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Pen & Paper Roleplaying Central => Pen and Paper Roleplaying Games (RPGs) Discussion => Topic started by: Doc Sammy on July 24, 2017, 08:28:58 AM

Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Doc Sammy on July 24, 2017, 08:28:58 AM
So, I know plenty of others have probably discussed this to death already but I am curious to know what the early days of tabletop role-playing games were like for those who actually played back then. I'm specifically wanting to focus on the era from 1974-1981, and while D&D is my primary interest, any other early RPG's from the time (such as Tunnels & Trolls, Traveler, or The Fantasy Trip) are also welcome for discussion.

I know the history of OD&D and its development, but I'm curious to know what it was like on the street level, what players and tabletop gaming culture were like during the first generation of RPG's, common house rules for D&D that were prevalent at the time, differences between regional gaming scenes (I'd like to think that gaming was a lot more localized and regional back in the 1970's, given the lack of internet and the presumably smaller size of RPG's fandom at the time), works of fiction that were often influential at various gaming groups (I know of the Appendix N material and the influences of Middle-Earth and the Hyborian Age), and the like.

I've always wondered what people's different experiences with early RPG's were back then, especially D&D, but again any game of that era is welcome. I was born in 1993 and I started gaming with D&D 3.5 back in 2006, so I obviously missed the boat. My dad played D&D back in the mid-to-late 1980's and early 1990's, during the heyday of AD&D 1e and 2e. He's a good source for gaming in the 80's, but I'm looking for details on the generation of RPG gamers that came before him.

I'm wanting to learn more about this for multiple reasons. One, I like learning about the history of RPG's. Two, I'm writing a fanfic in the near future about OD&D and the early days of gaming and I want to get some semblance of historical accuracy in regards to the early days of RPG's. The cast would be fictional (most likely my favorite anime characters though I may include a few OC's), of course, and there would be a story within a story. The external plot is about the OOC events with the gamers and the internal plot is about the events that happen to the player characters in-game.

I'm sure Gronan and several others can lend their two cents on this thread and I fully welcome it.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: AsenRG on July 24, 2017, 09:06:27 AM
I wasn't born back then, for most of the period. But I heard from another guy who wasn't born back then that the d4 first came into existence as impromptu defence against roaming triceratopses:D!

And now I'm going to step back and leave the stage so the people who actually were there could describe what it was like;).
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Piratecat on July 24, 2017, 09:23:27 AM
I first saw D&D in '78, and I still kick myself that I didn't join that group. I started playing for real in '81 or '82. So many house rules, SO MANY HOUSE RULES. That's because a lot of the AD&D rules were misinterpreted, needlessly complicated subsystems (grappling, pummeling and overbearing, anyone?) or a little finicky at the table. No one I knew gave a damn; we had almost as much fun arguing rules as we did playing the game, and that's seriously saying something.

I bought every module I could afford, but I don't think we played a single one of them. We tended to make our own adventures.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Doc Sammy on July 24, 2017, 09:48:45 AM
Quote from: Piratecat;977771
I first saw D&D in '78, and I still kick myself that I didn't join that group. I started playing for real in '81 or '82. So many house rules, SO MANY HOUSE RULES. That's because a lot of the AD&D rules were misinterpreted, needlessly complicated subsystems (grappling, pummeling and overbearing, anyone?) or a little finicky at the table. No one I knew gave a damn; we had almost as much fun arguing rules as we did playing the game, and that's seriously saying something.

I bought every module I could afford, but I don't think we played a single one of them. We tended to make our own adventures.

I prefer creating my own adventures as opposed to modules as well. I figured house rules were a big part of early D&D, both OD&D and AD&D 1e, given the vague nature of OD&D and the complicated nature of AD&D.

Any particular house rules stand out?
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: ffilz on July 24, 2017, 09:49:03 AM
I started playing in Fall of 1977 with Holmes Basic (having actually seen OD&D some time earlier, but deciding to buy Tractics instead...).

My early play was with a small circle of friends, making up dungeons, and running various modules (I remember playing in Dark Tower and running Steading of the Hill Giants). I had a huge diversion to Chivalry and Sorcery, but eventually came back to D&D when I got the Players Handbook for Christmas.

In the summer of 1979 I started gaming at MIT (having been dragged to their gaming convention by one of my players). That introduced me to the "multi-verse" playing, where people would bring characters from one game to another. That was a cool time, with lots of new stuff. My gaming became more and more dependent on modules, though I rejected those that were railroads (the Slaver series especially).

I also purchased many of the RPGs I saw on the shelf (sadly NOT Empire of the Petal Throne) and we played many of them (Boot Hill, Top Secret, Metamorphosis Alpha, Gamma World, Rune Quest, Traveller, Tunnels & Trolls, Bunnies & Burrows, and more).

Frank
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Doc Sammy on July 24, 2017, 09:57:27 AM
Quote from: ffilz;977774
I started playing in Fall of 1977 with Holmes Basic (having actually seen OD&D some time earlier, but deciding to buy Tractics instead...).

My early play was with a small circle of friends, making up dungeons, and running various modules (I remember playing in Dark Tower and running Steading of the Hill Giants). I had a huge diversion to Chivalry and Sorcery, but eventually came back to D&D when I got the Players Handbook for Christmas.

In the summer of 1979 I started gaming at MIT (having been dragged to their gaming convention by one of my players). That introduced me to the "multi-verse" playing, where people would bring characters from one game to another. That was a cool time, with lots of new stuff. My gaming became more and more dependent on modules, though I rejected those that were railroads (the Slaver series especially).

I also purchased many of the RPGs I saw on the shelf (sadly NOT Empire of the Petal Throne) and we played many of them (Boot Hill, Top Secret, Metamorphosis Alpha, Gamma World, Rune Quest, Traveller, Tunnels & Trolls, Bunnies & Burrows, and more).

Frank

Sounds fun, and I'm wondering what the culture of RPG gamers was like at the time. Do you have any input on the matter?
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Hermes Serpent on July 24, 2017, 10:15:04 AM
I started playing at Christmas 1974. A friend had brought back from Cambridge a copy of the three book original set. He'd met some Americans at his first term at University who had introduced him to the game and we, all miniatures gamers made our own copies and jumped in with both feet. We played a lot of games that holiday and continued after he'd returned to Cambridge. Later on we acquired our own copy of the rules and I expanded my gaming to several associated fandoms (Tolkien, scifi/fantasy etc).

Later on we played a lot of Traveller but TFT and T&T etc did not grab us like D&D and Traveller did. Later on my brother (who had emigrated) got involved with Ed and Wilf in Alberta and sent me a copy of C&S' Red Book and we played a lot of that in the later 70's/early 80's along with Call of Cthulhu and Runequest.

Mostly it was spending weekends playing non-stop from Friday evening through to Sunday evening, taking it in turns to run parties through various underground lairs until the place was cleaned out or everyone was dead. We played with multiple characters, having parties that were often 15-20 characters and hirelings.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Doc Sammy on July 24, 2017, 10:23:06 AM
Quote from: Hermes Serpent;977776
I started playing at Christmas 1974. A friend had brought back from Cambridge a copy of the three book original set. He'd met some Americans at his first term at University who had introduced him to the game and we, all miniatures gamers made our own copies and jumped in with both feet. We played a lot of games that holiday and continued after he'd returned to Cambridge. Later on we acquired our own copy of the rules and I expanded my gaming to several associated fandoms (Tolkien, scifi/fantasy etc).

Later on we played a lot of Traveller but TFT and T&T etc did not grab us like D&D and Traveller did. Later on my brother (who had emigrated) got involved with Ed and Wilf in Alberta and sent me a copy of C&S' Red Book and we played a lot of that in the later 70's/early 80's along with Call of Cthulhu and Runequest.

Mostly it was spending weekends playing non-stop from Friday evening through to Sunday evening, taking it in turns to run parties through various underground lairs until the place was cleaned out or everyone was dead. We played with multiple characters, having parties that were often 15-20 characters and hirelings.

Nice. If I had a dedicated group, I'd love to play a game non-stop throughout the weekend.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: DavetheLost on July 24, 2017, 11:22:22 AM
We played a lot of D&D and Traveller, mostly at lunch period in high school or long saturday marathons.  We were in a rural area with no gaming shops, so we were limited to the core rules which we got at the local university bookstore.

Lots of house rules and creative rules interpretations. Druids were not allowed to use metal in our D&D games. For the most part "house rules" were just the way we played the game, not a concious change we made.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: estar on July 24, 2017, 11:27:20 AM
In Rural Northwest PA, among Junior High and High School kids from 1977 to 1984, some random thoughts.



That what I got for now
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: tenbones on July 24, 2017, 11:27:21 AM
I started in 1978. I'm 99% sure it was Holmes Basic. No dice. We had the cardboard chits, though I remember seeing the advertisement to get dice - I confess, I had zero idea what these dice would look like or how they would replace the chits. This was at a friends birthday party, his cousin showed up from the mid-west (somewhere) and had the game. It was like a lightning bolt for me. I got my first set of dice about two-months later and I felt like I had the keys to the universe. I suppose in retrospect I did.

In those days your brick-and-mortar stores that sold RPG's were like hallowed shrines. In LA, there were very few stores that specialized in RPG's. Sure you could, at some point, pick up D&D at TRU, but everyone that played would go to their local gaming store (mine happened to be split between model-trains, wargames on one side, and RPG's on the other) and it was like you were part of a secret-society. At least that's kinda what it felt like when I was a teen. The whole Satanic-Panic thing that hit later, really kinda amped that up. The hobby was closer. Sure people bickered, but it was nothing like now - mostly it was over "house-rules". I remember going several times a week just to sit and talk with other GM's about their house-rules, to see what they were doing vs. what I was doing, in case I could learn something new. (gee - nothing has changed. I just do it virtually now).

