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Author Topic: Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?  (Read 4178 times)

Madprofessor

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #60 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.

GameDaddy

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #61 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.
« Last Edit: July 25, 2017, 10:39:23 PM by GameDaddy »
Blackmoor grew from a single Castle to include, first, several adjacent Castles (with the forces of Evil lying just off the edge of the world to an entire Northern Province of the Castle and Crusade Society's Great Kingdom.

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WillInNewHaven

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #62 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.

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GameDaddy

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #63 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.
« Last Edit: July 25, 2017, 10:34:51 PM by GameDaddy »
Blackmoor grew from a single Castle to include, first, several adjacent Castles (with the forces of Evil lying just off the edge of the world to an entire Northern Province of the Castle and Crusade Society's Great Kingdom.

~ Dave Arneson

Dumarest

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #64 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?

Opaopajr

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #65 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!
Just make your fuckin' guy and roll the dice, you pricks. Focus on what's interesting, not what gives you the biggest randomly generated virtual penis.  -- J Arcane
 
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GameDaddy

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #66 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.
Blackmoor grew from a single Castle to include, first, several adjacent Castles (with the forces of Evil lying just off the edge of the world to an entire Northern Province of the Castle and Crusade Society's Great Kingdom.

~ Dave Arneson

Omega

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #67 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"

WillInNewHaven

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #68 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.

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Dumarest

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #69 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

Voros

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #70 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.

Shawn Driscoll

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #71 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.

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« Reply #72 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.

Madprofessor

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #73 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.
« Last Edit: July 26, 2017, 07:00:22 PM by Madprofessor »

Just Another Snake Cult

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Gaming in the 70's: What Were the Early Days of RPG's Like?
« Reply #74 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.
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