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Author Topic: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?  (Read 4176 times)

ffilz

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #45 on: July 25, 2017, 01:46:32 PM »
Quote from: RunningLaser;978090
God, I spent many summers gaming in all the nooks and crannies of a house, sitting on milk crates or a pile of crap on a back porch.  I don't think it was until my 20's that we gamed on chairs and couches...  in the attic of an old garage:)  I doubt my aging back could handle it, but I miss those days.


I remember gaming in my friend's attic, comfy setup, also his living room. There were a some game sessions in my (parents) attic, one, the GM was largeish and sitting in front of the window with fan. Every time he got up, all the papers on the table blew around (he complained he wasn't THAT fat...). Another time, I laid out a table and filled it with trees, bushes, and monster minis, and the PCs proceeded to clean out "monster island". After tallying up the XP, I felt so bad, I allowed them to gain two levels, still wasting much of the XP... Oh, then there was the time they descended into one of my dungeons and proceeded to fight a statue that was known to have 1000 hit points, turned magic back on the casters, and got a number of attacks commensurate with how fast it was being killed (quite a high level party killer...). The PCs had it well chopped down, but not quite, and were running out of hit points themselves. One player whipped out his wish ring: "I wish everyone was healed up!" I responded "everyone?" The other players groaned. The player with the wish said "yes". The rest of the players said something to the effect of "you idiot, you just healed the statue also!" (casting beneficial magic on the statue of course wouldn't turn on the caster... quite an annoying beast, but the players learned how to tackle it, one time managing to do some 800 points of damage in a single round and dropping it via haste and potion of superheroism - the statue then proceeded to take like 48 attacks back that dropped all the PCs except one NPC).

I also remember playing at a table at my cousin's lake cottage, and various other places. But we did almost always play at a table or in a living room. Well, ok, the original gaming space at MIT was sitting on a carpeted floor with no furniture (maybe one or two chairs), and another lounge where we also played on the floor. I led the way to rooms at another building where I was usually able to claim the room with the huge conference table (partly by showing up at 12:30 for a nominal 1:00 start time...). I've also played in a college lecture hall (putting the battle mat on the desk sized table at the front, with everyone standing around the table during the combat, while sitting in the auditorium seats when a battle wasn't occurring).

So maybe not quite so strange locations, but still quite a variety.

Frank

tenbones

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #46 on: July 25, 2017, 02:03:30 PM »
Quote from: Doc Sammy;978085
So, out of curiosity, were there any particular pieces of fiction (books, movies, TV, etc.)that stood out in terms of influences on your early campaigns?

This question applies to all the old-school gamers here, by the way.

BY FAR the biggest influence on my early campaigns was Michael Moorcock. Elric and Corum in particular (Hawkmoon and Erekose were also pretty massive), *really* pushed the boundaries of my imagination beyond the assumptions of basic D&D in terms of what could be done with a setting. Essentially he blew the doors off. Everything was on the table. Not just in the world of the game - but multiple worlds. Not even the Gods themselves were safe.

Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar books, and R.E. Howard's Conan (and Kull) kept me grounded. Those books showed me the importance of keeping the taste of the PC's own blood in their mouths.

Marv Wolfman and George Perez (on art) - their run on the Avengers, were big influences on my D&D (specifically) games to make sure that every PC had their moment to shine - but because it's an RPG I learned I could only present the opportunity, the player had to make the decision to BE the "hero". Otherwise they would end up being the third-stringer to those willing to step to the plate. This is why the Thor, Ironman and Cap are the shot-callers. Not everyone is up to their standard.

I was influenced by a lot of music too. In the early days the obvious stuff - Rush, Pink Floyd. When the 80's came soon after, Iron Maiden was pretty common. Then I started listening to more non-standard fare - Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno, Vangelis and stuff like that. Music has less of an influence on me these days for gaming (outside of scores of certain composers).
« Last Edit: July 25, 2017, 02:07:12 PM by tenbones »

Gronan of Simmerya

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #47 on: July 25, 2017, 02:42:56 PM »
The 70s?  Hmm.

Well, for starters, 1972 was NOTHING like 1979.