I do remember looking at the Runequest and Traveller folks with some suspicion. Why weren't they playing D&D?!?!?!? Later I got pulled into Star Frontiers and Gamma-World, Talislanta (my first non-TSR game!), and Palladium fantasy. But D&D/AD&D was always the core.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Piratecat on July 24, 2017, 11:29:22 AM
I never met anyone who played anything OTHER than D&D for almost six years. My first Gen Con was a revelation to me.

I'm trying to remember our house rules. They included ignoring level limits and ability score limits for women, ignoring AC/to hit modifiers by weapon, renaming the Grand Master of Flowers to something that sounded tougher to our 13-year-old ears, ignoring grappling and pummeling, extending death at -10 hp (sometimes!), and more.

One thing of interest: it's amazing how big a role Dragon Magazine played in shaping our play and in introducing new rules. The letters column there was usually the only place you could hear from gamers not in your own group.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: finarvyn on July 24, 2017, 11:31:26 AM
I started in August, '75. My friend and I had been playing wargames for a year or two before OD&D, and my friend had a sand table in his garage for miniatures battles using Chainmail rules, so the transition to OD&D seemed like a smooth one. At first it was just the two of us, where one would run and the other play and then we would switch roles. Eventually we added a third DM so that we could have games all weekend, and then more players started to add in as they heard us talking about the game at school. Back then, everyone in our group read Conan, Fafhrd & Grey Mouser, and Elric so most of our campaign ideas followed plotlines similar to the style from those sources. A couple of us were into Barsoom, so I ran a lot of do-gooder characters and my buddy's campaign often followed a "save the princess" theme for me. Back then, folks just said what kind stories they liked and we made up scenarios to do those styles, rather than buying campaigns which might or might not interest any individual player.

We spent a lot of time early on just exploring deeper and deeper dungeons, then created a town so that characters could buy stuff in between adventures, then a small region of wilderness so that characters could travel to and from the dungeon. It all grew up in a slow and piecemeal manner where we would realize we needed something (a castle, a city, a dungeon) and just design it on the spot. As we built our campaign worlds to take up more and more area, we added in more kingdoms and fought occasional battles between baronies using Chainmail rules. Often we would run more than one character at a time, perhaps one "baron" and one "adventurer" so that we could play politics and spies at the same time. What was interesting was that those characters weren't always on the same side, so your baron would be trying to accomplish something while your adventurer was trying to stop it. Most of the time, however, there was an evil king or an evil wizard trying to rule the world so all of us would band together to try to defeat the bad guys.

I was a charter subscriber to the Judges Guild subscription so I got the CSIO, Thunderhold, and other "modules" which made appearances in my campaign. The CSIO was interesting because it had cool stuff you could stumble upon without me having to plan it in advance. The CSIO was used in almost every campaign I ran in the 1970's and 1980's, only sometimes it was called Greyhawk, sometimes Lankhmar, or Aquilonia, or whatever city was needed at the time. I stole a lot of place-names from literature (still do, actually) to help my prep because I would already have a clue what might be found there. Back in those days everyone that I knew made their own campaign maps and nobody played in a store-bought campaign, with the exception of the JG materials that I used in my game.

For me, the "early days" were all about fun and flexibility. We didn't get really hung up in rules debates (not until AD&D came out, that is, when our "rules lawyers" began to take over) and we rewarded player creativity. Some of our players didn't know the rules very well, had never read the rulebook, and had no interest in reading the rulebook; they just played and enjoyed the action. I won't say that it was a "role versus roll" thing because we didn't think in those terms back then, but characters with similar stats might seem very different because of the way they were played. A fighting man who was a noble might play very different from a fighting man who was a sergeant. We sort of got "into" persona and that guided us a lot more than the game bonuses. Sometimes we would set up a "family tree" and play through a character, son of a character, grand-son of a character, and so on.

I won't say that this style of play was "better" then what I see at game stores now, but it was different.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Zalman on July 24, 2017, 11:39:06 AM
In the 70's we didn't really have a "gaming culture" yet, down in South Florida. There were no "game stores" nearby that we knew of. Our OD&D booklets filtered down from an older brother in college in Gainesville (who didn't himself even play).

Campaign hopping was common, along with arguments over whether or not a particular campaign-hopping character acquired their magic items fairly. In fact, "campaigns" were something that came a few years in for us, until then it was only the megadungeon, where every session began and ended.

We wrote all our own megadungeons. They were immense, detailed descriptions pencilled onto graph paper (because normal lined paper was not narrow enough!) alongside dungeon maps whose walls were invariably one pencil-line thick, doors locked, and any sized room could contain any sized monster, locked in an airless cell forever. We each had thick volumes of such dungeon levels, and vied to produce the deepest, most extensive underground realms.

We carefully painted the numbers onto our dice with Liquid Paper, ogled the cover of Eldritch Wizardry, and played for entire weekends at a time. Games often became a contest of who could stay awake the longest. We ate sandwiches. We listened to RUSH.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Zevious Zoquis on July 24, 2017, 11:58:17 AM
I was born in '66 and was introduced to D&D around 78 or 79 I suppose.  This was in Winnipeg which back then was basically a backwater city (had to go to Minneapolis to find cool records I wanted, lol) but there actually was a fairly vibrant RPG crowd for some reason.  It was a very different world though without the net and there was really a sort of mysterious quality to the hobby and I can sort of understand why many parents viewed it with some apprehension as from the outside it must have seemed strange and maybe a little "cultish." A friend of a friend of mine had the 1E AD&D books and he DM'd a few sessions.  I loved it immediately!  As others have mentioned, hex wargaming was a real thing at the time - there were tons of them from Avalon Hill and other companies.  Generally D&D was pretty connected to that and my school had a Wargaming Club where both rpgs and hex strategy games were played.  You'd see other kids walking around with their AD&D books occasionally.  However after those initial AD&D sessions I never actually got to play rpgs much at all.  But I bought a ton of the stuff!  I spent a lot of my free time reading the books and drawing dungeons and so forth.  I really can't recall how I decided what to buy as I didn't have many friends who were into it like I was - I assume I must have read about stuff in Dragon...or just bought what looked interesting on the shelf.  I had most of the big names - AD&D, Traveller, Boot Hill, Gangbusters, Top Secret, Star Frontiers, Call of Cthulhu, Chill - and lots of modules and splat books.  I guess I saved up allowance money and what not to afford it all because I don't recall getting it as gifts.  It's impossible to overstate though how different things were pre internet.  When you were into something that was a little out of the mainstream it could be a bit lonely...I can remember feeling sort of embarrassed to walk into the shop (they were always more general hobby shops that had smallish areas for rpg stuff) and look at rpg stuff back then, but also it was sort of magical to scan the shelves and see all the books and stuff you'd never heard of anywhere.  I can remember thinking the MERP books always looked so awesome but they were very expensive and I didn't really know anything about the system so I never took the plunge.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Doc Sammy on July 24, 2017, 12:05:34 PM
Wow, a lot of great information is to be had in this thread. I like what I'm reading and I find this stuff to be fascinating, interesting, and useful for my upcoming story.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: ffilz on July 24, 2017, 12:11:40 PM
I'll add a bit more... (I also should clarify that in 1977 I was a Freshman in high school).

One thing that was really cool about gaming at MIT was mentorship from older players. I was invited to join the club after running a D&D game at that convention where my friend had recruited 16 players for me. a couple of the D&D regulars from the club were so impressed they invited me to join. I was also mentored my Glenn Blacow (who wrote one of the first articles on different play styles -Aspects of Adventure Gaming (http://www.darkshire.net/jhkim/rpg/theory/models/blacow.html) (that's an edited version that appeared in Different Worlds, it was first published in The Wild Hunt and I suspect Alarums & Excursions).

That brings me to another aspect of gamer culture in the 70s, the APA zines. I became a subscriber and contributor to The Wild Hunt, and started attending collating parties (and then playing with the older gamers that participated in that scene, Sundays at MIT as opposed to the regular Saturday gaming).

As to game stores, Hobby Bunker in Malden is the descendant of my FLGS Excalibur Hobbies. There was also The Compleat Strategist in Boston, and The Games People Play in Cambridge (also both still existing, though looks like the Compleat Strategist has moved). The toy/hobby store I first purchased Tractics from may or may not be the ancestor of The Learning Express in Bedford MA (in the same location, but I don't know if there's any connection). Like others, I was also into board games and miniatures gaming, though those were quickly set mostly aside for D&D. The owner of Excalibur Hobbies was also somewhat of a mentor and he hooked me up with Glenn Blacow (actually, before I started gaming at MIT, even though I would later game with Glenn a lot at MIT).

The ebb and flow of players from game to game kept things fresh and lively, even if sometimes it was frustrating that everyone wanted to play in another game (i did manage to land a pretty regular gaming group).

There were also cool things like running my game while the older players were perusing the brand new DMG that I think one of the players received in advance of them showing up at the stores having been a play tester, and realizing that the DMG might have an answer to a rules question... I also remember switching to the AD&D combat tables when they were published in The Dragon (and The White Dwarf - which actually had a better layout for photocopying).

I'm happy to try and answer specific questions, but that WAS 40 years ago...

Frank
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: jhkim on July 24, 2017, 01:25:04 PM
Personally, I was born in 1970 - so I was in pre-school and elementary school during the period - so I can't give a lot of personal details in terms of wider scene. It was clear to me that the 1970s was in many senses the peak time for D&D - when it exploded onto the market and had enormous growth, to the point that it made a significant splash in popular culture. I knew that a lot of the big kids tried it around that time. I had little idea how the rules worked at first, but played pretend and tried to read and understand them.

