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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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lkj

Adventurer
Col_Pladoh said:
Those puns made me fairly moan, so I got your message.

Cheers,
Gary

A moan from the great Gary Gygax! You've made my day. But I'll leave the last to you, before this poor thread gets totally swarmed. I mean it. I'm done.

Cheers. And sorry. Was in a punny mood today, apparently.

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Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
To take account of things here:

We were in the red, but it's moved to the black. So keep your antennas point in the right direction as all good pupas of insect punning should, a mandibleatory requirement.

Cheers,
Gary
 

merelycompetent

First Post
Col_Pladoh said:
To take account of things here:

We were in the red, but it's moved to the black. So keep your antennas point in the right direction as all good pupas of insect punning should, a mandibleatory requirement.

Cheers,
Gary
Apparently, my last post got eaten by the Internet Ghods. So to keep anyone else from bugging me about it, here is the royal plan nesting in my mind:

I think I'll print out the entire page containing my question and Mr. Gygax's answer, sign it, and FedEx it along with a 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola to my friend. It should be nice and fizzy by the time he gets it :D

There, that should sweeten the deal, if you follow the trail of my thinking. Now, doubtless you are all tired of hearing me drone on and on about an old friend. Surely by now, we've hatched enough puns and are in danger of tunneling into other threads, where they may already be formic a basic defense against our primary weapon. We can soldier on en masse and overwhelm them by sheer numbers. We have to be careful of anti-tank fire, but we can probably feeler way through. :]
 

airwalkrr

Adventurer
Col_Pladoh said:
Simply put, it was all for game balance, and it worked reasonably well, I opine. Classes in game design will be held here on my front porch :lol:
So in other words, it was felt by you and the other designers that classes like the paladin (which typically required more XP per level) were more powerful than classes like the thief (which was the power-leveller of the game) and that they needed to level at different rates to remain equivalent? Was that the rationale, or is there another element of balance I am missing?
 

Treebore

First Post
airwalkrr said:
So in other words, it was felt by you and the other designers that classes like the paladin (which typically required more XP per level) were more powerful than classes like the thief (which was the power-leveller of the game) and that they needed to level at different rates to remain equivalent? Was that the rationale, or is there another element of balance I am missing?

Not only did they feel like the Paladin was, they were right! It gets a lot more powerful when/if they ever get the Holy Avenger.

Personally, I like the different xp for each class approach instead of trying to keep each class equally balanced so you can have one xp chart. So take the two extremes. If I remember correctly, at high lev3els the wizard takes 375,000 xp to level up. The weakest character class was either the Thief or the cleric, and took something like 225,000 xp to level up. So the weakest class earned darn near two levels for every one the Wizard earned, keeping the thief in the "power level" ballpark.

This makes a lot more sense to me than to try and say a 10th level rogue in 3E is just as powerful as a 10th level wizard. Stripped of all magic items and just class abilities versus class abilities I would bet the wizard comes out alive and the rogue comes out fried 10 times out of 10.

Differing the xp requirements, and therefore rate of advancement of the powerful classes, is the closest your ever going to get to a fair and equitable balance of power between classes that are inherently on different scales of power to begin with.

Then, once you get that worked out, how do you balance the powers of magic items when possessed by a character? You can't. The only thing a rational DM can strive for is a close approximation.

I don't even want to talk about how feats complicate things even more. Or certain skills. The idea of evenly balanced classes is a goal that is a mythical dream. It does not exist in D&D, or any other system that I am aware of. It is only something that we can only get close enough to that everything works well enough that we play it.

All these discussions of balanced and unbalanced are funny to me. There is no "true" balance, only a close approximation.
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
airwalkrr said:
So in other words, it was felt by you and the other designers that classes like the paladin (which typically required more XP per level) were more powerful than classes like the thief (which was the power-leveller of the game) and that they needed to level at different rates to remain equivalent? Was that the rationale, or is there another element of balance I am missing?
Properly, there were no other designers involved in this regard, and it was my sole decision, mostly my sole creative input in fact.

