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Archive => RPG Theory => Topic started by: Ron Edwards on January 30, 2003, 09:51:02 AM



Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 30, 2003, 09:51:02 AM
Hello everybody,

I'm working on a great big essay on Gamism, and it's going to include some detailed analysis of Dungeons & Dragons role-playing. I use this title to include any and all play under this name, which I'm sure you can appreciate means quite a wide variety.

Anyway, one of my concerns is to get the various publications straight. Here's how I currently understand it, mainly based on my own experience (hell, life), and I'd like to get some corroboration, corrections, and details from the Forge folks.

1. A small but deep white box labeled "Dungeons & Dragons," with three stapled booklets inside. The picture on the front featured a wizard blasting the poop out of goblin-guys. Notable for never explaining, in any conceivable sense at the most basic level, how to play. If I'm not mistaken, this was the first actual publication of D&D, in 1974 (that early? really?); confusingly, it was re-issued a few years later (78 or so?). Am I correct in identifying the listed authors as Dave Arneson and E. Gary Gygax?

2. A full-sized but slim boxed set labeled "Dungeons & Dragons," with a fairly crude dragon-picture on the front (looks like it was colored by Magic Markers); the rules inside were a stapled paperback with the same picture in blue. If I remember correctly, these rules could take you through third level. Classes included Fighter, Magic-User, Cleric, and Thief, with no sub-classes. The rules mentioned "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" which would be published soon and to which you were expected to "graduate." I don't remember the author credits on this one.

3. All sorts of support material between 1977 and 1983 or so:

a) Auxiliary TSR material included adventure modules arising from tournament play, published by TSR - the three-set with the giants, for example. Also, Dragon Magazine kicked in with tons and tons of adventures, debate, and rules.

b) The Arduin Grimoire, a British series of digest-sized stapled pamphlets with many, many rules variants and setting-information. I distinctly remember the Berserk and Critical Hit rules being first presented there ("genitals/breasts smashed/severed," etc). How many of these were there?

c) I also remember a similar set of pamphlets that presented lots of monsters and spot-rules (e.g. the Beholder in #8), but I don't recall at all whether these were Arduins or something else entirely.

d) Auxiliary material such as the Rogues' Gallery and many scenarios and maps from The Judges Guild, a tournament organization (or associated with it in some way). I think these publications' impact on Dungeons & Dragons role-playing was immense and should be studied carefully one day.

4. AD&D, production values, bookstores ...

a) Three slim hardback books labeled "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons": The Monster Manual (1977 or 78), The Players Handbook (1978 or 79), and The Dungeon Master's Guide (1979). They were primarily written by Gary Gygax and included an immense influence, one might even say wholesale lifting, from various articles and rules first presented in Dragon Magazine. A lot of people now call this "old D&D" which is kind of interesting considering that at the time, we all thought it was the most derived and updated game possible.

b) The original Deities & Demigods, Fiend Folio, and Oriental Adventures books were extensions of this line. Many lines of adventure modules were produced in association with these rules, including the four-packet set about the Slave Lords, the lizard-cult of Orlane, and lots of others. Gygax was more-or-less the author or overseer of these books.

5. A series of boxed sets in the early-mid 1980s labeled "Basic Dungeons & Dragons," rather nicely produced, including a series of adventure modules as well. I believe each set of the series was level-oriented; the first was for level 1-3, the second 4-6, and so on. At this point, there was no coherent "graduation" concept any more; you either played Advanced starting at first level, or you played Basic (this one) starting at first level. As an aside, this was a remarkably good game and still has a loyal body of continuing-play. Clinton tells me that Gygax is referenced but has no author credits.

Here's what I want ...

Do I have the order and nature of the publications correct? Am I missing any, or are any out of order? If you can give any other brief listings of modules, that'd be great.

Can anyone tell me the listed authors, dates of publication, and exact publisher names for anything but 4 (a)? All my copies are sadly gone.

Discussions of the culture of play prior to the publication of the hardbacks (#4). I'd like them to be concrete, however - about the culture, not about what Billy and you did.


Here's what I don't want ...

Blissful reminiscing about play.

Recriminations regarding any of the authors (That's a topic for another day, including some very interesting points regarding ownership).

Vague information ("Um, that one book? With the wizard? I heard it was ...")

Any information, at this point, about later publications. Nothing about Second Edition! Nothing! (yet)


To give you some context for this request, I'm suggesting that Dungeons & Dragons role-playing "rules" existed primarily as an oral tradition with many local variants up to the publication of the first set of hardbacks (#4 above), with all the publications before that being essentially expressions and reflections of those variants rather than any kind of prescriptive set of rules in the usual sense. In other words, the publications #1-3 did not operate as a how-to-play text at all; at most, they contributed to the local oral variants as modifiers or seeds.

Best,
Ron


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: sben on January 30, 2003, 10:46:41 AM
I can't vouch for the accuracy of these pages, but:

This page (http://rotd.rpgclassics.com/library/history.shtml) seems to back up some of your facts: (1) the original white box in 1974; (4a) the first three AD&D hardbacks.

This page (http://www.darkshire.org/~jhkim/rpg/encyclopedia/alphabetical/D.html) lists the "Basic Set 1st ed." (I believe the blue-covered box ... ?) as being published in 1977, author "J. Eric Holmes" (who?). This might be your (2). The same entry mentions your (5), Basic/Expert/Companion/Master/Immortal, by Frank Mentzer (with G.G. credits on one), published 1983-1986.

Oo, Wizards has an official history (http://www.wizards.com/dnd/DnDArchives_History.asp), which is as good a source as any.
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Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: jrs on January 30, 2003, 10:59:43 AM
Ron,

There is also the TSR Archive at http://www.flash.net/~brenfrow/dd/dd.htm

It includes cover art and text plus author and date information for TSR publications from 1976(?) forward.  The TSR Archive does not appear to be an official site of TSR.

Julie


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: Paul Czege on January 30, 2003, 11:04:52 AM
Hey Ron,

What I'm about to write is entirely restrained in its scope to just your #2, above:

A full-sized but slim boxed set labeled "Dungeons & Dragons," with a fairly crude dragon-picture on the front (looks like it was colored by Magic Markers); the rules inside were a stapled paperback with the same picture in blue. If I remember correctly, these rules could take you through third level.

This edition of Dungeons & Dragons is the first roleplaying game I ever owned. I have the very worn book in front of me. You're correct that it only covered levels 1-3.

Classes included Fighter, Magic-User, Cleric, and Thief, with no sub-classes.

Referring to the text, available "classes" were Fighting Men, Magic Users, Clerics, Thieves, Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings. "Race" as a characteristic distinct from class is not present in the game. From the section about elves:

Elves -- are five or more feet in height, slim of build, weigh about 120 pounds and have fair to tan skin. They can use all the weapons and armor of the fighting man, including all magical weapons, and can also cast spells like a magic-user....like dwarves, they can see 60 feet in the dark....Thus, they have the advantages of both fighting men and magic-users as well as certain special capabilities of their own.