There is a good ethnographic book about the RPG scene researched in the late 1970s, and published in 1983, called "Shared Worlds" by Gary Alan Fine.

https://www.amazon.com/Shared-Fantasy-Playing-Social-Worlds/dp/0226249441
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: WillInNewHaven on July 24, 2017, 01:27:59 PM
I played the first time after the monthly meeting of FRED (The New Haven Science Fiction and Fantasy Club) Halloween night, 1979. Jon Leyland was a medievalist grad student at Yale and very involved in the SCA. I played weekly at his place after that first session. He ran different rules in different parts of his campaign world and we mostly didn't know the rules. You said what you were trying to do, rolled a D20 and Jon told you whether you had succeeded. He wrote his own adventures and had a large following of players. We spent a great deal of time talking in character and the game was all house rules, so that was what I was used to. When I encountered others who played differently, I was surprised.
A few months later, I got an incomplete copy (it must have been incomplete; the rules covered so little) of the OD&D rules and my friend Simon and I worked out how to play after bridge games at the bridge club. We made lots of house rules for those games, generally one of us played multiple characters and the other GMd. By the way, that is the only gaming group I was ever in with no women in it, because it was just the two of us. It didn't take long for a few other players to learn the game and join us, mostly from the SF club.
I got AD&D when it came out but made very few changes in the games I ran. Simon went to total AD&D. We played in one another's games and the rest of the crowd played in both games and the players were happy with both. Characters moved back and forth between the games.
Simon ran some modules, although the adventures he designed himself were brilliant. I ran one module, "Keep on the Borderlands," although I bought them and read them and mined them for ideas. We both read and used parts of "The Arduin Grimoire" and other Arduin material. A young fellow I met ran RuneQuest (his nickname became RQ) and I enjoyed playing it. I would have converted my campaign to (heavily modified) RuneQuest if I had not written my own system by then.
Everything after that is not quite "the old days" that were asked for. Simon and I still play together, although we have to use SKYPE these days.

-----------------
https://sites.google.com/site/grreference/
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: estar on July 24, 2017, 02:26:24 PM
I just want to note that everything you see in game stores was present back when I was growing up. It manifested differently due to the fact that there no organized play. For example the optimized builds you see with D&D 3.X and Pathfinder were present with AD&D except the focused was on magic items and people went for optimized "load outs".

Over reliance on the rules as written, editions wars, and all that was in full flower in my neck of the woods. What has changed that there that it is organized and advertised so people who like that stuff now have a place to go to. And the since the session are held not at Joe's House but in the game store itself or conventions it becomes highly visible.

In my first year of college I went to my first convention. It was actually more  of a AD&D "fight club" event where you were handed a packet of character creation house rules made up a 7th to 8th level character and fought in a round robin tournament. Everything that people complain about organized play was in full flower at this event. I wasn't bothered by it because I recognized it from the days of campaign hopping from my hometown. (Although they were just so many of them there.).

As for the tournament itself I won it :-) Earning for myself a very nicely painted paladin miniature which I still have. When I got there I didn't know what to expect. When the rules were explained to me, I pointed out you know that the AD&D druid is totally broken for this kind of thing. The organizer dismissed me "No we got it covered."

No they didn't. As my druid proceeded to wipe the field. The key thing about the druid is his ability to shape shift. Not so much the forms you can transformed into but the fact you get healed while doing it. When you pile it on the top of the druid's spell list, second best set of hit dice, reasonable melee ability, etc it makes for a character that is totally broken for one on one AD&D combat when both characters have the same "budget" for magic items. The only major weakness is armor which can fixed by acquiring Bracers of Defense.

My observation is that when there is a "Golden Age" of roleplaying for an area is because there is a pre-existing group of people that enables it. Because of their attitudes towards gaming and ability to effectively mentor new players it makes for a fun and exciting time to game. From reading Hawk & Moor, and Playing at the World the biggest take away for me that Minnepolis and Lake Geneva was such a time in the late 60s and early 70s. I personally been through enough "booms" and busts to see that if you want something like that you have to do what it takes to do your part in making it happen. That it doesn't come free and something that has to have a little work put into it to make happen.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: tenbones on July 24, 2017, 02:59:36 PM
I think geography and respective local culture has a LOT to do with this. I make ZERO pretense that my experience in Los Angeles circa 1978 was exactly like what Estar (or anyone else) went through. But LA was pretty far from the epicenter of Lake Geneva, but it had the benefit of population density, so even in the nascent era of gaming (relatively) - in LA it wasn't too hard to find or create new players.


I remember thinking that a lot of the older war-gamers only "dabbled" in D&D as an oddity to their more arcane pursuits. Their arguments about rules in their respective games sounded a *lot* like the bickering we'd have about rules interpretation in D&D and AD&D - "You can't cast Levitation Disc under your feet to allow you to fly up, just because it says it rises to your waist!".

The "golden era" for me was when AD&D took hold of me, I never looked back. I don't think I'd ever run a strictly OSR-ruleset (pre-AD&D style) but I'd surely play one if someone else did.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Just Another Snake Cult on July 24, 2017, 04:11:01 PM
Quote from: tenbones;977856
I think geography and respective local culture has a LOT to do with this.

YES. Before the Internet,everything (Music, movies, games) was very regional. Games would take off in one area and utterly flop and be unknown in another.

This is early 80's, rather than 70's (Sorry) but in my rural neck of the Midwest, RuneQuest was completely unknown, and SPI DragonQuest was the "D&D alternative"  for gamers who wanted a system that was "More realistic". I would see ads and articles in Dragon Magazine about Metamorphosis Alpha and Gamma World and I thought they looked really cool, but I never once saw them for sale at any store or con and never even met anyone who owned or played them until the 90's.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Zevious Zoquis on July 24, 2017, 04:40:16 PM
Oh yeah Gamma World was another one I had.  I seem to recall it being pretty popular in my area...it was readily available anyway.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Steven Mitchell on July 24, 2017, 05:13:54 PM
I wasn't gaming until 1981, but it's funny reading these posts how much some of my experiences map to it.  Part of that was that we were a mostly isolated group with little money that had a tenuous connection to the older scene from the 70's.  Mainly, the (slightly) older gamers from the 70's in our area were trying a wider variety of things and would sometimes pass off the older games they weren't currently using to us to experiment with.  But we had these fragments, very little help or advice, and mainly had to puzzle it out on our own.  So we ended up making up our own dungeons and then campaigns, mixing systems, and so on.  I think our benefactors had the attitude:  "We had to do this the hard way on our own.  You should too."  And it wasn't a bad way to learn.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: tenbones on July 24, 2017, 05:53:34 PM
Another interesting phenomenon that I have no idea if anyone else experienced...

It was a "thing" not just for my group, but for many other groups I loosely associated with to try and convert *everything* from other RPG's they happened to be into, into D&D. I distinctly remember the moment "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks" landed* and it became in our minds, tacit approval (remember - TSR was the Papal Church) in our misanthropic heads that St. Gary wanted us to start putting in Torque-Grenades, Healing Cannisters, and Black-Ray guns right alongside our Holy Avengers, Defenders, etc.

I remember some of those early campaigns started to look and play *eerily* like proto-Rifts. There was this thing where I'd be sharing my conversion rules from entirely different games into the D&D/AD&D ruleset, which mutated the mechanics of those games dramatically. Did anyone else do this? Or was it just a local thing for me and the nutjob-kids in SoCal?

*I also remember when each module released from TSR, along with Dragon Magazine - the excitement and buzz around the store, it was like a much-anticipated movie just released! I remember as a young punkass kid thinking - "Yeah... someday I'll get published in Dragon." and all my friends laughing at me. hahahahaha ahh! the good ol' days.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Anselyn on July 24, 2017, 06:04:02 PM
At some point late in 1977 I was invited to play a neat new game at a school friend's house with some of his friends.  I'm not sure he named the game but told me how in their last session they had been fighting orcs called Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious. Overall, I was intrigued, attended and was hooked. I remember little about that first session apart from not knowing how to read the dice and that we were swallowed when a tunnel became a throat for the dungeon.  I don't remember if I rolled up a character or was just given one to play. There were certainly no tricky decision to make or careers to plan as an obstacle to start playing.

My first purchase was the Games Workshop version of Holmes Basic - although I remember being told to wait for the forthcoming book (PHB) rather than spend money on it. But - it gave me something to pore over and immerse myself in. The most dangerous monster was the purple worm. I note than neither then or later did we ever really encounter dragons despite it being D&D.

I'm not sure how my friends had come across D&D but they were involved in wargaming. We all lived in Southampton (England) and one of them had done some figure painting for Don Featherstone. See Peterson, Playing at the World for the influence on the hobby of Tony Bath and Don Featherstone via wargaming. So - I assume they had seen the wargaming to chainmail transition.   Equally, at school in the year(s) before I ever heard of D&D people played a game where one person had a maze drawn on a piece of graph paper and a friend then tried to navigate around the maze to escape it by describing their actions without ever seeing the map. I don't know if that was some odd chinese whispers mutation of the idea of D&D or just a parallel evolution of part of its makeup.

We added some extra players with time and in 1978 we played Gamma World which was fun and had some interesting idea - like the chart mini-game on how to work out the function of found artefacts.  Mostly we played D&D and the details of new classes in the AD&D PHB was exciting but we were without to-hit charts until they were included in White Dwarf 13 (June/July 1979).

Southampton was lucky to have the Minifigs [1] shop and so we could get some books from there. I later borrowed a bike to cycle down there from school at lunch time to get a DMG before they sold out of their limited number of copies. The important thing to get was a copy of White Dwarf - as that had reviews of new games, adverts for shops and things available by mail order. So, I bought a space based ship assault wargame (think start of Star Wars) out of interest that way.

My big change in gaming came on 27 August 1979 when I bought Traveller.  I was on holiday with my family in Wales and they agreed to take me to a games shop in Cardiff, which I knew was there care of an advert in White Dwarf.  I bought Traveller and was reading it, coping with the glare of the sun on its white white pages when we heard on someone else's radio that Lord Mountbatten had been assassinated, which is why I can pinpoint the date.  We then largely transferred over to playing Traveller until I went to university (1983) - where D&D was what the club was playing so I reverted to that lowest common denominator until I was fortunate enough to be asked to try a new game The Call of Cthulhu.

