of them.
CALLER: Empty out all the copper pieces and check the trunk for secret drawers or a false bottom, and do the same with the empty one. Also, do there seem to be any old boots or cloaks among the old clothes in the rubbish pile?
REFEREE: (Cursing the thoroughness of the caller!) The seemingly empty trunk has a false bottom…
OD&D, as described in the sample of play, is unique in that the DM seems to be TRYING TO HIDE HIS CONTENT FROM THE PLAYERS. It’s not just adversarial, it’s gnostic. The DM gets some kind of joy if they miss the treasure – but he still places the treasure.
I’m not convinced that this is really what OD&D game was like. When I played with Mike Mornard, I never got the feeling that Mike was rooting for us to ignore treasure. He might have created lots of treasure we never saw, but but he’d be happy if we were smart enough to earn it.
Trying to twist this example around into something I can understand, I can see playing OD&D as a game more like the Descent boardgame than the D&D I’m used to: the DM is bound by certain rules of fair play, but is actually in competition with the players. If the PCs find more than half of the treasure, the players win. If the DM manages to outsmart the players by concealing more than half of the treasure, he wins.
Naturally, at the end of such a game, the DM would reveal all the hiding places of treasure, and cackle. “There was an onyx in that desk in the Gnoll room, but you walked right by it. (cackle). The pile of discarded rubbish contained Elven Boots, guess you should have checked that out. (cackle)”
Onwards, friends, to more and better loot!