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On the birth of RPGs


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Thomas Shey

Legend
I can see something like that getting tacked on to a game of make believe as a way to introduce random events into the fiction, but it doesn't really move things towards open ended action resolution. For example, the person represented by your game piece in the Game of Life can't meaningfully interact with the people represented by the game pieces of the other players in a way that would be facilitated by the rules of the game. At least, if I'm remembering the game correctly.

War-games are all about interactions between the game pieces.

But its a step along the road. Things don't happen at once, and people iterate off of prior products. After the version with the random events, the next game is built to have the players have things that interact. Then someone gets the idea of having you pick a card or something for the start state. And then, and then...
 

MGibster

Legend
If folks want to know what a game that doesn't come from the wargame root might look like, look at Theatrix. which applies theater and cinematic concepts to RPGs, rather than wargame concepts.
I've always thought of role playing games as cops 'n robbers except it has a codified set of rules. i.e. It's just pretend like we've been playing since time immemorial. I'm pretty sure I've even seen introductions in RPGs that liken it to playground makebelieve. I could see role playing games arising from some other avenue besides war games.

I've read that there are a currently a lot of women involved in online role playing games that are difficult to track because there are no sales associated with it. I remember in the early days of AOL, I joined a Wheel of Time group thinking it was all about talking about the series, but everyone had their own persona, or character, based on the setting and each one communicated as if they were Seachan, from Two Rivers, were Aiel, Aes Sedai, Sniffers, or soldiers. There were no official gaming materials being produced at the time. It could be that there are a lot more role players than we think, they're just not playing the games we keep track of.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Supporter
It could be that there are a lot more role players than we think, they're just not playing the games we keep track of.

The sale or rulebooks is only a proxy for actual play. There are reasons why D&DB tends to look at activity on character sheets to detect how many active players they have, rather than just sales.

Much of the live action play community doesn't sell their rulebooks - the rulebook is a free reference. The "sale" you might track is in fees paid to play in individual events.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I've always thought of role playing games as cops 'n robbers except it has a codified set of rules. i.e. It's just pretend like we've been playing since time immemorial. I'm pretty sure I've even seen introductions in RPGs that liken it to playground makebelieve. I could see role playing games arising from some other avenue besides war games.

I've read that there are a currently a lot of women involved in online role playing games that are difficult to track because there are no sales associated with it. I remember in the early days of AOL, I joined a Wheel of Time group thinking it was all about talking about the series, but everyone had their own persona, or character, based on the setting and each one communicated as if they were Seachan, from Two Rivers, were Aiel, Aes Sedai, Sniffers, or soldiers. There were no official gaming materials being produced at the time. It could be that there are a lot more role players than we think, they're just not playing the games we keep track of.

MUSHes were essentially an evolution out of chatroom roleplaying, and while they're well past their heyday, there were a lot of people on some of them (particularly WoD themed ones) at one time; some had some mechancal bits and bobs, but some were purely consent based.
 

aramis erak

Legend
I again point back at the Game of Life. That's a mainstream board game.
Careers, as well, is a mainstream boardgame of similar detail to Life.

And then, of course, there are the RPG-like non-war-games that predate D&D...
Most notably, Outdoor Survival (Avalon Hill, 1972), cited as a required element for Origninal D&D.
There are a couple other character scale games from the 60's that aren't combat focused...

; a resurgence of character scale games in the 1980's.. AH's Gladiators(1981), Wizards (1982), Squad Leader (1977), and Gunslinger (1982), SJ's Car Wars (1978), several SPI titles... that resurgence appears, but may not actually be, tied to D&D success. Of these, Squadleader is a wargame, per se, but of this list, all involve combat to some degree.
 

