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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Jehosephat

Villager
Col_Pladoh said:
Herb thought it was a good idea at the time, rather as some SF writers on opur world thought that firing a space vessel from a giant cannon to reach the moon would be workable.

Rob took the whole thing quite calmly, all things considered, the huge outlay of gold pieces that Robilar had made. However, it soured him on Lunar exploration, which saddened me, because I was planning on having thre moon a place like "Hothouse World," with all manner of mutant plants and people on it, as well as some little sprite-like races dwelling around the verge of the vast central jungle.

Ain't magic grand?

Cheers,
Gary
Hi Gary,

thanks again for responding so speedily. I realize that in that particular article you mentioned that none dared try for the moon after that episode. Likewise, you mention that again here. However, and correct me if I am wrong, I seem to remember reading something somewhere about one of Ernie's characters having adventures on a world very similar to the John Carter of Mars series. Also, after years of looking through RPG products that bear your name, I get the distinct impression that you are a fan of having PCs explore alien type worlds; whether it be on another plane of existence (i.e. the EX series, the Demonweb Pits), another planet (like John Carter and the Mars series), or an alternante terran environment (such as Expedition to the Barrier Peaks; or perhaps another out of the norm location such as an undersea kingdom of sorts). Of course, I could be reading too much into your contributions to D&D. Like I say, though, I could swear that I have read that someplace about Ernie being a real fan of that series (ERB's John Carter of Mars) and ultimately adventuring in a similar setting.

Sincerely,
Rob
 
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Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Rob,

Spot in in regards to having PCs adventure in different environments. I believe that keeps them, and the GM alike from growing complacent, or bored.

Ernie's PC read a curse scroll and got sent to Barsoon--ERB's Mars, of course. He managed the non-magical world very well, became the first character in the campaign to posses dual class status as a M-U and Fighter when the character discovered the means of returning ot Oerth.

In all of my campaigns, and in the modules I write, I try to give a variety of environments and situatiuons is that fits with the general setting and plot. the upcoming Hall of Many Panes is loaded with that sort of adventure material;)

Speaking of which, I need to get back to my final editing pass on the ms. Only about 200 pages of the 500+ therein left to read through...

Cheers,
Gary
 

RFisher

Villager
Col_Pladoh said:
Pleased to learn you enjoy those old tales of the early D&D adventures we had. [...] That will be at least two years from now, The volume won't be large, but hopefully sufficiently so to make it worthwhile for readers.
Two years! Argh! Those tales had really re-energized my desire to play (and DM), even though it wasn't really in need of re-energizing. I feel like those stories have given me some fresh and valuable insights into how to play the game, which seems to be awfully rare after 20 years of playing. Unfortunately, since I wasn't getting much else out of Dragon, I let my subscription lapse some time ago.

When you do get around to making a book of them, you should try to include some of the other tales of the early days that have already been told. Like Rob's telling of the Robilar & Mordie's experience in Arneson's City of the Gods in Oerth Journal.

Another couple of questions have come to mind (and I guess it goes without saying to please forgive me if they've been covered before):

Before I encountered D&D, the word "dungeon" meant to me merely an underground cell (or maybe a few cells). Was there precedent for using the word for a complex or were the dungeons under castles in the games merely turned into complexes for the sake of having someplace to explore?

If a new player in an OAD&D campaign says he wants a character like the Grey Mouser, would you just advise him to be a thief and accept that a PC can't easily combine the talents of the literary character? Would you suggest the dual class rules? Would you make up something special?

Personally, I've usually opted for the first route. While games and literature can inspire one another, they are vastly different things. I've had players, however, that bristle at the fact that the TSR Lankhmar products had to "break the rules" to accommodate those iconic characters.
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
RFisher said:
Two years! Argh! Those tales had really re-energized my desire to play (and DM), even though it wasn't really in need of re-energizing. I feel like those stories have given me some fresh and valuable insights into how to play the game, which seems to be awfully rare after 20 years of playing. Unfortunately, since I wasn't getting much else out of Dragon, I let my subscription lapse some time ago.

When you do get around to making a book of them, you should try to include some of the other tales of the early days that have already been told. Like Rob's telling of the Robilar & Mordie's experience in Arneson's City of the Gods in Oerth Journal.
I just sent in my 28th and 29th colum essays regarding the old adventures in the Greyhawk Campaign. In checking my notes, i have only one more springboarded, but Rob is likely to have a fiar store of tales to recount, so the zine should be supplied with material through this year at least. Perhaps I can come up with a few more tales of adventuring that I think are worth retelling.

