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When D&D Campaigns Become Franchises

We've previously discussed how the seeds of a failed Dungeons & Dragons campaign was the inspiration for several video game franchises like Doom and Quake, but there's another D&D campaign that is more popular than both of them combined.

recordoflodosswar.jpg
[h=3]Setting the Record Straight[/h]Documenting a campaign to an audience is now commonplace thanks the abundance of diverse media available to enterprising game masters. But that hasn't always been the case, and for an example of how things can get muddled one needs to look no further than the Dragonlance franchise. James Maliszewski explains how Dragonlance changed the industry :
... it was such a brilliant idea and succeeded so well at its intended goals as an early foray into the creation of a "multimedia" campaign for an RPG. They didn't call it such back in the day, as the term hadn't been invented so far as I know, but that's what it was. Dragonlance wasn't just a collection of adventure modules; it was also a series of fantasy novels -- phenomenally successful ones at that.
It's true that Dragonlance helped launch the transmedia strategy of expressing Dungeons & Dragons in other channels like books and later animation, it wasn't the first and it wasn't actually based on a campaign. Co-creator of Dragonlance Tracy Hickman explains :
While many have assumed that Margaret simply 'wrote down' what happened during our games and that when we had written down enough game sessions had clued it together into a book is far from the truth. Game sessions do not make good stories; their structure is different and a discussion of that will be left for another time. What is true, however, is that the portrayal of these two characters in the game surprised Margaret and I by inspiring us about who those characters really were or needed to be in the books, and therefore shaped the story that followed in fundamental and important ways.
For one of the most successful transmedia franchises based on a campaign, we need to move out of U.S. territory to Japan, where The Record of Lodoss War reigned over fantasy for decades before the arrival of the Lord of the Rings movies.
[h=3]A New War[/h]The D&D craze didn't reach Japan right away, in part because of poor translations of the core rules. When the game was finally translated in the 80s it took off, but there was no easy means of serializing the campaign like there is today. Lewis Packwood explains on Kotaku:
Among the early adopters were a small cadre of friends who would later be known collectively as Group SNE (which stands for ‘Syntax Error’). Under the leadership of Dungeon Master Ryo Mizuno, they created a compelling world of high fantasy populated by elves and magic. The characters were all based on classes from basic DnD: Parn was a fighter, Deedlit was a female elf (who was actually played by a man, Hiroshi Yamamoto), Ghim was a dwarf, Woodchuck was a thief, Etoh was a cleric and Slayn was a magic-user. All of them headed off to fight evil emperors and necromancers, just like in any basic DnD session. The difference was that thousands of people were following their every move.
Podcasts, video recordings, text summaries, and even comics are now part of tabletop gaming culture, but in the 80s when Lodoss War was just coming into its own, this was something new. Instead, their adventures were serialized in a print magazine known as Comptiq.

The "replays" (now sometimes termed "actual plays" or "story hour" on ENWorld), would launch a transmedia franchise that is still popular today. Lodoss War launched its own ruleset, Sword World RPG, and the wide ranging novels and spin-offs have sold over 10 million copies. It launched nine video games and even a Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG). That's not all:
The novels were turned into a seminal 13-episode anime that stood as the benchmark for screen depictions of high fantasy. As Mike Crandol writes at the Anime News Network: “it was not until Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings adaptation that Lodoss War was dethroned as the king of cinematic fantasy, live-action or otherwise. In the animated realm, however, it still holds absolute sway.”
And that brings us to my own campaign.
[h=3]Launching Your Own Franchise[/h]The sister of one of the players in my original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons campaign is the English voice actress for Deedlit in The Record of Lodoss War. That connection proved prescient -- at the time, we didn't know Lodoss War based off of D&D -- and Welstar has followed its own path since then, including two novels and a Multi-User Dungeon, RetroMUD .

I've recently launched the Welstar Grand Unification Project (WGUP) in which all the games I play online or in-person, all the fiction I write, and all the maps and media I create will be set in my own campaign that's over three decades old. The line between fiction and storytelling, role-playing and retelling, have become so blurred that it's much easier to combine the two than ever before.

