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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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BOZ

Creature Cataloguer
Col_Pladoh said:
Hmmm...

What are Epic Level PCs all about?

Cheers,
Gary

in 3rd edition parlance, they are essentially any PC over 20th level (or does it start at 20th, i forget?)

if a DM handles them properly, they can be every bit as fun as lower-level PCs. by that time, a PC has aquired quite a bit of power, magic, and other resources, which allows them to overcome common obstacles more easily and do all sorts of things that lower-level PCs simply can't do, or at least do well. of course, any DM worth his salt will throw in traps, challenges, and especially monsters and NPCs of a suitable challenge level - epic level PCs are just as mortal as any other PC, as i have found out through experience. :) of course, being that high in level, getting a resurrection spell is a lot less of a challenge than it otherwise might be...

of course, as i said, a DM must handle the situation properly, or otherwise things just get too ridiculous. that sort of high-level play can be fun for a short time, but it's not the sort of thing i'd want to focus on for a long time.
 

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Storm Raven

First Post
Col_Pladoh said:
Only WotC can estimate the actual number based on sales of the work, Imperical evidence is useless, as not 5% of the new D&D game audience posts here or on any other website ;)

Well, I doubt if even sales of the Epic Level Handbook are any real indicator of how many campaigns involve epic level characters. The ELH isn't even actually technically necessary to play a campaign involving epic characters - just enough is given in sources like the FRCS to run such games without that book. On the other hand, actual games invovling such high level characters seem absurdly rare. Not just on ENWorld, but other gaming websites seem to have a dearth of games involving them. On a more personal level, I know of zero people who even own the ELH, let alone who have run or played in games at that power level.

It is impossible to determine for certain, but the evidence from places like ENWorld and my own experience lead me to believe that actual epic level games are vanishingly rare. Sure, there are certainly some people playing such campaigns, but from Dragon letters to the editor and forum submissions in the early 80s, people were playing god-killing characters who had claimed Mjolnir, Stormbringer and the Aegis back then too.

My statements are based on the the rule books published, the contents of same, ans what I have heard imperically :lol:

That's a dangerous set of assumptions. If one had looked at 1e in 1984 or thereabouts as written, one would have thought it to be an almost unplayable mass of confusing and difficult rules. Sure, few people played the game that way (discarding things like the unarmed combat rules and a host of other overly complicated elements), but as written, they were there making the game look intensely un-user-friendly, overcomplicated, and a haven for rules-lawyers (Knights of the Dinner Table isn't lampooning older editions of D&D by having them be plagued by a rules-lawyer like Brian by accident).

If, at the same time, one had based their opinion on what they "heard empirically" about the game (leaving aside the ill-founded and silly "satanic" attacks made by the totally misinformed), one might have thought the game to be populated by power-gaming characters who summoned fleets of Star Destroyers and legions of AT-ATs to overrun Greyhawk and thought nothing of using a push spell to kill Thor and seize Mjolnir. One might have thought 75 foot tall mutant orcs were a regular element in the game. Looking through the published modules available at the time, one might have thought that magic items were as common as acorns and pine cones.
 
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Jdvn1

Hanging in there. Better than the alternative.
John Drake said:
I guess, but I don't really see how making things tougher or have more hit dice or damage creates furhter avenues for creativity.
Well, it's the type of encounters you come across. As a PC facing a horde, you might have to stand your ground among a bunch of other people. As an epic PC facing a horde, you might have to stand your ground while at the same time protecting the lives of citizens as they run away.

So you have to use your resources to not only kill baddies but to also control the battlefield, try to influence where they move (stop them from going to certain places or certain directions), or use resources to directly stop enemy casters' spells.
John Drake said:
I find PC's at lower levels, limited resources etc to be ample resource for RPG's. Imho, epic for me is the Mentzer Immortal route: exciting, cerebral, and extremely thought provoking, from my experience
I also like that route (actually, even in non-epic games), but you don't have to toss combat out of the window either.
 

haakon1

Adventurer
Col_Pladoh said:
Hmmm...

What are Epic Level PCs all about?

Well, I had one character that surviving all the way through G123D123Q1. He was 21st level (human cleric of Heimdall) when he got home.

And what did he do then? Retire and become an NPC.

