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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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Sir Edgar

First Post
It seems like you don't really look at the work of other creators or even current D&D rules very much. Is this deliberate so that you don't taint any of your thoughts and ideas in the creation process or are you simply not interested? Also, where do you get your inspiration? Do you read a lot books and if so, which kinds? Do you do any research on the Internet? How much of your creative process is based on folklore and mythology vs. science fiction? Thanks.
 

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Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Sir Edgar said:
It seems like you don't really look at the work of other creators or even current D&D rules very much. Is this deliberate so that you don't taint any of your thoughts and ideas in the creation process or are you simply not interested? Also, where do you get your inspiration? Do you read a lot books and if so, which kinds? Do you do any research on the Internet? How much of your creative process is based on folklore and mythology vs. science fiction? Thanks.
Whoa!

SirE, that's a lot of queries packed into a single paragraph, and some that would call for pages-long responses :eek:

I have never read a lot of other game creators work--in fact only when I intend to play a game do I read the rules. Otherwise, it isn';t a matter of "taint," but one of believing I have sufficient of my own ideas to need to borrow from others not associated with the project I am doing. Of course when I workj with a co-writer it is a shared work.

My inspiration came originally form about 15 years of reading fiary tales, childrens' books, fables, Westerns, mythology, mysteries, folklore, detective stories including Sherlock Holmes and Nyland Smith, adventure tales, history, military history, SF and fantasy, Edgar Allen Poe--just about anything that seemed even vaguely interesting or informative. I have read literally thousands of books, and I still read a book or so a week, even when doing a lot of writing. These days I read mainly history and inaginative literature, but I have perused THE SOCIETY OF THE MIND and THE ORIGINS OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE BREAKDOWN OF THE BICAMERAL MIND not many years back. For light rwading I am currently reading MORE TALES OF IRISH GHOSTS and TOM BROWN'S SCHOOL DAYS.

Of course I must add radio, comic books, movies, school studies, TV, conversations, and observation of people and places to the inspirational sources. Foreign travel is especially interesting and helpful.

For some bibliographil suggestioons see the OAD&D DMG, Appendic L or M, I believe. Also in the MYTHUS game book there is an extensive bibvliography and reading list for fantasy.

I do not do much research on the internet, although now and then I find something of interest. Basicaly, I much prefer hardcopy, a book to read, take notes from, and re-read.

My initial work was a blend of history (from my wargaming roots), muth and mythology, and authored fiction. Currently I am much more interested in history than in fiction.

Cheerio,
Gary
 

jester47

First Post
Gary,

I have to admit that I am very much a Vecna fan. I figure you might have an inside view of Vecnology and might be able to answer my questions. I think one of the coolest things about Vecna is that he was not developed. While I think it is somewhat cool and original, the 2E treatment does sort of damage the mystique and sheer mystery of the character. Anyways here goes the questions: (these are based solely off of the 1E DMG descriptions)

Where did you get the idea for vecna? There is a Dr. Who episode called The Hand of Fear where a fossilized hand makes a lot of people behave badly. Was this the basis for the hand of vecna?

What came first, the hand or the eye? (Is that anything like the chicken and egg argument?) Obviously in game they came at the same time, but what was the first one written?

Ok, are the parts magical because they were all that was left to absorb vecna's essence, or did they survive because vecna made them "special" while he was alive? I know that the DMG says that the second one happened supposedly, but I thought I would ask anyways.

Looking at the descriptions (jewel eye, smaller remains, phantom roaming the prime material), it seems to me that Vecna could be considered a highly customised demilich. Or is he more or less than that?

Even the smallest details would be appreciated.

Aaron.
 

Geoffrey

First Post
Why Lejendary instead of Legendary?

(I remember being taken in for a few moments by an April Fool's joke a couple years ago [I believe it was in the LA Web Community on www.gygax.com] in which you were reportedly gunned down, all because of the "J".) :eek:
 

sotterraneo

First Post
Re: Re: Re: Re: Heh...

