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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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Col_Pladoh said:
Howdy!

As for a bio, I am working on an autobiography in fits and starts, still mainly recording what I recall from hy childhood. It isn't all that much fun to write, and with my gaming-related work load being what it is I wonder if i will ever get sround to completing the bio.

Ciao,
Gary
I keep telling you Gary you need a secretary like me to help out. :)
Ken
 

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Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Joseph Elric Smith said:
I keep telling you Gary you need a secretary like me to help out. :)
Ken

Sure Ken...

If your shorthand speed is at 100 words a minute, and you don't mind working for a room, board, and $20 a week spending money, you git a jog :confused:

Heh,
Gary
 

RFisher

Explorer
Col_Pladoh said:
As someone who has designed a number of military miniatures rules sets, I could have made combat in the OAD&D game far more complex, including all manner of considerations for footing, elevation of the opponents, capacity to dodge, parrying skill, opponents using natural weapons, etc. Knowing that the game was not all about combat, I skipped as much of that as I could by having the main factors subsume lessers, ignoring the rest. It is a role-playing exercise where all manner of other game considerations come into play, not just fighting.

Well, sure. But wasn't the question asking why OAD&D combat wasn't more simple rather than why it wasn't more complex?

Instead of having both a to-hit roll and a damage roll, why not a single roll?

One thing that strikes me when I pull out my old D&D and Traveller books is how much you and Marc Miller--both veteran wargame designers--understood that roleplaying games needed an abstract combat system. There's a real contrast between those two games and e.g. The Fantasy Trip, which was really a miniatures skirmish game with roleplaying elements tacked on.
 

all in the family

Hello again, Gary,

If you don't mind, I have a family question for you. From the accounts I've read, you playtested early versions of OD&D with your children to great success. I'm curious, how many of them still play D&D? Do you still DM any sessions for them? Have any of them worked on gaming publications and, if so, how does their work differ from your own?

Thanks,

Sluggo
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
RFisher said:
Well, sure. But wasn't the question asking why OAD&D combat wasn't more simple rather than why it wasn't more complex?

Perhaps, but I read it as questioning the doubling up on AC and HP benefits in combat, and not have more realism in the system.

You are correct about the need for keeping combat abstract in the RPG. Every complication demands more rules and explanations, more time spent resolving combat, that's fine for a military or dueling simulation, but not in an RPG where there are so many other things to do besides killing things;)

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
sluggo the sleazebag said:
Hello again, Gary,

If you don't mind, I have a family question for you. From the accounts I've read, you playtested early versions of OD&D with your children to great success. I'm curious, how many of them still play D&D? Do you still DM any sessions for them? Have any of them worked on gaming publications and, if so, how does their work differ from your own?

Thanks,

Sluggo

Hola Sluggo!

All six of my children have played RPGs. the two eldest, Ernie and Elise did indeed serve as the first two play-testers of OD&D. Later daughters Heidi and Cindy played with me as the DM, also with their young brother Luke as the DM--who they told what to do until he came to me and I set him straight.

The girls never were captivated by gaming as were my boys. ther played for a short time only, relatively speaking. In fact I would recruit Heidi's boy friends to my AD&D campaign when we were living out in the country, and she got cross at me for having to wave goodnight to two or three ex-beaux AD&Ding in the living room with me when she was with a new boy friend going out on a date.

Sons Ernie and Luke wrote the Lost City of Gaxmoor D20 module a couple of years ago for Troll Lord Games. It definately shows the influence of my creative and DMing style. I had a lot of fun play-testing it. They have no plans for more such design, however, as Ernie works all the time now, is buying his own house soon, and Luke is in a job that keeps him very busy and relocating periodically, so he doesn't even get in miuch gaming.

Son Alex age 17 is still at home/ Heplays mainly computer games, although he enjoys participating in my LA game campaign on Thursday nights....when his school work allows it.

Cheers,
Gary
 


Drifter Bob

First Post
Col_Pladoh said:
Drifter Bob,

To cut to the chase here, for I haven't the time to spare for more point-by-point reply to so long a missive, in my considered opinion detailed "realistic" combat rules are a detriment to the RPG, not a benefit. There is already undue stress placed upon combat as the central theme of the game form, while it is in fact only one of several key elements. The designer would better serve the audience by stressing the other elements than would be dine by spending yet more content space on detailing fighting.