I still haul him out once in a while as an NPC. He's currently living in Thornward Castle, helping in the war effort. You see, my Bissel was invaded by Ket, which is secretly allied with Iuz, who's funding their Uli and Perrenlander mercenaries and funneling in goblinoid and giant mercenaries too. On the other side are the Border Companies, Bisselite feudal knights & rabble militia, the Knights of the Watch, and the Brotherhood of the Sword (the people who run Gran March, in my installation of Greyhawk).

To the PC's, he's just some foreign dude (native language: Cold Tongue) in chainmail who hangs around in a big hospital ward with a fancy multi-colored lamp, healing the war wounded. I'm sure NOBODY here can guess what lamp that is. ;) They're also suspicious because he has two lizardmen acolytes working for him (he always wanted to convert some lizardmen, and in his years of retirement, I figured he somehow found a very few who were ready for Heimdall's call). :lol:
 

haakon1

Adventurer
Jdvn1 said:
Well, I've recently bought some of the early modules (B2, B3, S2, and X1, unless I've gotten my codes mixed up), with the hope that running them and merely converting the rules would convey at least a similar feel to OD&D. Kind of an OD&D compromise is what I'm going for. I just want to make sure that the proper feel is being upheld.

BTW, I think people mean the 1974 game (from booklets) by OD&D. B2 and B3 are for Basic D&D, from the later 1970s, and S2 and X1 are AD&D (starting in I believe 1978 or so). Basic D&D modules could be used with AD&D without changes (at least I did that with B2).

OD&D didn't really have adventure modules, though the Temple of the Frog in the Blackmoor supplement was a short version of one. Pretty cool too, with a Dr. Who meets D&D feel, IMHO.
 

haakon1

Adventurer
Storm Raven said:
(Knights of the Dinner Table isn't lampooning older editions of D&D by having them be plagued by a rules-lawyer like Brian by accident).

I don't think they are edition or even game specific. They've had Western and I believe space adventures, a vampire campaign, and even did some LARP.

That said, Colonel, does Hackmaster amuse you, or not?

I enjoyed reading through "Little Keep on the Borderlands", and I love their illustrations, but I'd never actually run it.
 

Jdvn1

Hanging in there. Better than the alternative.
haakon1 said:
BTW, I think people mean the 1974 game (from booklets) by OD&D. B2 and B3 are for Basic D&D, from the later 1970s, and S2 and X1 are AD&D (starting in I believe 1978 or so). Basic D&D modules could be used with AD&D without changes (at least I did that with B2).

OD&D didn't really have adventure modules, though the Temple of the Frog in the Blackmoor supplement was a short version of one. Pretty cool too, with a Dr. Who meets D&D feel, IMHO.
Is it obvious I'm still learning about earlier versions of the game? I started with 3e!

Thanks! :D
 

Storm Raven

First Post
haakon1 said:
I don't think they are edition or even game specific. They've had Western and I believe space adventures, a vampire campaign, and even did some LARP.

Sure, they've branched out. But at its core, the comic focuses on Hackmaster - and from reading the strips, that game appears primarily to be a satirized version of older editions of AD&D. It isn't exact, of course, and many things have been exaggerated for humor value, but it is still recognizably 1e AD&D/OD&D to large extent.

Also, it seems to me that the owner of Hard 8 games isn't named "Gary Jackson" by accident.
 

Ardenian

First Post
great to see you interacting with the current gamer community Gary... i'm a n00b here so if this is the norm - it's great. If it's not the norm - it should be.

[a]
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Jdvn1 said:
Well, I've recently bought some of the early modules (B2, B3, S2, and X1, unless I've gotten my codes mixed up), with the hope that running them and merely converting the rules would convey at least a similar feel to OD&D. Kind of an OD&D compromise is what I'm going for. I just want to make sure that the proper feel is being upheld.
To get the feeling of the original game I suggest that if possible you play them unconverted. Changing rules pretty well assures that the original spirit will be lost.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Jdvn1 said:
In my experience (though, apparently, it's not typical), it's about the same sorts of things. But instead of fighting on-rushing hordes, you're fighting epic-sized on-rushing hordes of epicness. ;)

There are just more obstacles, tougher obstacles, more tools to overcome them, and more possibilities for creativity.
Who am I to argue with that?

