The History of Role Playing Games

Gary Gygax knew from the very beginning that he could not give the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons the attention it needed all by himself. He focused all of his attention upon these first three volumes of AD&D and codified so much information that his contribution has gone without equal. The Player’s Handbook(PHB), the Dungeon Masters Guide(DMG), and the first Monster Manual(MMI)is so core to our AD&D multiverse that, while tomes upon the various subjects abound, most later volumes merely echoed what Gygax knew.

So the phoenix of the new rpg’s was born. Much more mature than the d6 based D&D, this d20 based system grew into true geek adolescence in the late ’70’s and early ’80’s. TSR, the precursor of Wizards of the Coast, foolishly published the entire core system for very little compensation. Unlike now, the tools of the trade didn’t cost you an arm and a leg. Players only needed the PHB, pen, pencil, paper and as many dice as one could garner. Twenty to thirty bucks and you was ‘good to go’ on your first adventure.

So James Ward was able to interject his spin upon the mutating creature to become AD&D. By the time the second generation came around, many great contributors divested their time into Tomes of Magic(ToM), Books of Thieves(BoT) creating a veritable mythological library for which any Dungeon Master can create an entire millieu of their own. Even now, with so many volumes written, Gygax’s DMG cannot be rivaled as a essential resource for everybody with any interest in AD&D rpg’s

A little known fact was that the Legends and Lore(LL) was originally named Deities and Demigods(DD) and had the Melhnibonian and Cthuluian mythoi. It was a shame that TSR was pressured into republishing it under the latter name without the macabre mind of H. P. Lovecraft. Also, leaving out one of the first entirely created universes of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser really should be considered as an insult toward this great creation that rivals the artistry of “The Lord of the Rings”.

And, in the end, Gygax finished what he started with Unearthed Arcana(UA). This showed a method to perpetuate a cash-poor system with several deviations like Marvel Super Heroes(we called it marvel stupid heroes), TMNT(Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Cars, ‘Toons and Mech Warrior. There were so many cross-breeds and mutations of these systems that it finally differentiated itself into system types dependant upon the main shape of your “decision die” that your DM uses.

I, a contemporary of many of the aforementioned authors, can be considered of this ‘old school’. Their initial efforts were a culmination of many hours of gaming within several ‘clicks’ which I was involved. Every bit of the material published came from our notes from our very much extended gaming sessions. Yes, you remember, those sessions that would go on for five or eight days pausing only long enough to take catnaps and gain a little bit of sustenance.

I have a simple request that I would like. I would like to see Wizard’s of the Coast republish the first editions verbatim. Their information was so much more in depth that it still has much value as when it was first published. If you don’t like that old school system, I have a new system forthcoming which I subtitle, System 30, and it will be much more affordable. I am enthusiastic about being able to keep the core tools down to under fifteen dollars.