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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
JamesM said:
Gary,

Early roleplaying, much like the stories which were its primary inspirations, didn't always draw hard and fast distinctions between "fantasy" and "science fiction," as we're likely to do nowadays. Was this the case in your home campaign as well? I've often wondered if the conversion rules for Gamma World were written for reasons other than simply providing another option to the beleaguered DM or if the Mighty Servant of Leuk-o was more a robot than a golem (or if the distinction even makes any sense).

Thanks.
As a matter of fact I never attempted to give my campaign any airs, just provided as much entertainment as possible for those playing in it. Thus anything was fair game, from Gothis horror to SF, along with everything in between. One of the favorite places my better players liked to be transported to for an adventure was the "Carabas," where the Dirdir hunted sequin takers...and they as did Adam Reith, hunted the Dirdir as in Jack Vance's novel The Dirdir from the "PLanet of Adventure" quatrology. That set of stories being amongst my very favorites.

The players wisely declined to venture into NYC during the famous blackout. After wholloping some street punks they went back down the subway tunnel to where the inter-unicerse game was still operational.

Cheerio,
Gary
 

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JamesM

First Post
Gary,

Do you have any recollection of what Shadowland would have contained? I noticed that you produced quite a few Plane of Shadow-related monsters, spells, and items over a certain period back in the TSR days. Were these in any way related to or derived from the work you did on this unfinished/unreleased product?

Thanks.
 

Tewligan

First Post
Hey Gary, I was wondering what your take was on the original version of Palace of the Silver Princess. I know that most copies of it were quickly rounded up and destroyed almost immediately after printing - was that your call, or did someone else think it was a little too iffy to release when they laid eyes on it? Did the editing/review process get more thorough after that near-release? It does seem pretty tame today, but I guess it was seen as being a little much 30 years ago (although, that Erol Otus drawing of the 3-headed creatures was just WRONG...with the exception of one unusually dashing and handsome head, of course!)
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
JamesM said:
Gary,

Do you have any recollection of what Shadowland would have contained? I noticed that you produced quite a few Plane of Shadow-related monsters, spells, and items over a certain period back in the TSR days. Were these in any way related to or derived from the work you did on this unfinished/unreleased product?

Thanks.
An agathocacological plane of insubstantial stuff has always fascinated me since I began contemplating additional realms. So the shadows from A. Merritt's Creep Shadow, Creep novel were included in the AD&D game, and new and similar monsters added to the projected plane betweem light and darkness. Skip Williams was going to co-author a long adventure module and sourcebook for the place, but he decided to remain a loyal employee of Lorraine Williams instead. I have my notes, but his are amons=gst them, so doing such a worrk now is pretty much unlikely.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Tewligan said:
Hey Gary, I was wondering what your take was on the original version of Palace of the Silver Princess. I know that most copies of it were quickly rounded up and destroyed almost immediately after printing - was that your call, or did someone else think it was a little too iffy to release when they laid eyes on it? Did the editing/review process get more thorough after that near-release? It does seem pretty tame today, but I guess it was seen as being a little much 30 years ago (although, that Erol Otus drawing of the 3-headed creatures was just WRONG...with the exception of one unusually dashing and handsome head, of course!)
:] Bah!

There was no reason to pull the initial version of the Palace of the Silver Princess as far as I am concerned. The same was obviously true in the minds of the editors that sent it into production.

Kevin Blume was responsible for recalling it--strange fellow he. Every book he read made him an expert on the subject dealt with in the work. At one time he was going to use a penlight to examine employees' eyes for signs of drug use, but he was dissuaded finally.

Cheers,
Gary
 

JamesM

First Post
Col_Pladoh said:
An agathocacological plane
This is what gaming is missing nowadays: vocabulary higher than that of a fifth grader! When I was a boy, D&D enriched my vocabulary like no other entertainment did. I can't begin to tell you how indebted I am to you for the new words you introduced to me through the game.

of insubstantial stuff has always fascinated me since I began contemplating additional realms. So the shadows from A. Merritt's Creep Shadow, Creep novel were included in the AD&D game, and new and similar monsters added to the projected plane betweem light and darkness.
I regret to say that I've read little to nothing of Merritt that I can recall, despite his being an influence on the game. Do you have any recommendations of where one might start to get acquainted with his works?

