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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
Calico_Jack73 said:
Hmmmm... Now you've got me thinking about making up some other dragons using other elements from the Periodic Table.

[snip]

Sorry Gary, I just couldn't resist!
As for metallic dragons, wouldn't a Chromium Dragon be flashy? The real shifty and heavy-weight one would be the Mercury Dragon, of course :cool:

Actually, there are some serious chromatic hybrids covered in the Slayer's Guide to Dragons book from Mongoose...although some folks might find a pink (red-white cross) dragon somewhat hard to take seriously;)

Cheers,
Gary
 

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Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Calico_Jack73 said:
... I'd like your view on the Paladin class and the features that make is supposedly "Unplayable".

Thank you so much for your input Gary.
First, many a Paladin PC has been played, and that done successfully generally following the rules for the class as written.

Lawful Good does not equate to stupid or foolish, It means the PC must follow the Law as determined by the deity the Paladin acknowledges, and thus promote Good according to that Law.

As I have pointed out at times, a Paladin might well execute a group of captives after they have converted from their former (Evil) alignment to Lawful Good, for that act saves their sould, prevents them from slipping back into error.

A Paladin will not normally sacrifice himself, fight needlessly, unless it is a situation where honor and duty demand that. Such sacrifice would have to be demonstrably for the betterment of his deity, or else based on anoath the character made prior to the dire situation.

While in general a Paladin can not lie, that does not mean he must say anything, or can not answer evasively or mislead--if that is according to the tenents of his avowed LG deity.

A Paladin played by someone that doen not understand the basis of the Code of Chivalry taken to the extreme and attached to religion is likely unplayable, but that's the fault of the player, not the class.

Yes, I have played a Paladin character, but not for long, as I don't enjoy Lwaful Good characters much--too restrictive for a Chaotic sort of person such as I am :D

Cheers,
Gary
 


Joe123

First Post
Gary,

You said here once before that you believe people who play D&D have above-average intelligence. I’m wondering, what makes you say this?
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
blackshirt5 said:
Mr Gygax,

Why do you think it is that gamers have gotten such a bad rep in the general media as stalkers and freaks?
News media seeks the sensational in order to attract viewers, sell air-time ads, make money. Initial publicity for the D&D game, that pre-1981, was not broad, but several newspapers of good repute, such as the St. Louis Post Dispatch wrote articles about the game that were informative and positive.

The James Dallas Egbert III case was the turning point. Thanks to the publicity-seeking DI brought in, and the following ill-informed news media coverage--sensationalist to the extreme--there was a barrage of inaccurate stories and further biased charges of baseless sort. These in toto brought forth suicide, Satanism, and mind-control as supposed dangers of the game. Add to that the difficulty of the ignorant in understanding the RPG form, and what can one expect? Certainly the mass of people are not motivated to put forth any effort to discover the truth. Coupled with the nature of the people playing RPGs--generally above-average intelligence, given to imnaginative literature, creative and non-conformist, interested in technology such as computers, and often not concerned with social "norms"--that making for an easy target for cheap shots from "reporters" (you know, that group of intellectual giants who talk about "honing in" on something, and "ratchet up" rather than raise; the group that doesn't know that "enormity" isn't synonomus with wonderful or considerabe and think "momentarily" means in a moment)--expressions of ignorance can be expected to come from the news media,

Again, given all that, what can one expect from the general populace? Certainly not an informed and reasonable view of the RPG!

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Joe123 said:
Gary,

You said here once before that you believe people who play D&D have above-average intelligence. I’m wondering, what makes you say this?
Heh!

The fact that the entry bar to playing RPGs is above average intelligence. Consider the amount of reading necessary, the reasoning called for in understanding the game and the play of it. If one begins with an audience whose intellect is necessarily above average, the norm for the participant group will be higher than average.

RPG enthusiasts actually read, often broadly. It is also apparent that the creative level of the RPG audience is wel above the average. demonstrable from the output of writing and game creation coming from it.

Finally, most gamers are college graduates, or going to college and will graduate. Most are highly literate in regards to computers too;)

Cheers,
Gary
 

RFisher

First Post
Gary,

Yet another question. (Haven't you got tired of this yet. :) )

What are your thoughts on ability score checks in OD&D or OAD&D? Calling for a roll <= to an ability score on 1d20 or 3d6 or whatever. (Possibly with modifiers based on difficulty.) Or 3e style: Roll 1d20 + ability score modifier >= difficulty class.

(There's a thread over on Dragonsfoot in which nobody has been able to find an occurrance of such a thing in anything you wrote, and at least one person guesses that you thought they are a bad thing.)
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
RFisher said:
Gary,

Yet another question. (Haven't you got tired of this yet. :) )

What are your thoughts on ability score checks in OD&D or OAD&D? Calling for a roll <= to an ability score on 1d20 or 3d6 or whatever. (Possibly with modifiers based on difficulty.) Or 3e style: Roll 1d20 + ability score modifier >= difficulty class.