Elves progress in level as both fighting men and magic-users, but since each game nets them experience in both categories equally, they progress more slowly than other characters.

The rules mentioned "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" which would be published soon and to which you were expected to "graduate."

The rules do mention Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

I don't remember the author credits on this one.

From the title page of my copy:

Dungeons & Dragons

[illustration]

Rules for Fantastic Medieval Role Playing Adventure Game Campaigns
By Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson
Edited by Eric Holmes
for
Jeff and Chris

Distributed to the book trade in the United States by Random House, Inc.
and in Canada by Random House of Canada, LTD.

(c) 1974, 1977, 1978 TACTICAL STUDIES RULES
3rd EDITION, DECEMBER 1979

TSR HOBBIES, INC.
POB 756
LAKE GENEVA, WI 53147


Discussions of the culture of play prior to the publication of the hardbacks (#4). I'd like them to be concrete, however - about the culture, not about what Billy and you did....I'm suggesting that Dungeons & Dragons role-playing "rules" existed primarily as an oral tradition with many local variants up to the publication of the first set of hardbacks (#4 above)...[and] did not operate as a how-to-play text at all...

I can't speak directly to the culture of players, but I can offer some fairly anecdotal evidence in support of the "oral tradition" notion from someone whose early experiences with the game were very much apart from the culture:

1. I was in sixth or seventh grade when I got this game. I'd heard about it in the vaguest terms from a classmate, and based on that sketchy awareness set about pestering my mom to the point that she ultimately drove me to a distant toy store to purchase the game with my allowance money. I read the whole 48 page book in one sitting, and was a thrilling experience. But I was left with the strange feeling of not quite knowing what to do with the game. So, I convinced the classmate who'd first told me about the game to run it for me, one on one. That was what it took before I understood how the game played, how it was run, and how to teach it to others. The text does include an example of play, and some prefatory text about how one member of the play group should act as the mapper, and one should act as the caller who describes what actions the characters take, and there is some advice for the prospective DM along the lines of "keep the action moving." But that stuff wasn't sufficient, at least not for me.

2. I began playing it at that point with my younger brother. First, you need to know that halflings are described in the game text as follows:

Halflings -- are short, 3 feet high, little folk with several special abilities. Out-of-doors they are difficult to see, having the ability to vanish into woods or undergrowth. They are like dwarves in their resistance to magic. Halflings are extremely accurate with missiles and fire any missle at +1. they can use all the weapons and armor of a fighting man as long as it is "cut down" to their size.

And that's it. So although we were familiar with Tolkien, we never made the connection between halflings and hobbits. In retrospect, it's obvious that "folk" just doesn't convey enough information for someone to make that connection independent of an oral tradition. So, influenced perhaps by the very cool illustration of the armored iguana guy and his iguana mount on page 3 of the game book, and having come to our own entirely reasonable conclusion that the "half" in halfling meant half-human (which it sort-of does), we drew endless illustrations of brightly colored, anthropomorphic, reptilian "halflings"...until we finally saw the AD&D Player's Handbook.

Paul


Title: Re: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wante
Post by: Maurice Forrester on January 30, 2003, 11:58:34 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards


b) The Arduin Grimoire, a British series of digest-sized stapled pamphlets with many, many rules variants and setting-information. I distinctly remember the Berserk and Critical Hit rules being first presented there ("genitals/breasts smashed/severed," etc). How many of these were there?



The Arduin Grimoire wasn't British.  It was written by Dave Hargrave of California and published by Grimoire Games which I think was also based in California.  There were three volumes initially, and then five more volumes were published by Dragon Tree Press.  I think it's only the first three that apply to your essay.  I don't have publication dates handy, but the titles of the first three volumes are:  "The Arduin Grimoire," "Welcome to Skull Tower," and "The Runes of Doom."

Dave passed away some years ago.  He was a hell of a nice guy.


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: Maurice Forrester on January 30, 2003, 12:12:39 PM
Following up to myself:

"The Arduin Grimoire" (1977)
"Welcome to Skull Tower" (1978)
"The Runes of Doom" (1978)

All by David A. Hargrave and published by Grimoire Games, Berkeley CA.


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: jrs on January 30, 2003, 12:15:30 PM
I'm having way too much fun looking this stuff up.

Here's some more information on the Arduin Grimoire series.  The pamphlets have been reprinted and are available through Emperors Choice.  Descriptions are here http://empcho.bizhosting.com/agtrilogy.html  It looks like there were 9 of them.  David A. Hargrave is listed as the author for the first 8 volumes.

There is also a monthly roleplaying magazine, Alarums and Excursions, published by Lee Gold, which started in 1975.  See http://thestarport.com/xeno/aande.html

And finally, some of the early items from the Judges Guild are described at http://keltic71.tripod.com/Index.html

Julie


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: Maurice Forrester on January 30, 2003, 12:21:13 PM
Quote from: jrs

There is also a monthly roleplaying magazine, Alarums and Excursions, published by Lee Gold, which started in 1975.


A&E (an APA or amateur press association) was tremendously important in the early history of RPGing.  Lots of game designers participated and lots of rule variants were exchanged on those pages.  "The Wild Hunt," an APA out of Boston, was also important but A&E was the dominant one.


Title: Re: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wante
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on January 30, 2003, 12:41:59 PM
On 1 - Well, it has to have been 1975 - MAYBE '76 - when we ordered our copy out of the back of The General or Strategy & Tactics.  So I can't confirm '74, but it's available by '76 for sure.

Paul has covered 2 - I think I have this one somewhere as well, if we need more data apoints.  Maybe mine's a slightly different edition or something.

On 3 - The initial supplemental material was in The Strategic Review (precursor to The Dragon, I think the Illusionist class made it's first appearence there), and the other pamphlet supplements (from TSR) were Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry (color cover of a naked chick on an an altar!  I still have this one - uh, coincidence, I tell you), and Gods, Demi-Gods and Heroes (I still have that one, too).

This is back when I was 12-13-14, so memory of the culture of play isn't so clear - I do remember we used (as recommended) the map from Avalon Hill's Outdoor Survival game as an outdoor "world" to set our dungeons in, and that Judge's Guild became a HUGE impact, I'm sure you're right there - City-state of the Invincible Overlord became the deafult world setting for a lot of folks I ran across in those days.  And I still have my "Treasury of Archaic Names" from them.

Interestingly, it was almost like they had two "branches" - the world building campaign stuff for city-state, and the tournament modules from conventions around the country.  Sometime the two would be mashed together - "this module takes place in hex 2012 of the city-state map A4".  Just like some early TSR adventures got placed on the AH OS map . . .