I don't really remember any house rules but we did have discussions - and sometimes heated arguments - on how to correctly interpret the rules which were not always models of clarity. So - more rulings than house rules. We did grab new monsters and even classes from White Dwarf.  A friend wrote new careers for Traveller including memorably CI5 from The Professionals and a weapon for Gamma World from 2000AD. They were not things that I remember being problematic.

Hope this is helpful and/or interesting for others.

[1]  http://www.miniaturefigurines.co.uk/About.aspx
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Just Another Snake Cult on July 24, 2017, 06:12:19 PM
Great thread! I love reading this stuff.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: ffilz on July 24, 2017, 06:23:37 PM
Quote from: tenbones;977905
Another interesting phenomenon that I have no idea if anyone else experienced...

It was a "thing" not just for my group, but for many other groups I loosely associated with to try and convert *everything* from other RPG's they happened to be into, into D&D. I distinctly remember the moment "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks" landed* and it became in our minds, tacit approval (remember - TSR was the Papal Church) in our misanthropic heads that St. Gary wanted us to start putting in Torque-Grenades, Healing Cannisters, and Black-Ray guns right alongside our Holy Avengers, Defenders, etc.

I remember some of those early campaigns started to look and play *eerily* like proto-Rifts. There was this thing where I'd be sharing my conversion rules from entirely different games into the D&D/AD&D ruleset, which mutated the mechanics of those games dramatically. Did anyone else do this? Or was it just a local thing for me and the nutjob-kids in SoCal?

*I also remember when each module released from TSR, along with Dragon Magazine - the excitement and buzz around the store, it was like a much-anticipated movie just released! I remember as a young punkass kid thinking - "Yeah... someday I'll get published in Dragon." and all my friends laughing at me. hahahahaha ahh! the good ol' days.

Oh, we definitely did some of that conversion stuff, maybe not as much as you did, but at least some. The conversion notes in the back of the DMG were an inspiration. I do remember a treasure of some Gama World weapons (in fact, I still have an index card that has the Magic Shop inventory showing some of those after the players sold a bunch to the Magic Shop in exchange for some other goodies). And yea, the appearance of a new module or Dragon issue was always exciting.

Frank
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Anselyn on July 24, 2017, 07:02:17 PM
At some point late in 1977 I was invited to play a neat new game at a school friend's house with some of his friends.  I'm not sure he named the game but told me how in their last session they had been fighting orcs called Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious. Overall, I was intrigued, attended and was hooked. I remember little about that first session apart from not knowing how to read the dice and that we were swallowed when a tunnel became a throat for the dungeon.  I don't remember if I rolled up a character or was just given one to play. There were certainly no tricky decision to make or careers to plan as an obstacle to start playing.

My first purchase was the Games Workshop version of Holmes Basic - although I remember being told to wait for the forthcoming book (PHB) rather than spend money on it. But - it gave me something to pore over and immerse myself in. The most dangerous monster was the purple worm. I note than neither then or later did we ever really encounter dragons despite it being D&D.

I'm not sure how my friends had come across D&D but they were involved in wargaming. We all lived in Southampton (England) and one of them had done some figure painting for Don Featherstone. See Peterson, Playing at the World for the influence on the hobby of Tony Bath and Don Featherstone via wargaming. So - I assume they had seen the wargaming to chainmail transition.   Equally, at school in the year(s) before I ever heard of D&D people played a game where one person had a maze drawn on a piece of graph paper and a friend then tried to navigate around the maze to escape it by describing their actions without ever seeing the map. I don't know if that was some odd chinese whispers mutation of the idea of D&D or just a parallel evolution of part of its makeup.

We added some extra players with time and in 1978 we played Gamma World which was fun and had some interesting idea - like the chart mini-game on how to work out the function of found artefacts.  Mostly we played D&D and the details of new classes in the AD&D PHB was exciting but we were without to-hit charts until they were included in White Dwarf 13 (June/July 1979).

Southampton was lucky to have the Minifigs [1] shop and so we could get some books from there. I later borrowed a bike to cycle down there from school at lunch time to get a DMG before they sold out of their limited number of copies. The important thing to get was a copy of White Dwarf - as that had reviews of new games, adverts for shops and things available by mail order. So, I bought a space based ship assault wargame (think start of Star Wars) out of interest that way.

My big change in gaming came on 27 August 1979 when I bought Traveller.  I was on holiday with my family in Wales and they agreed to take me to a games shop in Cardiff, which I knew was there care of an advert in White Dwarf.  I bought Traveller and was reading it, coping with the glare of the sun on its white white pages when we heard on someone else's radio that Lord Mountbatten had been assassinated, which is why I can pinpoint the date.  We then largely transferred over to playing Traveller until I went to university (1983) - where D&D was what the club was playing so I reverted to that lowest common denominator until I was fortunate enough to be asked to try a new game The Call of Cthulhu.

I don't really remember any house rules but we did have discussions - and sometimes heated arguments - on how to correctly interpret the rules which were not always models of clarity. So - more rulings than house rules. We did grab new monsters and even classes from White Dwarf.  A friend wrote new careers for Traveller including memorably CI5 from The Professionals and a weapon for Gamma World from 2000AD. They were not things that I remember being problematic.

Hope this is helpful and/or interesting for others.

[1]  http://www.miniaturefigurines.co.uk/About.aspx
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Anselyn on July 24, 2017, 07:21:55 PM
At some point late in 1977 I was invited to play a neat new game at a school friend's house with some of his friends.  I'm not sure he named the game but told me how in their last session they had been fighting orcs called Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious. Overall, I was intrigued, attended and was hooked. I remember little about that first session apart from not knowing how to read the dice and that we were swallowed when a tunnel became a throat for the dungeon.  I don't remember if I rolled up a character or was just given one to play. There were certainly no tricky decision to make or careers to plan as an obstacle to start playing.

My first purchase was the Games Workshop version of Holmes Basic - although I remember being told to wait for the forthcoming book (PHB) rather than spend money on it. But - it gave me something to pore over and immerse myself in. The most dangerous monster was the purple worm. I note than neither then or later did we ever really encounter dragons despite it being D&D.

I'm not sure how my friends had come across D&D but they were involved in wargaming. We all lived in Southampton (England) and one of them had done some figure painting for Don Featherstone. See Peterson, Playing at the World for the influence on the hobby of Tony Bath and Don Featherstone via wargaming. So - I assume they had seen the wargaming to chainmail transition.   Equally, at school in the year(s) before I ever heard of D&D people played a game where one person had a maze drawn on a piece of graph paper and a friend then tried to navigate around the maze to escape it by describing their actions without ever seeing the map. I don't know if that was some odd chinese whispers mutation of the idea of D&D or just a parallel evolution of part of its makeup.

We added some extra players with time and in 1978 we played Gamma World which was fun and had some interesting idea - like the chart mini-game on how to work out the function of found artefacts.  Mostly we played D&D and the details of new classes in the AD&D PHB was exciting but we were without to-hit charts until they were included in White Dwarf 13 (June/July 1979).

Southampton was lucky to have the Minifigs [1] shop and so we could get some books from there. I later borrowed a bike to cycle down there from school at lunch time to get a DMG before they sold out of their limited number of copies. The important thing to get was a copy of White Dwarf - as that had reviews of new games, adverts for shops and things available by mail order. So, I bought a space based ship assault wargame (think start of Star Wars) out of interest that way.

My big change in gaming came on 27 August 1979 when I bought Traveller.  I was on holiday with my family in Wales and they agreed to take me to a games shop in Cardiff, which I knew was there care of an advert in White Dwarf.  I bought Traveller and was reading it, coping with the glare of the sun on its white white pages when we heard on someone else's radio that Lord Mountbatten had been assassinated, which is why I can pinpoint the date.  We then largely transferred over to playing Traveller until I went to university (1983) - where D&D was what the club was playing so I reverted to that lowest common denominator until I was fortunate enough to be asked to try a new game The Call of Cthulhu.

I don't really remember any house rules but we did have discussions - and sometimes heated arguments - on how to correctly interpret the rules which were not always models of clarity. So - more rulings than house rules. We did grab new monsters and even classes from White Dwarf.  A friend wrote new careers for Traveller including memorably CI5 from The Professionals and a weapon for Gamma World from 2000AD. They were not things that I remember being problematic.

Hope this is helpful and/or interesting for others.

[1]  http://www.miniaturefigurines.co.uk/About.aspx
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Voros on July 24, 2017, 09:05:38 PM
The Grognard Files podcast (https://armchairadventurerblog.com/) would probably be of great interest as it captures the era of late 70s/early 80s UK gaming very well and with a refreshing sense of humour to boot.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Doc Sammy on July 24, 2017, 09:09:17 PM
Quote from: Voros;977944
The Grognard Files podcast (https://armchairadventurerblog.com/) would probably be of great interest as it captures the era of late 70s/early 80s UK gaming very well and with a refreshing sense of humour to boot.

I will definitely check it out. Thanks.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Black Vulmea on July 24, 2017, 09:45:25 PM
Quote from: Doc Sammy;977763
What were the early days of RPG's like?

Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream. It is not dying.

It is not dying.

Lay down all thoughts - surrender to the void. It is shining - it is shining!
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Dumarest on July 24, 2017, 09:48:47 PM
Quote from: Black Vulmea;977958
Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream. It is not dying.

It is not dying.

Lay down all thoughts - surrender to the void. It is shining - it is shining!


That you may see the meaning of within?
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Black Vulmea on July 24, 2017, 10:05:53 PM
Quote from: Dumarest;977959
That you may see the meaning of within?
It is being.

It is being.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Dumarest on July 24, 2017, 10:11:47 PM
Quote from: Black Vulmea;977965
It is being.

It is being.


Love is all and love is everyone.

It is knowing.

It is knowing.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: GameDaddy on July 24, 2017, 11:19:39 PM
Pretty sure I have written about this on this forum once or twice already...