"Don't denigrate the position you have, amigo. It is a great one IMO, and you get to relate to gamers a lot and likely play many games as part of your "work" too. An enviable potition;)"
Oh, I like my job (hey, I have chosen it, not the other way around 8-]) but I understand that reatilers have often not a very good 'press' in Internet sites and forums... 8-[
"I think it was ModCon99, as Alex was with me, had just turned 13 a week or so before we attended. As for looking different, well, that's what time does for you, eh? As for me,I'm just happy to be around still :eek:"
Was it 1999? Hmmm, I starting to show my age...
"1) Well, when we were in Italy, Alex said: "The food here is great, all the gamers are friendly, and the girls are really pretty. We can move here anytime you want to, Dad.""
8-] Your son has a really good taste 8-P. About gamers being friendly, well, considering that D&D and AD&D were and are by far the most popular games in Italy (we could say that gamerdom is divided between the ones who like/love them and the ones who hate them with a 10:1 ratio at least) and you are the father of both, well, I was surprised in not seeing a biggest queue (when I went back to Brescia and started to tell amazed customers about your presence in Italy and showing your autographs I started listening "NOOOOO - why nobody told this to me?!? AARGH!" and of course "How much do you want for this module/Basic Set?". Nothing, of course, becuase I'll NEVER sell them. If you ever come to Italy and the news are better spread, expect a HUGE audience!
"So, is Alex has any input, I suspect the answer is a positive one. Fact is, though, I am very busy, and going to cons here in the US or overseas takes about two weeks out of my working time when all is siad and done. Thus Trigee levies a hefty fee on my appearances. I hate travelling--although I love to be in new places--so I generally don't mind not going. The most likely scenario is in regards to the LA MMPO RPG. The developers, Dreams-Interactive, are in Europe. If all goes as planned, arond 2004 we will be in beta test, and then I'll likely by needed over there--Belgium. Once I'm in Europe, well, I have a good friend in France, and I like Germany, Italy, and Spain, enjoy england too...".

I'll alert convention organizers for 2004 then.

"2) From the larger perspectivem Alessandro, the AD&D game was the best move TSR ever made. Sales jumped incredily when it was released, and I do believe that even 3E has not met the volume that those originalbooks attained--could be wrong there, but..."
Oops, sorry if I gave you the impression I was against the AD&D game - far from it! I'm not that kind of person who says "If I don't like it, then it's a bad thing". But...
"Anyway, I do agree with you that it was a mistake for TSR not to cntinue to support the D&D game line too. I urged that we do so, but that advice was ignored".
Sigh. They really shoot themselves in the feet, in Italy at least, because they destroyed an excellent 'recruiting' game. Oh, well...
"You are most welcome--I've had a great time creating and playing games, so the whole is mutual".
Mr. Gygax, I don't want to seem pushy or anything and I DO know you did a lot of these things in the past, but may I interview you for the Dungeons.it web site (I think the site's nature is clear?)? I understand you are - of course - a very busy personbut if you ever had the time then I'd be most grateful.

Thanks!

"Ciao,
Gary"

Hmmm, you don't know Italian, don't you?

Ciro Alessandro Sacco
Brescia - Italy
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
G'day Gary!

Another question or two...

Looking at your D&D adventures, the term "challenging" comes to mind. An entirely good thing, of course! However, I'm wondering how often players would be losing their PCs in your D&D games?

What happened then? Did they start new characters at level 1, or were you kind to the poor players and give them other options?

:)

Apart from your own RPG designs, have you played many other RPGs?

Cheers & Thanks once more!
 


Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
jester47 said:
Gary,

I have to admit that I am very much a Vecna fan. I figure you might have an inside view of Vecnology and might be able to answer my questions.

[snippage]

Even the smallest details would be appreciated.

