TSR Q&A with Gary Gygax

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.

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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

Gary Gygax
Draco Argentum said:
You're still here answering questions? Thanks for humoring us. :)

Gary where did the idea for having the cromatic and metallic dragons come from?

Humoring y'all? No way! It's more like sitting around with a big bunch of fellow game devotees and enjoying a good bit of talk. I should thank all the posters for making my days more fun--writing game still all the time gets to make one somewhat stale, so these breaks are fun and refreshing.

Anyway, to your question: If you read the intro to the SLAYER'S GUIDE TO DRAGONS fromMongoose, you'll see therein how I came up with the chromatic dragons. Some colors other than red were needed, hues that would be harmonious with their breath wespons. When I'd done the four new additions to the CHAINMAIL red dragon, it seemed a good plan to have a LG dragon, one of gold color that was based on the Oriental model. From that I worked on the rest of the metallic species. Of course, such potent creatures needed great leaders or masters, so I delved into mythology for the names--Tiamat and BAhamut--and thus came up with the Evil Queen and good King of the chromatic and the metallic dragons.

Cheerio,
Gary
 

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BoGGiT

First Post
Mr. Gygax, or Gary if you prefer a slightly more informal tone, i know that you didn't invent the term "Gygaxian fantasy", but if i gave you free hands to define the term, what would the definition be?
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
BoGGiT said:
Mr. Gygax, or Gary if you prefer a slightly more informal tone, i know that you didn't invent the term "Gygaxian fantasy", but if i gave you free hands to define the term, what would the definition be?

Gary it is ;)

As for a definition, well... I choose to point to the style of writing and attention to certain sorts of detail. As it isn't a dictionary sort of thing, the matter is open to interpretation :eek: Mine will be put forth as per the CANTING CREW and subsequent volumes if the series as regards the fantasy world.

Cheerio,
Gary
 

Fool

First Post
Gary,

Here's another thanks for answering all these questions.

When I first got into D&D in the 80's, Gygax was a name out of myth with no more reality than characters we were playing. Thanks for putting a personality to the person. It's wonderful to see you have the same love of games after all these years.

If I have to append a question, here's one: What's with all the traps?? ;)

Take care, and don't let this take you too long from your work!
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Supporter
O Great and Gygaxian Gary, who we implore not to let our henchmen near our magic carpets...

How long did it take you to write Necropolis? Wow! There's so much in that module/supplement/thing!

With D&D, when I think of the basic experience in the game, it's of a party of adventurers entering a dungeon, killing monsters, avoiding traps (hopefully!) and gaining treasure. Of course, the game then expands beyond that greatly, but that's what I consider the basic experience.

Is there such a thing for LA?

Cheers & best wishes!
 

Nathal

Explorer
Review of Gygax's Lejendary Adventure

MerricB said:
Is there such a thing for LA?

As one who has played "Lejendary Adventure"...

LA is great for combat! Characters start out pretty damn tough too. One can make a warrior mage who can summon demons right from the start, or open a pit to perdition beneath your foe...of course doing so may open a gate that cannot be closed.

"Jack of all trades" in LA do not have as much combat power, of course. Basically, your characters start out as heroes, especially if you have them focus on a few skills, which are extremely broad-based allowing for great variation.

Here is my review of the game, for the curious:

The mechanics of the game are simple, being percentage based. Ability scores are generally expressed as a number ranging from 1 to 100, and are three in number: Health (mental and physical), Precision (mental and physical), and Speed (again, mental and physical). A forth ability score, Intellect, is provided as an optional rule. One criticism of the ability system has been in cases of characters who may be healthy in one aspect of an ability such as Precision (say, he or she is a dead-shot with the bow), but lacking in another aspect of that ability (for example, this dead-shot with the bow fellow could be otherwise mentally clumsy, according to character concept). So, it might be asked, can the rules accommodate a Steven-Hawkings type, who is sharp of mind but not of body, which would seem to indicate a simultaneously high and low health rating (high mental health and precision, but low physical health and precision, nearly zero). The answer to that is yes. The system is so simple that if the player--with the approval of his GM---wishes to hamper his character in such a way, he may simply state that the ability score relevant to the disadvantage is halved, or even worse, when checking against it or associated abilities. Why a player would want such a major disadvatage is left to the imagination of my readers. The system is "rules light" so as to facilitate the whim of the GM, and is very flexible with interpretations. What some players have misunderstood is that this flexibility was intentional, and wrongly accused the game of being undefinitive in matters of ability scores or in the limitations of applied skills. Which brings us to the issue of skills...