Started playing wargames in 1972. mostly with the 1/72 scale Airfix and Caesar minis. Was an army brat, and found the minis in a German toy store in Frankfurt. Had a great collection of WWII minis by the spring of 1974 when I moved to South Carolina. There my Dad made friends with a guy who was in Army Intelligence, and he wargame heavily using the old SPI and Avalon Hill board wargames, and he got my Dad to play, but my Dad didn't really like playing. I watched, and I liked playing though, so he gave me several wargames, I remember SPI's Korea, and Huertgen Forest, and Aa couple of the ancients Quad games. For my Birthday in 1974, my Dad got me a copy of Panzer Leader. WIth the open random scenario design built-in for replayability, that was the game that got me hooked on wargames. I could recreate any WWII European land battle on a regiimental or brigade scale, using just that game, and spent hours playing with my Dad's friend. When I moved to Colorado in February of 1977 I had a pretty good selection of more than a dozen wargames, along with my 1/72 collection.

I was in junior High School at the time, and met some new friends that also wargamed. And I remember that Squad leader had just been released, and I had mail ordered a copy, and called my friends over to play. Turns out one of my middle school friends had a neighbor in college, by the name of Doug who wargamed too, and he was back from CSU ROTC on Holiday and looking to play some games. He had bought a D&D 74 brown box at Origins in the summer of 76, and right after Christmas had showed up wanting to play with us, because none of his college friiends were around, so we played D&D for the first time, and I died alot. I really liked wargames, but this was just as good!!!

So I started saving up to get my own books. By May of 77, I had a Holmes Bluebox, and a copy of the Judges Guild Ready Ref Sheets, and was running games for my middle school friends. We mixed it up a lot. One weekend playing D&D, another playing Squad Leader, Panzerleader, or Alexander the Great, or Submarine, or Bastogne, or Wooden Ships & Iron Men. As the 70's turned into the 80's we met more gamers, and started playing using minis, like 1/285 Tractics, I still had my 1/72 collection but no one but me and a couple of my  High School friends ran games using those. Mostly we would find a place outdoors to play, but I had a huge basement with shag carpets and a HO model railroad, and played WWII games on the railroad table often. By 78-79 we were playing Boot Hill and Gamma World,and I had picked up Traveller in the winter of 77, I remember making new subsectors when it was snowing outside and really enjoying snow days from school so I could work on my Traveller game all day long.

In 79 I went to my first gaming convention. Ghengis Con I in Denver, and we (being me and my high school gaming group) mostly played in State Wargame championship tournaments. We also bought RPG books, and brought them back with us. In 1980 RPGs really took off in Colorado. Greg Stafford was at Ghengis Con, and he had just published a new edition of Runequest, which I tried at the show, and didn't like, because I wanted to play a human, and everyone else wanted to play intelligent critters. While we had four hundred or so players in 1979, there were over a thousand gamers that showed there in 1980. I started trying other RPGs besides D&D. Arduin, The Fantasy Trip, which I liked alot, Tunnels and Trolls, which never caught on with me, Warlock, the Caltech D&D variant which I liked very much, and continue to like even now.

I still played wargames, However played D&D or Gamma World or Traveller, or a mashuip of these three games just about every week. By the time I had graduated from high school and joined the military/entered college, I had a wargame & RPG collection that was worth much more than my car.

It was all pretty relaxed and we had lots of fun. I didn't really get on the AD&D train, finding D&D was quite sufficient for everything I wanted to do as a GM, although I did play AD&D and rolled up advanced characters when my friends GM'ed AD&D in the late 70's and early 80's. I used the monsters out of the AD&D Monster manual for my whitebox D&D games, and used random generation tables from the back of the AD&D DMG, to help me make a better D&D game, but never fully adopted AD&D as my primary RPG game. It was all mostly interchangeable, well until 1980 anyway.

In 1980 newly founded RPGA would not let me run D&D games at Ghenghis Con and insisted I run AD&D games. I ran D&D anyway, the way I wanted, but wasn't listed in the prereg book, and was very unhappy about that.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Spinachcat on July 25, 2017, 01:54:59 AM
Summer 1978, California Bay Area

You gotta remember cable was rare. Not just no internet. There was UHF stations which were these whackass local stations showing old TV shows and old movies. Some these stations were awesome, most were wank. VHS was barely a thing. Atari and arcades were just becoming a thing. Malls (in the modern sense) were kinda a new thing. Movies had re-releases. I saw Star Wars each summer from 77 to 79 in the theater, bunch of other films too. Kids went outside and each other's houses via foot or bike. None of this play date set up by parents shit.

So not only were there far fewer media options, but there was far more freedom for kids to be out of their parents' sight. So we gathered in odd places to play pretend elf. We often played in libraries, pizza places, tree houses, tool sheds, picnic tables in parks. One of my friends had a flat roof so we gamed up there.

And it was common to have girls in the group in middle school. Not in high school though - very much gender segregated by comparison.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Anselyn on July 25, 2017, 03:27:38 AM
Quote from: Doc Sammy;977804
Wow, a lot of great information is to be had in this thread. I like what I'm reading and I find this stuff to be fascinating, interesting, and useful for my upcoming story.


It's probably also worth reading The Elfish Gene.  It's about a roleplayer growing up in the UK in the 70s but is insightful into 70s RPG and 70s culture. It really gets a lot of the feel and details right -  but is rather layered with a rejection of the person the author was at that point as part of the pitch of the book.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Elfish-Gene-Dungeons-Dragons-Growing/dp/1447260910
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Omega on July 25, 2017, 04:41:34 AM
My first experiences were with O or H D&D. It was pretty bog standard. I was the group mapper and we explored around. I really didnt understand much of it at all at the time but was fun and then Gamma World and BX came out later I got them and things moved on from there.

Id say overall gameplay and games havent really changed all that much. What you see today youd see way back. Just not so stringently. It was relegated to letters and coventions and according to TSR staff I talked to what was shown in Dragon was really mild compared to the totally nuts stuff theyd get. Old school? No such thing as what people are doing today they were doing back then too. Storytelling, worldbuilding, intrigues, romances, epic battles, generational, you name it someones likely done it.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: tenbones on July 25, 2017, 11:11:09 AM
Quote from: Spinachcat;977998
Summer 1978, California Bay Area

You gotta remember cable was rare. Not just no internet. There was UHF stations which were these whackass local stations showing old TV shows and old movies. Some these stations were awesome, most were wank. VHS was barely a thing. Atari and arcades were just becoming a thing. Malls (in the modern sense) were kinda a new thing. Movies had re-releases. I saw Star Wars each summer from 77 to 79 in the theater, bunch of other films too. Kids went outside and each other's houses via foot or bike. None of this play date set up by parents shit.

So not only were there far fewer media options, but there was far more freedom for kids to be out of their parents' sight. So we gathered in odd places to play pretend elf. We often played in libraries, pizza places, tree houses, tool sheds, picnic tables in parks. One of my friends had a flat roof so we gamed up there.

And it was common to have girls in the group in middle school. Not in high school though - very much gender segregated by comparison.

Damn this is spot on. My first campaign I ever played in, my DM was a Vietnamese girl named Hang Vo. She taught me all the basics, she barely spoke English, but she and her brother *loved* D&D. And when I set my own game up, half my players were girls (some I'm still in touch with to this day). I didn't notice the lack of girls in gaming, again at least in LA, until I got into high-school.

But yeah, being cooped in bizarre places, up away from parents, gaming definitely filled a lot of void that is currently filled up with other distractions for most people. It lended itself to other experiences by circumstance of that isolation away from prying eyes... ahem. But those are other stories (all of which are indelibly tied to the act of gaming for me).

Edit: This is why Stranger Things strikes so many chords with a large population of gamers that grew up in that era. I was older than those kids, but their experiences were not too different than mine. Aside from fighting extradimensional monsters. Mine were just hood-rats.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Doc Sammy on July 25, 2017, 12:13:21 PM
Quote from: tenbones;978077
Damn this is spot on. My first campaign I ever played in, my DM was a Vietnamese girl named Hang Vo. She taught me all the basics, she barely spoke English, but she and her brother *loved* D&D. And when I set my own game up, half my players were girls (some I'm still in touch with to this day). I didn't notice the lack of girls in gaming, again at least in LA, until I got into high-school.

But yeah, being cooped in bizarre places, up away from parents, gaming definitely filled a lot of void that is currently filled up with other distractions for most people. It lended itself to other experiences by circumstance of that isolation away from prying eyes... ahem. But those are other stories (all of which are indelibly tied to the act of gaming for me).

Edit: This is why Stranger Things strikes so many chords with a large population of gamers that grew up in that era. I was older than those kids, but their experiences were not too different than mine. Aside from fighting extradimensional monsters. Mine were just hood-rats.

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.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: RunningLaser on July 25, 2017, 12:45:55 PM
Quote from: Spinachcat;977998
Kids went outside and each other's houses via foot or bike. None of this play date set up by parents shit.

So not only were there far fewer media options, but there was far more freedom for kids to be out of their parents' sight. So we gathered in odd places to play pretend elf. We often played in libraries, pizza places, tree houses, tool sheds, picnic tables in parks. One of my friends had a flat roof so we gamed up there.

And it was common to have girls in the group in middle school. Not in high school though - very much gender segregated by comparison.


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.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: estar on July 25, 2017, 01:00:33 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.

As far as film and show Excalibur, Robin of Sherwood, and Hawk the Slayer stand out.  For fiction for my age group it was the era of post Shannara so the range of fantasy fiction was expanding every quarter. Not just Tolkienesque knock off but everything including the classics like Conan, Le Guin, Moorcock and Leiber. Of the more recent entries the Jhereg series stood out and the Thieves World series.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Zevious Zoquis on July 25, 2017, 01:38:19 PM
For me it was largely about Conan as far as influences in fiction.  I couldn't get enough of those 70s Lancer collections with the Frazetta covers.  And from that the Conan comics and Savage Sword.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: ffilz 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
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: tenbones 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).
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Gronan of Simmerya 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.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: ffilz 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
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: ffilz 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...).
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Anselyn 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!
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: jhkim 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.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Madprofessor 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.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Larsdangly 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.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Doc Sammy on July 25, 2017, 05:24:07 PM
I like what I'm reading so far, I must admit.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Gronan of Simmerya 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.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Madprofessor 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.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: ffilz 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
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Gronan of Simmerya 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.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: ffilz 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
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Madprofessor on July 25, 2017, 08:20:06 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.