I do believe that the millions of persons that played and enjoyed the AD&D game demonstrate the correctness of my design choice,much of it based on playing the D&D game intensley for four years, averaging about 20 or more hours of DMing and play a week over that period.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Treebore,

I pretty well concur with what you state, and most of the AD&D game audience certaoinly does. All character classes are not equal, but the differing advancement requirements helps to keep them relatively so.

Cheers,
Gary
 

SuStel

First Post
airwalkrr said:
So in other words, it was felt by you and the other designers that classes like the paladin (which typically required more XP per level) were more powerful than classes like the thief (which was the power-leveller of the game) and that they needed to level at different rates to remain equivalent? Was that the rationale, or is there another element of balance I am missing?
I don't think it was so much about keeping the classes equivalent. It was more about providing appropriate challenges for the classes. A magic-user had more powerful tools to accomplish his goals, so he needed to acquire more experience points to make the adventure challenging enough.

If you've ever played the Dungeon! board game, you know that Heroes need only 10,000 gold pieces to win the game, while Wizards need 30,000. Wizards are clearly superior to Heroes in almost every respect, but the challenge is in getting three times as much gold. The principle is the same in D&D.
 

Orius

Adventurer
Col_Pladoh said:
Hmmm...

I wonder if the folks at WotC understand that all RPGs are driven by the GMs that run the games. Without them, they will have no paper game property. Telling players to give their DMs a hard time is most counter-productive.
I'd say the article seems to be presented slightly out of context. One of the gists seems to be that sometimes players and DMs approach the game with different sets of assumptions.

I think it really depends on the style of both players and DMs. On one hand there are the sadistic killer DMs who like throwing very hard encounters and give them rewards along the lines of a few coppers or burnt-out ioun stones.;) That might be fun for the DM, but the players aren't going to enjoy that if that's what they get on a regular basis. On the other hand there are players who expect everything handed to them, and don't go out of the way to bother looking for anything. I've ran games in the past where the PCs wouldn't bother to look for treasure and often overlooked the occasional hoard. If those players came up with me with a character audit, I certainly wouldn't tell them where they missed treasure in the past, and I'd probably be hesitant to tell them they missed it at all, because I don't want the adventures to devolve into killing every monster in the room, then spending the next 6 hours in game rapping the walls for hidden compartments, ripping up the stones in the floor, or gutting the monsters to see what they might have swallowed, then moving on to the next dungeon room and repeating the process ad nauseam.

However, I do agree with the article when it ays the current edition was designed with certain wealth levels in mind. But it's really the DM's place, and not the place of the players to decide whether or not the players are behind on resources and adjust accordingly. More XP isn't necessarily the answer either, because that will just increase character advancement and not solve the resourse probelm, but make it worse. But I think what's really needed is a fair-minded DM who is wiling to reward the player for heroic action, and not the killer type who uses DMing as a power trip.
 

airwalkrr

Adventurer
Col_Pladoh said:
Properly, there were no other designers involved in this regard, and it was my sole decision, mostly my sole creative input in fact.
I am corrected then. Consider me chastised for my ignorance. ;) I simply did not wish to do others a disservice if they helped come up with the idea in question. This brings up an interesting question for me though, since I was born after D&D was invented. I know you are credited with "creating D&D" and I certainly don't question that. But just how much was 1st edition your sole work and how much of it was inspired or suggested by others? 90% or greater? I mean, although you might be deific compared to such mortals as I, you did have help obviously with such a monumental task of creating a brand new game and getting it marketable. It is my current understanding that you were the primary designer and Dave Arneson collaborated. Was Rob Kuntz's contribution early on limited to DMing? What kinds of things did Dave Arneson help with? Others?

Col_Pladoh said:
I do believe that the millions of persons that played and enjoyed the AD&D game demonstrate the correctness of my design choice,much of it based on playing the D&D game intensley for four years, averaging about 20 or more hours of DMing and play a week over that period.
Oh obviously. I find AD&D an incredibly well-designed and well-thought out system. I am not trying to tell you that you could have done a better job or anything. I am just seeking to make some adjustments to coincide with my tastes and the tastes of my group and was trying to be circumspect about the consequences of "changing the rules."

