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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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Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
howandwhy99 said:
Hi Mr. Gygax,

In another thread around here some other posters and I are debating about how the D&D game came about. My own preference for running the game is as a modular, sort of "rules behind the screen" game where players learn as they go along. It's like using the core rules plus whatever additions the DM needs or group want to create based on actions taken by the players in the game. My thinking is D&D was created this way, that rules were added as to what was fun for the group and covered things as they became important throughout play. Things like overland travel, wandering encounters, new spells, magic items, and the like. At least this makes sense to me as AD&D grew from D&D and Mythus Prime led to many more rules.
Howdy,

As a matter of fact, I was in a design phase that sought great structure, direction, and verisimilitude when I wrote the Mythus game rules, and Mythus Prime was the result of me going back through the main work anbd extracting the essentials ;)

Only after I got that out of my system did I return to the enlightened state where rules light is the pinnacle of FRPG rules systems...pretty much the way I was thinking when I wrote the OD&D game rules.

The other side of the argument is better explained by others only that it is more of a rules focused game for the players vs. one based on simulating another reality. One of your famous AD&D DMG quotes was offered in defense of a game or rule oriented playstyle. I'm guessing you know the one, but here it is for your reference:

[sblock=AD&D DMG]A few brief words are necessary to insure that the reader has actually obtained a game form which he or she desires. Of the two approaches to hobby games today, one is best defined as the realism-simulation school and the other as the game school. AD&D is assuredly on adherent of the latter school. It does not stress any realism (in the author’s opinion an absurd effort at best considering the topic!). It does little to attempt to simulate anything either. ADVANCED DUNGEONS 8 DRAGONS is first and foremost a game for the fun and enjoyment of those who seek to use imagination and creativity. This is not to say that where it does not interfere with the flow of the game that the highest degree of realism hasn‘t been attempted, but neither is a serious approach to play discouraged. In all cases, however, the reader should understand that AD&D is designed to be an amusing and diverting pastime, something which can fill a few hours or consume endless days, as the participants desire, but in no case something to be token too seriously. For fun, excitement, and captivating fantasy, AD&D is unsurpassed. As a realistic simulation of things from the realm of make-believe, or even as a reflection of medieval or ancient warfare or culture or society, it can be deemed only a dismal failure. Readers who seek the latter must search elsewhere. Those who desire to create and populate imaginary worlds with larger-than-life heroes and villains, who seek relaxation with a fascinating game, and who generally believe games should be fun, not work, will hopefully find this system to their taste.[/sblock]My thinking is you are referring to the golden age of wargames and the hobby D&D via Chainmail sprouted out of. As posters showed me in the other thread, there were quite a few RPGs out by '79 besides D&D. It's just none of them really strike me as the "realism-simulation" school you mention above. Am I wrong? Wargames seemed to be far more realism than other RPGs at the time. IMO at least. Maybe it's a little of both? Any comments you have will be appreciated.


I hope you're doing well and enjoying life. I know I am one of the many eagerly awaiting the Castle Zagyg books. Take it easy though. I'm just glad to know they are on the way.

-howandwhy99
Many vocal individuals were lamenting the lack of "realism" in RPGs when I wrote that commentary you cite in the DMG. Whether that were playing another system or attempting to turn the D&D game into a simulation matters naught, eh? In any case I stand solidly behind my original claim that the game form is one not to be taken too seriously, as it is an amusement, at most a hobby.

As for the Castle Zagyg project, it is moving along as planned, with the detail modules of the Town of Yggsburgh and environs in the last stages of completion, the whole slated for publication of all 24 parts by the end of the second quarter of next year.

Cheerio,
Gary
 

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Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Geoffrey said:
Gary, in your experience do Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World lend themselves to long-term campaign play? Or do they tend to be too deadly for that?
Veteran players can indeed play either RPG for the long-term. As a matter of fact, son Ernie, son Luke, and I all have several characters of Jim Ward's MA game campaign that began play when the game was published, or soon thereafter.

It requires a good deal of fast thinking and no little innovation, but either system can provide campaign-length play for a group that knows the game and thinks before acting.