(There's a thread over on Dragonsfoot in which nobody has been able to find an occurrance of such a thing in anything you wrote, and at least one person guesses that you thought they are a bad thing.)
Anyone familiar with my latest RPG, the Lejendary Adventure system will know the answer to this immediately. Ability checks are fine, assuming the likelihood of success or failure in the game environment is approximately the same as one would expect in actuality.

As for their use in my A/D&D material, the Thief and Assassin classes used them all the time. Strength was tested thus too, as in opening doors, bending bars,lifting gates.

Mainly, though, rolling to hit is a test of combat ability, right?

Random chance is a very important factor in the RPG, so using logical checks made with dice conforms to that element of the game form.

Cheers,
Gary
 

T. Foster

First Post
Hi Gary,

I've seen you around some of the old-school-friendly sites I more commonly frequent (Dragonsfoot, Rob Kuntz's board), but this is my first contribution here:

In stories of the Greyhawk Campaign (which I love reading, btw), the featured characters are almost exclusively human fighters and magic-users (with occasional clerics, but mostly as henchmen/support-types). Examples include Robilar, Tenser, Terik, Yrag, Mordenkainen, Murlynd, Erac and Erac's Cousin, Otto, Bigby, Gronan of Simmerya, Bombadil, and on and on. Characters of other classes are much less frequently mentioned, and when they are it's usually as an oddity or token (i.e. Terry Kuntz's "Monk with No Name"). The seems surprising to me because in every D&D campaign I've ever played in thieves (especially demi-human multi-classed thieves) and rangers at least have been just as popular as ftrs and m-u's. Were such character-types really not popular in Greyhawk, or is it simply that the best and most memorable stories tend to come from the 'early days' before those character types had been developed, and that in Greyhawk's later years (c. 1975+) they were common after all?

Best,

T. Foster

P.S. I played with you in "Necropolis" at Glathricon (in Evansville, IN) in 1988 and am pretty sure I encountered your infamous 'killer' d20 -- it was white, numbered 0-9 twice, and rolled awfully well (for you, badly for us :( ).

P.P.S. FWIW I'm actually the "one person" mentioned in RFisher's question above who guessed you didn't approve of the universal "roll stat or less on 1d20" stat-check mechanic (since AFAICT that method never appeared in any of your AD&D writing). I didn't mean to suggest that you didn't approve of stat-based rolls at all (the str-based bend bars and open doors rolls certainly prove that's not the case!), merely that I suspected you hadn't much use for the 'one size fits all' universal stat-or-less-on-1d20 mechanic that became much more prevalent once you were no longer at the helm (in the Dragonlance modules and Survival Guides, and eventually in the core 2E rulebooks). My guess is that you prefered a more ad-hoc approach where odds were formulated on the spot based on the specific circumstances of the situation. So, did I guess right? :D
 
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Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
T. Foster said:
Hi Gary,

I've seen you around some of the old-school-friendly sites I more commonly frequent (Dragonsfoot, Rob Kuntz's board), but this is my first contribution here:
Howdy Amigo:)

That reminds me, I need to visit Dragonsfoot and the two main LA game websites tomorrow!

In stories of the Greyhawk Campaign (which I love reading, btw), the featured characters are almost exclusively human fighters and magic-users (with occasional clerics, but mostly as henchmen/support-types). Examples include Robilar, Tenser, Terik, Yrag, Mordenkainen, Murlynd, Erac and Erac's Cousin, Otto, Bigby, Gronan of Simmerya, Bombadil, and on and on. Characters of other classes are much less frequently mentioned, and when they are it's usually as an oddity or token (i.e. Terry Kuntz's "Monk with No Name"). The seems surprising to me because in every D&D campaign I've ever played in thieves (especially demi-human multi-classed thieves) and rangers at least have been just as popular as ftrs and m-u's. Were such character-types really not popular in Greyhawk, or is it simply that the best and most memorable stories tend to come from the 'early days' before those character types had been developed, and that in Greyhawk's later years (c. 1975+) they were common after all?
There were in fact numbers of hobbits/halflings, dwarves, elves, a few half-elves, at least one half-orc, Joe Fischer's Ranger, Tim Kask's high-level Druid, Don Arndt's Paladin, and Mark Ratner's too, etc. I even played a half-orc Cleric/Assassin charavter for a short time in a campaign run by Brian Blume. That said, the most interesting adventures seemed to come from the group you mention, mainly becus=use they were the PCs of the most active members of the early group. After they became a classin 1975, relatively few thieves were played because of their guaranteed short life span if caught stealing from a party with a major PC in it.

That cover it?

