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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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xmanii

Explorer
Hope all is well, and finds you in good health.

Been out of the loop for a bit, and was wanting to check your website at www.gygax.com, and I got some German site. Did you let it expire, or have a different site now?

Thanks for introducing D&D to me and everyone else :)

Hope to hear from you soon.
 

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Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
xmanii said:
Hope all is well, and finds you in good health.

Been out of the loop for a bit, and was wanting to check your website at www.gygax.com, and I got some German site. Did you let it expire, or have a different site now?

Thanks for introducing D&D to me and everyone else :)

Hope to hear from you soon.

Thanks, Xmanii,

All good wishes and prayers are most apreciated!

The old website got pirated some time back, so we secured www.egarygygax.com That said, we've never done anything with it, as i haven't the time or energy to devote to keeping up such a site. There were a couple of volunteers, but they didn't come through, so I just dropped any further effort. eventually we'll probably get something back up, but to my way of thinking to do a proper job of it demands a lot of input from me, and a lot of owrk by the webmaster managing the site.

Cheers,
Gary
 

johnsemlak

First Post
Gray Mouser said:
Hey Gary, thanks for the answer to my query. Just to let you know, I found a copy of The Anubis Murders in a used bookstore back in (maybe) 1995. A great read! I had always been interested in ancient Egypt when I was a kid and found the novel quite good.

Gray Mouser

FUnnily enough a couple of those books actually made their way to a game shop in Moscow Russia. I had been wondering if they were worth getting. I'll have to finally pick them up :)

No don't anyone rush to Portal Game Shop in Moscow to beat me to them
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
johnsemlak said:
FUnnily enough a couple of those books actually made their way to a game shop in Moscow Russia. I had been wondering if they were worth getting. I'll have to finally pick them up :)

No don't anyone rush to Portal Game Shop in Moscow to beat me to them

Funny thing too;) We hope to get the La game translated into russian and sold there in the not too distant future;)
 

francisca

Explorer
Col_Pladoh said:
Thanks. I feel pretty well. the problem is that i tire out after about an hour, and game design calls for extended periods of hard concentration and work at the keyboard.

Well, I'm sure you're doing the right thing and not wearing yourself down. I'm sure the masses clamoring for "Gygaxian Tomes" will understand.

We has the dunds on hand to pay the printer for the initial 50,000 copies of the Monster Manual that were ordered. It was no problem finding a printer thst could do a stitched binding and school-book cover material either, as i wanted the AD&D volumes to be as nearly indestructable as could be managed. Later on the Blumes changed that so save a nickle or two on each copy printed...as if we weren't making enough as it was.

Crown books wanted me to write a special introductory game book exclusively for them. that was a no-go. Simon & Schuster contacted me about book trade distribution, but they were going to take a year to set it up, so i wasn't too thrilled. Then I got a phone call from Mildred Marmur, then the VP of Sub-Rights Licensing at Random House. they flew me out to NYC the next week and were ready to begin distribution in a month's time. As the remainder of the deal I negotiated assured TSR cash flow and other great benefits, i signed my name up there in their offices on the second day of our meetings.

Having Millie as an advocate was a lot of help in cutting a great deal for TSR. Both of her sons were D&Ders :D

Cheers,
Gary

Sweet. So you prety much had them beating a path to your door. Thanks for that little nugget of history. I always thought it was wierd/cool that some of my childhood and textbooks were handled by the same people who did the AD&D books.

Take care, Col.
 

T. Foster

First Post
Hi Gary,

Thanks again for taking time to answer all the questions and put up with all this fawning (I'm sure the latter is easier than the former ;) ). Anyway, I've got another OD&D (1974) related question (something of an obsession of mine because I was too young to play it when it was 'current'):

In issue #2 of The Strategic Review in the article on "The Questions Most Frequently Asked About Dungeons & Dragons" there's a combat example that includes hints of an unarmed combat system that AFAIK never saw print anywhere else. Here's the relevant quote (emphasis added by me):
Combat Example:

10 ORCS surprise a lone Hero wandering lost in the dungeons, but the die check reveals they are 30’ distant at the time of surprise, so they use their iniative to close to melee distance. lnitiative is now checked. The Hero scores a 3, plus 1 for his high dexterity, so it is counted 4. The Orcs score 6, and even a minus 1 for their lack of dexterity (optional) still allows them first attack. As they outnumber their opponent so heavily it is likely that they will try to overpower him rather than kill, so each hit they score will be counted as attempts to grapple the Hero:

- Assumed armor of the Hero: Chainmail & Shield -- AC 4.