Cheerio,
Gary
 
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FATDRAGONGAMES

First Post
Col_Pladoh said:
As for the Castle Zagyg project, it is moving along as planned, with the detail modules of the Town of Yggsburgh and environs in the last stages of completion, the whole slated for publication of all 24 parts by the end of the second quarter of next year.

Cheerio,
Gary


Great news! I'm really looking forward to this.
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
FATDRAGONGAMES said:
Great news! I'm really looking forward to this.
The small-scale area map of the town and suburbs is now underway. It will show all the buildings detailed in the modules.

When the various interiors, especially the dungeons, are available, then the call for your excellent furnishing and features material should see even greater demand.

Cheerio,
Gary
 

RFisher

Explorer
howandwhy99 said:
It's just none of them really strike me as the "realism-simulation" school you mention above.

TFT certainly looks to me like an attempt to create something like D&D but "more realistic". Arguably GURPS carried it even farther. (With "reality checks" actually being mentioned in the book.) I could probably list more if I thought about it enough.

I don't know that any game really carried simulation to the extreme, but I think there were an awful lot of games that sprung up in D&D's shadow specifically because their creators wanted D&D to be more realistic. Not completely realistic, but more realistic.

How many times even today do you get people saying that armor in D&D should reduce damage instead of reducing the chance of a hit--not because they understand they understand the mechanical implications of that change--but because they mistake "to hit rolls" & "damage rolls" as being direct simulations of the things they were named for & think such a change would be "more realistic"?

(Which is not to imply that advocating such a change means you don't understand the mechanics behind it. If you do, then I'm not talking about you. (^_^))
 

Geoffrey

First Post
Gary, how well do you think that your Epic of Aerth would work as a campaign setting for AD&D?

Also, regarding the AD&D Fiend Folio:

Do you know why its publication was delayed for a couple of years? The FOREWORD to the Fiend Folio is dated 1979, Deities & Demigods (published in 1980) mentioned the Fiend Folio, yet the Fiend Folio wasn't actually published until 1981. Also, how good (or bad) do you think the Fiend Folio is?
 

haakon1

Adventurer
howandwhy99 said:
The other side of the argument is better explained by others only that it is more of a rules focused game for the players vs. one based on simulating another reality. One of your famous AD&D DMG quotes was offered in defense of a game or rule oriented playstyle.

I think your realism v. rulism discussion was different from the "why do people think AD&D was a random death trap" discussion I was in, but I think it comes to the same issue. In that discussion, I came up with a theory about two different types of players that people seemed to like toying with.

Gary, have you thought about this issue? (I'm guessing yes, on every issue to do with D&D.) Do you think this is a real divide for players, and if so, what's your view on it? Do you pick a side or try to cater to bother audiences when you run games?

Quoting myself on another thread:
<<
But anyhow, I think this whole argument comes down to two different views on D&D.

- View 1: The hippy view. D&D is a total immersion experience. The rules are not as important as the feel being right. The DM inventing new rules that feel right is fine. If a DM says "no plate mail in my campaign", it's not a big deal. I played in an AD&D game with no metal at all -- that was interesting, not handicapping, because the game is about having fun and "exploring the world", not winning and following rules. In this view, the DM & players are cooperative, a band making a song, not playing against each other. It's not "cheating" for the DM to have different rules or riff on new ideas as he's going along. And win or lose, live or die, isn't necessarily the point -- it's having fun playing together with your friends that counts. For players, it's character and story driven, and rules guide or are fitted to character concepts, not something that's min-maxed to make the most efficient build. In this world, a character might wear bronze armor (even though the stats are weaker) because they're a visitor from a bronze-age culture, and they like ancient Greek stuff.

- View 2: The engineer view. D&D is a game, which means it's based on rules, which must be followed like a software program. If the rules are not followed precisely and known in advance to all participants, the game is wonky and the referee is cheating. The role of the DM is not author or creator, but central processing unit, which is given direct input, makes calculations, and generates the appropriate outputs with no unwanted "creative accounting". Like any game, the point of playing D&D is to win. Both in the PvDM sense of defeating all the monsters and getting their stuff, and in the PvP of leveling up fastest and having the best (most efficient) "build". In this world, a character would only wear bronze armor if they knew there were rust monsters about.

