Any old timers out there willing to help with a Master's thesis?

Greetings all. I am a long time gamer who started playing RPGs back in the 70's. I am currently working on a Master's thesis on D&D and other early RPGs from a different angle than some other academic projects in this area. I am looking to see if there are folks who began playing around 1978 or before who would be willing to share their early experiences with any RPG and discuss why they began and continued the hobby? Also, I would be grateful for anyone who would be willing to share additional demographic information that we can discuss later.

I would greatly appreciate any help.

Thanks in advance.
 

John Dallman

Explorer
I started in fall 1979 - will that do? I'm in the UK, and I know several people who have been playing for longer than me, who you might be able to enlist.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I am pretty sure I began with Tunnels and Trolls, 5th edition. That means probably 1979.
 

Philip Benz

A Dragontooth Grognard
I started in 1974, migrating from Chainmail to D&D. Later, when AD&D came out, our group switched to C&S (Chivalry and Sorcery). Then late in the 80s life took me away from RPGs for close to 20 years before I returned to DD3.5 via Neverwinter Nights in the early 2000s, then the new group migrated to PF1 around 2014. Now we've migrated to PF2.

Why I began in the hobby? I was an antisocial nerd teeneager, obsessed with reading, mostly fantasy and SF, especially Tolkien, and when I discovered a group of gamers at the U of Iowa student union, I was instantly hooked. D&D became a life choice, finally I had found a group of like-minded people to hang out with, and the escapist entertainment aspect of RPGs really filled a void.

Why did I continue - or in my case, return - to RPGs? Life choices gave me more free time, and in the early 2000s I finally decided to find fellow gamers in my region (central France) and get back into the hobby. Now we manage to play about once a month.

What else did you need to know, Stefan?
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Personally, I was in middle school- @10-11 years old- and a lifelong fan of mythology, Sci-fi and fantasy fiction when I first heard of D&D. All I knew was that it was a game that let you play the same kinds of heroes I read about.

Then I saw that a hobbit-looking guy in my grade (whom I didn’t know) was forming a group, with games to be played in the school library. I asked permission to join, got it, and signed up. I bought a couple minis & a PHB, a set of purple dice, and showed up. Over the course of the next few weeks, we played several sessions, with the party ever dwindling as casualties mounted. My human fighter and the human wizard were the last two survivors, nearing the exit...and we encountered a purple worm. After the wizard cast his final magic missile, he was eaten when the DM rolled a 20 for the worm. The final round of combat was just my PC & the worm, each at 4hp or so, with simultaneous initiative. I missed, the worm hit.

TPK.

...but I was hooked. Creating adventures was every bit as much fun as reading them. Even when playing Traveller- the second RPG I learned to play- when I had a PC die in character generation, I enjoyed the story that was told by those (ultimately doomed) die rolls. Sure, it was a short story, but it was a good one.

Demographics: black male of multiracial ancestry. While I know other gamers of color, I’ve only gamed with 3 of them. Roman Catholic. Picked up the game as a member of the Middle Class. Over the past 40 years, I’ve played in 5 cities in 3 states. (Want to know more, ask.)
 
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Eltab

Adventurer
I started playing in 1980, in case you have to expand your demographic range a bit.
High school; D&D, Gamma World, Traveller; tried Boot Hill, Star Frontiers, Ogre.
 
I started in 1974, migrating from Chainmail to D&D. Later, when AD&D came out, our group switched to C&S (Chivalry and Sorcery). Then late in the 80s life took me away from RPGs for close to 20 years before I returned to DD3.5 via Neverwinter Nights in the early 2000s, then the new group migrated to PF1 around 2014. Now we've migrated to PF2.

Why I began in the hobby? I was an antisocial nerd teeneager, obsessed with reading, mostly fantasy and SF, especially Tolkien, and when I discovered a group of gamers at the U of Iowa student union, I was instantly hooked. D&D became a life choice, finally I had found a group of like-minded people to hang out with, and the escapist entertainment aspect of RPGs really filled a void.

Why did I continue - or in my case, return - to RPGs? Life choices gave me more free time, and in the early 2000s I finally decided to find fellow gamers in my region (central France) and get back into the hobby. Now we manage to play about once a month.

What else did you need to know, Stefan?
Personally, I was in middle school- @10-11 years old- and a lifelong fan of mythology, Sci-fi and fantasy fiction when I first heard of D&D. All I knew was that it was a game that let you play the same kinds of heroes I read about.