I'll through my usual pitch in for "Swords & Sorcery," Greg Costikyian's SPI board game with roleplay elements, as an influence in this time.  Gygax Dragonlord was one of the personalities . . . I understand this also eventually lead to stuff in SPI's own RPG, Dragonquest.  For us, it caused us to "flesh out" the AH OS map into a "world," and play-out story epics like Roc Deathsinger, X the Unknown, Talerann the not-so-brave and other's in Mr. Costikyian's world had.  Every new book/rule aspect/whatever had to be worked into this world, and was an opportunity for a new epic.  TSR added "Artifacts" - OK, how're we gonna do that?  Add a new continent to the world where the artifacts are, send our PC's over to find 'em, bring 'em back to the "main" nations and see what happens . . . lot's of shared GMing for us in those days, negotiating over how to change the world, who gets to "own" what, and etc.

On 4 - another big supplement in this stage was Gygax's Unearthed Arcana.  As I understand it, the Slave Lords adventures are from the first official RPGA tournament - I was in that (hated it) and have a Xerox-quality copy of the module as my "prize."

This is time of my officially-sponsored High School D&D "club" ('79-'80-'81), and the era I remember a bit more clearly.  We did the Giants/Drow thing (Queen of the Demonweb Pits needs a mention), and lot's of funky little one-two session games as we experimented with different GM's, different kinds of games:  Boot Hill, Metamorposis:Alpha, D&D modules from folks like RoleAids - D&D with adventures/modules other than the official TSR ones was almost like a "diffrent game" at this point, that used some of the same rules but that you had totally different expectations about.  For some reason, the "world" parts of the Judges Guild stuff stopped being important among us, and among others I met at this time.  I think the modules were still coming out (and got used), but just as individual bits . . .

Fiend Folio, rather than being lifted from The Dragon, was lifted from GDW's White Dwarf magazine in its' pre-Warhammer days.

Before 2nd Edition, we've got Polyhedron magazine (the RPGA mag), the Dragonlance modules, and the Forgotten Realms "setting" as important milestones . . . I started to drift away from D&D at around this point, so I've got nothing to add there.  I have the first year or two of Polyhedron mags if the early days of the RPGA are important to you - many I barely read, as my experience of what it looks like you're calling the tournament culture that was emerging were pretty negative.  Interestingly, I didn't have that problem with the pre-RPGA "tournaments," but I wasn't overly active in either - one or three convention visits (one GenCon, one GenCon East, and one small Northeast con - maybe a game event at an SF con? - that I barely remember).

Hope that helps somehow,

Gordon


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: Valamir on January 30, 2003, 01:34:35 PM
I would say that OAD&D could actually be considered to be the 1.5 edition of the game following Unearthed Arcana.  I can't say for sure if UA is just a convenient marker for time, or whether the book kicked off the change itself, but following the release of UA the flavor of AD&D changed dramatically.

I would say the release of that book marks the end of the AD&D that was kinda supposed to be a sequal to D&D but wasn't days and the beginning of the road that lead to 2nd Ed.  Not sure if this release coincided with any major power shift at TSR itself as that was (for me) long before I cared, but might be worthwhile to compare dates.

It was UA that introduced (in an official book of rules) Non weapon proficiencies, the idea that some new classes could become official (there had always been Dragon magazine classes) and so on.  Following UA was the Dungeoneering and Wilderness Survival Guides which are actually a couple of the best sources for crunchy bit sim stuff I've seen (rules for falling that differenciates abrasion from rolling down a slope from impact damage, rules for frostbite and hypothermia, all kinds of stuff like that...I think there was even a table of sunrise/sunsets at different latitudes and a set of weather rules straight outta a farmer's almanac).


Title: Re: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wante
Post by: contracycle on January 30, 2003, 01:47:47 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards

Discussions of the culture of play prior to the publication of the hardbacks (#4). I'd like them to be concrete, however - about the culture, not about what Billy and you did.[/i]


I cold only tell you what Billy (David) and I did, but can comment that in the absence of any clear instructions on how to play or of an oral tradition, it was tough going.  So this is only to reinforce your perception that it was indeed absent from the text.

Edited to add: I completely agree with Valamirs description of UA etc.


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: Paul Czege on January 30, 2003, 01:51:48 PM
Hey Ralph,

I would say that OAD&D could actually be considered to be the 1.5 edition of the game following Unearthed Arcana.

Are you suggesting that in the common parlance, AD&D is older than "Old AD&D"?

Paul


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: Valamir on January 30, 2003, 02:10:52 PM
Ummm, the above could possibly be the most jumbled confusing syntax of any post I've ever made, I'm frankly surprised Gareth understood it well enough to agree with it ;-)

let me try again.

OAD&D = Original AD&D, as in first edition.  The point I was trying to make is that first edition pre Unearthed Arcana had a very different atmosphere around it then first edition post Unearthed Arcana.  Such that AD&D-post-UA could almost be considered to be edition 1.5.  AD&D-Pre-UA was much closer in spirit to D&D (without the Advanced). Or at least D&D of the "Basic", "Expert", "Companion" set era which is where I entered the hobby.

In diagram form
Box Set D&D <------closely related in spirit-----> AD&D First edition
Unearthed Arcana
AD&D First edition <-----closely related in spirit--->AD&D 2nd Ed.


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: Christopher Kubasik on January 30, 2003, 02:13:21 PM
Hi All.

Ron, along with Gareth, I'm going to say, "What culture?"

A guy down the block who went every year to Origins (and won the Dippy tournement every time), came back with this thing called Dungeons & Dragons that he thought his son and all of us might enjoy.  (It still boggles my mind how much of my life was touched by that decision of his.)

His son lost interest immediately, my brothers and I inherited the set, Matthew eventually grew tired of it.  I played with my little brother, added, eventually, folks from my creative writing class, and that was it.

You might have well of asked me what the Monolopy culture was like. We played that fast and hard too, but if you had told me there were tournaments, I would have been surprised -- and kind of indifferent.

Oh, I ran for three potheads in High School.  One session. They had a great time, I got kind of creeped out.  Never did it again.

I went to Complete Strategist in Manhatten to check out new stuff.  Never bought one module or whatnot for AD&D.  I figured we had enough to make stuff up forever.  (Traveller, though... mmmmmm!)  I was a kid in the big city, and it never occurred to me to look up other players there.  Again, for me, the sense seemed to be the people in your life were the people you played with.  It would've been strange to go out looking for people just cause the game.  (Re: the potheads.)

I did go to Origins a couple of time with my friend and his dad.  I had a good time, but I can tell you house brews were all over the place in 77 -81.  If there was one game being played by all players I never encountered it.  Eveyone had a fix for character creation, magic and all sorts of reworked tables for weapon/armor modifers.