In 1972 "Greyhawk" and "Blackmoor" were odd variants on medieval fantasy skirmish wargaming played by two small groups.  By 1976 TSR split "Strategic Review" into two magazines, "Little Wars" and "The Dragon."  By 1981 D&D was well enough known to be included in "E.T. the Extra Terrestrial," the top-grossing movie of all time in the 80s.
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ffilz

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #48 on: July 25, 2017, 03:09:24 PM »
Quote from: Gronan of Simmerya;978136
The 70s?  Hmm.

Well, for starters, 1972 was NOTHING like 1979.

In 1972 "Greyhawk" and "Blackmoor" were odd variants on medieval fantasy skirmish wargaming played by two small groups.  By 1976 TSR split "Strategic Review" into two magazines, "Little Wars" and "The Dragon."  By 1981 D&D was well enough known to be included in "E.T. the Extra Terrestrial," the top-grossing movie of all time in the 80s.


Yea, I would think there are at least a few phases:

1970-1974 - pre-publication gaming by two small groups
1974-1977 - OD&D pre-Basic D&D
1977-1979 - D&D gains steam with the publication of Basic D&D
1979-1981 - AD&D starts to take over with the publication of the DMG and the hardcover books showing up in mainstream bookstores

One might split 1974-1977 up, the only sense that I was part of that is that I WAS aware of the game before I was exposed via Basic D&D, so there's probably the early word-of-mouth phase and a later phase where the boxed set is available at many hobby stores.

Frank

ffilz

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #49 on: July 25, 2017, 03:12:52 PM »
I should add that by my senior year (1980-1981), I heard non-geeky kids talking about D&D. My geeky self kept quiet and just talked D&D with other geeky kids (one guy in my High School I played with, and one guy who I became friends with because he drove and lived not too far from me, him, I didn't talk D&D with so much as taught him about my adaptation of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy by asking him questions about it...).

Anselyn

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #50 on: July 25, 2017, 03:25:20 PM »
Quote from: estar;978092
As far as film and show Excalibur, Robin of Sherwood, and Hawk the Slayer stand out.  

Yes - definitely those sources.

Remembering that lots of things got thrown in the pot:

For dirty not heroic fantasy: Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Jabberwocky, The Time Bandits

Sci Fi: Dr Who, Blake's Seven, Battlestar Galactica (1978), Hitchhiker's GTTG

General TV that could be called on for how parties work, how to adventure and investigate:  Star Trek, Mission Impossible, The Rockford Files.

That last set might seem strange - but if you're 16 and your DM (aged 16) is running a sandbox Gamma World game about breaking into a secure facility - where have you all got ideas about to do these things. I remember my GW character ( a mutated spider monkey with a prehensile tail sometimes accompanied by a water-soluble rhino with two arms as well the requisite number of legs) spending a lot of time crawling around in ventilator shafts!

jhkim

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #51 on: July 25, 2017, 04:10:56 PM »
Quote from: ffilz;978144
I should add that by my senior year (1980-1981), I heard non-geeky kids talking about D&D. My geeky self kept quiet and just talked D&D with other geeky kids (one guy in my High School I played with, and one guy who I became friends with because he drove and lived not too far from me, him, I didn't talk D&D with so much as taught him about my adaptation of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy by asking him questions about it...).
I was only 10 years old in 1980, but my older sisters (who were 15 and 17) tried it around that time with their boyfriends - which I thought was definitely a sign of being less geeky. I think around 1980 was around the peak of D&D's popularity. That was around when the D&D cartoon was pitched and approved, and Mazes and Monsters written, and kids playing D&D appeared in movies like E.T. That time was probably the closest that D&D came to the true mainstream. RPGs definitely declined in popularity during the 1980s, overshadowed by video games and other new developments.

Madprofessor

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #52 on: July 25, 2017, 04:34:13 PM »
For me, there was a kind of innocence to Fantasy gaming in the 70s and early 80s primarily because there was more imaginative space then there were inspirational sources to fill it with.  Today, people are bombarded with fantasy stuff from video games to Game of Thrones so that modern kids coming into the hobby are already jaded and have a head full of assumptions about what fantasy is or could be.  "Back in the day," we had to seek it out, and it was never enough.  

