Roleplaying, was RE: I'm back!

Jon Noble jon_p_noble at yahoo.com
Wed Aug 21 08:15:33 EDT 2002


--- Philip.Belben at powertech.co.uk wrote:
> 
> [1]  The introductory material for a lot of D&D and
> AD&D stuff tells the story
> of these games splitting away from war gaming
> because people didn't want to be
> constrained to base their games on actual historical
> battles.  I have never war
> gamed myself, but I don't see any such constraint in
> war gaming, and I find it
> difficult to see what they're going on about.

When D&D began wargames were pretty much constrained
to actual history. Not necessarily actual battles, but
certainly historical armies, tactics etc. Before D&D
there was very litle fantasy gaming (apart from some
fantasy variants of Diplomacy - I am aware of several
LOTR variants, plus Earthsea, Conan's Hyboria, and
Eric's Age of the Young Kingdoms as pre D&D Diplomacy
variants). There were also some play by mail campaign
games with a fantasy basis around about the same time.
There was some SF gaming - mainly based on Star Trek.
I suspect that the very first computer games were Star
Trek ones, usually played by programers on mainframes.

D&D started out when a group of miniatures gamers
wanted to add fantasy elements to a medieval game. The
original fantasy elements were all from LOTR. Finally
around 1973 the "Chainmail" miniatures rules for
medieval warfare included a fantasy section. A chapter
for using elves, orcs, ents and such. In 1974 this
section was expanded and released as three volumes
called Dungeons and Dragons. The big innovation was
allowing players to control single characters with
special characteristics, rather than armies. The
prototypes for the original D&D characters were the
heroes (and villians) of LOTR, plus other fantasy
characters - Conan, Elric, Cugel, Jack of Shadows,
Ffafhrd and The Grey Mouser were probably the greatest
influences.
The original D&D rules left a lot unexplained. They
gave the impression of being guidelines for people who
already knew how to play, which when we were trying to
start a campaign in Australia with no contact with
other players made for some interesting times. Quite
amazingly we got most things right. Probably because
there was a much smaller pool of fantasy to draw upon,
so everyone used the same sources. There was no
explanation of how magic was supposed to work - we
guessed "Vancian magic" and were right. 
And when there were only a few dozen people who even
knew what D&D was in all Australia some of our
conversations made for rather frightening listening;
"Next time I get killed I want to come back as a
vampire" etc - no wonder the religious right was so
alarmed at the game

Jon Noble

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