Skip Williams was going to co-author a long adventure module and sourcebook for the place, but he decided to remain a loyal employee of Lorraine Williams instead. I have my notes, but his are amons=gst them, so doing such a worrk now is pretty much unlikely.
A pity. I remember reading old columns of yours where you laid out your plans for future AD&D products and Shadowland was one of the most interesting to me (along with the City of Greyhawk).
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
JamesM said:
This is what gaming is missing nowadays: vocabulary higher than that of a fifth grader! When I was a boy, D&D enriched my vocabulary like no other entertainment did. I can't begin to tell you how indebted I am to you for the new words you introduced to me through the game.
I was read to a lot by my parents, and my mother made sure that I took the vocabulary tests in each month's Reader's Digest by challenging me to beat her which I managed to do only in my mid-teens.

I regret to say that I've read little to nothing of Merritt that I can recall, despite his being an influence on the game. Do you have any recommendations of where one might start to get acquainted with his works?
Moon Pool
Dwellers in the Mirage
Creep Shadow, Creep
Face in the Abyss
Fox Woman
Return to the Moon Pool

Those are my faviorites

A pity. I remember reading old columns of yours where you laid out your plans for future AD&D products and Shadowland was one of the most interesting to me (along with the City of Greyhawk).
Yes, water under the bridge can evoke some regrets. The plan I had for the city was far too ambitious, certainly. The way that Castle Zagyg, Yggsburgh, has been and is being completed is more reasonable as I am not older and wizer.

Cheerio,
Gary
 

rossik

Explorer
hi gary!

what do you think of characters and age?
i mean, isnt odd a 1st lvl M-U old, bald, with long beard?

i always try to make young 1st lvl characters....whats your thoghts about this?
 

JamesM

First Post
Col_Pladoh said:
Moon Pool
Dwellers in the Mirage
Creep Shadow, Creep
Face in the Abyss
Fox Woman
Return to the Moon Pool

Those are my faviorites
I'll see if I can find them, although I suspect most are out of print. It's damnably hard to find older fantasy authors nowadays.

Yes, water under the bridge can evoke some regrets. The plan I had for the city was far too ambitious, certainly. The way that Castle Zagyg, Yggsburgh, has been and is being completed is more reasonable as I am not older and wizer.
This raises another question I'd intended to ask: do you view your work on Castle Zagyg as being better or at least more well considered than your older creative efforts? There are lots of obvious commonalities between, for example, your Greyhawk work and your Yggsburgh work, but there are also quite a few differences as well. I don't want to ask you to choose between your children, so to speak, but are there things you specifically chose to do differently with Yggsburgh that you either wish you had done with Greyhawk or simply had never considered doing way back when?

Thanks.
 

Geoffrey

First Post
Col_Pladoh said:
Return to the Moon Pool

Whoa! I've never heard of that one. Since The Moon Pool is thus far perhaps my favorite Merritt tale (though it's so hard to choose), I'm going to have to track that one down. :)

Gary, how do you treat small, very young dragons in your A/D&D games? Do you make them significantly shorter than the lengths listed in the Monster Manual? And, if so, do you make the area covered by their breath weapons significantly smaller?
 

T. Foster

First Post
Geoffrey said:
Whoa! I've never heard of that one. Since The Moon Pool is thus far perhaps my favorite Merritt tale (though it's so hard to choose), I'm going to have to track that one down. :)
I believe (though I'm certainly open to being corrected by Gary if I'm wrong) that that's simply the second half of what was eventually published in novel-form as The Moon Pool -- originally "The Moon Pool" was a stand-alone short story, then he wrote a much longer sequel-story a year or two later, then eventually combined both stories into a novel. The Face in the Abyss was the same way -- "The Face in the Abyss" was a stand-alone story, followed by a sequel-story "The Serpent Mother," and only later did Merritt combine them into a novel.

As for tracking down Merritt's books, it's a bit of a chore, but it's absolutely worth the effort. The Moon Pool is currently in-print in a couple different versions (and can also be found online, since its copyright has expired) and so is The Metal Monster (though that's probably his worst book and not really recommended except for completists). The other books are all out-of-print AFAIK but generally not too hard to find, especially, it seems, The Ship of Ishtar and Dwellers in the Mirage, because they were very popular in their day and tons of copies were printed through the 1980s. I had the hardest time acquiring his last two novels, Burn, Witch, Burn and Creep, Shadow, Creep, and ended up paying too much for vintage paperback copies from the 1940s (when Merritt was actually still alive!).