I grew up on a farm in rural Colorado.  We had 3 channels of TV and a tiny community library.  The D&D rules really didn't make much sense 'cause they were horribly written and organized, but we understood that the rules were there to serve us, and not the other way around.  So we used what we liked, ignored what we didn't, and made shit up on the fly.  We came to the game with an open mind, mostly because there was so little to fill it with.  There was no one to tell you how to play or what the the limits or possibilities of your imagination might be.  We created worlds, characters, monsters, treasures, dungeons, rules, and stories.  We blended Roleplaying with wargaming.  We stole ideas from anywhere, and we had to make shit up to fill in the gaps.

Sometimes I wax nostalgic about it, but you can't go backwards.  You can't unfill your mind.  You can't remove the influences. I don't know if this can make sense to a young guy like you or not, but knowledge has a way of  burdening creativity and the joy of discovery is largely the privilege of innocence and inexperience.  I think BV kind of has the right of it, the best you can do get back to that joy is to just be there in the moment, when you play, suspending judgement and disbelief.  

As for influences, I have to agree with Tenbones - Moorcock was huge - way bigger than Tolkien. It was mind blowing.  Looking back at it, the writing seems amateurish, but at the time it was like a mind-altering acid trip. I read Howard, but didn't learn to appreciate him until I was bit older.  

Harryhousen was a massive influence on me, The Golden Voyage of Sinbad, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, Jason and the Argonauts. Boorman's Excalibur was huge.  Some Saturday morning cartoons like the Herculoids and Thundar loom large as well.

Music had a huge influence on my gaming, especially Rush, Iron Maiden, and Black Sabbath. Caress of Steel is still the sound of D&D to my ears.  In my circles, everyone who played RPGs listened to these bands, and most of us played guitar or bass and tried to emulate them.

My biggest influence though was history - I devoured books on medieval and ancient history and mythology.  It was the one type of source that seemed limitless, and stories of Alexander, or maps of Charlemagne's empire inspired the imagination as much as any fantasy novel.
« Last Edit: July 25, 2017, 04:36:24 PM by Madprofessor »

Larsdangly

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #53 on: July 25, 2017, 04:49:44 PM »
Some differences that seem significant in retrospect and seem to have been general to players of all or most systems:

1) The expectation was that the DM created most or all of the setting; you really were not DMing if you didn't have a notebook full of maps, npcs, etc. that you created yourself from scratch
2) Players were quite pro-active; in my experience players tended to drive most of the significant decisions about what the party did, where they went, what their goals were, etc.
3) Perhaps a corollary of the first two points - campaigns were generally 'sandbox' style
4) PC's died. A lot. It was almost the expected outcome across most systems
5) There was a high tolerance for gonzo material, on the parts of both the players and DM
6) Everyone had house rules, and no one made a big deal about them. I don't recall debating the finer points of rules, tables, etc. with anyone.

Doc Sammy

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #54 on: July 25, 2017, 05:24:07 PM »
I like what I'm reading so far, I must admit.
Sic Semper Tyrannis

Gronan of Simmerya

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #55 on: July 25, 2017, 06:02:48 PM »
In the early 70s we came out of wargaming.

Wargaming, especially miniatures wargaming, was a very "do it yourself" hobby.  You had to find and buy rules, find and buy miniatures, and assemble and paint miniatures.

And rules were very bare bones; how to move, how to fire missiles, how to melee, how to check morale.

The first time I played CHAINMAIL I was lost.  I had no idea what a halberd was, or a haubergeon, or a Turcopole, or a Landsknect.  And that information was totally not in the rules.

Nor did the rules say a thing about how to win battles.

So in the intervening week I dragged my fat little ass down to the Lake Geneva Public Library and looked up "medieval warfare" in the card catalog and started reading.

ALL the rules were like that.  A set of miniatures wargame rules had no intention of teaching you about the period or about tactics; you had to do the heavy lifting yourself to find that sort of shit out.  That was the "background radiation" in 1970 when Dave Arneson put together a "medieval Braunstein" game.
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Madprofessor

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #56 on: July 25, 2017, 06:55:04 PM »
Quote from: Gronan of Simmerya;978187
In the early 70s we came out of wargaming.

Wargaming, especially miniatures wargaming, was a very "do it yourself" hobby.  You had to find and buy rules, find and buy miniatures, and assemble and paint miniatures.

