TSR Q&A with Gary Gygax

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This is the multi-year Q&A sessions held by D&D co-creator Gary Gygax here at EN World, beginning in 2002 and running up until his sad pasing in 2008. Gary's username in the thread below is Col_Pladoh, and his first post in this long thread is Post #39.

Gary_Gygax_Gen_Con_2007.jpg
 
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Silver Moon

Adventurer
Col_Pladoh said:
BTW, one of the column essays I will be writing soon for the "Up on a Soapbox" feature in Dragon magazine is about my son Luke playing D&D at age 12, the problems he had with staying in character and role-playing on the part of the DM (me).
I'll be looking forward to reading that column. I've just started a childrens game with my three youngsters, ages 6, 8 and 11, and am finding it a lot of fun but also quite challenging, trying to keep everything age appropriate. I've found that the trio are all natural role players with great imaginations. It's also a very different pace than my regular game, as we spent four-hours of gaming just picking out their equipment and discussing what each item can be used for!
 

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Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Bloodstone Press said:
Hi Gary,

I remember reading the 1e DMG when I was a kid and thinking "Wow, this guy is really smart."

And even now sometimes I read things you say and I still think "Damn. He's so smart."

So I gotta ask, what is your educational background? Ever been to college? If so, what did you study?

Well, I sometimes get too big for my britches, but those who know me are quick to deflate my bloating ego.

I never finished high school, attended junior college in Chicago, picked up a fair number of English and anthropology-sociology credits amongst various other classes. As I was on the Dean's list and had professors pushing me, I was admitted to the U. of Chicago, but I took a job in insurance instead. Thus, most of what I know came by my own study and reading, and listening to knowledgeable folk, certainly.

When I was at the Washington School of Psychaiatry in 1984 (IIRR) speaking to the faculty on creatiity, the concensus was that my IQ was very high--over 200. Of course, knowing how little I actually know and can do well, I am flattered but dubious. I have given large seminars on gaming and had mere pre-adolescent audience members ask me questions I had extreme difficulty answering, so I know i am far from the Light of the Ages. I just happen to rest well... :D

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Silver Moon said:
I'll be looking forward to reading that column. I've just started a childrens game with my three youngsters, ages 6, 8 and 11, and am finding it a lot of fun but also quite challenging, trying to keep everything age appropriate. I've found that the trio are all natural role players with great imaginations. It's also a very different pace than my regular game, as we spent four-hours of gaming just picking out their equipment and discussing what each item can be used for!

Good, Silver Moon:)

Playing games, especially RPGs with your children is sure to build bonds and help them to grow mentally. As long as it is a group of siblings, likely roleplay will be easy and come naturally as "let's pretend." however, of you add outsiders to the group, especially older persons, your children will likely become shy and constrained in that regard

Cheers,
Gary
 

Jehosephat

First Post
Good day to you Gary !! :)

I have a quick question for you on the art of being a good gamemaster. I know you have probably answered this at some point in your career, but I missed it. Do you think being a great gamemaster is a natural ability or a learned one?
 

mistere29

First Post
i read this about the "r" series of modules. could you verify it?

"According to author Frank Mentzer, these modules are set in the World of Greyhawk, though at the continent opposite the one in the published campaign setting. The plan was to eventually incorporate them into another World of Greyhawk set -- plans that ended when Gary Gygax left TSR in 1985 (thanks to Brett Easterbrook and Frank Mentzer for this info)."

Along the same lines, were there ever any plans to release more material on the world of greyhawk (other than modules). obviously, the skeleton world concept would preclude detailed setting info, but was there ever any plans to add new areas, like say a continent for oriental adventures.
 

CRGreathouse

Community Supporter
I have some questions about monster origins--if you don't mind, Gary. I'd really like to know where the ideas came from originally: legends, thought processes, inspirations, etc.

What can you (will you) tell us about the Umber Hulk? They're my favorite D&D monsters, really. What inspired you? I like the fact that they look like ordinary monsters, but they're actually intelligent and have a particular 'culture' of their own.

What about the diobolic heirarchy (Type I, II, ... or their named equivilents)? Were those designed wholecloth, or did you find inspiration in particular sources? Dante seems a natural influence...?
 
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dmprata

First Post
Flanaess Weather

Hi Gary! Before anything else, I simply must thank you for being so gracious as to field our questions here. I had the pleasure of meeting you at the Higgins Museum in Massachusetts last year, and you were every bit as personable and gregarious as you come across on these pages. Thank you, thank you, thank you for my 21 years of gaming enjoyment!
OK, that's the end of my groveling . . . ;) I was hoping you could clear something up for me in regards to weather in the Flanaess. I only recently acquired the old Glossography (yay, eBay!), and I was curious about the weather table and climatic data therein. Was it really your intention to make the place so &^$% hot all the time? I know you hate cold weather, but, if that table is accurate, the baseline temperature in the Yeomanry during the month of Harvester (for example) averages nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit!
I'm not as concerned with the actual table as I am with the rationale behind it. I had always assumed that the Flanaess was generally temperate (albeit with an extended summer season). However, the map of latitudes shows the 40th parallel running through the Shield Lands, about 400 miles north of where I thought it would be. That places the Frost, Snow, and Ice Barbarian lands at about 50 degrees north (which seems far too mild), and most of the south-central states well into the sub-tropics. Was that your intention, or perhaps an editing error?
 

mistere29

First Post
I know you changed your (and rob's) greyhawk campaign around for publication. How much of the setting was developed during actual play. (as opposed to detailed for the published setting. )
 

grodog

Adventurer
Hi Gary---

Any updates on the Castle Zagig project to share? The more juicy details, the better, of course :D

Unrelatedly, Gary, had you created the ruined monastary from the 1e DMG example of play and sample dungeon map for the DMG itself or was it drawn from your GH campaign?
 