- Score required to hit AC 4 -- 15 (by monsters with 1 hit die).

- Only 5 Orcs can attack, as they haven’t had time to surround.

Assume the following dice scores for the Orcs attacks:
Orc #1 - 06; #2 - 10; #3 - 18; #4 - 20; #5 - 03.

Two of the Orcs have grappled the Hero, and if his score with 4 dice is less than their score with 2 dice he has been pinned helplessly. If it is a tie they are struggling, with the Hero still on his feet, but he will be unable to defend himself with his weapon. If the Hero scores higher than the Orcs use the positive difference to throw off his attackers, i.e. the Hero scores 15 and the Orcs scored but 8, so the Hero has tossed both aside, stunning them for 7 turns between them.


- Round 2: lniative goes to the Hero.

- Score required to hit Orcs -- 11 (4th level fighter vs. AC 6).

Assume the following dice score by the Hero. Note that he is allowed one attack for each of his combat levels as the ratio of one Orc vs. the Hero is 1:4, so this is treated as normal (non-fantastic) melee, as is any combat where the score of one side is a base 1 hit die or less.

Hero: 19; 01; 16; 09. Two out of four blows struck. There are 8 orcs which can be possibly hit. An 8-sided die is rolled to determine which have been struck. Assume a 3 and an 8 are rolled. Orcs #3 and #8 are diced for to determine their hit points, and they have 3 and 4 points respectively. Orc #3 takes 6 damage points and is killed. Orc #8 takes 1 damage point and is able to fight.

- All 7 surviving/non-stunned Orcs are now able to attack.

Continued attempts to overpower the Hero are assumed, and no less than 4 Orcs are able to attack the Hero from positions where his shield cannot be brought into play, so his AC is there considered 5, and those Orcs which attack from behind add +2 to their hit dice. In the case it is quite likely that the Orcs will capture the Hero.

Was this an actual system used in your games at that time or just something that was created ad-hoc for this example? If the former, why was this (seemingly quite simple and straightforward) system abandoned in favor of the much more complicated percentile-based system found in the AD&D DMG (which was so complex that at least in my games it served to effectively discourage anyone from ever attempting those maneuvers, at least until we got UA)?

Also, I can't help noticing that both this example combat and the combat example in the AD&D PH feature large numbers of orcs taking out superior PC opponents by grappling them rather than engaging in straight up melee (which the higher level PCs would almost certainly win). Was this pure coincidence or were these intended as subtle hints to DMs how such 'mook' monsters should be played -- making up by sheer numbers what they lack in skill and hit dice?

As always,
 

The_Gunslinger658

First Post
Hi ya Gary-

You mentioned in an earlier thread that you would have liked to see a revised AD&D system, why not go through Kenzor Co. and propose the revision, I think they hold the license for AD&D right now if I'm not mistaken.


Scott
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
francisca said:
Well, I'm sure you're doing the right thing and not wearing yourself down. I'm sure the masses clamoring for "Gygaxian Tomes" will understand.



Sweet. So you prety much had them beating a path to your door. Thanks for that little nugget of history. I always thought it was wierd/cool that some of my childhood and textbooks were handled by the same people who did the AD&D books.

Take care, Col.

Sales were burgeoning so as to attract the book trade, and thanks to sensationalist "news reporting" we got milions in publicity thereafter. The entertainment industry in California was also after us from about 1981 on through 1983--that's a very long time in terms of of desirable film property.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
T. Foster said:
Hi Gary,

Thanks again for taking time to answer all the questions and put up with all this fawning (I'm sure the latter is easier than the former ;) ). Anyway, I've got another OD&D (1974) related question (something of an obsession of mine because I was too young to play it when it was 'current'):

In issue #2 of The Strategic Review in the article on "The Questions Most Frequently Asked About Dungeons & Dragons" there's a combat example that includes hints of an unarmed combat system that AFAIK never saw print anywhere else. Here's the relevant quote (emphasis added by me):


Was this an actual system used in your games at that time or just something that was created ad-hoc for this example? If the former, why was this (seemingly quite simple and straightforward) system abandoned in favor of the much more complicated percentile-based system found in the AD&D DMG (which was so complex that at least in my games it served to effectively discourage anyone from ever attempting those maneuvers, at least until we got UA)?

