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More D&D Roots 
25th-Oct-2007 08:45 pm
chiang 2
Continuing a strain of research from my previous entry, I just came across another account of early pre-D&D roleplaying. Someone had pointed to this in a comment over on Rob MacDougal's site (down page here) but I'd overlooked it. What do we have? An account of the first "dungeon" adventure run by Dave Arneson, as told by one of the players, Greg Svenson. Another slightly different version can be found here. While similar to other accounts, in that it follows the story of how he ran a dungeon as a break from playing Napoleonics wargames, there's a tantalizing tidbit.
So, as a diversion for the group, one weekend Dave set up Blackmoor instead of Napoleonics on his ping pong table. The rules we used were based on "Chainmail", which is a set of medieval miniature rules with a fantasy supplement allowing for magic and various beings found in the "Lord of the Rings". I had never played any games like it before, although I had read "Lord of the Rings". Other members of the group had played the game before, but always doing adventures in and around the town of Blackmoor. By the end of the weekend I had fallen in love with the game.

On this particular weekend, Dave tried a new wrinkle for the game. He had been working all week to prepare a map of tunnels and catacombs under the town and especially under the castle.
(Emphasis mine.)

So before that first dungeon expedition, people were already playing fantasy adventures, presumably with 1 player = 1 character (or close to it)?

This bears additional digging, including looking up the other people whom Greg Svenson mentions as participants.
Comments 
26th-Oct-2007 12:39 pm (UTC)
"At this point Dave took us into the laundry area of the basement, telling us he wanted to see what we would do. He had us line up in our marching order. Then he turned off the lights saying a sudden wind had blown out our torches. Then we heard some screaming. We generally scattered as best we could. He turned on the lights looked at what we had done and then went back to the other room, telling us that -"

My God, they were LARPers! :o
26th-Oct-2007 01:57 pm (UTC)
Interesting stuff. I don't have a comment right now--but it's good information!

-Marco
28th-Oct-2007 03:50 pm (UTC)
I'm interested in the really early stuff myself, the bits where they mention stuff like "before we had stats for the characters" and so forth.

The other thing I wonder about is how much of this kind of play got adopted into the minis gaming community, but it just isn't readily seen. I know I've pointed you ( Elliot) to games that seem to be relatively current products, but that still hail conceptually from that pre-D&D rpg/minis period ( Science vs Pluck comes to mind).

I'd be curious to know what some of those early gamers have gone on to do )play/design-wise) and who they've gone on to interact with.
30th-Jan-2008 03:26 pm (UTC)
I do think there´s a conceptual difference between the minis/Braunstein derived games, and the RPGs that grew out of hex&counter wargames -> Traveller & RQ
31st-Jan-2008 07:47 am (UTC)
Care to elaborate? That's an interesting hypothesis.
6th-Feb-2008 05:04 pm (UTC)
Well, D&D is inherently more tactical, heroic and gamey.

Miniature Games also tend to be more competitive than Hex & Counter games.
Imperium Romanum II has no concept of fairness in it´s scenarios.

Point list for army build up and equal points per side are a staple of Miniature games.

This hypothesis has a big problem, though: I don´t now that much about how miniature gaming was before GW. Any info on that?
Sources?
6th-Feb-2008 05:33 pm (UTC)
I think you're basically right about the fairness issue, with a bit of exaggeration. I don't know minis very well but my impression is that the point lists were used from an early date. Have to ask Old Geezer or maybe my friend komradebob. It's true that Squad Leader and Wooden Ships & Iron Men (especially the latter) had point systems for creating balanced scenarios, but guess what: both are heavily influenced by miniatures gaming, in fact WS&IM is a port from miniatures rules. The SPI school of design/publication, which perhaps fancied itself to be a form of analytical history, probably cared least about game balance.

I don't know for sure but The Miniatures Page looks like a big place for minis enthusiasts.

Anyway I think I see vaguely where you're going but some more elaboration would be helpful--here or in your blog, or over at theRPGsite.
6th-Feb-2008 06:20 pm (UTC)
I´m pretty burnt out on posting on theRPGsite, so I´ll come back here. I´m not sure what else is unclear right now, my thoughts in that regard weren´t that far-reaching, just an interesting take on the causes of the early divide in RPGs. Which I´m taking for granted, so maybe that´s what you mean.

Interesting things about WS&IM as being miniature ports!

weakly related:
I recently checked a used Squad Leader copy, and it had all my concersn form our recent discussions in the designer notes! Sometimes in the same words!
I´ll definitely have to get me a Squad Leader copy, to further investigate.
6th-Feb-2008 11:27 pm (UTC)
Okay, on one side we have hex & counter games, and I believe what you're pointing at broadly speaking is the analytical simulation aspect. RQ per se has its roots in the imaginings of Greg Stafford more than in wargames but it's perhaps noteworthy that Stafford chose to make a wargame out of Glorantha, not a miniatures game. If he'd wanted he could certainly have anticipated Warhammer, making factional army lists to be played in balanced set-pieces, with the world as background. But he didn't. In WB&RM/Dragonpass/RQ, the world is the star, the goal is the experience of the world more than using a world as a backdrop for a competitive game--at least in terms of how games are understood & appreciated in wider culture.

GDW of course had been quite focused on historical wargames since it was founded to publish Drang nach Osten. And the whole "monster wargame" mindset is pretty obviously in the analytical/experiential camp more than the "playable fun game" camp.

Of course the divisions weren't very strong in the 70's--we're talking minor factional differences compared to the gulf that separated those hobbies from Monopoly, chess, or bridge.
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