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Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Jehosephat said:
Good day to you Gary !! :)

I have a quick question for you on the art of being a good gamemaster. I know you have probably answered this at some point in your career, but I missed it. Do you think being a great gamemaster is a natural ability or a learned one?

Hi Jehosephat,

As with most things of creative sort I believe that the really great GMs have a natural talent for it. Most of us are not so blessed, but with desire and practise and we are able to do a good job of it. I might have great ideas for adventures, but I do not consider myself to be a great GM, adaquate usually, sometimes near-great becaus eof enthusiasm, and now and then pretty dismal.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
mistere29 said:
i read this about the "r" series of modules. could you verify it?

"According to author Frank Mentzer, these modules are set in the World of Greyhawk, though at the continent opposite the one in the published campaign setting. The plan was to eventually incorporate them into another World of Greyhawk set -- plans that ended when Gary Gygax left TSR in 1985 (thanks to Brett Easterbrook and Frank Mentzer for this info)."

Along the same lines, were there ever any plans to release more material on the world of greyhawk (other than modules). obviously, the skeleton world concept would preclude detailed setting info, but was there ever any plans to add new areas, like say a continent for oriental adventures.

Mistere29,

Yes indeed, Frank spoke truth. As I have said before I did intend to expand the WoG setting to cover the complete planet. In that regard LEn LAkofka, Francois Marcela Froideval, and Frank Mentzer were all to be involved in the shape of the added continents and islands.

No real work had been done on this project, though, when I parted from TSR at the end of 1985.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
CRGreathouse said:
I have some questions about monster origins--if you don't mind, Gary. I'd really like to know where the ideas came from originally: legends, thought processes, inspirations, etc.

What can you (will you) tell us about the Umber Hulk? They're my favorite D&D monsters, really. What inspired you? I like the fact that they look like ordinary monsters, but they're actually intelligent and have a particular 'culture' of their own.

What about the diobolic heirarchy (Type I, II, ... or their named equivilents)? Were those designed wholecloth, or did you find inspiration in particular sources? Dante seems a natural influence...?

Hail CRGreathouse,

Allow me to preface my answers with a brief statement regarding my reading. From the time I was about five I was read fairy tales and read them. Soon thereafter I added fables and legends, and by age 12 I was an avid fan of fantasy and SF stories, reading a book a day. Along with that I read a lot of mythology and history (fact and fiction), some Westerns, Murder and Oriental mystery stories, horror, occult, and action yarns. Later on, in searching for new creatures to add to the D&D monster roster I devoted a lot of research time to folklore.

The umber hulk a creation made from the whole cloth of my imagination. they were meant to be a considerable challenge to potent PCs, so they were given the abilities you appreciate.

The demon types I, II, III, etc. were similarly devised using mainly my imagination. The devils were a mix of imagination and Dante's writing.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
dmprata said:
Hi Gary! Before anything else, I simply must thank you for being so gracious as to field our questions here. I had the pleasure of meeting you at the Higgins Museum in Massachusetts last year, and you were every bit as personable and gregarious as you come across on these pages. Thank you, thank you, thank you for my 21 years of gaming enjoyment!

Well, dmprata...

Stop or you'll turn my head!

OK, that's the end of my groveling . . . ;)

Whew! That's better. I was afraid I'd have to go out and buy a larger-sized hat

I was hoping you could clear something up for me in regards to weather in the Flanaess. I only recently acquired the old Glossography (yay, eBay!), and I was curious about the weather table and climatic data therein. Was it really your intention to make the place so &^$% hot all the time? I know you hate cold weather, but, if that table is accurate, the baseline temperature in the Yeomanry during the month of Harvester (for example) averages nearly 100 degrees Fahrenheit!
I'm not as concerned with the actual table as I am with the rationale behind it. I had always assumed that the Flanaess was generally temperate (albeit with an extended summer season). However, the map of latitudes shows the 40th parallel running through the Shield Lands, about 400 miles north of where I thought it would be. That places the Frost, Snow, and Ice Barbarian lands at about 50 degrees north (which seems far too mild), and most of the south-central states well into the sub-tropics. Was that your intention, or perhaps an editing error?

You are spot on in regards my preference for a warmer clime:) The seasons in the WoG speak volumes in that regard, and I confess to a great fondness for a Mediterranean-like environment.

