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Podcast #173: Game Wizards: The Epic Battle for Dungeons & Dragons with Jon Peterson

This week, Morrus and Peter are joined by Jon Peterson to talk about his new book on the history of roleplaying games, Game Wizards. In the news, Paizo recognizes the Paizo Workers United labor union, Edge Studio announces more Star Wars on the way, more information about the Cowboy Bebop RPG, and more! Plus a brand new sketch about what a three-headed demon dog really wants.

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Jon Peterson

Game Wizards: The Epic Battle for Dungeons & Dragons Game Wizards: The Epic Battle for Dungeons & Dragons (Game Histories): Peterson, Jon: 9780262542951: Amazon.com: Books

Playing at the World Blog Playing at the World

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News

Paizo Recognizes Union Paizo - Paizo Recognizes Union!

Fizban’s Treasury of Dragons: An In-Depth Review Fizban's Treasury of Dragons: An In-Depth Review

News Digest for the Week of October 22 (Free D&D Beyond Adventure, Cowboy Bebop RPG update, Astral Tabletop ends development, Adventures in Rokugan, Green Ronin AGE User Generated Content) News Digest for the Week of October 22

Edge Studio Announces More Star Wars RPG Products Coming Edge Announced It Will Be Making Star Wars RPGs....

Kalymba RPG https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/craftandogames/kalymba-the-roleplaying-game

Aegean Mythic Roleplaying https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/stoo-goff/aegean-mythic-role-playing-across-the-aegean-sea

Traveller Core Rulebook Update 2022 Mongoose Publishing

Deluxe Edition Cover Reveal (limited to 300 copies)
Monster ENCyclopedia: Umber Hulk D&D General - Monster ENCyclopedia: Umber Hulk

Level Up: Advanced 5e Kickstarter https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/enworld/level-up-advanced-5th-edition-a5e

Comparison between Kickstarter tracking/prediction sites
Tricorder Collector’s Box Set Introducing the Tricorder Collector’s Box Set

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Kickstarters

Iron Kingdoms: Borderlands and Beyond https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/privateerpress/iron-kingdoms-borderlands-and-beyond

Tome of Spell Holding https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dungeonbones/tome-of-spell-holding

Holler: An Appalachian Apocalypse for Savage Worlds https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/545820095/holler-an-appalachian-apocalypse-for-savage-worlds

Mutated Monsters https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dicedungeons/mutated-monsters-evolve-your-5th-edition-campaign

Goblonia https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gandersnitch/goblonia-ttrpg

Our Haunt https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jdragsky/our-haunt

Haunted Hill Academy https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/351992582/haunted-hill-academy

Keep up to date with all the RPG crowdfunding projects ending soon every week with Egg Embry’s RPG Crowdfunding News RPG Crowdfunding News – Iron Kingdoms, Holler, Mutated Monsters, and more

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Game Wizards

Game Wizards: The Epic Battle for Dungeons & Dragons Game Wizards: The Epic Battle for Dungeons & Dragons (Game Histories): Peterson, Jon: 9780262542951: Amazon.com: Books

Playing at the World Blog Playing at the World

Playing at the World (the book) is currently out of print and I could not find a used copy for under $500.

Game Wizards (Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson) Miniatures from Mudpuppy Games Game Wizards Gary and Dave Minis To Be Released at Gamehole Con – Mudpuppy Games

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Hosts: Russ “Morrus” Morrissey and Peter Coffey

Editing and post-production: Darryl Mott

Theme Song: Steve Arnott

Kickstarter Game Research: Egg Embry

Kickstarter Game Theme: Lyrics by Russ Morrissey, Vocals by “drwilko”, Guitar by Darryl Mott

Malach the Maleficent played by Darren Morrissey
 

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Darryl Mott

Darryl Mott

M.T. Black

Adventurer
Great interview and I look forward to the follow-up.