Christopher


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: Paul Czege on January 30, 2003, 02:37:55 PM
Pre UA first edition was much closer in spirit to D&D (without the Advanced) than post UA first edition was.

This is a very interesting point, with which I find myself in agreement. UA was the last D&D publication I purchased for over ten years. Considered in the light of Ron's notions about "expressions and reflections," UA is the major publication in the game line that straddles the dividing line between publications that express and reflect the activities of the game playing public, and those like the Dungeoneer's guides, that worked to impose designs upon players. Though, upon reflection, I'm inclined to contend that UA itself is actually more of a "last gasp," and that the real dividing publication was the Dragonlance series of modules.

Paul


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: Walt Freitag on January 30, 2003, 03:12:56 PM
I'm looking at my copy of the small-but-deep white box, which (alas) is one of the confusing reissues rather than the original 74 edition. I think it was the summer of 78 when I bought it (and the printing dates on my copies of 3 of the 4 the supplement books which I bought at the same time are also 1978 which is consistent with a 78 purchase.) The box cover says "Original Collector's Edition" in small red type with a thin-lined red 'kaboom' outline around it. Other differences from the original printing are the removal of the "Price $10.00" line and the addition of a product number "2002" at the lower right corner.

The three rule books in the set all have a 1974 copyright and no indication of when printed. The Tolkien changes are evident in the text, though (e.g. "halfling" pasted over "hobbit" in a slightly non-matching type face). There was also a folded-over (unbound and coverless) paper booklet of "Reference Sheets" in the box.

The box cover and each of the three book covers credit "GYGAX & ARNESON." The title pages credit "GARY GYGAX & DAVE ARNESON." Not E. Gary.

Also of note is the game's subtitle/description, appearing on the box cover and each book cover, underneath the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS main title:

Rules for Fantastic Medieval Wargames [sic]
Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil
and Miniature Figures

... which continues to appear on the covers of the Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry, and Gods, Demi-Gods, and Heroes supplements, with the word "ADDITIONAL" squeezed in at the top.

Supplement author credits are:
I Greyhawk: Gary Gygax & Rob Kuntz
II Blackmoor: Dave Arneson
III Eldritch Wizardry: Gary Gygax & Brian Blume
IV Gods Etc.: Robert Kuntz and James Ward

I-III also have "special thanks to" lists, but only Blackmoor credits an editor: Tim Kask

Publisher and Copyright notices are:

Box cover and book covers: PUBLISHED BY TACTICAL STUDIES RULES
Title pages: (C) COPYRIGHT 1974  -  TACTICAL STUDIES RULES
(my printings of) All four supplements, covers: PUBLISHED BY TSR RULES
(my printings of) All four supplements, title pages: (C) 1976 - TSR GAMES
(except supp. II Greyhawk has date of 1975 instead)

Damn, where did my copy of Swords & Spells (supplement V) go?

OK, jumping ahead to 4(b):

Special Reference Work
Deities and Demigods
Cyclopedia
by James M. Ward with Robert J. Kuntz
Edited by Lawrence Schick
(C) 1980 - TSR Games
(no separate publisher name on title page, but cover and spine include "TSR THE GAME WIZARDS" and a wizard logo)
(forward by E. Gary Gygax, first appearance of the 'E.' in my collection)

Fiend Folio
Tome of Creatures Malevolent and Benign
Edited by Don Trumbull,
Managing Director of TSR UK, Ltd.
(C) 1981, TSR Hobbies, Inc.
(publisher name given separately as TSR Hobbies, Inc.)

Monster Manual II
by Gary Gygax
(C) 1983 TSR, Inc
(Two publishers listed: TSR Inc, and TSR UK Ltd.)

Oriental Adventures
Gary Gygax
with David Cook and Francois Marcela-Froideval
(C) 1985 E. Gary Gygax
(Two publishers listed: TSR Inc, and TSR UK Ltd.)

- Walt


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: Ron Edwards on January 30, 2003, 03:21:24 PM
Wow!

Thanks to everyone. The more, the better.

Couple points:

Interestingly, I burned out on AD&D around 1981 and turned to The Fantasy Trip, Tunnels & Trolls, and RuneQuest in that order (I'd been into Melee and Wizard since they came out in 1978 or so). I later played the "red box" Basic with a lot of kids when I worked at a community center in Chicago, about 5 years later.

So what did I miss? Unearthed Arcana, Dragonlance, and the nascent AD&D2 completely. Totally. I've seen these games played, and glanced through them, but I don't know them and have never played or perused them carefully. I know AD&D2 mainly by reading Planescape, Al-Qadim, and Dark Sun, but all that's in retrospect - at the time, I was Champions and GURPS all the way and never looked back.

You guys are clarifying a lot of things for me. It sounds like that #8 with the Beholder in it was one of the Arduin series. By the way, I did know that the Fiend Folio was Brit (forgot to add that in my original post), and I will also say that indeed, ownership and helmsmanship at TSR did its first or second major flux right at the moment of which Ye Alle speak.

Best,
Ron


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: Blake Hutchins on January 30, 2003, 03:37:33 PM
Walt picked up my thoughts on Eldritch Wizardry, et. al., and the Arduin stuff has also been noted.  Like Ron, we bypassed the next gen of D&D books to go to a heavily bastardized Runequest.  I personally got heavily into TFT, but alas, got no players into it with me before traipsing off to college.  I never got any AD&D books aside from (was it AD&D?) the Fiend Folio.

I'd characterize my high school's gaming culture as naive and heavily, heavily influenced by Moorcock's fantasy, especially Elric.  On a surface content level, we aspired to cosmic conflicts, runeswords, lots of extra-planar gibbage and artifacts of Way Big Powah.  On a group dynamic level, there was little sophistication about story or even roleplaying.  It was what I'd call a gamist set of player priorities undercut with a longing for an epic story we could never quite get right.

Best,

Blake


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: Rob MacDougall on January 30, 2003, 03:49:44 PM
Wow, great thread, and I'm very interested to read the Gamism essay that comes out of this. This is the sort of thing I was hoping to get out of the thread I started on the "midwest D&D belt" and regional-historical gaming styles.

I myself have little to add to the pre-1982 discussions here, but if discussion moves to the impact of Dragonlance, Unearthed Arcana, and other late 1980s books on AD&D, I will jump in with abandon. I can attest that the first place I learned of D&D was in the summer of 1980, in an article in (of all things) Seventeen magazine.

Rob


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on January 30, 2003, 04:02:46 PM
Shit. I don't have time to address this now. But I will later, if the thread is still here by then. Chances are, most would have answered what I could.


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: Gordon C. Landis on January 30, 2003, 04:24:20 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
It sounds like that #8 with the Beholder in it was one of the Arduin series.
Greyhawk (official TSR Rules D&D supplement #1, cover picture  here  (http://www.flash.net/~brenfrow/dd/dd-sup1-12.htm)) had a Beholder on the cover - it might have been taken from The Strategic Review, but I thought there were only 7 of those . . .