 
Right. One of my earlier points was that D&D was much the same in my experience. It was not a complete ready to go hobby - not like today's 400 page glossy rulebooks with web-support.  Sure, you didn't have to paint hundreds of figures and model terrain (though some of us did), but ruleswise there was a lot that wasn't explained, and it was assumed that you had enough brains, not to figure it out, but to make something out of it.  That's what we did with wargaming, and it was natural to do the same with D&D.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: GameDaddy on July 25, 2017, 09:12:26 PM
Quote from: Spinachcat;977998
Summer 1978, California Bay Area

You gotta remember cable was rare. Not just no internet. There was UHF stations which were these whackass local stations showing old TV shows and old movies. Some these stations were awesome, most were wank. VHS was barely a thing. Atari and arcades were just becoming a thing. Malls (in the modern sense) were kinda a new thing. Movies had re-releases. I saw Star Wars each summer from 77 to 79 in the theater, bunch of other films too. Kids went outside and each other's houses via foot or bike. None of this play date set up by parents shit.

So not only were there far fewer media options, but there was far more freedom for kids to be out of their parents' sight. So we gathered in odd places to play pretend elf. We often played in libraries, pizza places, tree houses, tool sheds, picnic tables in parks. One of my friends had a flat roof so we gamed up there.

And it was common to have girls in the group in middle school. Not in high school though - very much gender segregated by comparison.

Really? I had a group of young ladies in my High School game, including my girlfriend. and she made her own game worlds too... Games full of Bards, and Wizards, and lots of characters with shoulder length hair, just like many of the guys sitting at the table playing  One of the guys I wargamed with had graduated college and was working as an engineer for Digital Equipment Corporation, DEC in Colorado Springs, Me (16-17), Him (28-29), as well as is wife (26-27), We all played an SPI sci-fi game called Outreach several times, and later played D&D. He took me to DEC where we played Star Trek on the mainframe. One of the first multi-player networked computer games ever made. It was the Basic version of Start Trek with the 8x8 grid, and the quadrants, and the Klingons, only you could play as Federation, Romulan, or Klingon, and they did the midnight shift backing up other mainframes across the country, when they weren't busy doing that, the DEC engineers were sitting around coding up more stuff into the Star Trek Multiplayer game. This was in 1980-81. This game was awesome. There were boarding parties, with ship-to-ship melee. You could beam down to planets and go adventuring, mine for dilithium crystals, recruit new crew from Starfleet bases. Upgrade weapons, torpedoes, and shields, and fly a variety of ships, although the Federation Constitution Class Cruisers were favored.

The TV stations were wacked, but we got HBO in 1979, and TNT on cable, out of Atlanta, and life was never the same after that. The Mall was brand new in 1977. the biggest mall in town opened like 30 days before Star Wars debuted, and no one could believe that a 12plex movie theater was sold out, every night, for eight weeks straight with lines stretching a quarter mile, all the way around the outside of the mall. every. single. night.

The bike thing, yeah! Just like that Cable series last year Strangers Things. I was on my bike until I was 16, and had a backpack I carried my game stuff in. As soon as I was 16 though, I got used car, and drove. Because DRIVERS LICENSE!"

But we still gamed, and driving made it much easier to get together for games, plus we met lots of new gamers from across town. ...and started going to gaming conventions out of town, like up in Denver, and Fort Collins and such.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: WillInNewHaven on July 25, 2017, 09:22:04 PM
About the wargaming angle: Before I ever played an RPG I knew several people who used the War Games Research Group rules for ancient and medieval miniatures. It could be a frustrating hobby because it was expensive to buy an army suitable for a battle and painting the figures was a pain. And the worst part was that you many of the players would not fight a "what if" battle. If your army had never met his army on the field of battle, you could not meet on a table. When we'd get together at a club, people who had multiple armies often brought one that had no one to fight and my 9th Century Danish army would have no one to fight. So, there would be one big table occupied with two battling armies and a few players and onlookers and the rest of us would play Diplomacy.

Then four of us formed a "what if battles" club within a club and we had a lot of fun. Two of those guys eventually got into RPG too. My biggest triumph was conquering Japan, by arming and training the Ainu and with the help of allied Daimyo.

-----------
https://sites.google.com/site/grreference/
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: GameDaddy on July 25, 2017, 09:35:48 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.

Books by Andre Norton i.e. Starman 2441 A.D, Witch World, Starguard, Quagkeep. Books by Tanith Lee, Night's Master, Death's Master, Quest of the White Witch, Personal Darkness. Tolkien, of course, in a big way. Books by Michael Moorcock, The Ice Princess, Elric of Melnibone, The Eternal Champion. Fritz Lieber, Robert E. Howard (Only after watching the Conan Movie though. Thieve's World, Raymond Fiests Magician series, Sword of Shannara, Stephen R. Donaldson's Lord Fouls Bane, the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Janissaries series by Jerry E. Pournelle, The Del Rey books by John Norman, Raiders of Gor, Captive of Gor, Assasin of Gor, etc. Also pulp fantasy books from the 40's and 50's by Gardner Fox (very explicit).

Movies... Conan of course. Krull, The Dark Crystal, The Land that Time Forgot (Michael Moorcock wrote this), Wizards by Ralph Bakshi, also The Hobbit (animated with John Huston as Gandalf) and the animated Lord of the Rings as well. Who could forget Heavy Metal??? Flash Gordon, Excalibur, Dragonslayer, The Beastmaster, The Last Unicorn, Sinbad & the Eye of the Tiger, and finally, Frank Frazetta's animated Masterpiece of Awesomeness Fire & Ice.  Also liked Ladyhawke, but I think that was like from 1984.


ummm. music. Kiss, Boston, ELO, Nazareth, Heavy Metal Soundtrack, Black Sabbath with Ozzy Osbourne, AC/DC, The Eagles, U2, Fleetwood Mac (especially in 1977), Blue Oyster Cult, Deep Purple, all these immediately bring to mind those awesome first days of discovering there were whole groups of people who liked playing the games I liked to play. uhhh Rich Girl by Hall & Oates, Southern Nights by Glen Campbell, Aerosmith, Steely Dan, Styx, Rush, The Knack, Riot - Swords & Tequila. In the early 80's it was Pink Floyd, Gary Numan, Billy Thorpe, Devo, Human League, The Clash, Journey, Def Leppard. Metallica, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, The Scorpions, Whitesnake, Van Halen, Motley Crue, QueensRyche.

Two other older movies that I really liked was Spartacus with Charleton Heston especially the scenes with entire Legions of live extras in battle, and Kirk Douglas in The Vikings. Both of those rocked.

This was my Appendix N for D&D games.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Dumarest on July 25, 2017, 09:49:20 PM
Q: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?

A: I don't know; my first RPG was probably 1981.

Isn't Gronan supposed to be writing a book about this stuff? Or is that an empty threat?
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Opaopajr on July 25, 2017, 10:38:59 PM
These are not matching my fevered dreamings of Hendrix conjuring solos over a flaming guitar while Donna Summer "Feels Love," and the world is a blizzard of cocaine & glitter.
;)
You're all doing a disservice to the 70s. :p Embellish!
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: GameDaddy on July 25, 2017, 10:45:20 PM
Quote from: Opaopajr;978255
These are not matching my fevered dreamings of Hendrix conjuring solos over a flaming guitar while Donna Summer "Feels Love," and the world is a blizzard of cocaine & glitter.
;)
You're all doing a disservice to the 70s. :p Embellish!

Mmm... After about 1977 or so, I didn't much listen to Disco. Disco got played on the radio quite a bit, Donna Summer, Earth, Wind & Fire, BeeGees, however for my gaming, we played music from Rock & Roll FM stations, with some jazz, like Steely Dan, and went more metal into the 80's. Anyone here remember the Dr. Demento radio show? We sometimes listened to that playing D&D. Disco was dead in 78. At least for us it was.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Omega on July 25, 2017, 11:47:39 PM
Media inspirations for me were not much oddly enough. I went into D&D fairly blank. Just knowing that it was fantasy and like some folk tales of wizards, warriors and monsters.

I never associated it with Lord of the Rings. I didnt even associate it with Conan.

Same with my brief encounter with Boot Hill. I didnt go in with any preconceived notions of what it would be aside from "western and gunslingers"
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: WillInNewHaven on July 26, 2017, 12:11:18 AM
The books that inspired me: Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, more than anything else. Later on, Steven Brust's Draegarian books, Howard's world-building for the Conan books. I liked Poul Anderson better than any of those but his influence on my gaming does not seem large. I was already gaming for quite awhile when Joel Rosenberg came out with the first book in the Guardians of the Flame series but there was cross-pollination there. His books influenced me but he played in my game too. The complicated thing is TLotR. I didn't read them until several years after I started gaming. However, their influence was all over D&D and not just in the published material. It was in the expectations of the players. My game world isn't all that much like Middle Earth except that there are all of the expected races. The game world got converted when I wrote my own system and there are rules for Elves, etc. in the system because some people are going to want them. I have run long campaigns without them but most of the time they are around, at least in the background.

Media: I don't think any films or TV shows influenced my gaming. I played in a Buffy campaign but I didn't run it. I like the show and the game.
Music: I don't think any of it inspired me. I love music from that era but it was a separate matter. Maybe Paul Kantner's lyrics. He might as well have been an SF writer.

--------
https://sites.google.com/site/grreference/
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Dumarest on July 26, 2017, 12:13:49 AM
Quote from: Omega;978266
Media inspirations for me were not much oddly enough. I went into D&D fairly blank. Just knowing that it was fantasy and like some folk tales of wizards, warriors and monsters.