The truth is that this is nothing special. Thanks to podcasts and Twitch channels, and the most recent incarnation of the Open Game License, any enterprising game master can introduce players to her own campaign without launching a multimedia franchise. It just takes a lot of time, effort, and enthusiasm -- which the role-playing industry has in spades.
 
Last edited:
Michael Tresca

Comments

Redthistle

Explorer
Hmmm. WGUP. I think "Wig Up" might join my lexicon of phrases such as "lock and load", and of course, the original - "Watson, the game's afoot!" as euphemisms for "Chat-time's over, it's time to play."
 

I think an article on D&D's influence on the very first Final Fantasy game would be a good read. The game even goes so far as to use the Vancian spell system, it's that faithful.
 



We've previously discussed how the seeds of a failed Dungeons & Dragons campaign was the inspiration for several video game franchises like Doom and Quake, but there's another D&D campaign that is more popular than both of them combined.

recordoflodosswar.jpg

[h=3]Setting the Record Straight[/h]Documenting a campaign to an audience is now commonplace thanks the abundance of diverse media available to enterprising game masters. But that hasn't always been the case, and for an example of how things can get muddled one needs to look no further than the Dragonlance franchise. James Maliszewski explains how Dragonlance changed the industry :

... it was such a brilliant idea and succeeded so well at its intended goals as an early foray into the creation of a "multimedia" campaign for an RPG. They didn't call it such back in the day, as the term hadn't been invented so far as I know, but that's what it was. Dragonlance wasn't just a collection of adventure modules; it was also a series of fantasy novels -- phenomenally successful ones at that.
It's true that Dragonlance helped launch the transmedia strategy of expressing Dungeons & Dragons in other channels like books and later animation, it wasn't the first and it wasn't actually based on a campaign. Co-creator of Dragonlance Tracy Hickman explains :

While many have assumed that Margaret simply 'wrote down' what happened during our games and that when we had written down enough game sessions had clued it together into a book is far from the truth. Game sessions do not make good stories; their structure is different and a discussion of that will be left for another time. What is true, however, is that the portrayal of these two characters in the game surprised Margaret and I by inspiring us about who those characters really were or needed to be in the books, and therefore shaped the story that followed in fundamental and important ways.
For one of the most successful transmedia franchises based on a campaign, we need to move out of U.S. territory to Japan, where The Record of Lodoss War reigned over fantasy for decades before the arrival of the Lord of the Rings movies.
[h=3]A New War[/h]The D&D craze didn't reach Japan right away, in part because of poor translations of the core rules. When the game was finally translated in the 80s it took off, but there was no easy means of serializing the campaign like there is today. Lewis Packwood explains on Kotaku:

Among the early adopters were a small cadre of friends who would later be known collectively as Group SNE (which stands for ‘Syntax Error’). Under the leadership of Dungeon Master Ryo Mizuno, they created a compelling world of high fantasy populated by elves and magic. The characters were all based on classes from basic DnD: Parn was a fighter, Deedlit was a female elf (who was actually played by a man, Hiroshi Yamamoto), Ghim was a dwarf, Woodchuck was a thief, Etoh was a cleric and Slayn was a magic-user. All of them headed off to fight evil emperors and necromancers, just like in any basic DnD session. The difference was that thousands of people were following their every move.
Podcasts, video recordings, text summaries, and even comics are now part of tabletop gaming culture, but in the 80s when Lodoss War was just coming into its own, this was something new. Instead, their adventures were serialized in a print magazine known as Comptiq.