Gordon


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: Walt Freitag on January 30, 2003, 04:58:48 PM
Unearthed Arcana (Gary Gygax) was the first 1e AD&D hardcover I didn't buy when I stopped buying them; it came out in 85 (whether before or after Oriental Adventures I'm not sure). However, there were more, all pre Second Edition, which I don't have copies of or first publication dates for:

Wilderness Survival Guide (Kim Mohan)
Dungeoneer's Survival Guide (Douglas Niles)
Manual of the Planes (Jeff Grubb)
DragonLance Adventures (Tracy Hickman and Margarer Weis)

Greyhawk Adventures (James M. Ward) appears to be transitional; a star-burst thingie on the cover describes the book as "Compatible with the AD&D and the 2nd Edition AD&D Game Systems," while the familiar "Official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" headline appears at the top. Forgotten Realms Adventures (Jeff Grubb and Ed Greenwood) has the 2nd edition logo but not the 2nd edition cover style.

Legends and Lore (1985) was just a retitling of Deities and Demigods.

By 81 I was playing an almost entirely house rules fantasy system so I was no longer concerned with rule books but still bought AD&D material as source books. And trying other systems and freeform. By 85 I was entirely into LARPs and no longer regularly playing any tabletop, the start of a ten-year hiatus. So I missed the post-85 style changes and all of the 2nd Edition change-over, just like others. However, I was aware of, and rather perplexed by, the nascent concept of combining gaming with novels set in the same world (as via DragonLance, Forgotten Realms). The desirability eluded me -- and still does, to a large extent.

- Walt


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: Pramas on January 30, 2003, 05:21:01 PM
Although it is often known as the "white box" edition of D&D, the very first print run of original D&D, released in January 1974, was actually packaged in a plain brown box, with labels on the top and sides. The entirety of the 1,000 book run was packed out by hand in the late Don Kaye's dining room. Kaye, who is more of less forgotten these days, was one of the original principals at TSR but he died of a heart attack in 1975.

First print run sold out within the year and the second print run was 2,000. At this point it took on the classic white box look.


Title: Re: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wante
Post by: M. J. Young on January 30, 2003, 08:59:49 PM
O.K., I'm having a hard time keeping track what parts have been answered. Like Paul, my first RPG was that boxed set with the blue dragon on the box and the book, complete with Chits (remember those?) and an order form for dice that we didn't use. But it was 1980, and D&D was on the rise, and you could at that instant in time buy the stuff in local toy stores and book stores, at least in the lower Delaware valley.

I can probably get you in touch with two people very knowledgeable in the field. Charlie Heckman was an old wargamer in the 70's who was at the Origins convention at Widener University in Chester PA when D&D was released, if I'm remembering correctly. Paul Cardwell (Chairman CARPga) was involved, and claims to have seen a role playing game using polyhedral dice at least a decade before D&D hit the scene (although Paul has a very black attitude towards all things D&D/TSR). Generally I defer to them on information from that time.

That said, there are a few points on which I might be able to throw some light.

Quote from: Ron Edwards
2. A full-sized but slim boxed set labeled "Dungeons & Dragons," with a fairly crude dragon-picture on the front (looks like it was colored by Magic Markers); the rules inside were a stapled paperback with the same picture in blue. If I remember correctly, these rules could take you through third level. Classes included Fighter, Magic-User, Cleric, and Thief, with no sub-classes. The rules mentioned "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" which would be published soon and to which you were expected to "graduate." I don't remember the author credits on this one.

There have been some helpful corrections made on this already, including that elf, dwarf, and halfling were treated as classes. This is now generally referenced as "Basic D&D First Edition" (BD&D1).

Its existence actually owes something to a legal/historical situation. It's difficult for me to explain the situation without inserting things I don't know, but the gist of it is this: TSR had obligations to Dave Arneson for part of the D&D concept, and wanted to maneuver things such that he would not continue to get royalties on the forthcoming Advanced Dungeons & Dragons line. Thus they published this set, intending that it was independent of AD&D (now called Original AD&D, or OAD&D) so that they could argue that Arneson's claims were limited to D&D, a game they continued to publish under its new edition, and did not extend to AD&D. Several aspects of the BD&D1 system were incompatible with OAD&D, including:
  • Different categories of saving throws.
  • No race/class distinctions.
  • Different armor class progression (one place off, unarmored was 9).
  • Different hit die values (fighter used d8, cleric and thief both used d6).
  • Different currency exchange rate.[/list:u]
    My impression is that the advancement progression and combat tables were also different. This game was designed to be similar enough to OAD&D that people could make the transition but different enough that they could defend OAD&D as a different game system.

    Incidentally, they lost the lawsuit, and were required to pay royalties on many core books for many years thereafter, including (following another lawsuit) the Monster Manual II. Text of those decisions was on the web a few years back, and probably still is.

    Quote from: Ron further
    3. All sorts of support material between 1977 and 1983 or so:....c) I also remember a similar set of pamphlets that presented lots of monsters and spot-rules (e.g. the Beholder in #8), but I don't recall at all whether these were Arduins or something else entirely.

    I had one or two of a set of tan-covered pamphlets that said Dungeons & Dragons on the cover and came, I believe, from TSR. I've been trying for years to figure out where these went. They seemed to be designed as D&D supplements to Chainmail, but at the time I didn't know the relationships between systems so I didn't really get it. They had wandering monster tables, and were designed to cover two or three "levels" of character growth. I had thought at the time they were the continuation of the blue boxed set, as there was a window in there when I didn't have OAD&D and was trying to continue my blue box game with whatever I could find.

    That might be an interesting point of culture, at least out here. I know another referee who started in about 1980 (whom I didn't know until after 1990), and he also had trouble getting D&D stuff. He had actually read the DMG, and returned it to its owner, but couldn't find a copy for himself. In his case, he cobbled together a lot of bits from a lot of games into one system--I know he used pieces of Traveler and Gamma World (although he disliked Gamma World as too deadly a game) in a great mishmash world in which all things existed together. We similarly were scrambling to find stuff, although in our case we tried to stick to official D&D stuff (we also started playing other RPG's, TSR stuff). We were very much cut off from any contact with the greater gamer culture, although we were aware of the existence of the RPGA, and of a couple of gaming magazines. Money was tight, and we were really in it to play, not to join clubs.

    Quote from: Ron then
    4. AD&D, production values, bookstores ...

    ...Three slim hardback books labeled "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons": The Monster Manual (1977 or 78), The Players Handbook (1978 or 79), and The Dungeon Master's Guide (1979)....original Deities & Demigods, Fiend Folio, and Oriental Adventures....