I never associated it with Lord of the Rings. I didnt even associate it with Conan.

Same with my brief encounter with Boot Hill. I didnt go in with any preconceived notions of what it would be aside from "western and gunslingers"

I started playing around age 7 due to an older brother and his friends, so I came to D&D (and other RPGs of the era) nearly free of preconceptions. I had never read any fantasy or sci fi novels except whatever a kid might read. I had seen Star Wars but can't recall even one other genre film I saw at the time. Most of my reading in that realm came after encountering RPGs. I think it strongly affected my preferences in RPGs
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Voros on July 26, 2017, 03:13:39 AM
Quote from: GameDaddy;978243

Movies... Conan of course. Krull, The Dark Crystal, The Land that Time Forgot (Michael Moorcock wrote this), Wizards by Ralph Bakshi, also The Hobbit (animated with John Huston as Gandalf) and the animated Lord of the Rings as well. Who could forget Heavy Metal??? Flash Gordon, Excalibur, Dragonslayer, The Beastmaster, The Last Unicorn, Sinbad & the Eye of the Tiger, and finally, Frank Frazetta's animated Masterpiece of Awesomeness Fire & Ice.  Also liked Ladyhawke, but I think that was like from 1984.


Worth pointing out that the majority of these movies are actually from the 80s not the 70s. Course there was a lot of bleed over from the 70s into the 80s particularly because they use to show more 'old' movies on TV. Particularly remember Saturday and Sunday afternoons watching the Sinbad movies.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Shawn Driscoll on July 26, 2017, 06:15:26 AM
Quote from: Doc Sammy;977763
So, I know plenty of others have probably discussed this to death already but I am curious to know what the early days of tabletop role-playing games were like for those who actually played back then. I'm specifically wanting to focus on the era from 1974-1981, and while D&D is my primary interest, any other early RPG's from the time (such as Tunnels & Trolls, Traveler, or The Fantasy Trip) are also welcome for discussion.

Staples. They were what held the rules together, until you could find a hole-punch.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Dark Eden on July 26, 2017, 04:03:57 PM
This is the thread that finally got me to delurk and post something. I started doing tabletop gaming in the late 70s, though a lot of what I'm going to describe happened more in the early 80s. Here's a few things:

Hardcore mode. Gaming was intense, and characters died. A lot. Dungeons could be brutal and horrifying. But just like a fish doesn't know its wet, we weren't particularly conscious of this. It was just how it was. Having a high level character was a point of pride because it was difficult to achieve. One GM in particular had a jar full of ashes. If your character died during one of his games, he'd take your sheet and burn it on the spot and put its ashes in his jar. There were a LOT of ashes in that jar.

Fewer Campaigns, more one shots. The campaigns that were to be had lasted a long time. One lasted four years. Mostly we did one shot adventures with rotating GMs. Everyone would GM a little, and you'd have a roster of characters you'd run through adventures slowly leveling them up. The adventures weren't particularly well integrated into one world, we just didn't worry about that part. If a character died in one of these adventures though, they were DEAD, and it was very bad form to play them again. You had to be really careful what character you used in who's game, especially if the GM had beef with you. You'd typically have five to fifteen characters in your roster and keep playing them in multiple adventures with multiple GMs.

Slow Leveling. These days it feels like you can level three times in one adventure! That was definitely not the way back then. You could play through three four or even five adventures before finally getting enough xp to reach the next level. This built a lot of attachment to each character, at least for most of us.

Rampant Poorly Executed Cheating. Things were hard, and people compensated in a variety of ways. Its nice that everyone likes to image we were all super skilled awesome players that were a hundred times more hardcore than the punks these days, but no, really most of us just cheated ridiculously. There were a few people who had characters with stats of all 17s and 18s, and max hit points rolled every level. There were guys who would roll their dice and then scoop them up into their hands before anyone could see the numbers, then tell us what he rolled. Shockingly he rolled lots of 20s. We caught people with loaded dice. Who brings loaded dice to a D&D game? Players would lie about the rules and try to trick the GM. There was a distinctly adversarial relationship between GM and players in our little group that got frustrating for me on both ends. Also considered cheating: keeping multiple copies of your character sheet so you could keep playing a character when it died.

Lots of House Rules. Every GM had a few. This was easier because frankly the 1st edition rules were a cludgy mess. No part worked with the others particularly well so it was not hard at all to add new systems, replace old systems with your own, etc. It actually made the rules very modular and customizable. In hindsight that's actually good but at the time, I hated it, and I was honestly shocked when I learned there was an OSR. I had so many house rules trying to correct the many problems I saw in the rules.

Christians Hated D&D. Seriously, its probably hard for people today to imagine, but Christians were the SJWs of the 70s and 80s. I kept D&D books and supplies for several gamers whose parents thought D&D was literally devil worship. It was a specter hanging over our heads at all times. I mean, 2nd edition completely removed any reference to demons and devils in trying to placate these people. There was a serious cultural backlash against playing D&D, which ironically made it edgy and cool. Once normal people figured out that no, its not edgy and cool, but in fact something mostly geeks play, games like Vampire, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, etc showed up as if desperately chasing the edgelordiness D&D had lost. Coincidence? I THINK NOT! And about that removing demons and devils bit... that same atmosphere is present even more so these days just the humorless scolds have changed.

A sense of accomplishment. There was a huge sense of accomplishment for making a character, playing by the rules, and succeeding in these admittedly tough adventures. In particular I had this shitty little thief character that started with a whopping 2 hit points that I played through a lot of these random non campaign one shots, usually with characters with all 17s and 18s and max hit points. The thing is, you don't cheat if you don't have to. I played smart, as the games those days demanded. The ones who cheated didn't play smart and tried to just bull right through everything. Invariably, my crappy little thief outdid all of them by quick thinking and creativity. I survived not one but two party wipes, and some of those guys playing the cheater characters even tried to kill that crappy little thief when they were GMs, and failed every time! That crappy little 2hp thief wound up as a Thief/Fighter/Mage with probably about 20 levels scattered out between those three classes, and ended up being arguably my most successful character. Its hard to have the same attachment to characters these days. I don't typically stay with one character for four years, or take four years to go from 2hp scrub to 10th level hero like in some games at the time. It changes how you play and think of your character and the game.

Anyway that's it, my random meandering thoughts. Hopefully this was interesting.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Madprofessor on July 26, 2017, 06:57:51 PM
Welcome!

Quote from: Dark Eden;978494


Hardcore mode.


Yeah, I remember getting in a game with this really popular "hardcore" DM. I made a fighter and rolled 1 hp which he made me keep (how many DMs do that, now or then, really?).  I hid in the back of the party for 4 sessions and survived to second level - when I rolled 1 more HP for a total of 2. Everyone laughed.  I was just a kid of 13.  I wadded up the sheet threw it in the DMs face with a few choice words and quit.  Old school wasn't always cool.  

Quote
Fewer Campaigns, more one shots.


True.  As a DM, I still like one shots as a great way to play.  Players like campaigns. One shots and short "to-be-continued" campaigns were the rule.  I didn't start my first full "Campaign" in D&D 'till 1985 (though I did run a MERP campaign for a summer).

Quote
Slow Leveling.


For me it depended on the DM. There were some Monty Haul guys in our circle.  I'd be running a game with a group and a week later they would all come back with vorpal swords.

Quote
Rampant Poorly Executed Cheating.


In the '80s it seemed 2 out of 3 fighters had 18/00 Strength.  Now what are the odds of that? It didn't matter much, and I never saw cheating at the table (except for DM fudging).

Quote
Lots of House Rules.



Oh yeah.  The good gamers hacked their games to pieces.  I still do.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Just Another Snake Cult on July 26, 2017, 07:40:46 PM
Quote from: Dark Eden;978494

Lots of House Rules. Every GM had a few. This was easier because frankly the 1st edition rules were a cludgy mess. No part worked with the others particularly well so it was not hard at all to add new systems, replace old systems with your own, etc. It actually made the rules very modular and customizable. In hindsight that's actually good but at the time, I hated it, and I was honestly shocked when I learned there was an OSR. I had so many house rules trying to correct the many problems I saw in the rules.


In the (Underrated) 1990 book Heroic Worlds author Lawrence Schick gives an interesting theory: To paraphrase, if OD&D had been perfect right out of the gate it might have become just another game that people keep on the shelf and get down and play sometimes. But because it was so flawed, you basically had to houserule it just to play it, this encouraged tinkering and innovation, and a lot of those houserulers just went the extra mile and created their own games, and so just like that apocryphal anecdote about how everyone who saw the first Velvet Underground show went on to form their own band...

I don't know if I agree with this 100%, but it's intriguing.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Tiocfaidh ár lá on July 26, 2017, 10:29:28 PM
I have never strictly played D&D in any of its iterations.  We started at university in England with Empire of the Petal Throne in 1975.  Mostly one shots and perhaps because of the nature of Tekumel very rarely in dungeons.  The gorgeous maps that came with the boxed set lured us outside.  If we wanted dungeons we played the original board game version of Dungeon.  The war with Yan Kor was just about to start so a good few of the scenarios centered on political intrigue, again something that EPT favoured.
I think the highlight then, and still now, of my love affair with rpgs was writing to Professor Barker and receiving very detailed and courteous replies.  I still have them, the best treasures I ever found in Tekumel.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: GameDaddy on July 26, 2017, 11:13:01 PM
Quote from: Tiocfaidh ár lá;978571
I have never strictly played D&D in any of its iterations.  We started at university in England with Empire of the Petal Throne in 1975.  Mostly one shots and perhaps because of the nature of Tekumel very rarely in dungeons.  The gorgeous maps that came with the boxed set lured us outside.  If we wanted dungeons we played the original board game version of Dungeon.  The war with Yan Kor was just about to start so a good few of the scenarios centered on political intrigue, again something that EPT favoured.
I think the highlight then, and still now, of my love affair with rpgs was writing to Professor Barker and receiving very detailed and courteous replies.  I still have them, the best treasures I ever found in Tekumel.