Then I saw that a hobbit-looking guy in my grade (whom I didn’t know) was forming a group, with games to be played in the school library. I asked permission to join, got it, and signed up. I bought a couple minis & a PHB, a set of purple dice, and showed up. Over the course of the next few weeks, we played several sessions, with the party ever dwindling as casualties mounted. My human fighter and the human wizard were the last two survivors, nearing the exit...and we encountered a purple worm. After the wizard cast his final magic missile, he was eaten when the DM rolled a 20 for the worm. The final round of combat was just my PC & the worm, each at 4hp or so, with simultaneous initiative. I missed, the worm hit.

TPK.

...but I was hooked. Creating adventures was every bit as much fun as reading them. Even when playing Traveller- the second RPG I learned to play- when I had a PC die in character generation, I enjoyed the story that was told by those (ultimately doomed) die rolls. Sure, it was a short story, but it was a good one.

Demographics: black male of multiracial ancestry. While I know other gamers of color, I’ve only gamed with 3 of them. Roman Catholic. Picked up the game as a member of the Middle Class. Over the past 40 years, I’ve played in 5 cities in 3 states. (Want to know more, ask.)

Both of these are perfect. Thank You both.

everyone else who responded would fit, so if you'd be willing to answer the same questions in the OP that would be great.
 

John Dallman

Explorer
discuss why they began and continued the hobby?
I learned of the existence of RPGs at my first SF convention in summer 1979, aged 18. The idea seemed immediately interesting, although I didn't try to play at the time, because there was an enormous range of other things to do at the convention, and it was clear that RPGs took time.

I found my first group when I went to college that fall, and am still in contact with people there over forty years later. That group played mostly oD&D, and overlapped with another that played AD&D1e; I still have active characters that were played there. Almost all my D&D has been played in "open worlds," where characters could move to different DM's settings, with slightly different rules and very different societies and politics.

Since leaving college, I've never wanted to stop, or faced pressure to do so. I've been able to form or join groups everywhere that I've lived for long periods. I've run some game conventions and attended more. Nowadays I mostly play or run GURPS in semi-historical settings, but still play D&D at conventions.
 

Enrico Poli1

Explorer
I'm Italian, 42 years old, started in the late 80s with Italian gamebooks, then discovered rpgs and the D&D Mentzer Red Box (in the Italian translation). Don't remember if the interest for fantasy novels came before or later. Anyway, interest in fantasy with its escapism hooked me. My "Golden Age of roleplay" was in High school with a group of friends that played every saturday afternoon. Later I remained interested in the hobby, even if for extended periods I stopped playing. When 3e and Age of Worms came out, I DMed the entire campaign for about 2 years of real time (my "Silver Age"). Skipped 4e entirely until I found 5e so good that I bought the core books and become a collector. I'm currently DMing Curse of Strahd.

And yes, I'm a rather stereotypical nerd with scarce social interaction... and Roman Catholic, too.
 

Longspeak

Explorer
I'm 52 now. I'm white. I started playing in 1979, the day after my best friend's birthday. I was 12.

My dad had bought him this present. Dad tried to explain it to me, and I thought it sounded pretty dumb. I wish I could remember the exact words he used, but I came away with the idea that it was "Let's Pretend, but with rules." Which really, it was... Blue Box D&D. I remember thinking it was dumb to put rules on our games of pretend. Also, I was 12, and "Let's Pretend" was a stupid kid's game.

Day after the party, best friend says "Well, your dad bought me this. I guess we should try it."

So, that's why I started. Literally because I felt obligated. But... I was hooked. He and I stumbled our way through the rules and our first dungeon adventure. And that it. I was in it for life. It wasn't "Let's Pretend With Rules." It was "Let's Pretend With Ideas. And Rules." It captured my imagination, and my friend's. The sense of wonder, and discovery, the thrill of danger.

We did one-on-one for most of the rest of that school year, also moving to AD&D along the way. Then we added new friends from his school the next year.

All his friends were white boys. But then when I reached high school it opened up for me. I met many girls and a few people who were non-white, who all formed part of a large gaming circle in high school. There were about 20 of us, and we formed into groups based on the sort of games we liked. One group was horror, one did supers, a couple did fantasy, but we were all friends, and there was a lot of overlap.

Sometime in here Patricia Pullman's son commited suicide and it made the news and my mom got concerned. But we spoke and my mom was satisfied that I wasn't about to go mental from playing D&D. I put a copy of an Article about Pullman and BADD inside my DMG cover, so I could laugh at her. Years later, I took it out because I realized I was being... I can't say that word here, but I had been one. She was a bereaved mother, desperate to find a way to make missing the signs of her son's trouble not her fault. But still, I had to have The Talk with my mom about it. And then she would send me books to read like Mazes and Monsters and The Dungeon Master, I think trying to get me to stop, but never saying it directly.