If rob owns the copyrights to the account of Robilar and Mordenkainen in "The City of the Gods" it would be a worthwhile addition to the contemplated book. So too the story of "Tenser and the Giant's Bag," which i have recounted elsewhere. That sort of material, as well as some possibly theretofore untold stories of Castle Greyhawk, will certainly be hashed over when the project is ready to go forward.

Another couple of questions have come to mind (and I guess it goes without saying to please forgive me if they've been covered before):

Before I encountered D&D, the word "dungeon" meant to me merely an underground cell (or maybe a few cells). Was there precedent for using the word for a complex or were the dungeons under castles in the games merely turned into complexes for the sake of having someplace to explore?
Underground mazes have been treated in mythology, fairy tales, and authored fiction (siuch as A Journey to the Centre of the Earth ) long before this device was made a central feature in the D&D game. (My favorite one from fairy tales is the one about the 12 princessess who danced holes in their slippers every night.) Anyway, the expanded underground environment featuring dungeons was indeed meant for exploration, mapping, and as a place for strange encounters.

If a new player in an OAD&D campaign says he wants a character like the Grey Mouser, would you just advise him to be a thief and accept that a PC can't easily combine the talents of the literary character? Would you suggest the dual class rules? Would you make up something special?

Personally, I've usually opted for the first route. While games and literature can inspire one another, they are vastly different things. I've had players, however, that bristle at the fact that the TSR Lankhmar products had to "break the rules" to accommodate those iconic characters.
I would advise the player to develop a thief character that was of his own creation, albeit it one that was modeled after a fictitional hero. If the PC stats were good enough, I'd then point out that the character could begin play as a fighter, and then be switched to thief later on so as to have a dual class one akin to the Gray Mouser.

Unabashed plug: This difficulty highlights the drawback of a class based RPG. Because I was unsatisfied with having disappointed players, the LA game system's skill-bundle base allows for the creation of just about any kind of character the player (of GM) wants, and at the same time retains archetypes.

Cheerio,
Gary
 

Jehosephat

Villager
Col_Pladoh said:
Herb thought it was a good idea at the time, rather as some SF writers on opur world thought that firing a space vessel from a giant cannon to reach the moon would be workable.

Rob took the whole thing quite calmly, all things considered, the huge outlay of gold pieces that Robilar had made. However, it soured him on Lunar exploration, which saddened me, because I was planning on having thre moon a place like "Hothouse World," with all manner of mutant plants and people on it, as well as some little sprite-like races dwelling around the verge of the vast central jungle.

Ain't magic grand?

Cheers,
Gary

Hi Gary,

I've been thinking about this a bit and actually it's not that far fetched. I mean what is a rocket or missile after all but a really big bullet/shell? Oh there's still some problems with the physics, I'm sure, so I'll leave that to the scientists to work out. But the line of thought certainly has merit. Certainly Wells and Vern entertained such thoughts, they wrote about it after all. Incidently H.G. Wells' first name was Herbert, perhaps Herb the Sage was a distant ancestor? :D

Now switching gears a bit before I close, I am interrested in the Lejendary Adventure rpg. I am have trouble finding the titles of the core books. Likewise, I can't seem to find a website for the company I could order them from. I followed a homepage link in your profile but somehow ended up on a German site of some sort. Can you steer me in the right direction? Thanks.

Sincerely,
Rob
 
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Gray Mouser

Villager
Gary,

I was just rereading "Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure" (kudos to Rob Kuntz and you on the published version of that dungeon, btw) and noticed that all of the NPC's in your original party are followers of Boccob and/or Zagyg. Yrag even being a worshipper of Zagyg alone! I'm wondering if in your home campaign this was, in fact, the case. Also, how widespread was the devotion to Boccob and Zagyg? Did either deity get involved in direct campaign play (besides Zagyg being the force behind Castle Greyhawk, I mean).

Thanks in advance.

Gray Mouser
 

Gray Mouser

Villager
Gary,

I just thought of something. Any chance you could do a write up of Mordenkainen, et. al.'s adventures in Maure Castle for Dragon? I don't know if you've already dome this as I'm not a subscriber and haven't read the magazine itself for many years (stopped after I couldn't take 2e any more ;-).

Hey, I admit I'm just trying to get more material into the proposed future volume on adventuring high lights from Greyhawk!

Gray Mouser
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Howdy Gray Mouser,

Mordenkainen being a mage was indeed a follower of Boccob, and thus generally honored Zagyg. The other magic-users in the group took also did the same. That meant that their cleric would be dedicated to Boccob, and the fighters and others, wanting the benefits of clerical ministrations came along for the ride;) Boccob was never an active deity in play, and none of the PCs was eager to have Zagyg intervene...