Welcome to RPGSite! Even though I played D&D from 1977 on, it would be 1993-1994 before I first had an opportunity to play in an EPT game, ...mostly because it was very difficult to find a copy of the boxed set, and even more difficult to find a GM willing to run a game. The last few years I have had a very good run of games set in Tekumel, This was after Lou Zocchi sold me a copy of Swords & Glory a few years back. Have to say it was one of the best games I played last year, ...sitting in on one of Victor Raymond's games at U-Con last November.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: GameDaddy on July 28, 2017, 07:11:44 PM
Bob Bledsaw Jr, Speaks about the Original Judges Guild, The Wilderlands Games, and how the company was formed during a live podcast at North Texas RPGCon this year. ;
http://saveforhalf.com/2017/06/13/episode-4-12-judges-guild-seminar/
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Dan Davenport on July 28, 2017, 10:40:24 PM
I sort of stumbled into RPGs. I got my mom to buy me the AD&D 1e Monster Manual before I even knew that it was for a game. I thought it was just a book of cool monsters with esoteric-sounding stats, like a fantasy version of the Terran Trade Authority spaceship books. I didn't actually start gaming until 1981.

In the days before the Satanic Panic, RPGs could be found in general-purpose hobby shops, book stores, and toy stores -- even Toys 'R Us.

I noticed that many people I knew who games in those days dropped out of the hobby by the time it became strongly associated with geekdom.

My buddies and I treated AD&D modules like video game cartridges, playing them over and over again.
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Caesar Slaad on July 28, 2017, 10:54:20 PM
Quote from: Piratecat;977771
I first saw D&D in '78, and I still kick myself that I didn't join that group. I started playing for real in '81 or '82. So many house rules, SO MANY HOUSE RULES. That's because a lot of the AD&D rules were misinterpreted, needlessly complicated subsystems (grappling, pummeling and overbearing, anyone?) or a little finicky at the table. No one I knew gave a damn; we had almost as much fun arguing rules as we did playing the game, and that's seriously saying something.

I bought every module I could afford, but I don't think we played a single one of them. We tended to make our own adventures.


Kevin!!!!one!
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: GameDaddy on July 31, 2017, 10:39:12 PM
Okay, so... caught up with Bill Owen again over at Acaeum, and he has moved his blog over to wordpress now. He's still living in Uruguay. Anyway he has updated his blog and included details about the time before he and Bob Bledsaw formed Judges Guild. You know you are a badass gamer when;

I'm quoting Bill here now, ...on the Wargaming tours he has organized over the years;

Military history tours I have designed over a dozen including:

1991's MILLENNIUM OF MAYHEM tour with James F Dunnigan, Al Nofi, Bob Bledsaw, me and eleven intrepid wargamers. This was Bob's first flight in an airplane and he was very nervous flying up to Chicago on American Eagle. But after playing a game of Bulge at the American Airlines Executive Lounge (rented to assemble the "troops" and give them refreshments), Bob had regained his naturally charming demeanor and was chatting up stewardesses across the Atlantic.

1997 Tanks For The Memories, which had only four gamers including a certain Irish guy named Nick who got to operate a real tank, a Chieftain for the first time …at top speed into a mud puddle (or pond really). Our British host did tell Mitch, Mark and me we might get a mite bit muddy! I think Nick wanted to get muddy as a curtain of mud flooded into his open driver's hatch.

2003 WARGAME YOUR WAY ACROSS EUROPE, which started out at Arturo's wonderful wargame club in Rome.

2010's European TOUR OF BATTLE hosted by Al Nofi & Francis.

Michael's 21eme French Line Infantry Napoleonic Re-enactor tours to Austerlitz and Jena/Auerstadt and Waterloo!

July 15-22, 2011 was the Civil War Train #1, the sesquicentennial of the war's start with military historian, Al Nofi, in vintage 1950's train cars to Civil War battlefields out east (sold out with 45 people in 5 cars).
A 2nd Civil War trip went in September 2012 via Vicksburg, New Orleans, Atlanta, Chickamauga and Washington DC–a big triangular loop.

2013 renamed Private Train, we added the Revolutionary War and Williamsburg, Gettysburg, Antietam and Washington DC.

Another Private Train in 2014 to Boston, Washington DC & Philadelphia.
2015
2017 we visited the Alamo in San Antonio and New Orleans.


Leaving a few links for you are all here to his new blogs so you all can learn more about them early days of RPGs as well as wargaming...

Judges Guild & After by Bill Owen
https://wargamecampaign.wordpress.com/2017/05/31/updates-since-judges-guild-by-bill-owen/

ICD, Middle Earth & Judges Guild Precursors
https://wargamecampaign.wordpress.com/2017/06/10/icd-judges-guilds-precursors/
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Dumarest on July 31, 2017, 11:50:48 PM
Quote from: Dark Eden;978494
This is the thread that finally got me to delurk and post something. I started doing tabletop gaming in the late 70s, though a lot of what I'm going to describe happened more in the early 80s. Here's a few things:

Hardcore mode. Gaming was intense, and characters died. A lot. Dungeons could be brutal and horrifying. But just like a fish doesn't know its wet, we weren't particularly conscious of this. It was just how it was. Having a high level character was a point of pride because it was difficult to achieve. One GM in particular had a jar full of ashes. If your character died during one of his games, he'd take your sheet and burn it on the spot and put its ashes in his jar. There were a LOT of ashes in that jar.

Fewer Campaigns, more one shots. The campaigns that were to be had lasted a long time. One lasted four years. Mostly we did one shot adventures with rotating GMs. Everyone would GM a little, and you'd have a roster of characters you'd run through adventures slowly leveling them up. The adventures weren't particularly well integrated into one world, we just didn't worry about that part. If a character died in one of these adventures though, they were DEAD, and it was very bad form to play them again. You had to be really careful what character you used in who's game, especially if the GM had beef with you. You'd typically have five to fifteen characters in your roster and keep playing them in multiple adventures with multiple GMs.

Slow Leveling. These days it feels like you can level three times in one adventure! That was definitely not the way back then. You could play through three four or even five adventures before finally getting enough xp to reach the next level. This built a lot of attachment to each character, at least for most of us.

Rampant Poorly Executed Cheating. Things were hard, and people compensated in a variety of ways. Its nice that everyone likes to image we were all super skilled awesome players that were a hundred times more hardcore than the punks these days, but no, really most of us just cheated ridiculously. There were a few people who had characters with stats of all 17s and 18s, and max hit points rolled every level. There were guys who would roll their dice and then scoop them up into their hands before anyone could see the numbers, then tell us what he rolled. Shockingly he rolled lots of 20s. We caught people with loaded dice. Who brings loaded dice to a D&D game? Players would lie about the rules and try to trick the GM. There was a distinctly adversarial relationship between GM and players in our little group that got frustrating for me on both ends. Also considered cheating: keeping multiple copies of your character sheet so you could keep playing a character when it died.

Lots of House Rules. Every GM had a few. This was easier because frankly the 1st edition rules were a cludgy mess. No part worked with the others particularly well so it was not hard at all to add new systems, replace old systems with your own, etc. It actually made the rules very modular and customizable. In hindsight that's actually good but at the time, I hated it, and I was honestly shocked when I learned there was an OSR. I had so many house rules trying to correct the many problems I saw in the rules.

Christians Hated D&D. Seriously, its probably hard for people today to imagine, but Christians were the SJWs of the 70s and 80s. I kept D&D books and supplies for several gamers whose parents thought D&D was literally devil worship. It was a specter hanging over our heads at all times. I mean, 2nd edition completely removed any reference to demons and devils in trying to placate these people. There was a serious cultural backlash against playing D&D, which ironically made it edgy and cool. Once normal people figured out that no, its not edgy and cool, but in fact something mostly geeks play, games like Vampire, Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, etc showed up as if desperately chasing the edgelordiness D&D had lost. Coincidence? I THINK NOT! And about that removing demons and devils bit... that same atmosphere is present even more so these days just the humorless scolds have changed.

A sense of accomplishment. There was a huge sense of accomplishment for making a character, playing by the rules, and succeeding in these admittedly tough adventures. In particular I had this shitty little thief character that started with a whopping 2 hit points that I played through a lot of these random non campaign one shots, usually with characters with all 17s and 18s and max hit points. The thing is, you don't cheat if you don't have to. I played smart, as the games those days demanded. The ones who cheated didn't play smart and tried to just bull right through everything. Invariably, my crappy little thief outdid all of them by quick thinking and creativity. I survived not one but two party wipes, and some of those guys playing the cheater characters even tried to kill that crappy little thief when they were GMs, and failed every time! That crappy little 2hp thief wound up as a Thief/Fighter/Mage with probably about 20 levels scattered out between those three classes, and ended up being arguably my most successful character. Its hard to have the same attachment to characters these days. I don't typically stay with one character for four years, or take four years to go from 2hp scrub to 10th level hero like in some games at the time. It changes how you play and think of your character and the game.

Anyway that's it, my random meandering thoughts. Hopefully this was interesting.


If only your thief had stolen some Loperamide...:D
Title: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
Post by: Dumarest on July 31, 2017, 11:51:42 PM
Quote from: Just Another Snake Cult;978537
In the (Underrated) 1990 book Heroic Worlds author Lawrence Schick gives an interesting theory: To paraphrase, if OD&D had been perfect right out of the gate it might have become just another game that people keep on the shelf and get down and play sometimes. But because it was so flawed, you basically had to houserule it just to play it, this encouraged tinkering and innovation, and a lot of those houserulers just went the extra mile and created their own games, and so just like that apocryphal anecdote about how everyone who saw the first Velvet Underground show went on to form their own band...

I don't know if I agree with this 100%, but it's intriguing.


The story is that everyone who bought their first album went on to form a band. But yes.