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Author Topic: Dungeons & Dragons role-playing history - help wanted  (Read 30964 times)
Ron Edwards
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« 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
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sben
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« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2003, 10:46:41 AM »

I can't vouch for the accuracy of these pages, but:

This page seems to back up some of your facts: (1) the original white box in 1974; (4a) the first three AD&D hardbacks.

This page 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, which is as good a source as any.
[/url]
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S. Ben Melhuish
jrs
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« Reply #2 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
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Paul Czege
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« Reply #3 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
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Maurice Forrester
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« Reply #4 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.
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Maurice Forrester
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« Reply #5 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.
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Maurice Forrester
jrs
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« Reply #6 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
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Maurice Forrester
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« Reply #7 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.
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Maurice Forrester
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« Reply #8 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
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Valamir
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« Reply #9 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).
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contracycle
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« Reply #10 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.
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« Reply #11 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
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« Reply #12 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.
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Christopher Kubasik
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« Reply #13 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
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« Reply #14 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
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