    I have all of the original OAD&D hardcovers here, probably can find any within five minutes: MM1, PH, DMG, DD, UA, OA, FF, MM2, DL, GH, DSG, WSG, MoP (I think I remembered them all). Legends & Lore replaced Deities & Demigods, and I understand that the content was slightly altered, but I never had a copy of that. DD went through a couple of incarnations due to lawsuits over their use of the Cthulu, Melnibonean, and Nehwon materials without permission. If you need information on any of those, let me know which--better that than that I should try to list them all here. I think Manual of the Planes was last, although it might have been Wilderness Survival Guide. I'm not completely certain of the order of publication, but that list is pretty close (I never did anything with Greyhawk, and honestly still haven't managed to read it).

    Quote from: Again Ron
    5. A series of boxed sets in the early-mid 1980s labeled "Basic Dungeons & Dragons," rather nicely produced, including a series of adventure modules as well. I believe each set of the series was level-oriented; the first was for level 1-3, the second 4-6, and so on. At this point, there was no coherent "graduation" concept any more; you either played Advanced starting at first level, or you played Basic (this one) starting at first level. As an aside, this was a remarkably good game and still has a loyal body of continuing-play. Clinton tells me that Gygax is referenced but has no author credits.

    This has become known as BD&D2 (I think someone said that?). I have bits of it around, but only used it to try to mesh BD&D modules into AD&D play.

    That actually was another aspect of the time. Those of us who played certainly managed to figure out that AD&D and BD&D were incompatible games (add to the previous comments different alignment systems, morale and water combat rules in the basic set, and some other stuff); those who knew we played frequently bought things for us that were for different games. I own the "Expert Set" because my brother thought I was probably ready for it, not understanding that that was a different game from the one I played. They also bought modules without reference to game system.

    BD&D2 was ultimately compiled in The Rules Cyclopedia; I have a copy of that here, too, if it's helpful. I have no idea why I have it, but I know people who like that version.

    Quote from: Next, Valamir
    I would say that OAD&D could actually be considered to be the 1.5 edition of the game following Unearthed Arcana. I can't say for sure if UA is just a convenient marker for time, or whether the book kicked off the change itself, but following the release of UA the flavor of AD&D changed dramatically.

    Not being part of the culture, I can only say that UA changed a lot of aspects of the game in subtle ways. The creation of Cavalier and Barbarian classes widened the cultural field--the fighters who had always been assumed to be the knights were now peasant infantry (generally). Comeliness was added, so high Charisma no longer meant that you were good-looking. The flavor of the world changed through it. It impacted us.

    Quote from: Continuing, Valamir
    It was UA that introduced (in an official book of rules) Non weapon proficiencies....

    This is not correct. Non-weapon Proficiencies first appeared in Oriental Adventures, which followed UA; there they used a system by which fixed rolls were established for the proficiencies. Also significant in that regard, perhaps, was that several of the class abilities of the (occidental UA) Barbarian class became non-weapon proficiencies in the (OA) Oriental Barbarian class. For non-Oriental classes, non-weapon proficiencies came later in the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide, expanded in the Wilderness Survival Guide. They do not exist in UA.

    Someone mentioned the Eldritch Wizardry cover. That is a very limited press run, as TSR execs pulled the cover almost as soon as they saw it.

    For what it's worth, we never got tired of OAD&D. I've got the core books for AD&D2, and know some people who ran it, although usually they complained that they couldn't get the OAD&D books anymore. I don't know anyone who played OAD&D who thought AD&D2 was an improvement, although most people who played did steal stuff from it (I incorporated Psionics and Vikings, but found the Al Qadim and Maztica stuff they bought for me completely incompatible). I found the changes too jarring (but this has to be viewed from the fact that we ran campaigns that went for years, and always assumed we'd be playing the same characters in our personal retirements in the decades to come--2E rules eliminated a lot of character classes, which was kind of nasty if you were playing one of those classes). On the other hand, we never got into the gaming culture at all. We never played with anyone who played with anyone other than us, until the early 90's when E. R. Jones joined us and another older guy in the neighborhood who was heavily into Forgotten Realms came to play (I was running a game for the neighborhood kids, from about '89 when I was in Law School to about '93 when my youngest was a year old).

    Since this is a long post on a hot thread, there are probably more comments posted. I hope this is helpful.

    --M. J. Young


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on January 31, 2003, 01:25:31 AM
OK, here's my take on the subject as such. My sources include are Heroic Worlds by Lawrence Schick, The Complete Guide to Role-Plaing Gamces by Rick Swan, Fantasy Role Playing Games by J Eric Holmes, M.D.

  • Dungeons & Dragons Rules for Fantastic Medieval Wargames Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Minitature Figures was first published in 1974. As Chris notes, the original print was different from the "white box." Schick note: "(1st ed., brown wood-grain box, white sticker cover). 1st and 2nd pr. have drawing of mounted warrior on "Men & Magic" and box cover." They apparently went to the white box after that. My white box copy has "Original Collector's Edition" on the box. I do have a TSR flyer which lists it along with the AD&D/BD&D lines.
  • The original set was designed for use with Chainmail rules for medieval miniatures. by Gary Gygax & Jeff Perren originally published by Guidon Games in 1971. The game contained man-to-man combat rules. The 2nd and 3rd ed. contain the "fantasy suppliment" which is why it and Gygax are a part of D&D's history. I guess. I had tried to figure out the orignal rules briefly, without too much success but I did learn a few things.
      [1]Chainmail uses primarily 2d6 against a chart. Exactly what number to use on what chart isn't readily clear.
      [2]The game system we all know and love (loathe?) is presented in the original 3-booklets as an "alternate" system.
      [3]AFAIK there is no use for the stats in the three booklets. Things like the Dex bonus to AC and the STR bonus on to hit and damage rolls were added in the first suppliment.
      [/list:u]
    • Swords & Spells Fantastic Miniatures Rules on a 1:10/1:1 Scale For Use With Dungeons & Dragons list listed as "by Gary Gygax. Interesting side note here, my friend maintains that "Gary Gygax" is the guy who wrote D&D while "E. Gary Gygax" is his son, although I am given reason to believe that they are both named Ernie. I do not know if this is true or if TSR was ever consistent with this. Judging from the original D&D rules, I don't see why we should take my friend's belief at face value.
    • The first "Basic Set" of D&D came out in 1977 and was edited by J. Eric Holmes, M.D. In his book, Holmes talks about calling Gygax, who was busy with writing AD&D at the time, and offering to write an "introductory" book for the original three-volume set. Gygax agreed, seeing the mass-marketing potential in such a book. Holmes's edition incorporated whole blocks of text from the original 3 books as well as (according to Schick) items from the suppliments and at least one element from AD&D, the Law-Chaos, Good-Evil Alignments. Actually, the Good-Evil axis is hinted at in Eldrich Wizardry, but not explicitly stated as such. The Original Set only had the Law-Chaos axis.
    • The second ed. of the Basic Set with the Erol Otis cover came out in 1980, the "Red Book." At this point, the Basic line was definately being drawn away from AD&D as well as the original set. The original set had classes and races (albeit, some races didn't have any choice of class), the 2nd ed Basic Set had race as a class. This edition led to the "blue book" Expert Set with a matching Erol Otis cover that incoporated the image from the basic set. A nice touch, I always thought. This edition promised a third "Companion" set which never materialized until the next edition.
    • the 3rd ed of the basic line, or "red box" with the Larry Elmore cover came out in 1983. At this point, the game is schizophrenic. TSR is maintaining they are seperate and "different" games, yet they keep making Basic an awful lot like Advanced. This edition is published in two books, the Players and Dungeon Master's books, for instance. This edition is in five boxed sets: Basic, Expert, Companion, Master, and Immortal. The Immortal Rules are generally treated separately since many think, and rightly so, that it changes the scope of the whole game. These boxed sets are later revised into the Rules Cyclopedia @ 1991-2. I forget which and don't have my copy handy.
    • [/list:u]
      I don't have too much to add beyond this except to say, Ron, you might want to try to find a copy of Dr Holmes's book. He seemed to have a very Gamist attitude on RPGs to the point of commiting synecdoche.