Col_Pladoh said:
Treebore,

I pretty well concur with what you state, and most of the AD&D game audience certaoinly does. All character classes are not equal, but the differing advancement requirements helps to keep them relatively so.

Cheers,
Gary
That is what I figured the reason was. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing something. Thanks a lot!
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
SuStel said:
I don't think it was so much about keeping the classes equivalent. It was more about providing appropriate challenges for the classes. A magic-user had more powerful tools to accomplish his goals, so he needed to acquire more experience points to make the adventure challenging enough.

If you've ever played the Dungeon! board game, you know that Heroes need only 10,000 gold pieces to win the game, while Wizards need 30,000. Wizards are clearly superior to Heroes in almost every respect, but the challenge is in getting three times as much gold. The principle is the same in D&D.
Hi SuStel,

That pretty well sums up things, but keeping the classes equivelent means that the challenge for a particular adventure is appropriate to all classes of PCs of the equivelent level ;)

I did indeed develop the Dungeon! game that Dave Megary designed...

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Howdy Orius,

To me it is self-evident that the Game Master it there to provide exciting entertainment to the player group, even as he enjoys presenting that to them. If the players dpon't enjoy the GM's offering, they leave the group. If the GM doesn't find enjoyment in running game sessions for the group he quits doing so.

The publisher of the RPG being run, not anybody else for that matter, can't add or subtract anything in regards that.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
airwalker said:
I am corrected then. Consider me chastised for my ignorance. ;)
Greetings Airwalker,

:lol: I didn't mean to sound like a scold. Pardon me :heh: There were indeed a lot of gamers giving me useful input in regards to my design, but I was the only one doing the work, deciding what was "right" and "wrong." For example, before the D&D game was published, in early 1973, I allowed any class of character to use a wand, but if they were not a mgic-user, they had to roll their Int or ledd on 3d6 to make it work. The players generally liked that, but I scrubbed the rule as it blurred class lines.

I simply did not wish to do others a disservice if they helped come up with the idea in question. This brings up an interesting question for me though, since I was born after D&D was invented. I know you are credited with "creating D&D" and I certainly don't question that. But just how much was 1st edition your sole work and how much of it was inspired or suggested by others? 90% or greater? I mean, although you might be deific compared to such mortals as I, you did have help obviously with such a monumental task of creating a brand new game and getting it marketable. It is my current understanding that you were the primary designer and Dave Arneson collaborated. Was Rob Kuntz's contribution early on limited to DMing? What kinds of things did Dave Arneson help with? Others?
Your concern regardng others is understood :cool:

I can not attribute percentages of actual creativity to the whole, but here is how the OD&D game came into being:

I wrote the Chainmail Medieval Military iniatures Rules "Man-to-Man" and "Fantasy Supplement" c. 1970, and the booklet was published in 1971.

Dave Arneson and I met at a GenCon here in Lake Geneva around 1968, and with Mike Carr we authored the Don't Give Up the Ship Naval Miniatures rules for the Great Age of Sail around 1971-2.

Dave was running a man-to-man (1 figure = one person) Chainmail fantasy campaign around then, and he and Dave Megary came down from the Twin Cities to see us, the gaming group, in Lake Geneva in the late autumn of 1972. Arneson brought some of his campaign material with him and Megary brought his Dungeon! boardgame for us to play. Megary said he had used the Chainmail Fantasy Supplement (which is obvious from the game itself) and sme of Arneson's ideas to create his boardgame. Would I become his agent, for he could find no one to publish it. We all had a great time in Dave's campaign and playing Megary's boardgame. I was enthused, and said I was going to create a full-fledged set of fantasy game rules; and yes, I would approach both Guidon Games, for whom I was Chief Editor, and The Avalon Hill Company in regards to the Dungeon! boardgame.

At the end of 1972 I had written a 50 p. ms. for the fantasy game. Arneson was to send me all the rules notes he used in his campaign, but nothing usable arrived, so I write the entire ms. off the top of my head. At the same time I did a minor board re-design for the I]Dungeon![/I] game )mainly on the 4th level adding the "Torture Chamber" to balance the two parts of it, revised the monster and treasure cards, and cleaned up the rules.