Byron.the.Bard

Villager
Who but war-gamers would have built a rules structure around a game of make believe elaborate enough to justify publication for a mass audience? Honest question.
I am interested in this question. I also see the wargaming community bringing a crucial contribution; the extent to which a quantitative framework can be applied to storytelling and gaming (and the idea that it would not hinder but promote fun) seems to me a big factor the development of at least a certain strand RPG. I wonder if other communities could have brought such a mechanical mindset, or whether it could have developed out of a certain worldview?
 

aramis erak

Legend
I am interested in this question. I also see the wargaming community bringing a crucial contribution; the extent to which a quantitative framework can be applied to storytelling and gaming (and the idea that it would not hinder but promote fun) seems to me a big factor the development of at least a certain strand RPG. I wonder if other communities could have brought such a mechanical mindset, or whether it could have developed out of a certain worldview?
I suspect ROTC's rapid growth in the 1950's and 1960's really helped; tactical wargaming has been part of USN training for officers since the 1890's, when it started using a customized version of Kriegspiel, and a miniatures naval wargame since at least the 1950's (seen photos of play at both NWC and USNA - it gets revised by Cdr Larry Bond, USN, in the late 1970's, and a civilianized simplified version of same is released in the 1980's by GDW as Harpoon. (Note that Tom Clancy was a playtester for the GDW version, and has implied being one of the outside testers for the USNA Naval Wargame version...) Note also: The USNA Wargame has not replaced the USN version of Kriegspiel; it has augmented it, as both are in use in USN training. As are computer simulations, and even full up mechanical simulators for a variety of interesting situations.

Noting that ROTC in US colleges isn't exclusively contracted students - first two years are allowed to anyone meeting the physical standards. And both AROTC and NROTC use the respective academies' simulations as part of training, or at least, through the 90s did so, and appear to still do so. I doubt the USNA Wargame is still the version Cdr. Bond revised - it has undoubtedly been revised by his successors at the USNA & the NWC. Having played the mid-80s USNA wargame and the Harpoon boardgame, the latter is clearly a light version of the former. Miniatures wargaming was encouraged in the 60s (when my dad was in AROTC) and 70's (when a few friends of mine were in AROTC and NROTC) at several of the schools; I'm told Anapolis (USNA) and West Point (USMA) have extensive figure sets for classroom use.
 

Byron.the.Bard

Villager
I suspect ROTC's rapid growth in the 1950's and 1960's really helped; tactical wargaming has been part of USN training for officers since the 1890's, when it started using a customized version of Kriegspiel, and a miniatures naval wargame since at least the 1950's (seen photos of play at both NWC and USNA - it gets revised by Cdr Larry Bond, USN, in the late 1970's, and a civilianized simplified version of same is released in the 1980's by GDW as Harpoon. (Note that Tom Clancy was a playtester for the GDW version, and has implied being one of the outside testers for the USNA Naval Wargame version...) Note also: The USNA Wargame has not replaced the USN version of Kriegspiel; it has augmented it, as both are in use in USN training. As are computer simulations, and even full up mechanical simulators for a variety of interesting situations.

Noting that ROTC in US colleges isn't exclusively contracted students - first two years are allowed to anyone meeting the physical standards. And both AROTC and NROTC use the respective academies' simulations as part of training, or at least, through the 90s did so, and appear to still do so. I doubt the USNA Wargame is still the version Cdr. Bond revised - it has undoubtedly been revised by his successors at the USNA & the NWC. Having played the mid-80s USNA wargame and the Harpoon boardgame, the latter is clearly a light version of the former. Miniatures wargaming was encouraged in the 60s (when my dad was in AROTC) and 70's (when a few friends of mine were in AROTC and NROTC) at several of the schools; I'm told Anapolis (USNA) and West Point (USMA) have extensive figure sets for classroom use.
I really appreciate your answer and its level of detail - together with your previous post which was also very informative. In there, I also liked the observation:
I'm pretty certain that, had it been explained to him, HG Wells would have embraced RPGs every bit as much as he did wargaming.
I agree with the statement, and think that it may be true for many people beyond Wells. It is the idea that many others may have been close to the possibility, but - to quote Umbran above - they did not bridge the gap. Maybe wargaming development, although not necessary, was one of the main factors helping in significantly narrowing this gap?

In a sense, it would be interesting to imagine how much other alternatives roots for RPGs that have been proposed - basic make-believe (MGibster), life-simulating games like Game of Life or Careers (Thomas Shey, aramis erak), theatre or cinematic concepts like Theatrix (Umbran), or character-scale games (aramis erak) - could have effectively narrowed the gap. Could have a bridge been made just from there without wargaming?
 

Fenris-77

Small God of the Dozens
Supporter
My first suggestion is to avoid speaking in the third person, no offense. In terms of role playing, you can see it as a 'game' going way farther back than the current 'game with dice' conception. For example, various 'role playing games' were very popular parlor games in Victorian England.
 

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