Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Blackmoor, in the Era of Loch Gloomen

By 1972, the Blackmoor campaign had evolved many of its signature characteristics: dungeon exploration, gathering experience to advance in level and a heavy emphasis on gear and money. The system, however, remained perpetually in flux, as it would for years to come. We will never uncover a document that comprises "the Blackmoor system," but we can see glimpses of some characteristics in contemporary sources. Sometimes, as with the excerpt from a late-1972 Corner of the Table shown above, we can learn a lot from just a battle report. This one describes the beginning of the Loch Gloomen phase of the campaign.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Don't Give Up the Ship, in Manuscript

Before they collaborated on Dungeons & Dragons, Gygax and Arneson first worked together on a set of Napoleonic naval rules called Don't Give Up the Ship (1972). By looking at surviving manuscript drafts of the game, we get an unusual level of insight into their individual methods as rules authors, and how their interaction eventually resulted in print products. Here we see the first draft of the rules produced by Dave Arneson early in 1971. These would be serialized (with minor editorial clean-up) in the International Wargamer, beginning in June of 1971.

Monday, August 20, 2012

GenCon 2012 and 1968

I'm back from GenCon 2012 in Indianapolis. I had a great time hanging out with many of the folks from the Acaeum, with Tavis Allison, and with the trio of documentarians working on the new film Dungeons & Dragons: A Documentary (definitely pitch in to their Kickstartr!). I placed a faux-vintage full-page advertisement for Playing at the World in the convention program, one disguised as a history lesson - or perhaps it was a history lesson disguised as an ad. For those of you that didn't have a chance to attend, here it is.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Gygax's "The Thief Addition" (1974)

As I make my way to GenCon this week, I can't help but think back to thirty-eight years ago, to the first GenCon after the release of Dungeons & Dragons. Bill Hoyer reported then that "this year's convention was centered mainly around the new set of Gygax and Arneson rules Dungeons & Dragons. On Saturday at least a dozen games were in progress and as soon as one ended another was started." Players must have been especially enthusiastic because many saw there for the first time something entirely novel: "thief additions to D&D were previewed with this providing more fun to an already excitement-packed set of rules." Yes, nearly a year before Greyhawk, the Thief class was on display at GenCon VII.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Rules to the Game of Dungeon (1974)

One of the perennial questions about the history of role-playing games is this: which came second, Tunnels & Trolls or Empire of the Petal Throne? Deciding between the two is largely a question of semantics, of whether you count various small-run amateur publications as releases or not. Fortunately, historians don't need to choose between the two, because Craig VanGrasstek's Rules to the Game of Dungeon (1974) beat them both handily. Weighing in at eighteen pages, and released late in the summer of 1974, Rules to the Game of Dungeon seems certain to be the second published role-playing game.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Midwest Military Simulation Association (MMSA)

An acknowledgment in the front matter of the original Dungeons & Dragons game made the name of the Midwest Military Simulation Association (MMSA) immortal. At the time that Dungeons & Dragons came out, the MMSA was a sizable gaming club in the Twin Cities, which, as this summer 1974 flier shows, played a number of different types of games, not just fantasy. The name "MMSA," however, was of relatively recent origin.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Great Kingdom (Domesday Book #9)

Since the first copies of my book have trickled out, I've noticed that the coverage of the Great Kingdom as described in Domesday Book #9 has garnered a lot of attention. Several early commentators have pointed out that the map prefigures the later development of Gygax's world of Oerth. Initially, we see little hint of that in the Domesday Book, however: this map was distributed as the basis of a wargame that Gygax hoped would involve the entire Castle & Crusade Society. While he only provided a sketch of the intended system, it is worth studying to see both what it includes and what it omits.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The LGTSA Medieval Miniatures Rules

Before the LGTSA Medieval Miniatures rules appeared in Domesday Book #5 - and indeed, right on the edge of the time when the LGTSA came to be called the LGTSA - a set of "Geneva Medieval Miniatures" rules by Jeff Perren and Gary Gygax showed up in the fanzine Panzerfaust, in April 1970. The five pages of rules differ in some particulars from the July version that would surface in the Domesday Book, but, as the introduction to the rules suggest, this transitional publication documents the first step that Gygax took in adapting the local medieval rules for print.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Blackmoor Gazette and Rumormonger #1

The year before Domesday Book #13 ran part one of Dave Arneson's article "Points of Interest about Black Moor," Arneson circulated a one-page campaign newsletter called the Blackmoor Gazette and Rumormonger. Like "Points of Interest," the BMG&R does not tell us a great deal about the system of Blackmoor, but it does give significant insight into the setting and the state of the campaign at the time of its publication.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Domesday Book #1

To start off a series of important documents in the history of wargames and role-playing games, we take a close look at Domesday Book #1. As collectors are extremely concerned about forgeries of these rare and valuable issues, I've added a pretty intrusive watermark, but nothing that obscures the main content. The historical context of this and subsequent issues is covered in my book Playing at the World, but here follows an overview.