Also, I can't help noticing that both this example combat and the combat example in the AD&D PH feature large numbers of orcs taking out superior PC opponents by grappling them rather than engaging in straight up melee (which the higher level PCs would almost certainly win). Was this pure coincidence or were these intended as subtle hints to DMs how such 'mook' monsters should be played -- making up by sheer numbers what they lack in skill and hit dice?

As always,

Happy to be of service!

We sometimes used the SR system in grappling melees, but most often the Dm simply weighed the situation and ajudicated without all that dice rolling. thus, eight orcs getting the jump on a 4th level fighter would be assumed to overpower him with some loss to themselves--d6 and another die rolll for each KOed in the struggle, a score of 6 indicating killed in action.

The more complex system in AD&D was my error, mainly that of listening to those who wanted combat to be very detailed.

You are on target in regards the examples of low-level monsters seeking to come to grips with a strong PC. Eight orcs will likely be slain by a well-armored 4th level fighter unless they use their sheer numbers to overwhelm him.

I now have that happen when pack animals attack characters. Two wolves, dogs, or hyenas, for example, both successful in hitting the same target human (or humanoid), will knock him down and put him at a considerable disadvantage.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Doomed Battalions said:
Hi ya Gary-

You mentioned in an earlier thread that you would have liked to see a revised AD&D system, why not go through Kenzor Co. and propose the revision, I think they hold the license for AD&D right now if I'm not mistaken.


Scott

Easy!

I dn't particularly care for the direction that Kenzer has taken with Hackmaster--too frivolous and far too many books required to play;)

Now i do like the Castles & Crusades rules that Troll Lord Games has crafted under the OGL :cool:

Cheers,
Gary
 

BOZ

Creature Cataloguer
Col_Pladoh said:
Surely you have no problems with 2E, as it was your fisrt FRPG;) It did lose about half the AD&D audience for TSR, though, and that's a fact.

that it did, true. i have to confess though, i never really understood why people had such a problem with it. maybe that's because i was not part of the transition? the rules didn't seem to change in any great capacity, mostly cosmetic changes it seems to me - it certainly wasn't the day and night difference between AD&D and 3E D&D. maybe the animosity of people was because you had no personal involvement in the change (and didn't want to), or maybe it was the people who spearheaded the change and/or the dubious activities that caused you to not be with the company anymore... i just really don't see that big of a difference between the two editions of AD&D. forgive my ignorance. ;)
 

T. Foster

First Post
Hi Gary, I've got a couple more for you. This time moving forward a bit, from 1974 all the way to 1977 ;) :

I was looking through the J. Eric Holmes-edited D&D Basic rulebook last night (still my favorite of the various 'introductory' D&D sets) and got to wondering about a couple things:

While most of the rules in that book come straight from OD&D, there are several spots that anticipate AD&D (some spells, full treasure types table from the MM, etc. -- not to mention that the book consistently refers readers to AD&D, rather than OD&D, for further info) as well as a few rules that don't seem to match either edition (10 second instead of 1 minute combat rounds, initiative determined by Dex score with a die-roll used only to break ties, use of the magic-users' "% to know spells" table, etc.). Were these (the latter case) rulings decisions made by Dr. Holmes on his own (interpreting the sometimes ambiguous wordings in OD&D) or did they reflect actual thought and practices at TSR at the time (ideas that were subsequently rejected by the time AD&D saw print)?

And also I wonder why, since the book bills itself as an introduction to AD&D, once the full extent of the rule changes between OD&D and AD&D (such as starting the AC table at 10 instead of 9, upping fighters' clerics' and thieves' hit dice, granting spells to clerics starting at 1st level, etc.) were known that the Basic rulebook wasn't updated/revised to incorporate more of those changes and remain consistent (especially since the book was revised after the publication of the AD&D Monster Manual -- adding several creature listings (such as giant rats and troglodytes) that were present in the MM but not in the OD&D rules)? Was it simply not considered worth the effort, or had it already been decided by that point (1978-79) to keep "Basic D&D" closer to OD&D than to AD&D (i.e. the same thought process that eventually led to the 1981 revision of the Basic Set and introduction of the Expert Set as a replacement of sorts for the OD&D white-box)?

Regards,
 

T. Foster

First Post
Another one I just thought of as I was typing the last question(s):

Back in 1988 I played with you at a convention game (Glathricon in Evansville, Indiana), exploring the Tomb of Rahotep under AD&D rules. One of the 'house rules' you used in that game (as well as the 'BUC' system for currency/treasure) was to give the characters 'joss factors,' as later seen in Dangerous Journeys. Were you simply playtesting ideas for your new system-in-progress, was this a special one-time-only consideration because of the difficulty of the particular module (which was plenty difficult, though I did manage to survive intact -- barely ;) ), or was this an idea you thought appropriate for addition to AD&D games in general? And if so, do you still think it's a good idea?