P.S. I played with you in "Necropolis" at Glathricon (in Evansville, IN) in 1988 and am pretty sure I encountered your infamous 'killer' d20 -- it was white, numbered 0-9 twice, and rolled awfully well (for you, badly for us :( ).
Heh, and pleased to learn that. It was either my gray or red "killer die," undoubtedly. It has since sent a large number of adventurers to their doom when rolled on behalf of my OD&D game "Old Guard Kobolds." The ninth party of six or more 2nd level characters fell to them at JanCon last month.

Lest some reader think I always seek to kill PCs, rest assured thatit is only at cons, and mainly to prove the point that running away is often a good idea. A second group playing in the original AOD&D dungeons bypassed the kobolds, went down to the third level, slew many a monster in the process, and didn't lost a single member;)

P.P.S. FWIW I'm actually the "one person" mentioned in RFisher's question above who guessed you didn't approve of the universal "roll stat or less on 1d20" stat-check mechanic (since AFAICT that method never appeared in any of your AD&D writing). I didn't mean to suggest that you didn't approve of stat-based rolls at all (the str-based bend bars and open doors rolls certainly prove that's not the case!), merely that I suspected you hadn't much use for the 'one size fits all' universal stat-or-less-on-1d20 mechanic that became much more prevalent once you were no longer at the helm (in the Dragonlance modules and Survival Guides, and eventually in the core 2nd edition rulebooks).
That I don't believe that one size fits all in regards to ability checks is certainly true. That's why I prefaced my earlier post of approval of the concept as I did. The various checks for thieving abilities and assassination are also examples of how I view the concept.

Early in the developmental stage of OD&D I allowed non-mages to use wands, needing to rolll their Intelligence or less on 3d6 to make the device function. I dropped the concept as being incoingruous with the class-base of the game.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Hi Gary!

I was just reading your post in the "where did trolls come from" thread. I was wondering the same thing about hobgoblins. I plan to use them in an upcoming work, and I was researching them. I've read about Robin Goodfellow, but that made me wonder where the idea of them being militaristic came from (Robin isn't much of a soldier, he's more of a prankster, as I'm sure you know… ho, ho, ho!). :D

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/4198/roxbur.html
 


That's not a dumb question. I've been in vociferous arguments with people who insisted his name is pronounced "Guy-Jax," and even "Jy-Jax." I continue to maintain it is "Guy-gax."

Guess we'll finally find out for sure any minute... (anxiously holding my breath...)
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Bloodstone Press said:
Hi Gary!

I was just reading your post in the "where did trolls come from" thread. I was wondering the same thing about hobgoblins. I plan to use them in an upcoming work, and I was researching them. I've read about Robin Goodfellow, but that made me wonder where the idea of them being militaristic came from (Robin isn't much of a soldier, he's more of a prankster, as I'm sure you know… ho, ho, ho!). :D

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/4198/roxbur.html
Salut!

After noting your sig, I have to say that as a 12-year-old "John Bloodstone" stories in pulp zines were very thrilling to me....

I took a good deal of literary license in creating monsters for the D&D game. As I needed a humanoid tougher than a goblin but not as powerful as a gnoll, I simply used "hobgoblin",,,even though its name indicated a smaller sort of goblin. In short, only the name was drawn from folklore, and the rest was made up out of whole cloth;)

Cheers,
Gary

P.S. I forgot to say, as to Robin Goodfellow, Puck it! (And, BTW, we had a Joe Goodfellow in my old D&D group, but he wasn't in the least Puckish...)
 
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Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
talinthas said:
dumb question time, gary. How do you pronounce your last name?
Heh, and my branch of the family has dumbly Amaricanized it to sound like "Guy-gax." The proper Swiss pronunciation sounds like "GEE-gox." When I am around landsmen I introduce myself as a "GEE-gox." :eek: As a matter of fact, some of the family have changed the spelling to "Gigax" or "Gegax" on hopes of having it pronounced as it is in Switzerland.

Years ago when I was visiting a Swiss community here in Wisconsin, New Glarus, an old fellow asked me my surname. When I told him is was "Gee-gox," he smiled and said, "Ach, a Berner, ja."

My father was indeed born in Seeberg in Canton Bern. i've been to Switzerland twice, but sadly never got to the family's home canton, just to Zurich and Basil.

Cheers,
Gary
 
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Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
Bloodstone Press said:
That's not a dumb question. I've been in vociferous arguments with people who insisted his name is pronounced "Guy-Jax," and even "Jy-Jax." I continue to maintain it is "Guy-gax."

Guess we'll finally find out for sure any minute... (anxiously holding my breath...)
LOL!

There's a standing joke amongst my sons and gaming fellows about those who claim, "Jerry Jyjax is a good friend of mine."

Still chuckling,
Gary
 

RFisher

First Post
If I misrepresented your opinion, T.Foster, I apologize. In any case, I could probably have phrased things better. Thief skills and open doors--while not wholly unrelated--don't really qualify as ability checks to me.