The skill system of LA is "broad-based" in a fashion similar to the concept behind the three basic ability scores described above. Some of them may overlap in their general applications, such as Forestry or Savagery, because they are not only broad-based skills, but may be used to simultaneously describe character background in a meaningful way. That is why they are called "abilities" instead, because they may be skills or advantages. Therefore a scout-type and a druid-type may have similar abilities but each would be described by slightly different means; for example, the skills Hunt, Ranging and Rustic may be used for one, while Ranging, Savagery and Nomadic are used for the other. Hunt, for instance, used as a broad based skill, covers a wide range of activity beyond the simple activities of tracking and shooting game, such as "woodcraft, survival, the chase, tracking, recognition of flora and fauna, concealment and camouflage in woods, etc.". Another example would be a strong warrior whose strength is represented by the Physique ability, and whose background in the knighthood is represented by his Chivalry ability. The chivalry ability is great example of a "background" ability, and adds to the character's fighting prowess, among other less game-mechanic oriented benefits.
Due to the broad-based skill system, the GM has the freedom to choose a large number of relevant abilities in any given situation, asking for a simple percentage check. The skills are each based on one of the three base ratings. One advantage of this skill system is that few characters have a skill that is completely useless, or that cannot be creatively applied to a situation. Therefore a broad-based skill system encourages role-playing and creative thinking. Otherwise, a GM who enjoys more detail in his skill system would have no trouble breaking down the broad groups into small divisions.

Characters may belong to Orders, which are akin to character classes, but are not necessary in order to create an interesting character. The Orders are intended to reflect society, are based on the medieval European standard, and are ranked in a hierarchical fashion, like character levels. Each "rank" provides benefits to those characters who belong to the order. characters who are unordered are so only in the sense that they do not fit into human culture precisely, but the GM may create a non-human order to fit him or her with ease.

The equipment and weapons provided are predictable for a fantasy role-playing game. The armor is described in terms of full or half suits and simply absorbs damage, and is therefore similar to Palladiums armor system (though there is no AR to consider), or GURPS, etc. Armor does have a limited capacity to absorb damage, and may be repaired with a logical combination of skills. The differences between weapons are determined by the bonus or penalty to precision, speed class, range and harm class (penetration or shock damage generally). However, a dagger may kill as readily as a sword, provided it is wielded with skill, penetrates the armor and strikes true. In other words, damage ranges are less important in this game than the other factors described above, and in playtest this has been satisfying to me. Again, all GMs normally tinker with rules to suit themselves and this combat system is so simple that such adjustments are not only easy but encouraged.

Combat is simple, to-hit determined by relevant ability (Weapons) or natural Precision rating for animals, or Unarmed combat skill for hand-to hand. All "to-hit" rolls are ten-siders, modified by any number of things that can be included or discounted, depending on the style of the GM.

The spell system is broken up into several different types: Enchantment (typical mages), Geourgy (Elemental), Necrourgy (necromantic, obviously), Psychogenic (not considered "magic" of course), Sorcery (summon demons, etc.), and Theurgy (Priestcraft). The spells are nearly all fun and interesting (some just plain funny), use a spell-point system, and are generally very powerful. Spellslingers who are unprotected, as in many RPGs, may have a tough time releasing their spell power, but in the right circumstances, summoning a demon to your aid---or if a priest, a holy avenging spirit---is very entertaining. Any sort of basic magic that a fantasy gamer would expect to see is here. Characters and powers, if compared to D&D, would begin mid to high level in terms of ability to "get the job done". But there the two systems have little in common. D&D is a precise system, detailing everything and giving rules for nearly every common circumstance. LA is less precise and leaves much up to the whim of the GM, which suits my taste very well. I feel the game is better aimed at experienced GMs, but is easy to teach to less experienced players if need be. The Xp system assumes gradual advancement, but is not glacially slow either. Non-player characters are easy to create, and the game is easy to adopt to any kind of story line that may spring into mind. Game-balance and challenge level is easy to judge without consulting charts, the creatures described in the "Beasts of Lejend" book are simple to integrate, even on a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of session, and the "Lejend Master's Lore" book provides enough alternate systems and optional rules to satisfy most GMs who wish greater complexity.
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Fool said:
Gary,

