A Little History With Your RPGs?
For many years now, I’ve been covering books and other items related to the history of wargaming and RPGs. I never get tired of finding new resources that expand my knowledge of gaming, so below I’d like to share with you some new sources of information and history. (I’ll also be including a list of my previous gaming history posts at the bottom of the page.)
Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D: Rise of the Dungeon Master (releasing May 9, 2017)
There are many different books out there that relate the tale of Gary Gygax and the creation of D&D, but I think that Rise of the Dungeon Master has to be the first one I’ve ever heard of that tells the story using the graphic novel format. Written by David Kushner and illustrated by Koren Shadmi, the 136-page book tells the story from a number of different point-of-views, including Gygax and Dave Arneson (co-creator of D&D) and a few other individuals.
The book doesn’t just cover the creation of D&D; in its pages, readers will find some great explanations of many of the elements of the most famous RPG—dice rolling, stats, class, weapons, and the role of the DM. For someone unfamiliar with D&D, the book is a great primer on wargaming in general, the development of the RPG, and the basic history of TSR and Gygax. It doesn’t avoid the warts, either… the details of many of the disagreements between individuals and companies are simplified, but they’re in there. Of course, you are also likely to find one or two “tellings” in here that might not adhere to other “facts.” For example, Rise of the Dungeon Master states that Dave Arneson was never asked to join TSR as a founder because Gygax and Don Kaye “didn’t figure he was the kind of guy who would be too good at running a business,” but I’ve read other sources that state Arneson simply didn’t have the funds (Designers & Dragons: The ’70s by Shannon Appelcline, page 14).
Either way, the graphic novel is fun to read whether you know the stories or not. From Gygax’s childhood in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin to his death in 2008 at age 69, Rise of the Dungeon Master is a story that every D&D player… really, every RPGer… should read.
Judges Guild Deluxe Collector Edition Volume 1
If you’ve ever participated in a Kickstarter for a Goodman Games product, you know they don’t mess around. Last year, I was one of almost 900 backers of a massive volume that would collect some of the most influential gaming company’s early products. Judges Guild put out a LOT of gaming material, especially for Dungeons & Dragons. At one time, it was even licensed to put the D&D name on some of its products. I have fond memories of listening in on some of the Judges Guild adventures being run at a local gaming group when I was in middle school; alas, I only got to sit in on one session of Tegel Manor and I joined a group late in the adventure for Citadel of Fire.
It doesn’t matter—as someone who loves to study the history of wargames and roleplaying games, collections such as this one—the Judges Guild Deluxe Collector Edition Volume 1 (how’s that for a title?!)—are something I just can’t miss. When this massive book arrived on my doorstep, I could NOT believe how heavy the box was. And then I opened it. The book is a massive 12″ x 18″ in size. Here’s a photo with the 5E Dungeon Master’s Guide for reference:
This book is an incredible resource for D&D and Judges Guild fans. From the Goodman Games website, here’s a more detailed description of its contents:
Contained within these pages you will find the legendary adventure modules Citadel of Fire, Tegel Manor, and Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor. Each of these adventures changed the course of role playing. Also included herein are scans of the original Judges Guild Journals, the gaming periodicals that were shipped with each installment of Judges Guild mail order product. The Judges Guild Journals have never before been reproduced in any format. Finally, you will find a number of historical essays, as well as all-new game material expanding the original adventures, all authorized by the Judges Guild.
This short paragraph just doesn’t do the book justice, however. Along with the original module covers, you get dozens of full-color scans of the cover variations for the modules. There are a number of fold-out maps in the book (HUGE!) that are scans of ORIGINAL documents and hand-written notes. The essays are incredible reads and cannot be missed by JG fans, but the detailed scans of the original Judges Guild Journals, these cool newspaper-style mailouts…reading them sent me back in time to those early dungeon crawl days. And, of course, the three adventures inside are reprinted oversized in all their glory, making it easy on the eyes of a fledgling grognard like me.
Here are two additional photos—take note of my original Citadel of Fire (on the right) and the enlarged reprint from inside the book! The other image shows the inside cover displaying the Tegel Manor map.