Just something that's been floating around the back of my mind for the past, oh, 17 or so years...
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
BOZ said:
that it did, true. i have to confess though, i never really understood why people had such a problem with it. maybe that's because i was not part of the transition? the rules didn't seem to change in any great capacity, mostly cosmetic changes it seems to me - it certainly wasn't the day and night difference between AD&D and 3E D&D. maybe the animosity of people was because you had no personal involvement in the change (and didn't want to), or maybe it was the people who spearheaded the change and/or the dubious activities that caused you to not be with the company anymore... i just really don't see that big of a difference between the two editions of AD&D. forgive my ignorance. ;)

Your guess is as good as mine, but the old saw about if it ain't broken don't fix it likely applies.

Cheerio,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
T. Foster said:
Hi Gary, I've got a couple more for you. This time moving forward a bit, from 1974 all the way to 1977 ;) :

I was looking through the J. Eric Holmes-edited D&D Basic rulebook last night (still my favorite of the various 'introductory' D&D sets) and got to wondering about a couple things:

While most of the rules in that book come straight from OD&D, there are several spots that anticipate AD&D (some spells, full treasure types table from the MM, etc. -- not to mention that the book consistently refers readers to AD&D, rather than OD&D, for further info) as well as a few rules that don't seem to match either edition (10 second instead of 1 minute combat rounds, initiative determined by Dex score with a die-roll used only to break ties, use of the magic-users' "% to know spells" table, etc.). Were these (the latter case) rulings decisions made by Dr. Holmes on his own (interpreting the sometimes ambiguous wordings in OD&D) or did they reflect actual thought and practices at TSR at the time (ideas that were subsequently rejected by the time AD&D saw print)?

Thoughts and practices at TSR? Heh! As it happened, I reviewed Eric/s ms. and put in the material I was creating for the new AD&D system, thus making a transition from D&D to AD&D easier for those who wished to do so.

In short, I was 99% of the creative force in regards to the D&D/AD&D game until I put Frank Mentzer in charge of the D&D line.

And also I wonder why, since the book bills itself as an introduction to AD&D, once the full extent of the rule changes between OD&D and AD&D (such as starting the AC table at 10 instead of 9, upping fighters' clerics' and thieves' hit dice, granting spells to clerics starting at 1st level, etc.) were known that the Basic rulebook wasn't updated/revised to incorporate more of those changes and remain consistent (especially since the book was revised after the publication of the AD&D Monster Manual -- adding several creature listings (such as giant rats and troglodytes) that were present in the MM but not in the OD&D rules)? Was it simply not considered worth the effort, or had it already been decided by that point (1978-79) to keep "Basic D&D" closer to OD&D than to AD&D (i.e. the same thought process that eventually led to the 1981 revision of the Basic Set and introduction of the Expert Set as a replacement of sorts for the OD&D white-box)?

Regards,

The Basic Set was not meant to be AD&D, or an introduction to it despite what someone at TSR put into the work. There was never any intention of melding the two games. that should be obvious from the continuation of the D&D game product line, its direction being different from AD&D's.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
T. Foster said:
Another one I just thought of as I was typing the last question(s):

Back in 1988 I played with you at a convention game (Glathricon in Evansville, Indiana), exploring the Tomb of Rahotep under AD&D rules. One of the 'house rules' you used in that game (as well as the 'BUC' system for currency/treasure) was to give the characters 'joss factors,' as later seen in Dangerous Journeys. Were you simply playtesting ideas for your new system-in-progress, was this a special one-time-only consideration because of the difficulty of the particular module (which was plenty difficult, though I did manage to survive intact -- barely ;) ), or was this an idea you thought appropriate for addition to AD&D games in general? And if so, do you still think it's a good idea?

Just something that's been floating around the back of my mind for the past, oh, 17 or so years...

Easy:)

As is pretty usual for me I was outting into play-test my ideas for the upcoming Mythus game. I thought joss Factors were very necessary for the ToR scenario, of course;)

That's the long and short of it.