The "replays" (now sometimes termed "actual plays" or "story hour" on ENWorld), would launch a transmedia franchise that is still popular today. Lodoss War launched its own ruleset, Sword World RPG, and the wide ranging novels and spin-offs have sold over 10 million copies. It launched nine video games and even a Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG). That's not all:

The novels were turned into a seminal 13-episode anime that stood as the benchmark for screen depictions of high fantasy. As Mike Crandol writes at the Anime News Network: “it was not until Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings adaptation that Lodoss War was dethroned as the king of cinematic fantasy, live-action or otherwise. In the animated realm, however, it still holds absolute sway.”
And that brings us to my own campaign.
[h=3]Launching Your Own Franchise[/h]The sister of one of the players in my original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons campaign is the English voice actress for Deedlit in The Record of Lodoss War. That connection proved prescient -- at the time, we didn't know Lodoss War based off of D&D -- and Welstar has followed its own path since then, including two novels and a Multi-User Dungeon, RetroMUD .

I've recently launched the Welstar Grand Unification Project (WGUP) in which all the games I play online or in-person, all the fiction I write, and all the maps and media I create will be set in my own campaign that's over three decades old. The line between fiction and storytelling, role-playing and retelling, have become so blurred that it's much easier to combine the two than ever before.

The truth is that this is nothing special. Thanks to podcasts and Twitch channels, and the most recent incarnation of the Open Game License, any enterprising game master can introduce players to her own campaign without launching a multimedia franchise. It just takes a lot of time, effort, and enthusiasm -- which the role-playing industry has in spades.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

talien

Community Supporter
I don't think you meant to use "paucity" in the first sentence of "setting the record straight", I think you meant to use "abundance". Paucity means scarce and tools to record campaign play are not scarce today.
You're right, thank you for pointing this out, I made the edit!
 

Spookyboots

Villager
I think an article on D&D's influence on the very first Final Fantasy game would be a good read. The game even goes so far as to use the Vancian spell system, it's that faithful.
The connection is very interesting. If I remember correctly the computer games based on D&D made it to Japan before D&D and those games, such as Rogue, where the main inspiration for Final Fantasy. So they're inspired by something inspired by D&D.
 

thewok

First Post
Back in the old Icewind Dale game based on the Baldur's Gate engine, I actually imported pictures of the Lodoss characters and made them my party. Parn was a Human Paladin, Woodchuck was a Human Thief, Slayn was a Human Mage, Ghim was a Dwarf Fighter, Etoh a Human Cleric and I made Deedlit a druid. I didn't know about the Elf class from older editions, but her powers always seemed very druidic in flavor to me.

That was a good party, and a good game. I may have to get the remastered version and do it again.
 

Rygar

Explorer
I'm having a hard time with this article.

1. Record of Lodoss War appears to have launched it's novel series in 1988, the same year that Dragonlance launched its comic book series, and four years after Chronicles was released.
2. Forgotten Realms comics appear to have launched in 1989.
3. Record of Lodoss War appears to have it's first "Manga" in 1991.
4. All of the video games were released between 1988 and 2000 based on Wikipedia, so there hasn't been a video game in 17 years and the last game was on a dead platform.
5. The MMORPG, as near as I can tell, is a free-to-play game commonly described as a stand-alone browser game.
6. Doom is estimated to have sold between 2 and 3 million copies according to Wikipedia, Doom 2 a similar number, Doom 2016 sold 3.6 million copies, and that's before we add in Doom 3 and Quake.

So I'm struggling with the premise that Record of Lodoss War is more popular than Doom and Quake combined given that it hasn't had a video game made in 17 years, and I'm struggling with the assertion that it did anything new since it seems to have been riding the coattails of successful TSR projects like Dungeon (Since it's really just a transcript of a dungeon in a magazine) and Dragonlance.
 

talien

Community Supporter
I'm having a hard time with this article.

1. Record of Lodoss War appears to have launched it's novel series in 1988, the same year that Dragonlance launched its comic book series, and four years after Chronicles was released.
2. Forgotten Realms comics appear to have launched in 1989.
3. Record of Lodoss War appears to have it's first "Manga" in 1991.
4. All of the video games were released between 1988 and 2000 based on Wikipedia, so there hasn't been a video game in 17 years and the last game was on a dead platform.
5. The MMORPG, as near as I can tell, is a free-to-play game commonly described as a stand-alone browser game.
6. Doom is estimated to have sold between 2 and 3 million copies according to Wikipedia, Doom 2 a similar number, Doom 2016 sold 3.6 million copies, and that's before we add in Doom 3 and Quake.