Of course during all this time we were playing both the RPG abd the boardgame regularly, about every day for several hours as it were. The initial plau-testers were my son Ernie and my daughter Elise, then ages 12 and 10 years respectively. They adventured on the first of what became 13 levels of "Castle Greyhawk" of the "Greyhawk Campaign" and loved it. I went to work immediately on a second level, even as Rob and Terry Kuntz and Don Kaye joined the play-test group. I sent out about 20 photocopies of the fantasy game rules ms. to various gamers I knew that belonged to the International Federation of Wargaming, the Castle & Crusade Society, and/or the Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Assoiation. Most of the recipients were as enthused about the game as I was.

By the late spring of 1973 we had played 100 or more sessions of the fantasy game, dozens of I]Dungeon![/I] boardgame games, and with the GMing and playng experience I had by then (then young Rob Kuntz being my main GM when I played), some input from those that had received copies of the nitial ms., I revised and expanded the rules to 150. pages, sent copies to the original recipients and a dozen other persons, and began to seek a publisher.

Guidon Games was not doing well, and my good friend, Tom Shaw, V.P. heading up The Avalon Hill Company laughed when I offered him one or both of the games. I then determined to do my best to start my own publishing cmpany...a;though I had not a spare penny what with a wife and five kinder to support.

None of my family was interested in backing the project, but my old pal Don Kaye was. After seeing how large GenCon had become in 1973, the new wargame compant Game Designer's Workshop formed in June of that year exhibiting at the con, Don came over to my house afterwards and asked if I could really do it, put a publishing compant together. I said sure thing! So Don borrowed $1,000 against a life insurance policy, he and I became equal partners in Tactical Studies Rules. We published Cavaliers & Roundheads Military Miniatures Rules for the English Civil War by Jeff Perren & Gary Gygax in October of 1973, hoping the sales of the booklet would generate sufficient income to afford to publish the D&D game soon thereafter, as we both knew it would be the horse to pull the company.

As an aside, I had named the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons in the summer of 1973 after compiling two lists of potential titles, with "Dungeons" on one and "Dragons" on the other. When my little daughter Cindy said, "Oh daddy, I like Dungeons & Dragons best!" I went with her. choice.

Brian Blume attended Gencon in 1973, asked to join the LGTSA, and he was accepted. When he played the D&D game at my house, Brian bcame as enthused as we were, and when TSR was formed he asked to join as a partner. As we had only around $700 from sales, wanted to get the D&D game out, we agreed he could be an equal partner for $2,000. He joined the company thus in December, and I took the D&D ms. to Graphic Printing, then here in LAke Geneva, early in January 1974, ordering labels to go with the wood-grained paper-wrapped boxes I had ordered just prior to having the three booklets and reference sheets go to the printer. The whole run of 1,000 booklets, reference sheets sets, box front and spine labels, and boxes came to around $2,300.

Our first sale was one mail-order shipped off at the end of January when the game was hot off the press.

The next additions to the game were in process soon thereafter, those being the material published asthe rules supplement booklet Greyhawk in 1975, again all of which I wrote, but with a lot of creative input from Rob, so I included him as a co-author.

I began writing the material for the AD&D game in 1976, and I did all of it by myself as well, again with a good deal of useful input from the fellow gamers named in the work.

There you have it.

Oh obviously. I find AD&D an incredibly well-designed and well-thought out system. I am not trying to tell you that you could have done a better job or anything. I am just seeking to make some adjustments to coincide with my tastes and the tastes of my group and was trying to be circumspect about the consequences of "changing the rules."
I appreciate the lauds :) Rest asured that I don't that the OAD&D rules are perfect, can't be improved upon by change, addition, or excision. As a matter of fact, I did that frequently as I DMed :lol:

That is what I figured the reason was. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing something. Thanks a lot!
Sure, and now you probably have more information than you wanted :eek:

Cheers,
Gary
 

Orius

Adventurer
Col_Pladoh said:
To me it is self-evident that the Game Master it there to provide exciting entertainment to the player group, even as he enjoys presenting that to them. If the players dpon't enjoy the GM's offering, they leave the group. If the GM doesn't find enjoyment in running game sessions for the group he quits doing so.
I agree. If the DM is the sadisitc type that gets his kick by playing cat-and-mouse games with the PCs, then the players should walk if they don't like it. And the players should keep in mind that this is a group activity and not pursue fun at the cost of everyone else's enjoyment.