Cheerio,
Gary
 

mattcolville

First Post
Mr Gygax-

I've been reading these threads for so long, and so often started a post only to stop and say "Nah," that I cannot now remember if I've actually ever posted this, or merely typed it several times. Forgive me. :)

My name's Matthew Colville and I grew up playing your game. On behalf of myself and my dozen or so friends, all of whom have been playing together for the last 20 years I thank you, and those who contributed to the inspiration, for your work.

I was very lucky in my life, and have been able to earn a good living and have a satisfying career as a game designer. Had there been no D&D in my life, I would not be recognizable as the person I am today. And I'm very, very happy.

After working for Last Unicorn Games and Wizards of the Coast and Decipher, I am now a designer and story editor for Pandemic Studios. We make video games. When I got my first job in the industry, working on the Dune CCG, I thanked my gaming group. Without their support and friendship, the notion of being a game designer would never have occured to me. I thanked them again when I arrived at Pandemic. I am happy to report that, contrary to what my prior experiences would indicate, there are game companies out there who make a lot of money, make great games, and treat their employees with care and attention.

I thanked my friends, and I must also thank you. Playing D&D in 1986 set me on a path that led directly to where I am now. You and others created a genre of game that captured our imagintion, led us on endless adventures, and left us with dozens of warstories we'll be telling the rest of our lives.

Further, though my formal education includes writing and composition and dramatic forms, my experiences as a game master and a player continually inform my work both as a designer and as a story editor.

I probably have a million questions for you, but obviously that's not the reason for my post. Thank you for the work you've done. Keep it up. I'll run the new Castle Zagyg as soon as I get my hands on it.
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Thanks Matthew!

Those very kind words are much appreciated, and they and like testimonials are the best part of sharing my creative work. As i must always point out, however, at best what I did assisted you in realizing your potential even as it brought fun and friendship to you and your comrads.

So all I can add is that I am most hapy to have been of service, and i surely enjoyed the "work";)

Cheers,
Gary
 

Vlad Le Démon

First Post
FeuMeuFeu

Col_Pladoh said:
Getting Francois to do anything other than his graphic novels is a most challenging task, you see.

Les Chroniques de la Lune Noire ?

Hello, Gary !!!

I've discovered D&D (and RPGs) with the Red Box. I've played AD&D1 and AD&D2...and now i'm playing 3.x and enjoy it...Even if D&D is my favorite RPG, i'm playing other RPG like Castle Falkenstein, Dying Earth, Warhammer (IMO the Enemy Within campaign is the best adventure ever published in the RPG industry), Hawkmoon, Star Wars, Star Trek etc...

The Questions now...

1. You have played with François Marcela Froideval, right ? Is it true that L'Empire de Lynn is located on Oerth ?
2. Have you ever played other RPG than D&D, C&C or LA ? Which ones ?
3. In D&D there is Dragons and...Dungeons...why have you choose to set mostly of the adventures underground ? This is not very flamboyant and grandiose for great adventurers to crawl in the filth of tunnels and catacombs ;) . There is a hidden meaning for this ?
4. What is your favorite color ?
5. What is your quest ?... :confused:

Thanks for all...
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Vlad Le Démon said:
Les Chroniques de la Lune Noire ?

None other:) Francois is working on the next book now.


...

1. You have played with François Marcela Froideval, right ? Is it true that L'Empire de Lynn is located on Oerth ?

Yes, and yes. His area of Oerth was located to the west, and it included the island of Mephreton.

2. Have you ever played other RPG than D&D, C&C or LA ? Which ones ?

Empier of the Petal Throne, Metamorphosis Alpha, Top Secret, GW, CoC, Paranoia, Dangerous Journeys (Unhallowed [horror] and Mythus [fantasy], and a few others, including some I was testing for paper or computer game publication.

3. In D&D there is Dragons and...Dungeons...why have you choose to set mostly of the adventures underground ? This is not very flamboyant and grandiose for great adventurers to crawl in the filth of tunnels and catacombs ;) . There is a hidden meaning for this ?

Heh, as if dungeon crawling wasn't the most popular sort of adventure! Note that mant action films and most computer RPGs use such settings, whether actual dungeon-like places, caves, or industrial-type enclosed environemnts. think of the motion pictire Alien.

The meaning is simple, to bring fun and excitement to the players involved. What better than the lurid tension of a subterranean maze?

4. What is your favorite color ?

The rainbow and all its permutations.

5. What is your quest ?... :confused:

Thanks for all...[/QUOTE]

I am consumed by no driving force. I enjoy each day for what it brings.

Cheerio,
Gary
 

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