The Judges Guild Deluxe Collector Edition Volume 1 is available now in a few different formats – leather bound, standard, and the standard with a slipcase.
Star Trek: The Role Playing Game: Interview with Game Designers
The team over at Trek Talk: A Star Trek Podcast just made my month with their latest episode (6) that features a lengthy interview with two of the three original Star Trek: The Role Playing Game designers, Guy McLimore and Greg Poehlein. (The other designer, David Tepool, passed away in 2009.)
I’ve written previously of my extreme fondness for this early-80s game, and only D&D beats it in terms of amount of time I’ve played a particular game. This is an incredible interview, with tons of stories that have likely never been heard before. I loved hearing how the game was originally pitched, how the game’s rules were developed, and the testing of the game mechanics. But you’ll also hear some great stuff such as the designers getting to replay the famous bar fight scene from the The Trouble with Tribbles episode with players sitting side-by-side and role-playing the scene with James Doohan (Scotty) and Walter Koenig (Chekov). There’s also a great story about the designers stirring up some trouble at Gen Con in 1981 when Gary Gygax arrived in a limo (with bodyguards dressed in white!).
Fans of the game will love this interview, but any Trekkies out there will also appreciate many of the recollections of dealing with Paramount and Roddenberry. The interview does focus heavily on the RPG, but there are so many great bits scattered in the podcast will be enjoyable to both gamers and non-gamers.
Goodman Games – Dungeons & Dragons B1 and B2 Reprints
Goodman Games has also announced their plans to reprint classic D&D modules in hardcover formats, and the first two modules that many of you older gamers might remember to get the treatment are B1 In Search of the Unknown and B2: The Keep on the Borderlands.
I have fond memories of these two early modules, particularly because they were the first adventures I ran for my players that I didn’t create myself. They were great resources in my early days of adventure creation, and I often tried to mimic the formatting/style of the modules. What really intrigues me about these hardcover reprints is the additional content they will contain. From Goodman Games’ website:
These editions will include the adventures as originally printed, complete conversions of the modules to the 5E ruleset, new 5E content, and behind-the-scenes historical content!
They had me at “historical content.” I love the history of gaming, so I cannot wait to see what kinds of information and stories are told as more adventures are released. You can get more details here.
Elf Warfare by Chris Pramas (releasing June 29, 2017)
Look, we all know the history of dwarves and orcs and elves and their battlefield tactics, right? Wait, what? You mean, you haven’t read Orc Warfare or Dwarf Warfare from Osprey Publishing? I can understand if you’re a bit befuddled with elven warfare since the book doesn’t release until June, but any RPGer or wargamer worth his or her salt knows that one of the secrets to defeating your enemy is UNDERSTANDING your enemy!
These 64-page books are a mix of full-color and grayscale artwork (AMAZING artwork!) and detailed examinations of each race’s strategies, resources, and views on the art of war. From coverage of the various weapons used by each race, to the units and war machines used, to summaries of historical battles, if you’ve got a favorite race you like to play… these little books will add a lot of enjoyment to your gaming, and you’re sure to find some interesting twists you can apply as a player (either in a wargame or RPG) or as a DM/GM in your favorite game.
In the Elf Warfare introduction, the goal of the series is clear: “provide a military and cultural analysis of a favorite fantasy race… [and provide] a source of ideas for your roleplaying or miniature game campaigns.” If you’re wanting to add some depth to your games, these books will be valuable resources for you.
Note: I was provided review copies of Rise of the Dungeon Master and Elf Warfare.
My other geekdad.com links related to gaming history:
A Little History with Your D&D
Review – Of Dice & Men by Dave Ewalt
Review – Dungeons & Dreamers by Brad King and John Borland
Review – Empire of Imagination by Mike Witwer
Fantasy RPG 2D Terrain – Past & Present
My Gaming Nostalgia Shelf
Before D&D, There Was Chainmail
Chainmail vs. 5th Edition D&D
The Original Metamorphosis Alpha is Back
Gaming Flashback: Top Secret
Gaming Flashback: Car Wars
Where One Particular RPG Boldly Went (review of Star Trek: RPG, 1981)