Aaron.
Smallest detail indeed and perforce. Brian blume was the creator of the Eye and Hand of Vecna, and nary a detail of those items did he ever reveal to me--beyond what appeared in print, I hasten to add:D

All I can say other than that is that some clever DM included the "Head of Vecna" in his adventure material, and at least two players instigated the demise of their characters attempting to take advantage of this marvelous opportnity to gain the greatest of powers. ROTFLMAO!

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Geoffrey said:
Why Lejendary instead of Legendary?

(I remember being taken in for a few moments by an April Fool's joke a couple years ago [I believe it was in the LA Web Community on www.gygax.com] in which you were reportedly gunned down, all because of the "J".) :eek:
Marketing, of course. Without the "j" in it, the name is common, ordinary, easily forgotten, and quite unlikely to be trade-markable. With the "j" in it it is disctict, unusual, and remarked on often, thank you very much:)

Gary
 

jester47

First Post
Col_Pladoh said:


Smallest detail indeed and perforce. Brian blume was the creator of the Eye and Hand of Vecna, and nary a detail of those items did he ever reveal to me--beyond what appeared in print, I hasten to add:D

All I can say other than that is that some clever DM included the "Head of Vecna" in his adventure material, and at least two players instigated the demise of their characters attempting to take advantage of this marvelous opportnity to gain the greatest of powers. ROTFLMAO!

Cheers,
Gary
DOH! Aaron gets out a pad of paper and a pen "Brian Blum, hunt down regarding Vecnology...."

Thanks for you time Gary!

Aaron.
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Heh...

sotterraneo said:

Oh, I like my job (hey, I have chosen it, not the other way around 8-]) but I understand that reatilers have often not a very good 'press' in Internet sites and forums... 8-[
Good retail outlets are a major part of gaming, are what keeps it alive. GW, for example, relies on their retail stores almost entirely for this purpose. PRG publishers should, and generally do, appreciate the key role retailers have in the whole field. I
certainly appreciate them greatly!


8-] Your son has a really good taste 8-P.
About gamers being friendly, well, considering that D&D and AD&D were and are by far the most popular games in Italy (we could say that gamerdom is divided between the ones who like/love them and the ones who hate them with a 10:1 ratio at least) and you are the father of both, well, I was surprised in not seeing a biggest queue (when I went back to Brescia and started to tell amazed customers about your presence in Italy and showing your autographs I started listening "NOOOOO - why nobody told this to me?!? AARGH!" and of course "How much do you want for this module/Basic Set?". Nothing, of course, becuase I'll NEVER sell them. If you ever come to Italy and the news are better spread, expect a HUGE audience!
"So, is Alex has any input, I suspect the answer is a positive one. Fact is, though, I am very busy, and going to cons here in the US or overseas takes about two weeks out of my working time when all is siad and done. Thus Trigee levies a hefty fee on my appearances. I hate travelling--although I love to be in new places--so I generally don't mind not going. The most likely scenario is in regards to the LA MMPO RPG. The developers, Dreams-Interactive, are in Europe. If all goes as planned, arond 2004 we will be in beta test, and then I'll likely by needed over there--Belgium. Once I'm in Europe, well, I have a good friend in France, and I like Germany, Italy, and Spain, enjoy england too...".

I'll alert convention organizers for 2004 then.

"2) From the larger perspectivem Alessandro, the AD&D game was the best move TSR ever made. Sales jumped incredily when it was released, and I do believe that even 3E has not met the volume that those originalbooks attained--could be wrong there, but..."
Oops, sorry if I gave you the impression I was against the AD&D game - far from it! I'm not that kind of person who says "If I don't like it, then it's a bad thing". But...
"Anyway, I do agree with you that it was a mistake for TSR not to cntinue to support the D&D game line too. I urged that we do so, but that advice was ignored".
Sigh. They really shoot themselves in the feet, in Italy at least, because they destroyed an excellent 'recruiting' game. Oh, well...
"You are most welcome--I've had a great time creating and playing games, so the whole is mutual".
Mr. Gygax, I don't want to seem pushy or anything and I DO know you did a lot of these things in the past, but may I interview you for the Dungeons.it web site (I think the site's nature is clear?)? I understand you are - of course - a very busy personbut if you ever had the time then I'd be most grateful.