I've spent a fair bit of time thinking about the "Tolkien" question and my view has changed over the years. I now believe Gygax was being pretty honest when he claimed that Howard, Burroughs, and Leiber were much greater influences than Tolkien.
 

Spindly

First Post
Hhmm. Just reread LotR. AD&D Player's Handbook seems pretty straight from it. Fighters (Boromir), rangers, thieves (Bilbo), druids (Radagast the Brown), wizards. Dwarves (Gygax's dwarves are very Gimli- and Balin-ish), halfings, half-elves (who can be rangers), the minor spell abilities of rangers and paladins. Leveling up (all the hobbits). Saruman as an illusionist and caster of charm. Half-orcs. Orcs! The goblin-family progression of size and strength. The back-stab/instant kill ability of thieves/assassins (Grima). Also: artifacts (the Ring obviously—doesn't radiate magic, warps owner's mind). The fear radiated by Nazgul. I cannot recall anything in the literature that approaches the Moria chapters as a precursor for AD&D: a party of mixed races and professions goes to a dungeon, has to worry about lights and mapping.

All new creations are new combinations of existing pieces. I haven't read Peterson's work, but if he hasn't already, someone could sell a book that mapped specific AD&D features to its literary origins. We know (or "know") to credit Vance for the spell casting model, but I think we would find that Tolkein dominated Gygax's source material. Perhaps I'm wrong.
 

Abstruse

Legend
Hhmm. Just reread LotR. AD&D Player's Handbook seems pretty straight from it. Fighters (Boromir), rangers, thieves (Bilbo), druids (Radagast the Brown), wizards. Dwarves (Gygax's dwarves are very Gimli- and Balin-ish), halfings, half-elves (who can be rangers), the minor spell abilities of rangers and paladins. Leveling up (all the hobbits). Saruman as an illusionist and caster of charm. Half-orcs. Orcs! The goblin-family progression of size and strength. The back-stab/instant kill ability of thieves/assassins (Grima). Also: artifacts (the Ring obviously—doesn't radiate magic, warps owner's mind). The fear radiated by Nazgul. I cannot recall anything in the literature that approaches the Moria chapters as a precursor for AD&D: a party of mixed races and professions goes to a dungeon, has to worry about lights and mapping.

All new creations are new combinations of existing pieces. I haven't read Peterson's work, but if he hasn't already, someone could sell a book that mapped specific AD&D features to its literary origins. We know (or "know") to credit Vance for the spell casting model, but I think we would find that Tolkein dominated Gygax's source material. Perhaps I'm wrong.
The problem is that Tolkien himself drew deeply from folklore from around Europe while other authors after him in the fantasy genre derived material directly from his works. So were all those elements in D&D influenced by Tolkien? Or by the myths and legends Tolkien was influenced by? Or by the writers who were influenced by Tolkien? The only people who know for sure either aren't talking or already spun stories one way or the other and wouldn't want to contradict them now if they're exaggerations or straight-up fiction.

Side note: This has been a serious problem doing my own research into RPG history and why I'm glad Peterson went the opposite direction and got access to contemporary sources. I never had access to vast archives of correspondence the same way and it has been a pain in the ass to try to keep stories straight when reading from interviews and articles because many were recorded years after the events to allow all sorts of biases to come in to alter the story from the truth.
 

Spindly

First Post
The problem is that Tolkien himself drew deeply from folklore from around Europe while other authors after him in the fantasy genre derived material directly from his works. So were all those elements in D&D influenced by Tolkien? Or by the myths and legends Tolkien was influenced by? Or by the writers who were influenced by Tolkien? The only people who know for sure either aren't talking or already spun stories one way or the other and wouldn't want to contradict them now if they're exaggerations or straight-up fiction.
Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I think the concerns you raise are fundamental for some questions but not others. The core of AD&D is parties of adventurers defined by their races, professions ("classes"), experience, and possessions (elfin chainmail saves the first-level fighter from the "hobgoblin", er, orc-chieftain's spear) exploring multi-level underground tunnel systems ("dungeons") and encountering monsters. That's Moria, and to my (imperfect) knowledge of the literature, nothing else comes close as a direct precursor to AD&D. As Peterson notes in the podcast, LotR created and dominated the market for "fantasy" (medieval European fable) in the US at the time, and it would be strange if it wasn't the default source for a game set in a reimagined Europe c. 1100. Per Peterson, Gygax had strong legal and emotional reasons not to say "yeah, I wanted to make a LotR game but I tweaked a bunch of stuff"—but that seems to me the null hypothesis we should start with.
 