The weather tables were done by another person, so you are actually preaching to the choir, more or less. While I was quite satisfied with informal climatology and general information in regards weather, many gamers wanted more specific systems. Frank Mentzer had a friend with such data, so that is how the weather tables for Oerick came about. I must accept the blame for incongruities, of course, as I okayed the material. Of course, being a DM who always flew by the seat of his pants, I never used them, so I failed to spot the glitches. When I was running a game the weather was what I said it was;)

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
mistere29 said:
I know you changed your (and rob's) greyhawk campaign around for publication. How much of the setting was developed during actual play. (as opposed to detailed for the published setting. )

Further Greetings, Mistere29,

You are ahead of Rob and I in regards the re-creation of our original dungeon levels. I am nearly finished with new campaign-base material for the central thems, the ruined castle and its many dungeons. Rob, meantime, is devising an introduction to Zagyg, the Mad Archmage. All of that will take a few more months to complete. When that is accomplished, we will then turn out attention to the castle and dungeons.

We will use my original scheme of the dungeons, altering them as need be for coherant presentation to a general audience of GMs. That means a lot more text and explanation, for I winged encounters, and as Rob learned from me, so did he. The major features from the original levels he and I designed will be included in the re-design of the castle, just as my original work was incorporated into the huge new dungeon complex Rob and I created by combining our respective castles. Additionally, as that complex was explored and exploited, we created new levels and changed things. In all, the original work was one that was in progress, continually in flux of change.

We will do our best to make the printed version not only true to the spirit of the underlying material, but also accommodating for GMs who wish to have "living" dungeons.

Finally, we will not give all away. Where there are great mysteries involved, such as the Great Stone Face and the Disappearing Jeweled Man, we plan to offer the GMs several possible answers :D Overall, the PCs adventuring in the dungeons will encounter the same challenges as faced the original delvers in 1972 and onwards, that Robilar discovered and Mordenkainen met.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
grodog said:
Hi Gary---

Any updates on the Castle Zagig project to share? The more juicy details, the better, of course :D

Hoi Allen!

See the post immediately above this one. I am supposed to be working on details of a dungeon-like area, one of five to be included, in the campaign base setting for the Castle Zagyg project now. I need to finish off correspondence and board postings, make a fresh pot of coffee, and get to creative work soon...

[/QUOTE]Unrelatedly, Gary, had you created the ruined monastary from the 1e DMG example of play and sample dungeon map for the DMG itself or was it drawn from your GH campaign?[/QUOTE]

The example you note was created especially for the DMG and was not a part of the GH campaign. Wherever possible I kept the two separate so as to have the large group playing in the campaign getting new material.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
O Brasileiro said:
Hello my Master, my Lord.
I cannot resist to ask: which is your favorite system? The original D&D, AD&D or the new D&D?

Thanks for the softball, O Brasileiro:)

My favorite system is my newest one, the Lejendary Adventure RPG. After three plus decades of play I have come to most enjoy a rules-light, skill-based system, and that's what the LA game is. I find it inspires my creativity in play and in writing game material. Rules-heavy systems smother my capacity to innovate.

As for D&D gaming, I very much enjoy playing either the first D&D system (three booklets) or else OAD&D. The Castle Zagyg modules are being designed based on the upcoming Castles & Crusades rules being done by Troll Lord Games using the OGL and being as close to OAD&D as that license will allow.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Silver Moon

Adventurer
Col_Pladoh said:
The umber hulk a creation made from the whole cloth of my imagination. they were meant to be a considerable challenge to potent PCs, so they were given the abilities you appreciate.
And continues to be a great monster to this day! Incidentally, the plastic/rubber Umber Hulk 6" action figure was my daughter's favorite bath toy back when she was a baby. I guess we corrupted her at a young age, as she now loves playing the game at age 11. :)
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Silver Moon said:
And continues to be a great monster to this day! Incidentally, the plastic/rubber Umber Hulk 6" action figure was my daughter's favorite bath toy back when she was a baby. I guess we corrupted her at a young age, as she now loves playing the game at age 11. :)
Heh, SilverMoon,

Those rubbery toys with metal inner skeletons were actually manufactured to TSR's specs over in the Orient. As TSR wasn't really set up to be a toy company, they didn't do all that well, so they are pretty much collectors items these days.

In all it is good to bring children into gaming by means of interesting bath toys:)

Cheers,
Gary
 

mistere29

First Post
Col_Pladoh said:
Further Greetings, Mistere29,

You are ahead of Rob and I in regards the re-creation of our original dungeon levels.

Actually i was talking about the campaign away from castle Greyhawk and Greyhawk city. I was curious to know how much of the world got deveopled outside the main city and campaign as time went and you wanted to provide new challenges for your group. (not counting the stuff created for new players, like the temple of elemental evil)

I'm asking because i'm planning a legendary earth campaign and i'm not sure what i want to do. I could pick a particular area and develop it in detail (like a big city and one monster dungeon), thus leaving the rest of the world for new campaings.

Or

I could put less detail into the area with the idea that all of the new challenges would be in new areas. I would be using more of the setting material, but there would be no famliar home base. (like robliar's green dragon inn from greyhawk)

My players don't have any preference, so i was wondering what you did in your campaigns.
 

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