Here's another thanks for answering all these questions.

When I first got into D&D in the 80's, Gygax was a name out of myth with no more reality than characters we were playing. Thanks for putting a personality to the person. It's wonderful to see you have the same love of games after all these years.

If I have to append a question, here's one: What's with all the traps?? ;)

Take care, and don't let this take you too long from your work!

Again, quite welcome and my bit of fun;)

As for the traps, we originally played dungeon crawls much of the time. My dungeon levels were both an exploration/mapping problem to solve and a place for encounters. As I would place perhaps 15 or so active encounters on a level of many passagerways and as many as 50 or so rooms, to keep things "interesting" I'd include various traps. That became a de rigeur thing in general from around 1977 on. Of course when combined with monsters and NPCs, traps add a degree of complexity to encounters too, so they are a handy tool.

That cover it?

Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
MerricB said:
O Great and Gygaxian Gary, who we implore not to let our henchmen near our magic carpets...

Too late! Quij is even now fondling your PC's best volitant rug, virtually slavering over how it will look as his new poncho...

How long did it take you to write Necropolis? Wow! There's so much in that module/supplement/thing!

With D&D, when I think of the basic experience in the game, it's of a party of adventurers entering a dungeon, killing monsters, avoiding traps (hopefully!) and gaining treasure. Of course, the game then expands beyond that greatly, but that's what I consider the basic experience.

Is there such a thing for LA?

Cheers & best wishes!

Okay, to the questions and comments:D

It took me about three months of time of design and write NECROPOLIS. As I went along I had a group to play-test the material, so I was a bit slower than usual. With just straight map-making and writing, devising new monsters and magic, the job could have been done in about two months--that's working about 50 hours a week on it, of course.

funny you should mention encounters and traps, and see my post replying to the one just prior to your own. Dungeoneeriing was and still is a marvelous part of the D&D experience, even though I fully concur with your statement that the RPG is much more than that.

As for the LA game, indeed! One of the introductory modules has what is basically a dungeon crawl theme. In THE HERMIT I have included a rather tricky dungeon to get through, and of course in the HALL OF MANY PANES you can bet I have some considerable portions with that theme, although in total they don't amount to so much as half of the content.

Chris Clark and I have done CASTLE WOLFMOON, it being an intense dungeon-crawl at its heart. When that will be in proint, though, is still a question. It got to be so large that we are looking ar doing it in perhaps five installments. It too will be D20 and LA system friendly ;)

Cherio,
Gary
 


Larcen

Explorer
Alright, its the weekend and I finally have some time to ask more questions, if you be so willing. I still can't believe that we have THE Gygax "on tap" here so to speak. :cool:

Without further ado:

1) One of the things I love about D&D is the brilliant cosmology of planes. How did you come up with all the cool planes (inner, outer, etc.) and how they interact with each other? How much of this was based on your readings into such matters?

2) How do you pronounce Gygax, Ioun, Iuz, Tarrasque, Lich, and Tiamat? I pronounce them GUY-gax, Yoon, Yuz, tar-ASK, litch, and TEE-a-matt.

3) How did the Simpsons episode that you were in come about and how much say did you have in the show's content? What other film appearances have you made?

4) What were Mordy's favorite AD&D combat spells and tactics especially in the REALLY tough fights?

5) What the best way to get a group of stubborn set-in-their-ways players to try a new game like LA? Our group hasn't played anything but D&D in over 20 years. (Not that that is a BAD thing. ;) )

Thanks, and do let us know when all these questions start to become a chore, ok? :eek:
 

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