Thanks!

"Ciao,
Gary"

Hmmm, you don't know Italian, don't you?

Ciro Alessandro Sacco
Brescia - Italy [/B][/QUOTE]
 

angrypossum

First Post
Dragons in the Basement

Hello Mr. Gygax,

Thanks for continuing this thread. I have two questions.

What do you know about the documentary Dragons in the Basement by Dave Arneson?

What was your profession before starting TSR?

-Josh
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Heh...

Pardoon the gaff in my earlier, partial response. I hit send by accident. Now I'll finish what I meant to.

sotterraneo said:
8-] Your son has a really good taste 8-P.
Heh, and his father agrees with him, as most likely would his two older brothers :D Italian cuisine is my favorite, although I confess to preferring premier grand cru class French wines (and their cheeses) to the Italian ones.

About gamers being friendly, well, considering that D&D and AD&D were and are by far the most popular games in Italy (we could say that gamerdom is divided between the ones who like/love them and the ones who hate them with a 10:1 ratio at least) and you are the father of both, well, I was surprised in not seeing a biggest queue (when I went back to Brescia and started to tell amazed customers about your presence in Italy and showing your autographs I started listening "NOOOOO - why nobody told this to me?!? AARGH!" and of course "How much do you want for this module/Basic Set?". Nothing, of course, becuase I'll NEVER sell them. If you ever come to Italy and the news are better spread, expect a HUGE audience!
I met a number of non-D&Ders who were very nice, so I guess that not liking the game doesn't nbecessarily man that it's author is disliked :eek: And thanks for the heads-up on a possible return visit. I'll bring along extra pens :rolleyes:

Sigh. They really shoot themselves in the feet, in Italy at least, because they destroyed an excellent 'recruiting' game. Oh, well...
That is so, and TSR did that again when 2E was published, for some 50% of their audience did not accept the new edition, There is an analogy to the "New Coke" release here, only TSR didn't rectify their marketing error by supportiing both original and 2E versions of AD&D. That certainly led to the financial difficulties esperienced in the years thereafter.

Mr. Gygax, I don't want to seem pushy or anything and I DO know you did a lot of these things in the past, but may I interview you for the Dungeons.it web site (I think the site's nature is clear?)? I understand you are - of course - a very busy personbut if you ever had the time then I'd be most grateful.
Email me at ggygax@genevaonline.com about an interview, Alessandro.


Hmmm, you don't know Italian, don't you?

No, I know only a few words, although I understand more because of the Latin base of many English words (and I have a large vocabularly of those words), and once I listen to Italian being spoken for a while I can follow a bit of what is being said. Also, I do know what "ciao" means ;)

Cheerio,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
MerricB said:
G'day Gary!

Another question or two...

Looking at your D&D adventures, the term "challenging" comes to mind. An entirely good thing, of course! However, I'm wondering how often players would be losing their PCs in your D&D games?

What happened then? Did they start new characters at level 1, or were you kind to the poor players and give them other options?

:)

Apart from your own RPG designs, have you played many other RPGs?

Cheers & Thanks once more!
Well, my regulars learned to say "Run away!" pretty quickly. Even the best came to a fatal situation with their main PCs now and again. That's what high level clerics and wish spells are for, of course. The compliment was returned when I played.

Most of the regulars had several OCs, and the secondary and below ones were more expendable. Some were allowed to end their careers just to allow the creation of new low-level PCs for fresh approaches to like adventures. Seldom did I allow non-regulars to start above 2nd level. Regulars could start new PCs at 3rd or 4th level, as they clearly had experience to manage such characters.