I think both views exist in all editions, but the 1st view is likely more common with old schoolers, and the 2nd view is more common with people who grew up with computer versions of RPG's.>>

I'm happier with the first view, which I like to think is old school and Gygaxian, but since you're a rule designing grandmaster, I'm wondering if you actually like the 2nd view better? My guess is some happy median fits for you, as it does for most players, including me (I'm maybe 60% do what makes sense and is fun/40% play by the rules).
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Geoffrey said:
Gary, how well do you think that your Epic of Aerth would work as a campaign setting for AD&D?
Ir would serve well indeed if the DM went over the material carefully and adjusted portions that assumed skill-based characters...HPs I should say :lol:

Also, regarding the AD&D Fiend Folio:

Do you know why its publication was delayed for a couple of years? The FOREWORD to the Fiend Folio is dated 1979, Deities & Demigods (published in 1980) mentioned the Fiend Folio, yet the Fiend Folio wasn't actually published until 1981. Also, how good (or bad) do you think the Fiend Folio is?
The Games Workshop fellows, Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson originally approached TSR about publishing the best entries from their magazine, White Dwarf. as a supplemental monsters volume. Then Don turnbull was appointed as head of TSR UK, and so the ms. went through his hands.

I found about a quarter of the entries in the FF unsuitable, and that is why there are additions therein not found in the magazine's pages. When I had gone through the material I instructed Lwrence Schick to delete the ones I had indicated. Being the pinhead he is, Lawrence ignored that direction, for he planned to leave the company soon.

That said, I found a fair number of useful critters in the work--and not just those I pit into it--and were I playing AD&D I would surely use them still.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
I'll say this once again:

D&D is a game for amusement and entertainment. It is a game and nothing more, save where the dedicated player group makes it into a hobby, then it becomes a hobby game.

It is fantasy, so any attempt to have it be realistic is quite off base. As it is a role-playing game, fixation on combat is also misguided. It was never meant to be a combat simulation.

If some players find the rules too deadly for the characters I suggest that the characters' players are not very skilled not given to thinking before acting. That stated, PC death is meant to occur even when the best of players are concerned, but that is what cleric spells and wishes are meant to mitigate.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Geoffrey

First Post
Gary, I hope to DM an AD&D campaign once your Castle Zagyg: Upper Works is published. I'm toying with setting it in Aerth, in Falcondonia to be exact. ;)

Which reminds me: Are the entries for Heliotep and Relantl accidentally switched in the Epic of Aerth book? Relantl is listed as having an Egyptian heritage, language, and pantheon. Heliotep is listed as having an Atlantean language and pantheon. Should the names be switched? "Heliotep" sounds very Egyptian to me, and the name "Relantl" is clearly similar to the name "Atlantis".
 

airwalkrr

Adventurer
Hey there Gary. I hope all is well. I have a question about the old days if you don't mind. When you were first creating the game, how did you find people to play? I am curious how you managed to spark so much interest. Did you just ask your friends to come by some evening and try it out? Did you have an ongoing rapport with fellow wargamers regarding design of the game and they desired to try it out? Something altogether different? Thanks for your time!
 

airwalkrr

Adventurer
tintagel said:

HOLY CRAP!

You, sir, are the very definition of a labor of love. And I thought my dundjinni maps for ToEE were pretty decent. I am a fool to ever have thought so. Your work is beautiful, break-taking, and stunning all at once. You are truly an artist and a dedicated hobbyist. If I had the money, I would patronize your work. Well done, sir!
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Geoffrey said:
Gary, I hope to DM an AD&D campaign once your Castle Zagyg: Upper Works is published. I'm toying with setting it in Aerth, in Falcondonia to be exact. ;)

Which reminds me: Are the entries for Heliotep and Relantl accidentally switched in the Epic of Aerth book? Relantl is listed as having an Egyptian heritage, language, and pantheon. Heliotep is listed as having an Atlantean language and pantheon. Should the names be switched? "Heliotep" sounds very Egyptian to me, and the name "Relantl" is clearly similar to the name "Atlantis".
Hi Geoffrey,

You are quite correct, the entry information regarding language and pantheon are switched between Heliotep and Relantl. How that happened is a puzzlement.