Of course there are players and DMs out there who won't do that, the upside of that is it gives us plently of things to talk (more like argue in most cases :)) about around here.
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Orius said:
...

Of course there are players and DMs out there who won't do that, the upside of that is it gives us plently of things to talk (more like argue in most cases :)) about around here.
:lol:

As such an excuse to argue was needed! Gamers are about as contentious a bunch as I can imagine. Perhaps that goes with the imagination possessed by most and the creativity many have. What GM worth the name doesn't "Improve" the game rules or module at hand? And how many have their own RPG, module, or novel ready to publish? Heck, as I mentioned above, I am often "improving" on my own work, wondering why the devil I write it as I did in the first, or second or third, place :uhoh:

Cheers,
Gary
 

Nathan P. Mahney

First Post
Hey Gary,

Your history lesson up above there has brought something to mind. I remember you once writing that Dave Arneson complained about the Dungeons & Dragons rules being 'not right', or something to that effect. Can you remember what it was about the game that he was dissatisfied with?

- Nathan P. Mahney -
 

John Drake

First Post
Didn't really have a question, just wanted to throw some thanks out there to airwalker for his superb question(s), for he phrased them far more eloquently than I ever could. And of course, a big thanks to Gary for the awesome answer! Wow, it explained so much that I always wanted to know! Thank you, gentlemen! :D
 

Treebore

First Post
Gary,

I hate sounding like a sycophant, but I do have to thank you very much for giving me the best game and hobby, ever. Now one, that I in turn, get to share with my 14, 13, and 10 year old kids; and give them memories of not only great adventures, but a great time playing with their mom and dad. It is a priceless gift you have given me, my wife, and those like us. Thanks for making it happen.

Robert
 

airwalkrr

Adventurer
Col_Pladoh said:
Sure, and now you probably have more information than you wanted :eek:

Cheers,
Gary
Oh not at all. That was a quite interesting read. Thank you for filling me in on the details!
 

haakon1

Adventurer
Orius said:
But it's really the DM's place, and not the place of the players to decide whether or not the players are behind on resources and adjust accordingly. More XP isn't necessarily the answer either, because that will just increase character advancement and not solve the resourse probelm, but make it worse. But I think what's really needed is a fair-minded DM who is wiling to reward the player for heroic action, and not the killer type who uses DMing as a power trip.
That's the heart of the issue. Is a certain amount of gp or xp of equipment is "fair" at each level?

I figure relative poverty or richness compared to someone else's campaign world is irrelevant. I doubt what you or WOTC means is "treasure for the sake of treasure", because there's inherent "fun" in accumulating the proper amount, or because players compare across campaigns and bragging rights are held in who has a better sword?

I'm guessing WOTC's reason for worrying about character wealth is that being X level assumes you have Y amount of stuff, so if you don't, you might be too weak and threatened by X-level adventures, which were supposed to be calibrated for your character safety and ease of success?

My attitude is: so what? The DM will write or choose adventures that "fit", and the players will survive by their wits and the skin of their teeth or run or die trying, hopefully having fun in the process. When risk is taken out of the game, a lot of the fun disappears too.

I hate the "motorcycle helmet law" approach WOTC is taking here. Adventuring means danger, a chance to get killed without bubble-wrap over all the sharp corners in the dungeon, and DMing means creativity and judgment. By and large, D&D players are smart enough that we don't need child safety locks. It almost seems like they're afraid to get sued if a character is killed. I want the Holodeck Safety Protocols off.
:]

I think the amount of treasure that it's "fair" for a player to have is precisely the amount that they have obtained and held onto. It's their world -- their call what adventures they pursue, how good they are at surviving, how good they are finding and retrieving treasure, and how they spend their money:

"Where is the Eye of the Serpent? Rexor says you gave it to a girl. Probably for a mere night's pleasure, hm? What a loss. People have no grasp of what they do." Thulsa Doom in "Conan the Barbarian"
 
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