And rules were very bare bones; how to move, how to fire missiles, how to melee, how to check morale.

The first time I played CHAINMAIL I was lost.  I had no idea what a halberd was, or a haubergeon, or a Turcopole, or a Landsknect.  And that information was totally not in the rules.

Nor did the rules say a thing about how to win battles.

So in the intervening week I dragged my fat little ass down to the Lake Geneva Public Library and looked up "medieval warfare" in the card catalog and started reading.

ALL the rules were like that.  A set of miniatures wargame rules had no intention of teaching you about the period or about tactics; you had to do the heavy lifting yourself to find that sort of shit out.  That was the "background radiation" in 1970 when Dave Arneson put together a "medieval Braunstein" game.

Yeah, I didn't have your illustrious company of hobby founders, but my experience was very similar.  RPGing came out of wargaming.  My first "campaign" came out of re-creating the conquests of Alexander using AH's Alexander the Great board game (which Gygax wrote I believe).  The game was just one battle (Gaugumela), but we made new counters, made a map of the Persian Empire and Eastern Med. some rules for marching and gold and said "you play Darius, and I'll play Alex," and then someone said "we should do this with WRG" and we all went to painting. Point is, we were creatively adapting wargames when we discovered D&D, and as often as not, we made wargames out of D&D in the early days.

ffilz

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #57 on: July 25, 2017, 06:57:39 PM »
Quote from: Gronan of Simmerya;978187
In the early 70s we came out of wargaming.

Wargaming, especially miniatures wargaming, was a very "do it yourself" hobby.  You had to find and buy rules, find and buy miniatures, and assemble and paint miniatures.

And rules were very bare bones; how to move, how to fire missiles, how to melee, how to check morale.

The first time I played CHAINMAIL I was lost.  I had no idea what a halberd was, or a haubergeon, or a Turcopole, or a Landsknect.  And that information was totally not in the rules.

Nor did the rules say a thing about how to win battles.

So in the intervening week I dragged my fat little ass down to the Lake Geneva Public Library and looked up "medieval warfare" in the card catalog and started reading.

ALL the rules were like that.  A set of miniatures wargame rules had no intention of teaching you about the period or about tactics; you had to do the heavy lifting yourself to find that sort of shit out.  That was the "background radiation" in 1970 when Dave Arneson put together a "medieval Braunstein" game.

This was still true for me in 1977. I got involved in wargaming through the purchase of Tactics II at a yard sale when I was maybe 8. By age 10 I had discovered Little Wars in our town library, and by age 13 and a move found some of Donald Featherstone's books in the library (and started hacking one of the rules sets because it didn't cover sloped armor). Between those ages I found Wargamer's Digest. By 1977 I had purchased Tractics. But D&D initially looked to abstract for me (despite the mention of miniatures on the cover) until I saw the potential in play. And then I was lost...

Well, in theory I still war game, though I haven't done so in years.

But clearly others were drawn to D&D not directly out of war gaming.

Frank

Gronan of Simmerya

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #58 on: July 25, 2017, 07:14:28 PM »
Well, yeah.  But my point (and I do have one) is that miniatures gaming was not a "complete ready to go" hobby.  Much like model railroading, the assumption was that you were going to be doing a lot of work.
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ffilz

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #59 on: July 25, 2017, 07:34:24 PM »
Quote from: Gronan of Simmerya;978202
Well, yeah.  But my point (and I do have one) is that miniatures gaming was not a "complete ready to go" hobby.  Much like model railroading, the assumption was that you were going to be doing a lot of work.

Yea, fair enough. Well, you could play Little Wars without too much effort just by buying some Britains figures and cannon... If you didn't need painted stuff, Tractics COULD be played with Rocco vehicles, Airfix men, and some ready to go model railroad scenery. But yea, even with those absolute minimum, you had to collect the stuff, invent a scenario, find folks to play it, and go. Certainly more effort than an Avalon Hill game or Risk or Stratego.4

Oh, and I should mention that I was a model railroader before I became a wargamer (so the movement from board games to miniatures games made a lot of sense, partly I just expanded the range of Airfix miniatures I purchased...).

Frank