Rob's original dungeon levels were merged with mine to create the second Castle Greyhawk, but I have recorded some of my PCs adventures therein before that merger took place in pages of the Dragon Magazine column. While my characters adventured under a fair number of DMs, Rob was the one who refereed the majority of them. However, as the group bacame hgher level, much of the action was outdoors.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Jehosephat

Villager
Greetings Colonel,

I had a quick question, about dice in those early games. I've never seen it mentioned anywhere, so I am wondering what did you do for polyhedra dice before TSR was making them (I presume you guys were the first). I read in an interview that you onced fashioned a dragon out of a stegosaurus figure in the days before there were dragon miniatures. So I imagine you could have done something similar with dice. Or did you just use different combinations of the d6?
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Jehosephat said:
Greetings Colonel,

I had a quick question, about dice in those early games. I've never seen it mentioned anywhere, so I am wondering what did you do for polyhedra dice before TSR was making them (I presume you guys were the first). I read in an interview that you onced fashioned a dragon out of a stegosaurus figure in the days before there were dragon miniatures. So I imagine you could have done something similar with dice. Or did you just use different combinations of the d6?
Howdy, Jehosephat:)

Right you are about the stegasaurus converted to a red dragon--it came out pretty well. Other conversins were made from 90 mm Hauser Elastolin figures (giants), plastic dime store Indians (ogres), and various monster toys picked up in dime stores. Jack Scruby was making metal 30 mm orc figures, so we had plenty of those.

As to dice, though, actualy, early in 1972 I got ahold of a school supply catalog from a company out in California. In that book were what I had been looking for for years--Platonic solids with numbers on them, polyhedral dice:) There was the pyramid d4 (yellow), the usual d6 with Arabic numerals (pine, later orange), a d8 (green), d 12 (light blue), and d20 (white) numbered 0-9 twice on its faces. All were made of soft plastic and the numbers were badly stamped, but what treasures! Just what was needed for interesting new games, thought I, but the set of five cost $3.

When the D&D game was published, we bought 50 sets of these dice from school supply company, got a 10% discount, and passed them along to gamers at $3.50 per set--a break even price--so as to make the D&D game easily playable. The school supply couldn't believe that we were ordering so many sets, and when we asked for discount rate on 1,000, they declined, so we found their source in the Orient and ordered direct from them.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Jehosephat

Villager
Col_Pladoh said:
Howdy, Jehosephat:)

Right you are about the stegasaurus converted to a red dragon--it came out pretty well. Other conversins were made from 90 mm Hauser Elastolin figures (giants), plastic dime store Indians (ogres), and various monster toys picked up in dime stores. Jack Scruby was making metal 30 mm orc figures, so we had plenty of those.

As to dice, though, actualy, early in 1972 I got ahold of a school supply catalog from a company out in California. In that book were what I had been looking for for years--Platonic solids with numbers on them, polyhedral dice:) There was the pyramid d4 (yellow), the usual d6 with Arabic numerals (pine, later orange), a d8 (green), d 12 (light blue), and d20 (white) numbered 0-9 twice on its faces. All were made of soft plastic and the numbers were badly stamped, but what treasures! Just what was needed for interesting new games, thought I, but the set of five cost $3.

When the D&D game was published, we bought 50 sets of these dice from school supply company, got a 10% discount, and passed them along to gamers at $3.50 per set--a break even price--so as to make the D&D game easily playable. The school supply couldn't believe that we were ordering so many sets, and when we asked for discount rate on 1,000, they declined, so we found their source in the Orient and ordered direct from them.

Cheers,
Gary
Thank you kindly Gary. I remember those dice from my early D&D and Gamma World boxed sets. Actually, for reasons of nostalgia, it wouldn't be bad to have a set of those right now. I remember the 4-siders actually had a pretty sharp point on them. You know if you attacked someone with them, I'll bet they would do 1d4 damage. :p (sorry I couldn't resist that corny joke).
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Jehosephat said:
Thank you kindly Gary. I remember those dice from my early D&D and Gamma World boxed sets. Actually, for reasons of nostalgia, it wouldn't be bad to have a set of those right now. I remember the 4-siders actually had a pretty sharp point on them. You know if you attacked someone with them, I'll bet they would do 1d4 damage. :p (sorry I couldn't resist that corny joke).
As it happens I have quite a number of the old low-impact dice around here somewhere. The points on the d4 were very sharp but wore down quickly. Rob had a d20 that would stand on a worn point about one roll in 50;)