High School was also when I started GMing. My friend and I started to have different circles. So I began DMing, and later GMing other things. Over those first years, we tried Gamma World, Top Secret, Traveller (I still LOL when I remember taking like 6 tries to roll up a character who would survive the process of being rolled up), Star Frontiers, Gangbusters. Then I found The Fantasy Trip and took my first real forays into GMing.

Then in '87, Star Wars, the only thing I loved more than RPGs... became an RPG. And the supplements West End put out... more imagination fodder than ever before!

Since then it's a blur of different games and ideas. I left AD&D behind in the early 90s, having enjoed 1st and 2nd ed. I came back in 2018 to 5th Ed. There was a period of about a year where I stopped entirely. I was working a pointless, dead-end job for very little money, and my wife and I were struggling to make ends meet, and there was a huge fight over the fact that I still devoted so much energy to RP. So I stopped. About a year later, my wife made me start again, because I was miserable and just going through the motions.

The reason I've stayed with it... I love it. Now the sense of wonder is something I try to give others. I almost exclusively GM, and I delight in making new things, new situations, new characters for my heroes to interact with, new mysteries to explore. I love taking risks with new forms of presentation. Sure, they're not all perfect, but I learn from them. Right now I'm running a three-part game, with three different groups in the same setting, each doing things which alter the world for all three groups. It's crazy fun.

I've never felt or understood the need to hide what I do. I guess, intellectually, I can understand why someone might want to hide it, but emotionally, I've never felt it. For years I would not go anywhere without some dice and at least one game book. I'd strike up conversations, make friends, occasionally have someone react negatively. I'd see the TV Preachers and the hyped up media. So I joined a group which advocated RPGs and fought the negative stereotyping, joined a local con to help run the annual event... lots of stuff which really just took away time for gaming. And for years I've gamed online, starting in the late 90s when I could not physcially go out during good gaming time, and sticking with it because of the friends I made there. A couple of them are still gaming with me. Raised a couple of gamer-kids.

So... I've stayed because I love it. Why I love it is a bunch of reasons.
 
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Nytmare

Adventurer
I am looking to see if there are folks who began playing around 1978 or before who would be willing to share their early experiences with any RPG and discuss why they began and continued the hobby?
Tried to start Keep in the Borderlands with my father around 1980, which lead to a lot of head scratching and not a lot of playing. The game was abandoned, however the books stayed with me and I read and reread and collected and made maps and came up with adventures till I eventually managed to get into another game (The Veiled Society) around 1984 or so. From that point on it's been one of my primary creative outlets. I moved on to acting and eventually a career in the film, television, and theatrical industries. My primary hobby continues to be tabletop and RPG gaming and design.

Also, I would be grateful for anyone who would be willing to share additional demographic information that we can discuss later.
Male, 45, hodge-podge ethnicity American - primarily (ha ha), Chinese, Filipino, Austrian, German, Portuguese, French, and Polish.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I am looking to see if there are folks who began playing around 1978 or before who would be willing to share their early experiences with any RPG and discuss why they began and continued the hobby? Also, I would be grateful for anyone who would be willing to share additional demographic information that we can discuss later.
Demographics: white male, 45-55, post-graduate education, married, no kids.

I began in the hobby in 1979. I had two brothers - one close to my age, the other several years older. My eldest brother introduced his kid brothers and a couple of our friends to Tunnels and Trolls, as a way to have something we all really enjoyed that we could do together, as otherwise his interests really didn't intersect with ours.

He went away to college, and for X-mas brought home the 1e AD&D PHB and DMG to us as gifts. He ran the Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh for us over break. Almost immediately after break, we discovered that some of our better friends at school also played, and it transitioned from the thing we did with our brother to the thing we did with our friends...

Why have I continued to play continuously since then? It is mentally and socially engaging. It gets people together doing something that makes the brain and imagination kind of fly.
 

R_J_K75

Adventurer
Demographics: Single 44 y/o white male. Education: AAS Drafting Technology, B.S. Industrial Technology.