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Heathansson said:
Hello, Colonel!
Hope you're feeling better!!!

Just a question that stretches back down the eons to 1e.: why do druids use scimitars?
It just seems curious with the Celtic connection.
Heh,

It is because the scimitar is as close a sword weapon I could come up with to match the druids' mistletoe-harvesting sickle.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
BOZ said:
...

...of course, as i said, a DM must handle the situation properly, or otherwise things just get too ridiculous. that sort of high-level play can be fun for a short time, but it's not the sort of thing i'd want to focus on for a long time.
Sure,

Francois' OAD&D campaign had PCs of 20th level and up. I played a lackey of merely 15th level and always had to bow and scrape to my "betters." It was interesting to me to see how he managed things, but I found the milieu more political and intrigue-ridden that I enjoyed playing for extended periods.

As a matter of fact, I have so many PCs because I found it most enjoyable to play low- and mid-level characters most adventures.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Hi Storm Raven,

No quibble with what you state, but I do believe the number of persons tha played OAD&D was greated than the number playing the new game despite "unfriendly" rules. Perhaps that was because those rules were explicit in alloting to the Dm the role of ultimate arbiter with free reign to excise and alter whatever was desired.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
haakon1 said:
Well, I had one character that surviving all the way through G123D123Q1. He was 21st level (human cleric of Heimdall) when he got home.

And what did he do then? Retire and become an NPC.

I still haul him out once in a while as an NPC. ...
Quite so!

Just as I did with Mordenkainen, Bigby, and other PCs when they rose too high in power to interact with the "mundain" adventures.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
haakon1 said:
I don't think they are edition or even game specific. They've had Western and I believe space adventures, a vampire campaign, and even did some LARP.

That said, Colonel, does Hackmaster amuse you, or not?

...

.
The suggestion that the KotDT reflects on OAD&D being a game for rules lawyers is too ridiculous to respond to, expecially when one looks at the new D&D rules and how they are played.

I do not play HM, it is fat too rules heavy for my taste, but I was rolling on the floor laughing when I read Jolly Blackburn's work. He surely did manage to lanpoon me quite accurately most of the time, which is astonishing to me, for as much as I like Jolly, he and I are not associates. I must chalk it up to his astute perception.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Ardenian said:
great to see you interacting with the current gamer community Gary... i'm a n00b here so if this is the norm - it's great. If it's not the norm - it should be.

[a]
Howdy,

Thanks, and it is indeed usual for me to interact with my fellow gamers on this website and others, for I enjoy the exchange...as long as it remains on the relatively polite level. It is a bore to have someone assert that this or that RPG is superior to all others. Such matters are personal taste. I enjoy some games, do not find others at all appealing. That means nothing except to me and those with whom I game.

:lol:
Gary
 


Storm Raven

First Post
Col_Pladoh said:
No quibble with what you state, but I do believe the number of persons tha played OAD&D was greated than the number playing the new game despite "unfriendly" rules. Perhaps that was because those rules were explicit in alloting to the Dm the role of ultimate arbiter with free reign to excise and alter whatever was desired.

I don't think we have any way to determine accurately which edition has more people regularly playing it. Leaving aside the question of how to determine who is a player, and who is just a collector, and who is "regularly" as opposed to "sporadically" playing, we simply have no verifiable sales data for the books that would allow for a good comparison. I think the number of subsrcibers to Dragon might be a good indicator, and I remember seeing some figures on that, but I don't remember where, or what the trend was (other than remembering a dip in the mid-90s and some recovery in the 2000s).

But I think your argument that the DM is disempowered in 3e is just off-base. At several points in the 3e core books the text makes clear that the DM is the ultimate arbiter of the rules of his campaign. The statement that you have "heard" about people playing differently and challenging the DMs authority at every turn is no more persuasive that this is a huge problem than old letters to Dragon by players stating that their DM won't allow them to play a 5/5/8 level half-elven fighter/magic-user/cleric with Stormbringer and the Ring of Kings because that character is "not powerful enough to survive" were that such an issue was a big deal to most of those using the system.
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Heathansson said:
Thanks! That's kinda what I thought.
The primary appeal of the Druid class from a creative standpoint is that the Romans were so thorough in destroying them and their religion that we know virtually nothing about either :eek:

Cheers,
Gary
 

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