Somewhere I lost my d20 with half the faces colored gray. It was my "killer die" that rolled an idnordinate number of 20s, and the players really hated it;)

Cheers,
Gary
 

Grazzt

Demon Lord
Col_Pladoh said:
Somewhere I lost my d20 with half the faces colored gray. It was my "killer die" that rolled an idnordinate number of 20s, and the players really hated it;)

Cheers,
Gary

I have one of those myself (a "killer die"). Yeah- the players really, really hate it.
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Grazzt said:
I have one of those myself (a "killer die"). Yeah- the players really, really hate it.
Heh,

Right:) Rob was always looking to get one for himself to get even with me when he was DMing for my PCs. One encounter Robilar had when he was about 9th level and AC -4 was with an Evil Cleric and his gnoll guards. The latter managed to hit Robilar so many times because of my 20s that he had only about 10 HPs left when he finally offed the cleric and was able to concentrate on the gnolls.

Cheers,
Gary
 

d20Dwarf

Explorer
Grazzt said:
I have one of those myself (a "killer die"). Yeah- the players really, really hate it.
Two weeks ago my dice, as a whole, were so hot, that at the end of the session my players smuggled them out of sight, divided them among their own dice bags, and then only revealed the ploy at the beginning of the next session. Needless to say, they had no trouble clearing the demon lord's Abyssal abode. :)
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
d20Dwarf,

It is good to learn that there is at least one other person who isn't superstitious about his dice being touched by others, particularly players from the group.

That said, I would be none too happy if my favorite ones were absconded with. I hate it when the opposition I am represenring can't find the pointy ends of their swords, or use their natural weapons to effect. No challenge to the characters at all when that happens...and it does happen!

Cheers,
Gary
 

grodog

Adventurer
"Tenser and the Giant's Bag,"
Hmmm, I'm not familiar with this story Gary. Do you recall where/when it appeared?

Also, Rob does own the copyright on the Oerth Journal accounts, although IIRC one of them has some comments from Dave Arneson that are his copyright as well. I'd be more than happy to forward you copies of them, if you'd like to consider them for possible additions to the collection.
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
grodog said:
Hmmm, I'm not familiar with this story Gary. Do you recall where/when it appeared?
Howdy Allen:)

No way i recall the dates or vehicles, but I wrote the account a couple of times. It was about an incident when Rob was DMing for Ernie who was on a solo adventure with Tenser, I was there working, but I gave Rob high signs and thus was playing the hill giant that Tenser met and conversed with. When we get to compiling the column material I'll do another account of the tale, and whatever new material i can recall.

Also, Rob does own the copyright on the Oerth Journal accounts, although IIRC one of them has some comments from Dave Arneson that are his copyright as well. I'd be more than happy to forward you copies of them, if you'd like to consider them for possible additions to the collection.
Thanks for the information. Better the copies go to Rob than to me at this point. We have no written agreement yet. Rob can review the accounts and see about getting written permissio for use of Dave's quotes or edit the material as he deems best;)

Cheers,
Gary
 

Silver Moon

Villager
Col_Pladoh said:
...There was the pyramid d4 (yellow), the usual d6 with Arabic numerals (pine, later orange), a d8 (green), d 12 (light blue), and d20 (white) numbered 0-9 twice on its faces. All were made of soft plastic and the numbers were badly stamped, but what treasures!
Treasures indeed! A week ago I had been doing some cleaning in our gaming room and accidentally misplaced the mug-full-of-dice that we put out on the table for everyone to game with. This brought things to a standstill at the beginning of the game until I remembered that there might be some in the back of a drawer inside the figure case. Wouldn't you know, it was the old chipped-up soft plastic bunch listed above that we had started out with. So some 23 years after we were first rolled them we were using them again!
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Silver Moon said:
Treasures indeed! A week ago I had been doing some cleaning in our gaming room and accidentally misplaced the mug-full-of-dice that we put out on the table for everyone to game with. This brought things to a standstill at the beginning of the game until I remembered that there might be some in the back of a drawer inside the figure case. Wouldn't you know, it was the old chipped-up soft plastic bunch listed above that we had started out with. So some 23 years after we were first rolled them we were using them again!
There's much to be said for results, and those old low-impact dice do generate random numbers;) Not much to look at but they deliver.

Of course I do prefer a d20 numbered 1-20, and in all the contemporary high-impact plastic dice are a boon, I have an odd mix of old and new, but my d30s and d7s get a fair workout in most game sessions,

Cheers,
Gary
 
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