My first introduction to D&D was in 1982, so I was 6 or 7 at the time. My father brought me over to one of his friends house where his family was playing that night. I was in another room but overhearing what was going on from time to time. A while later one of the players came into the room I was in complaining that he had to sit out for an hour and explained to me that his character drank from a pool and succumbed to a sleep spell. This piqued my interest and I was intrigued and asked him why would you want to play a game that you had to sit out of. The next game they played I sat and watched, then a few days later I rolled up my first character, think it was a gnome but my memory gets fuzzy on the details. Being a fan of comic books, choose your own adventures, Atari, Iron Maiden and movies like the Beastmaster and Conan, D&D was just the natural progression. Shortly after my father gave me the Holmes blue box basic set. Reading through that I had no idea what I was doing but me and my friends started "playing" over the next few years. I played on and off throughout grammar school and high school, but I've played relatively consistently since the mid 1990's aside from a few breaks for short periods of time. I played Basic D&D, 1E AD&D, 2E AD&D, 3E D&D, 4E D&D and 5E D&D, Pathfinder, Star Wars, Alternity, Call of Cthulhu and D20 Modern. I played in Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft, Dark Sun, Planescape, Spelljammer, Eberron, and Greyhawk. I mostly have played with friends and acquaintances but on occasion have played in gaming stores or recruited players I didnt know from online. I'm primarily a DM but have played when I was fortunate enough to find another DM. Besides the creative, intellectual and imaginative stimulation I think the reason I play the most is the social interaction of hanging out with friends and having fun.
 
Can I ask what your thesis statement is?
Funny you should ask, I am very early in the process and still dealing with research questions but I just made a bit of a shift. Originally my thesis was going to be centered around the origins of RPGs a part of a wave of escapist entertainment that emerged in the 60s and 70s. While those elements are still a part of where I am going, my research is currently leading me to explore the history of the participatory collaborative community that developed around RPGs. From the early days of D&D when a host of local gaming groups came up with "house rules" to fill gaps in the limited published rules (as many know some of these house rules, classes, monsters, and more found their way into later versions of the game, to the D20 open game license explosion, to the homebrew forums of today, and calls on social media for other games to cameo the characters of deceased players as tribute.


On that note, I have some new questions if folks are willing to answer. These can be by any player or GM who is willing.

Do you use house rules or homebrews? Why or why not?

Have you ever had any rules, characters, etc. that you wrote or modified for any RPG, published, shared with a group you don't play with, or posted in any format? If so, are you aware of anyone using these rules or suggestions?

Thanks again, everyone. This is all super helpful.
 

John Dallman

Explorer
Do you use house rules or homebrews? Why or why not?
Depends on the system. For the D&D I still play, which is oD&D and AD&D1e, yes, there is a lot of house-ruling, because it's necessary to cope with gaps in the systems, and places where the rules are either incomprehensible or silly. I started playing those games in 1979, and have continuity with some of the earlier UK groups and players.

I haven't played enough D&D 3e or 5e to start houseruling them, and never played 4e at all.

For GURPS, I don't vary the system nearly as much as some people, since I find it quite satisfactory as it stands. One sometimes has to invent new spells or modifiers to cover things needed in a campaign, or make rulings about how things interact, but those are things that any GURPS GM is expected to do. GURPS isn't so much a game you unwrap and play as a toolkit for creating customised RPGs.
Have you ever had any rules, characters, etc. that you wrote or modified for any RPG, published, shared with a group you don't play with, or posted in any format? If so, are you aware of anyone using these rules or suggestions?
I've had a couple of articles published, but much of the rules development I've done has been in the context of a group, or enlarging on someone else's work. For example, a friend of mine maintains an extensive gaming website here, and you can find my contributions to it here. Another site had a lot of spells I created on it, but is now off-line, and apparently not on archive.org.

I have not felt strongly motivated to publish gaming material. It pays far worse than my day job, and I realised early on that my styles of play, plot and setting were very different from the ones commercial publishers find successful.
 

R_J_K75

Adventurer
Funny you should ask, I am very early in the process and still dealing with research questions but I just made a bit of a shift.
I had a heck of a time trying to nail down my thesis statement (the Elevator Pitch) for my masters as there were some rather stringent requirements. I had a couple of false starts and have yet to finish it for a number of reasons. Maybe someday.

Do you use house rules or homebrews? Why or why not?
I don't really house rule or home brew much but I have created a few spells, magical items, monsters here and there in previous editions but not much. We are currently playing D&D 5E but as a DM I have a tendency to just make stuff up on the fly when I need to rather than play RAW. This is because of a few reasons. I have a tendency to mix rules up from edition to edition and I don't have a very strong command of the 5E rule set, at least not as much as Id like. Further I just don't have the desire to take the time to bother, I'd rather spend the time creating a good adventure. We play once every 2 weeks for 3-4 hours so I don't see the need to spend the time house ruling or home brewing for as little as we play. On a side note there are changes Id like to see to the rules but that's for another time, unless you think its relevant.
 

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