Thief skills: Look up base chance on a table by level. Look up modifier on a table by ability score.

Open doors/bend bars/lift gates: Look up chance on a table by ability score.

Ability check: Roll ability score or less on 1d20. (Or roll ability score -4 or less on 1d20. Or roll ability score less on 3d6. Or roll ability score or less on 4d6.)

Now, possibly the tables can be replaced by a calculation. And certainly, the table lookup or calculation can be preformed once and kept on the character record.

But ability checks--and now I realize the distinction to be made--are typically used for winging it. You don't have time to develop a table or calculation and--even if you did--you don't want to take time to use it.

Col_Pladoh said:
That I don't believe that one size fits all in regards to ability checks is certainly true. That's why I prefaced my earlier post of approval of the concept as I did. The various checks for thieving abilities and assassination are also examples of how I view the concept.
One thing that has struck me recently: These days there seems to be a strong feeling that RPGs need a "universal mechanic". A common criticism of OAD&D is that it lacked such. Reading OAD&D & classic Traveller these days, however, it seems to me that they did have a universal mechanic--which as a youngster I missed--though it may not be explicit.

For OAD&D I'd say it was: Figure out what you think the odds are and pick a die roll/target number with those odds.

(Look at the dwarf abilities in the PHB. Gary isn't concerned with what dice you roll, although he gives you suggestions. He's merely concerned about communicating the odds.)

Col_Pladoh said:
Early in the developmental stage of OD&D I allowed non-mages to use wands, needing to rolll their Intelligence or less on 3d6 to make the device function. I dropped the concept as being incoingruous with the class-base of the game.
Interesting.

I guess what I really want to know from Gary is: When winging it while DMing, do you use this sort of direct ability check? Do you use it often? Is there any basic mechanic you fall back on, or do you just guesstimate the odds (informed by the character's ability scores, class, level, & situation) and pick a dice roll & target number to match?

How about in the LA system: Do you usually have players roll directly against their abilities or do you figure the odds informed by their abilities?
 
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S'mon

Legend
Col_Pladoh said:
Salut!

After noting your sig, I have to say that as a 12-year-old "John Bloodstone" stories in pulp zines were very thrilling to me....

I took a good deal of literary license in creating monsters for the D&D game. As I needed a humanoid tougher than a goblin but not as powerful as a gnoll, I simply used "hobgoblin",,,even though its name indicated a smaller sort of goblin. In short, only the name was drawn from folklore, and the rest was made up out of whole cloth;)
& incidentally the big orcs in JRRT's The Hobbit are referred to as 'hobgoblins' (what are called Uruk Hai in LOTR), whereas the small orcs are called 'goblins' (LOTR's snagga orcs). Coincidence? :D
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
RFisher said:
Ability check: Roll ability score or less on 1d20. (Or roll ability score -4 or less on 1d20. Or roll ability score less on 3d6. Or roll ability score or less on 4d6.)
That is system specific, and not applicable to all FRPGs.

[snip]
I guess what I really want to know from Gary is: When winging it while DMing, do you use this sort of direct ability check? Do you use it often? Is there any basic mechanic you fall back on, or do you just guesstimate the odds (informed by the character's ability scores, class, level, & situation) and pick a dice roll & target number to match?
I use what seems logical for the situation, more or less as you set forth, and then have the player roll for the PC, or do it in secret of it's something that should not be known.

How about in the LA system: Do you usually have players roll directly against their abilities or do you figure the odds informed by their abilities?
Heh, as it happens, skill-bundles in the LA game are called "Abilities," have a %score for successful use--with various modifiers; so yes, players roll against the applicable Ability score, or perhaps one of their three Base Rating scores. I calculate the modifiers applicable, if any, and pass on the resulting outcome. Usually, though, the player has to make it clear that the character is actually using an Ability for it to function. Normal senses being a partial exception. One might see, hear, or smell something even when not concentrating, so in such cases there is either no bonus for the check or even a penalty.

Cheers,
Gary
 

Col_Pladoh

Gary Gygax
S'mon said:
& incidentally the big orcs in JRRT's The Hobbit are referred to as 'hobgoblins' (what are called Uruk Hai in LOTR), whereas the small orcs are called 'goblins' (LOTR's snagga orcs). Coincidence? :D
Ho S'mon:)

I didn't know, or at least don't recall, JRRT using the term "hobgoblin" in his novels.

If he too called larger goblins "hobgoblins," I am quite surprised, as the "hob" prefix in folklore indicates a smaller version of something.

As I stated, I needed a name for a mumanoid larger than a goblin, that race having been detailed already, so I bit the bullet and used the namefor a smaller version of a goblin for a larger humanoid race in AD&D. If tolkien did the same for whatever reasons he had, then it is coincidence.

Cheers,
Gary
 

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