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: Maurice Forrester on January 31, 2003, 04:17:47 AM
Another publication from the early days that's worth considering is "All the World's Monsters" edited by Jeff Pimper and Steve Perrin and published by Chaosium.  There were at least two volumes (I have volume two published in 1977).  Since gaming in those days was primarily about killing monsters and taking their stuff, there was a lot of interest in creating new types of monsters for the players to struggle with.  Volume two of AtWM has 243 entries from a bunch of different people along with Steve Perrin's house rules for combat and guidelines for converting the monsters for use in "Tunnels & Trolls" (the entries are in D&D format).


Title: Re: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wante
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on January 31, 2003, 07:43:55 AM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
To give you some context for this request, I'm suggesting that Dungeons & Dragons role-playing "rules" existed primarily as an oral tradition with many local variants up to the publication of the first set of hardbacks (#4 above), with all the publications before that being essentially expressions and reflections of those variants rather than any kind of prescriptive set of rules in the usual sense.

"Oral Tradition"  (BTW long sentence here)

Interesting take. I daresay that RPGs continue to be an oral tradition to an effect since not everyone learns the rules by reading the book. They learn by having someone teach them. This continues to this day, I believe, but it's not the same culture. Nowadays the books are a tad clearer in their text on How To Do It. But, I think it's interesting that someone who had learned to play from a mentor would then go out and purchase the book and read it, not to learn the "real" way to play, but for confirmation of what they already know, making note of where the book is "wrong."

Or something like that. Interest, as I had said.


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: Rob MacDougall on January 31, 2003, 09:33:22 AM
I'd agree that the D&D publications from the 1970s and early 1980s were artifacts of a lively oral culture, reflecting not only house rules and concerns but a variety of play styles and even the diversity of the GNS spectrum. A thread has just been started (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4991) (thanks, Paul, for starting it) to discuss the evolution of the game and the game culture in the mid 1980s from that very fluid state to a much more formalized “this is how it is done” model. I’m going to hop over there in a bit and say something about The Lost Tomb of Martek and The Ecology of the Gelatinous Cube, but first let me offer a counterpoint to this discussion.

While Gary and Dave and all the other Midwestern boys were doing their thing, and that thing started spreading into hobby stores and rec rooms a considerable distance from Lake Geneva, there was, I think, another process going on at the periphery, as gamers who lacked access to a lively oral gaming culture tried to make sense of the published artifacts it produced – inconsistent, semi-compatible, etc. - and play the game the way it was “supposed” to be played.

As kids in Southern Ontario in 1981 my friends, my sister & I were extremely concerned with “playing D&D right,” yet really had no idea how all this stuff was supposed to fit together. Because we didn’t have any older or experienced players to show us the ropes, we ended up playing a strange “cargo cult” version of the game, in which we tried to recreate the proper use of all these odd books and items, but without a really clear understanding of how they fit together or even in some cases what they were for.

Example Anecdote: I owned a copy of the red box Basic D&D set, the AD&D Monster Manual, and three lead figures. I could tell the D&D set and the AD&D book did not fit together perfectly, but didn’t quite understand they were two different games. My mother got us the lead miniatures because the guy at the hobby store told her I would need them. I believe she chose a wizard, a male dwarf, and a female thief. Obviously the miniatures were part of playing D&D, but there was nothing in either book I had explaining what they were for. We only “knew” you “needed” them to play. So, I required my three players to make their characters in every game: a wizard, a male dwarf, a female thief! We put the figures in front of us while we played, but never moved them around on a map or anything. When the wizard was killed by kobolds, I told Mom she needed to drive us to the hobby store so we could buy a new character.

In that environment, each new publication we got our hands on, whether it was an adventure module or one of the AD&D hardbacks or an issue of Dragon had a massive influence on our playing style and our sense of what we were supposed to do. When Dragon ran an article about simulating the weather in your game world, well, the next time we played, we rolled for weather. When another article suggested the “what you say is what your PC says” rule, suddenly something we’d never done before became law.

It might be tempting to romanticize an early, messy, lively “golden age” and see the codification or formalizing of D&D norms in the move from AD&D 1 to 2 as an unfortunate development. But at the time, gamers like me were starving for the kind of instruction on “how to play” that Dragon and the adventure modules provided. I felt very strongly in, say, 1983-1985 that AD&D was “getting better.” I suspect that it was in trying to meet the needs of younger gamers who were not necessarily part of a robust oral culture that AD&D really began to change.

(But that’s a topic for the daughter thread (http://www.indie-rpgs.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=4991).)


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: woodelf on January 31, 2003, 09:20:26 PM
Quote from: Valamir

It was UA that introduced (in an official book of rules) Non weapon proficiencies, the idea that some new classes could become official (there had always been Dragon magazine classes) and so on.  Following UA was the Dungeoneering and Wilderness Survival Guides which are actually a couple of the best sources for crunchy bit sim stuff I've seen (rules for falling that differenciates abrasion from rolling down a slope from impact damage, rules for frostbite and hypothermia, all kinds of stuff like that...I think there was even a table of sunrise/sunsets at different latitudes and a set of weather rules straight outta a farmer's almanac).


Actually, proficiencies first showed up in Oriental Adventures, and were refined (mechanically) in the Dungeoneer's and Wilderness Survival Guides.  UA was pretty much more-of-the-same, with a noticable power escalation--only Comeliness was really something moderately new.