So I'm struggling with the premise that Record of Lodoss War is more popular than Doom and Quake combined given that it hasn't had a video game made in 17 years, and I'm struggling with the assertion that it did anything new since it seems to have been riding the coattails of successful TSR projects like Dungeon (Since it's really just a transcript of a dungeon in a magazine) and Dragonlance.
From a popularity perspective, I was comparing the entire footprint of each franchise. Here's the source on Record of Lodoss War: http://www.crunchyroll.com/anime-ne...-to-get-stage-play-adaptation-in-january-2017

The arc was originally included in the first volume of the novel series published in April 1988. Mizuno revised and released it as The New Edition from Kadokawa Shoten's Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko imprint in October 2013. The series has printed over 10 million copies in Japan, and has been adapted into several anime series.



I fully submit that Record of Lodoss War is derivative, in the same way that any campaign world based off of D&D is derivative -- it's success in spite of it being derivative is what I find particularly noteworthy. The way we finally made the connection between Lodoss and D&D was an anime sketchbook that featured an unmistakable mind flayer (which, we know now, wouldn't pass muster here in the States...and I'm still fuzzy on how it's okay in to have them in Lodoss War).
 

TheSwartz

First Post
I have LOVED The Record of Lodoss War for a very long time! Have all the DVDs to include the Crystania stuff (umm.. not as great...) and Chronicles of the Heroic Knight , etc. I'm a long time lover of various anime and have always wished there was more fantasy D&D'esque anime like it!

If you like any of this at all, then you also must check out Slayers!
 
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chibi graz'zt

First Post
And now live game streams on Twitch are the thing. Who knew that 'watching' people play D&D would be entertainment that sells, (Twitch subscription)? Now with WotC releasing their next storyline via a series of broadcast Twitch games it seems that even people who don't play table-top are coming to the game.

For anyone interested, I just pre-ordered the Lodoss War OVA coming out in a couple of months.
 

Harrincha

First Post
Talking of roleplaying/computer game crossovers, I believe that the Elder Scrolls series of games started as a D&D campaign
 


Marandahir

Crown-Forester
Lodoss is one my favourite franchises of all time. The OVA certainly had better production value, as Jester David said, but that's because it was an OVA rather than a 27-episode tv series.

The TV series is a lot more faithful to the original novels, and the "Fullest" story you can get for Lodoss in English would be to read the translations of the "Lady of Pharis" manga, "The Grey Witch" manga, the "Demon of Flame" manga, then watch the first 8 episodes of the TV series ("Chronicles of Heroic Knights"), read the "Deedlit's Tale" manga, and then finish the TV series. The OVA is sort of a broad-strokes adaptation trying to cram the plot of several books into 13 episodes. It doesn't really work and the story suffers as a result. But the artistry is gorgeous and the music – actually, the music in both – is phenomenal.

There's also the "Rune Soldier Louie" anime and the "Legend of Crystania" anime which both take place as side stories that fit in after the context of the tv-series but are mostly unrelated. "Legend of Crystania" has spoilers for all "Lodoss" stories, however, so definitely consume those first.

Lodoss is a cult classic in the west, but is still hugely popular in Japan. Sword World RPG (which no longer uses the Forceria setting – which includes Lodoss as its core world a la Faerûn in 5e D&D), is perhaps the most popular paper & pencil RPG game in the country. And they still churn out media. There was a remake of "The Grey Witch" manga, with a new artist and new story details – a little bit more faithful to the original novel, for example – that came out from 2015 through 2016. There's still rumours of adaptations of the "New Marmo" series that has never been translated to the west and tells the story of what happens on Lodoss and Marmo after "Chronicles."

The series is phenomenal and any D&D player worth their salt should at least watch the OVA, if not do everything I said above.
 

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