Cheers,
Gary

Gary, thanks for responding, and for your patience with my heretical ideas. I don't mind you not going through point by point, I thought you might appreciate some of the historical data. I'm sorry I'm so long winded.

Regarding realism in RPG's, I guess we disagree. I do believe combat is abstracted, but reality can lend us the best, most intuitive, most internally consistant mechanics. As for the combat focus of most rpg's, I agree (i thnk this is a legacy of DnDs evolution from wargames, though you could address that much better than I!) but I think, while complexity must be reigned in, realistic mechanics such as those in combat, can be interpreted and applied to the game. I'd see the combat mechanics, when well done, as a good place to start for many other things.

One sort of example of this perhaps is the Dying Earth RPG, where they put this persuasion / rebuttal system where people can convince each other of things, (like in the cugel stories in particular) with a kind of a competetive dynamic. Not realistic per say but with a real-feeling mechanic, IMHO, which makes things more fun. I'd like to see more of this kind of stuff brought into more RPGs for everything from Thief (sorry, rogue) abilities, to spell research, wilderness survival... any number of others.

If done right this can actually enhance role playing rather than getting in the way, which happens if too much complexity is allowed to creep in, always a danger.

DB
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Edge3343, Congratulations!

With a beautiful bride like that the only thing I can suggest that you don't know already is this: Pay more attention to her than to gaming :D If she doesn't like RPGing, keep your own down to the "one night a week our with the boys" level until you can win her over to the fold. If she is already a gamer, you are twice lucky, amigo...

Cheerio,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Howdy Drifter Bob,

When a search for realistic combat mechanics begins, the challenge of devising a system that meets the "realism" required (that measure being totally subjective) that does not extend the time and effort necessary to resolve the matter becomes highly problematic.

Having rules that require players' characters to do something that the player does not wish seems to me to be the antithesis of role-playing--aside from the compulsions of the occasional casting of magic spells that force such compliance and where saving throws are allowed.

None the less, individual taste can not be disputed. Good luck in your quest for the perfect combat resolution system. If you devise something that meets that measure broadly, it will likely revolutionize the whole of the approach to RPGs. However, any rules governing how a character must specifically act in key situations move the game system away from role-playing.

Cheers,
Gary
 
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Sir Elton

First Post
Drifter Bob, you have some good ideas. However, perfection is unattainable :D.

Gary,

Combat is brought into the foray because some emotions (except fear and faith) are hard to inspire in a game. I think what Drifter Bob wants to do is come up with a mechanic that makes this part of the game more imaginative. Although I don't know how he can do this.

That being said, is it possible to make a successful module around, say, a Gothic Romance novel?
 


Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Sir Elton said:
...

Gary,

Combat is brought into the foray because some emotions (except fear and faith) are hard to inspire in a game. I think what Drifter Bob wants to do is come up with a mechanic that makes this part of the game more imaginative. Although I don't know how he can do this.

That being said, is it possible to make a successful module around, say, a Gothic Romance novel?

Well Amigo,

Making an adventure based on any novel is pretty well doomed to failure. Using ideas and plot concepts from novels is workable. I have not read any gothic Romance novels, bit I have seen s few on the telly. There are elements in those that one could build into a heavy-on-role-playing module. A good deal of the romance would go by the boards even then.

What would be left are mainly problem solving and antagonistic roles, i should think...

Cheers, Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Napftor said:
Hi Gary!

I'm hoping this hasn't been asked in the oodles of posts before this, but can you shed any light on a chess set supposedly given to employees at TSR over Christmas in 1984? That is what a seller is claiming on Ebay...

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dl...9&category=2545&sspagename=STRK:MEAWA:IT&rd=1

Thanks!

Hola Napftor!

Sure I can. I have one. They were sculpted by "Duke" Siefried, and come in a plasitic woodgrain box with beds for each of the 32 pieces. The chessboard top lifts off to reveal the men. The two sides are Good(white) and Evil (black) with different pawns and pieces. They came unpaionted, with the black men blackwashed.