And, i concur, the two 'Guides are two of the best D&D books of all time, and two of the best RPG books on my shelves.  I still sometimes refer to the Wildernes Survival Guide, and the capsule "how to design a world" bit in the back is actually pretty good.  And they were a significant departure, IMHO, from D&D-before-that-point, precisely because they introduced rather realistic mechanics.  As i understand it, they are also probably the poorest-selling rulebooks ever published for any flavor of D&D--i remember seeing them for half price, bundled with e free module (both new), within a year or two of their original release.  Something i've never seen done with any other D&D book, of any age.


Title: Re: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wante
Post by: Chuck Frizzell on February 19, 2003, 04:37:13 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards
Hello everybody,

I'm working on a great big essay on Gamism, and it's going to include some detailed analysis of Dungeons & Dragons role-playing. I use this title to include any and all play under this name, which I'm sure you can appreciate means quite a wide variety.


Try here (http://www.acaeum.com) for a piece by piece history of D&D products.  While it's about going prices for old products, it does provide quite a bit of history for each as well.


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: Rob MacDougall on February 20, 2003, 02:48:54 PM
Ron (et al):

Has anyone here seen this (http://www-personal.umich.edu/~beattie/timeline/1972-1979/dd.gif)?

It seems to be a scan of a review of original D&D from some wargaming publication in the 1970s. (Warning: the link is a large GIF.) Makes many of the points made here about early proto D&D better than almost anything else could.

Highlights:

Play in person is usually impossible, since the referee can only show the adventurer the terrain he is crossing in that instant, plus whatever is in his sight ... The optimal solution seems to be play by phone, or when distances are too great, play by mail.

In general, the concept and imagination involved is stunning. However, much more work, refinement, and especially regulation and simplification is necessary before the game is managable. The scope is just too grand, while the referee is expected to do too much in relation to the players.

Link via Forge member Bryant's blog Population: One (http://popone.innocence.com/index.php).


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: Ron Edwards on February 20, 2003, 02:53:33 PM
Hi Rob,

Judd gave me the heads-up about this earlier - I think the whole text is fascinating.

The review illustrates two things:

1. Wargamer context - specifically that "tabletop," to these guys, meant a large-scale terrain map. The reviewer cannot fathom that a player should "see" the terrain that his character wouldn't see, and the ideas (a) of removing the map-terrain in the first place or (b) not worrying about "what the player sees" are beyond him.

It's hard to describe to people who entered the hobby in 1989 or later how important all those hexes and grids seemed to us at the time. The notion that movement across space wasn't accounted for in effort or time would have horrified 99% of the role-players back then.

2. How totally impenetrable the rules are, and how obvious it was even to a casual glance that the rules-system was far too deadly for the individualized medium of play. The guy isn't objecting to Gamism at all, but rather to the killer-GM over-empowered with deadly rules

Best,
Ron


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: Rob MacDougall on February 20, 2003, 03:00:53 PM
Yes, it's absolutely dripping with wargamer assumptions, and yet:

... these booklets attempt to outline a system for "playing" the kind of fantasy adventures one previously read about in paperbacks. The concept is remarkably interesting, since the same person interested in matching himself against Napoleon or Manstein might also find comparisons with Conan or John Carter enjoyable.

Interesting that the idea of "playing a story" is right in there at the beginning too.


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: Jack Spencer Jr on February 20, 2003, 04:31:00 PM
Quote from: Rob MacDougall
Interesting that the idea of "playing a story" is right in there at the beginning too.

I have long been laboring under the notion that "playing a story" has often been the initial hook into roleplaying for many people although the methods eventually used or even desired would not at all be what we call Narrativism. There is a difference between creating a story and playing one, I imagine.


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: b_bankhead on February 22, 2003, 08:32:54 PM
Quote from: Ron Edwards


The review illustrates two things:

 How totally impenetrable the rules are, and how obvious it was even to a casual glance that the rules-system was far too deadly for the individualized medium of play. The guy isn't objecting to Gamism at all, but rather to the killer-GM over-empowered with deadly rules


   You know this is one of the things I hated about early D&D, how deadly it was at lower levels. In strictly run games the death rate could be quite high and advancing out of the boring lower levels could be difficult.  Ironically for all its reputation I found Call of Cthulhu to be actually less deadly than D&D.

    This lead to various type of compensatory behaiour, the 'Monty Haul' DM an oft derided specimen I now see as an attempt to soften the risk/benefit ratios at lower levels, likewise a lot of the boring filler behaviour I found so grating in the game (checking every GD door for traps, etc,etc, ad nauseum)  is an obvious reaction to the deadliness of the strictly run game.
    In some games a character might be expected to actually roll a single dice for hit points. A character with 4 hit point I low level D&D is exceedingly vulnerable, In retrospect I would say MOST DMs were 'killer'DMs ,the nature of the game makes it so.
Other types of compensation were to just start the game at highter levels,or add a bunch of chrome to increase the power of low level characters (the3EAD&D answer,back then the source was usually Arduin Grimiore).


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: b_bankhead on February 22, 2003, 08:41:43 PM
Quote from: Rob MacDougall

Interesting that the idea of "playing a story" is right in there at the beginning too.


It was the prospect of playing a story that hooked me in after I turned away in boredom and disgust from miniatures and most board(bored) wargames.  But what I got was little that resembled the antics of Cugel and Elric but more like more of the damn miniatures games, only underground, and more pointless and baroque than the historical miniatures games (elaborate underground armies waiting in the dark for the purpose of waylaying player characters).  I began to wonder if fantasy role playing wasnt a big bait and switch,(at that time the separation of wargaming from story oriented rpgs was just starting to jell). Everybody talks about their wonderful story oriented D&D game but then Id join and there I was sitting around for half and hour to roll to hit on some interminable miniatures battle.  I was onlly when I vowed to stay away from the game forever that I began to see any improvement.


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: M. J. Young on February 22, 2003, 10:31:41 PM
It's a funny thing. I've known very few people who were playing AD&D around 1980. Of those I've known face to face, all seem to be agreed that Gamma World was the killer game. Some refused to play or run it because it was so deadly, and others who did maintained it was the most depressing RPG they'd played.

D&D, by contrast, was a very upbeat cakewalk.

--M. J. Young


Title: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted
Post by: b_bankhead on February 23, 2003, 12:30:27 AM
Quote from: M. J. Young
It's a funny thing. I've known very few people who were playing AD&D around 1980. Of those I've known face to face, all seem to be agreed that Gamma World was the killer game. --M. J. Young


Yeah ,Gamma world could be bad.  They threw zap guns into a game modeled on D&D without the games mechanism for segregating danger (the level mechanic and encounter chart), a serious set of design mistakes.

   But no one can say that Gamma world every domintated, even monopolized the rpg world like D&D. Its HARD to not play D&D in the role playing world.....