Spindly

First Post
Great interview and I look forward to the follow-up.

I've spent a fair bit of time thinking about the "Tolkien" question and my view has changed over the years. I now believe Gygax was being pretty honest when he claimed that Howard, Burroughs, and Leiber were much greater influences than Tolkien.
(replied in a separate thread—think the evidence indicates otherwise)
 

Abstruse

Legend
...exploring multi-level underground tunnel systems ("dungeons") and encountering monsters. That's Moria, and to my (imperfect) knowledge of the literature, nothing else comes close as a direct precursor to AD&D.
The dungeon didn't come from Moria, but from an extension of Dave Arneson's wargames. They played a siege scenario where some of the players decided to break the siege by sneaking under the castle walls. This led them to the castle's dungeons (more like a historical dungeon that was just a basement sometimes used to lock up prisoners) to sneak inside. To prevent this from happening again, guards were put in the dungeon which turned into combat there. Then they added traps. Then the dungeon got more maze-like and required exploration to find the way into the castle. Then the dungeons got bigger to make for larger encounters. I'd have to check my research to find the timeline to be sure if this was before or after fantasy elements were added to Castle Blackmoor and whether or not the castle in the siege was Blackmoor or another castle, but all of this was done using Chainmail and Braunstein before Arneson met Gygax and they began collaborating on The Fantasy Game.

But if you want precursors...Daedelus's labyrinth where Theseus killed the Minotaur, Theseus and Pirithous attempting to kidnap Persephone from Hades, Hercules rescuing Theseus (and leaving Pirithous to rot) while raiding Hades to capture Cerberus...that's just off the top of my head because I've been looking into Greek myth for stuff recently.
 

darjr

I crit!
@Abstruse @Spindly Dave wrote about this very subject. While I’ve heard of the idea of digging under castles and it evolving from there I don’t recall a cited source for that.

Dave wrote in fact the idea came from Conan.

Though I’d bet, like the below article states, Tolkien had some influence id add that as well as the tappers trying to break into castle Blackmoor
 

darjr

I crit!
Ah, here Jon speculates on the tapper rules from earlier seige rules including those later added to Chainmail, probably must have had an influence on Dave. Note the above post is evidence from Jon too.

 


Spindly

First Post
@Abstruse @Spindly Dave wrote about this very subject. While I’ve heard of the idea of digging under castles and it evolving from there I don’t recall a cited source for that.

Dave wrote in fact the idea came from Conan.

Though I’d bet, like the below article states, Tolkien had some influence id add that as well as the tappers trying to break into castle Blackmoor
Excellent post, thanks for sharing. I'll gently re-cite my above comment. Yes, Conan escaped from dungeons. No, Howard did not describe parties of functional specialists drawn from the races in LotR with only one addition (gnomes—not coincidentally the least played race). The primary template for The AD&D Player's Handbook 1e is LotR, specifically the fellowship.
 

Abstruse

Legend
Fascinating history, thank you! But the Moria pattern still fits and nothing else we have seen does nearly as well. Aristotle's typology of causes might be helpful here: Chainmail was the efficient cause, Moria the formal: AristotleCausesNotes
At this point it's clear you've made up your mind that you know what happened better than the people who were there and what was going on in the minds of the creators more than the creators themselves do. So this conversation is officially pointless.
 

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