"Abraham Merritt" at amazon.com
 
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Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
rossik said:
hi gary!

what do you think of characters and age?
i mean, isnt odd a 1st lvl M-U old, bald, with long beard?

i always try to make young 1st lvl characters....whats your thoghts about this?
I am in agreement with you, although a fledgling m-u will likely be a good deal older than a 1st level fighter. So for beginning PCs I suggest age 18 or so for a fighter or thief, age 21 or so for a cleric, and age 25 or thereabouts for a magic-user.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
JamesM said:
I'll see if I can find them, although I suspect most are out of print. It's damnably hard to find older fantasy authors nowadays.
Try www.bookfinder.com


This raises another question I'd intended to ask: do you view your work on Castle Zagyg as being better or at least more well considered than your older creative efforts? There are lots of obvious commonalities between, for example, your Greyhawk work and your Yggsburgh work, but there are also quite a few differences as well. I don't want to ask you to choose between your children, so to speak, but are there things you specifically chose to do differently with Yggsburgh that you either wish you had done with Greyhawk or simply had never considered doing way back when?

Thanks.
While I do not think I would change the manner in which I presented the World of Greyhawk, the Castle Zagyg setting is too different to be comparable. The Eastmark in which the town lies is only some 1,500 square miles in extent, so greater detail of smaller areas of terrain and communities therein is necessary in order to present an interesting and useful work for the game master. The main feature of the area is the town, Yggsburgh, so that has the most detail--and when the 24 additional town sector and suburban area modules are completed that detail will be as exhaustive as is desirable for a place where the GM remains the primary arbiter of the existing places actual nature and inhabitants.

In the Yggsburgh work the GM had much detailed information as is necessary for a small adventuring ares, so input into the campaign is more of the alteration and addition sort, with innovative expansion mainly encouraged in the areas just off the map edges.

Does that make sense to you?

Cheerio,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Geoffrey said:
Whoa! I've never heard of that one. Since The Moon Pool is thus far perhaps my favorite Merritt tale (though it's so hard to choose), I'm going to have to track that one down. :)

Gary, how do you treat small, very young dragons in your A/D&D games? Do you make them significantly shorter than the lengths listed in the Monster Manual? And, if so, do you make the area covered by their breath weapons significantly smaller?
As a matter of fact I have not utilized itty-bitty dragonlings in my campaign play...nothing like the Norweigen Ridgeback in the Harry Potter flick.

If I were going to do so I would certainly make these creatures considerably smaller than the first listed dragon entry in the MM, and limit the range and damage from their breathe weapon accordingly.

Cheerio,
Gary
 


JamesM

First Post
Col_Pladoh said:
Does that make sense to you?
I think so.

Do you prefer the smaller scale approach of Yggsburgh/East Mark or do you prefer the larger swaths of territory described by Greyhawk? I see distinct advantages to both, so you may not have a preference.

Thanks.
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Prince of Happiness said:
Have you read any of the new issues of Weird Tales?
No, and worse, I didn't even know that the magazine had resumed publication :heh:

Any comment on the nature of the material being printed therein? If it is typical of contemporary weird fiction I won't feel constrained to rush out and buy a copy...

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
JamesM said:
I think so.

Do you prefer the smaller scale approach of Yggsburgh/East Mark or do you prefer the larger swaths of territory described by Greyhawk? I see distinct advantages to both, so you may not have a preference.

Thanks.
As you suggest, I do not have a preference. The smaller scale of the Yggsburgh project is to facilitate the presentation of the ruins of Castle Zagyg and its many dungeon levels. As it is likely that there will be a good deal of adventuring activity in the town and surrounding countryside, the urban area has been extensively detailed, while the less-developed land around it has been well-described and provided with additional adventure hooks as befits such a setting.

Cheerio,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh said:
No, and worse, I didn't even know that the magazine had resumed publication :heh:

Any comment on the nature of the material being printed therein? If it is typical of contemporary weird fiction I won't feel constrained to rush out and buy a copy...

Cheers,
Gary

It's not bad. There's a good mix of classic stories brought back and some good new ones as well and the new ones aren't "weirdness-for-weirdness's-sake" crap as written by my barista or anything. Tanith Lee still contributes short stories to it, as well as others.
 

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