Personally, unless the group demanded a "jump=started character," I enjoyed playing a new PC from 1st level on.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Blast! Messed up again. Bad morning...

MerricB said:


Apart from your own RPG designs, have you played many other RPGs?

Cheers & Thanks once more!
Quick list:
EN GARDE, BOOT HILL, METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA, STAR FRONTIERS, TOP SECRET, GANGBUSTERS. TRAVELLER, GAMMA WORLD, PARANOIA CALL OF CHTHULLU.

There'd be more, but time and lack of proximate GMs has kept it fairly short.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Zappo said:
You were at ModCon in '99?

AAGH! *bites his hands* :eek:

I'd better be more informed in the future. :D
Hush! Don't tell the guys who run ModCon. They're a great bunch, and I don't want them to learn that had they publicized my appearance back in 99 a bit more they'd have had an even larger attendence than they did ;)

Cheerio,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Re: Dragons in the Basement

angrypossum said:
Hello Mr. Gygax,

Thanks for continuing this thread. I have two questions.

What do you know about the documentary Dragons in the Basement by Dave Arneson?

What was your profession before starting TSR?

-Josh
I don't think I ever saw the documentary you name, although I did do an interview for a chap what was working with Dave, the produicer of the work, as I recall.

As to my work before I became a full-time game geek, well, mainly insurance. (A lot of part-time jobs and even full-time ones of short duration when i was a teenager.) I was in the insurance field for about 13 years and was a supervising underwriter for various forms of health, special risk, and life insurance until late in 1970. I then decided to roll the dice. to support the family while earning very little in gaming I learned to be a cobbler, and did that for four years until becoming a full-time employee of TSR.

Cheerio,
Gary
 

Sir Edgar

First Post
I wanted to ask you a few more questions.

How do begin your creation process? Do you take notes while you're reading a book or after watching a movie? Or do you go straight to the computer (or typewriter) and start typing? Do you have a schedule for how many hours a day you commit to work or does it just come all at once? How do you avoid crossing the line between insipiration and plagiarism?

Thanks very much for all of your great replies. I'm still amazed at how responsive you've been here.
 
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Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Sir Edgar said:
I wanted to ask you a few more questions.

How do begin your creation process? Do you take notes while you're reading a book or after watching a movie? Or do you go straight to the computer (or typewriter) and start typing? Do you have a schedule for how many hours a day you commit to work or does it just come all at once? How do you avoid crossing the line between insipiration and plagiarism?

Thanks very much for all of your great replies. I'm still amazed at how responsive you've been here.
Hail SirE!

Inspiration comes when and where it comes. Sometimes in the shower, maybe when reading to viewing something, most often when I sit down and contemplate. Thus, notes can be input to a computer file, written on a pad, or scratched hastily on a bit of scrap paper.

When I am involved in a project I usually work about six to 10 hours a day on it, seven per, save Sundays during football season. The balance of the day's work time (10-12 hours standard) is spend managing business, email, and board posts such as this... :eek:

Plagerism involves copying another author's work, and that I have never done. In writing articles, one must needs to make clear the sources of direct quotes, of course. Ideas are not copyrightable--or else there's be only one RPG today. As a matter of fact, there are no really new ideas around at all, but rather we have recombinations and new approaches to old ideas, and that too is creative and innovative. When someone looks for the roots of the PRG, then need only harken to "Let's Pretend" and games such as "Cops & Robbers" to find them :D

Cheerio,
Gary
 

The_Gneech

First Post
Heya! :) I originally posted this question in this thread and got some very interesting responses, but I figure there's probably not a better person to ask, so:

Is there a mythic/folklore precedent for the drow? I know of sidhe, seelie, and unseelie fae folk; I have also encountered the terms "drugh" and "trow." None of them have a clear correlation to the D&D drow, nor have I seen a readily-identifiable source or set of sources for them the way, say, "dwarves" have. So were there drow before the days of D&D?

-The Gneech
 
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