I don't recall how many sets were made, but the number is small.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Napftor

Explorer
Col_Pladoh said:
Hola Napftor!

Sure I can. I have one. They were sculpted by "Duke" Siefried, and come in a plasitic woodgrain box with beds for each of the 32 pieces. The chessboard top lifts off to reveal the men. The two sides are Good(white) and Evil (black) with different pawns and pieces. They came unpaionted, with the black men blackwashed.

I don't recall how many sets were made, but the number is small.

Cheers,
Gary

Thanks! But I was also wondering if the history was correct as advertised. Anything else you'd care to add? Just wondering so if I hopefully win this puppie than I know what to tell others about its past. :D
 

Sir Elton

First Post
Col_Pladoh said:
Well Amigo,

Making an adventure based on any novel is pretty well doomed to failure. Using ideas and plot concepts from novels is workable. I have not read any gothic Romance novels, bit I have seen s few on the telly. There are elements in those that one could build into a heavy-on-role-playing module. A good deal of the romance would go by the boards even then.

What would be left are mainly problem solving and antagonistic roles, i should think...

Cheers, Gary

I better stop asking you questions about modules then. The more I ask about doing a particular genre, the more you show that we are thinking along the same vein. :D
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Napftor said:
Thanks! But I was also wondering if the history was correct as advertised. Anything else you'd care to add? Just wondering so if I hopefully win this puppie than I know what to tell others about its past. :D

Heh,

I thought I had done that;) Duke was at TSR then, and he was hoping to expand the company's lines by adding cast items such as resin play models for adventure modules and metal miniature figures. The sets were given out as Christmas presents, yes.

I recall autographing the set in question, and I think it was at GenCon 2000. I remarked that I had just gotten out my own set and played a couple of games of chess with it not long before.

As for the number, I can't say. There were c. 300 employees at TSR then, but there might have been an over-run of sets, perhaps as many as 500. OTOH, the run might have been as small as 300. Either way, the item is rare, and the pieces look quite good in play.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Sir Elton said:
I better stop asking you questions about modules then. The more I ask about doing a particular genre, the more you show that we are thinking along the same vein. :D

Heh-heh-heh!

Don't want to give any ideas, eh?

Be sure and have a look at the next volume in the "Gygaxian Fantasy Worlds" series of reference books being published by Troll Lord Games. It is called Insidae as a grabber title, but it is simply a very complete guide to plotting adventure modules. The author is Dan Cross, and he did an excellent job. Using it and a work of fiction as the inspiration for the module, I do believe almost any genre and storyline could be crafted into an interesting adventure piece.

I believe they plan to release the book in early summer. I know they are editing it now.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Hi, Gary,

Thanks for your response to my last question on family gaming. It was quite informative and gave me a lot to think about since my young daughter has been eyeing my miniatures of late.

In the meantime, I have another question for you. I'm playing a dwarven cleric that can't seem to get any respect from the other players. They're quite pushy about having me heal them whenever they get into the fray, even if they've only taken a few scratches. Moreover, they can't wait for me to offer any help, they simply demand it. They also expect me to set aside spells for the food and water they always seem to forget, which can be frustrating for a guy who doesn't have that many spell slots and is trying to play a battle cleric. In short, I'm feeling a bit disrepected and considering whether or not I should cut them off or simply start charging them for spells.

I know it sounds bad, but I was hoping you could help me out with some sage advice. I don't want to become an unhelpful, adamant dwarf, but I would like to find a happy middle ground with these guys.

Sincerely,

Sluggo
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Howdy Sluggo,

Sounds that the other PCs are indeed presuming far too much on the kind offices of your cleric. In all, the worker is worthy of his hire, and to continue to do his good work, the cleric should receive both respect and contributions.

He might explain that his ministrations are limited by his capacity to inact spells, and those spells are granted to him by his deity. The latter is quite upset at the disrespect being shown him (or her) by the other PCs who are treating his (or her) clerical servant as their servant. That belittles the deity, and unless attitudes change immediately, generous cointributions to the priest are made in return for his services on behalf of the deity, no more spells will be forthcoming.

If the deity is speaking through the cleric, and it would under such circumstances, how can the others demure? If they do, they should risk rather severe retribution.

FWIW,
Gary
 

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