Hope your CZ campaign turns out to be a smashing success!

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
airwalkrr said:
Hey there Gary. I hope all is well. I have a question about the old days if you don't mind. When you were first creating the game, how did you find people to play? I am curious how you managed to spark so much interest. Did you just ask your friends to come by some evening and try it out? Did you have an ongoing rapport with fellow wargamers regarding design of the game and they desired to try it out? Something altogether different? Thanks for your time!
Interesting question...especially considering since I do not remember it being asked in such a manner prior to this.

The play-test group consisted of my oldest son, Ernie, and elder daughter, Elise. Immediately thereafter I added Rob and Terry Kuntz and Don Kaye. Soon they weekend sessions included many of the members of our miniatures group, the Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association, and nearby wargamers that belonged to the old IFW such as Bill Hoyer. We played some D&D at the GenCon in the summer of 1973, so more players came from that. The interest was essentially word of mouth. A single gamer, or a group would come for two or three adventure sessions, then go off on theor own. Thus I got into the habit of not memorizing names and faces, the group was so transcient that it didn't pay, save in regards to the campaign's regulars. Even that core changed a good deal over the first couple of years of play.

Cheerio,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
airwalkrr said:
HOLY CRAP!

You, sir, are the very definition of a labor of love. And I thought my dundjinni maps for ToEE were pretty decent. I am a fool to ever have thought so. Your work is beautiful, break-taking, and stunning all at once. You are truly an artist and a dedicated hobbyist. If I had the money, I would patronize your work. Well done, sir!
Absolutely!

I guess my hand-drawn and hand-colored maps do not quite come up to the artistry of those.... :uhoh:

:lol:
Gary
 

Hey Gary,

I was just curious of your opinion of other non-D&D RPG's out there. What is your opinion of the Basic RolePlaying System from Chaosium and other non-class/level game like GURPS and Hero System?

I would really be curious concerning game such as Call of Cthulhu and Runequest as they have almost as much history as D&D.

Appreciate any comments you may have.
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
old school gamer said:
Hey Gary,

I was just curious of your opinion of other non-D&D RPG's out there. What is your opinion of the Basic RolePlaying System from Chaosium and other non-class/level game like GURPS and Hero System?

I would really be curious concerning game such as Call of Cthulhu and Runequest as they have almost as much history as D&D.

Appreciate any comments you may have.
Heh,

As a busy designer that does not care to "borrow" ideas from others doing like work, I can speak only to the CoC game. I enjoy that a good deal, although I have not had the opportunity to play in many years.

Of course I played and generally enjoyed all of the RPGs that TSR published.

I add that the Lejendary Adventure FRPG is not class and level based, but to the best of my knowledge and belief does not resemble any of the other FRPGs also not class and level based. The LA game system is the one I now prefer to all others.
 

Garnfellow

First Post
Pseudo-Undead

Gary,

Did you develop the pseudo-undead in the MMII? And if so, what was the story behind them?
 
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Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Garnfellow said:
Gary,

Did you develop the pseudo-undead in the MMII? And if so, what was the story behind them?
While I dislike admitting it, darned if I can recall the originator of the pseudo-undead concept.

I liked it as it gave the clerics something to fret about when they went into turning mode. Once in a while having the seemingly undead monster threatening not subject to that clerical power made adventues a bit more uncertain and exciting.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Valiant

First Post
Greetings Gary,
You wrote: -The LA game system is the one I now prefer to all others.-

I haven't played LA extensively, nor have I been following its development recently, though my group did play early last Srping. I have a few questions that I hope you don't mind answering:
1. When might we see a new release of the core system, and are you working on any revisions or major changes? Or, have you moved on completely to C&C?

2. Have you worked out a way to make begining characters weaker, starting out in LA is like starting out around 6th or 7th in 1E. I miss the feeling that I'm starting out not much better then the average guy, it allows me to develop my PC more somehow.

3. Have you ever considered making an LA basic (something cut down in complexity and length that kids could understand more easily. Perhaps with a Dungeon like presentation map/playing board.

Thanks in advance, and have a great day!
 

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