Showing posts with label history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label history. Show all posts

Monday, June 24, 2024

Monstrous Mondays: A Monster of a D&D Book!

The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons
Something a little different today. Instead of talking about a monster, I have a monster of a D&D book. The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons.

I picked up this massive 576-page book last week. The pages are glossy, full color on heavier stock so this book is massive. When I picked it up at my FLGS I was reminded to "lift with me knees."

This book covers the evolution of original D&D from its Wargame birth to the dawn of what would become the Holmes Basic set and the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game.  

The book is divided into four large sections with a Preface, Foreword, and Afterword.  Let's look at those first.

Our Preface comes to us from Project Lead Jason Tondro. I freely admit I have no idea who he is. He gives us an overview of what this book is about. There is section mentioning that D&D originally catered to middle-class (and even mid-west) white men. This is not in debate really. He also mentions some of the more problematic issues with early D&D, from plagiarism to cultural appropriation to sexism and a bit of slavery. Look. All of this is true and things we have known for a very, very long time. To pretend they were not there, or clutch our pearls because someone brought it up is laughable at best. Acknowledge the past and move forward.  In truth this takes up less than 1/3 of a page of 576 pages. If this section bothers you, then you are looking for things to be bothered by.

The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons

The Foreward, though, is far more interesting. It comes from Jon Peterson who has the credentials and bonafides to back up all his claims. While he is credited with the forward his fingerprints are all over this book. The sad truth is there are few of the original old guard left. Peterson's dedication to the history of RPGs and D&D in particular is well known and respected. 

Part 1: Precursors is very interesting. It covers the games and the correspondence between Gygax, Arneson, and others between 1970 and 1973. While some of this in well known, it is great to have it all in one place along with copies of the letters and drafts sent back and forth. One thing is obvious from the start that Tolkien and Middle-Earth DID play a pretty large role in the creation of this game. 

Part 1: Precursors

Among the treasures here are copies of the Chainmail Rules for Fantasy.

Part 1: Precursors

Part 1: Precursors

Part 2: The 1973 Draft of Dungeons & Dragons is also a treasure since unlike OD&D and Chainmail (both of which I am familiar with) this is the first time I have seen this. It is a fascinating read in and of itself. Is it a *playable* game? I don't know. But that is not important really. What is important in the nascent RPG game design going on here. The maps and note alone will be enough for someone out there to go and attempt to play some sort of Ur-D&D for their group. 

Part 2: The 1973 Draft of Dungeons & Dragons

Part 2: The 1973 Draft of Dungeons & Dragons

Part 2: The 1973 Draft of Dungeons & Dragons

Part 3: Original Dungeons & Dragons is the most familiar. I have owned the Original set for a while now and even played a few games with it. What is most interesting here are the sections on the 1973 Draft vs. the Published versions and the Brown Box vs. White Box versions.

Part 3: Original Dungeons & Dragons

The biggest feature of this part is the scanned version of the OD&D rules, complete with Hobbits, Ents, and Balrogs.

Part 4: Articles & Additions covers the evolution of Original D&D via the published supplements and articles in Strategic Review/The Dragon. I covered some of this history here as well with my coverage of the Owl & Weasel and White Dwarf Magazines. This one is also quite interesting because of give and take between Gary's vision and others' input. This includes other writers, such as Dave Arneson, and the public.  It seems inevitable that AD&D would rise out of all of this.

Part 4: Articles & Additions

This part, the largest, has complete scans of Greyhawk, Blackmoor, and Eldritch Wizardry along with selections from the Strategic Review and The Dragon.

Part 4: Articles & Additions

Missing from this history is Gods, Demi-gods and Heroes. No real reason is given for this. I speculate it is due to one of three reasons. 

  1. Space. at 576 pages and a MSRP of about $100, this is already a massive tome. 
  2. Copyrights. A lot of the material in the original GDH belonged, or now belongs, to other companies, and reprinting was a problem. Of course they did still print the Hobbits.
  3. Moral Grounds. It is possible that the editors did not want to include it since it had stats for gods that you could kill. Gods still worshipped and honored by people today. 
Gods, Demigods and Heroes

I suppose it is also possible that it was not included (much like Swords & Spells wasn't) since it did not further the central thesis of this book; the evolution of D&D. 

A bonus is an original D&D Character sheet. I never owned one of these, so I made a photocopy of it to see how it would work; both in black/white and color.

OD&D Character sheet

Not too bad really. Maybe I use this for a character someday.

So. Who should buy this book?

Well, I guess anyone who wants to read more about the history of D&D and is willing to shell out $100 for a coffee-table-like book about it.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

#AtoZChallenge2024: T is for TSR

TSR Inc.
Delving into the history of Dungeons & Dragons, one must spend some time discussing the company (or companies, as it were) that produced and published it. Most of them went by the initials TSR.

 To the outsider and indeed to the casual insider, there was only one TSR. This is largely true, but the details are a bit more complicated once you dig into them. It's sort of the theme all month, right?

Tactical Studies Rules (1973–1975)

The first TSR was Tactical Studies Rules, and it was a partnership between Gary Gygax and Don Kaye.  The goal of this company was to produce and sell the Dungeons & Dragons rules, but to get there, they did some smaller games, including Gary's Cavaliers and Roundheads miniatures game of the English Civil War. They also sold new copies of Chainmail which had previously been sold by Don Lowry and Gary's Guidon Games.  Once Dungeons & Dragons became a success and they took on new partners, namely the Blumes, this company dissolved. It was this time that the company would move out of Gary's basement to their headquarters in Lake Geneva, WI. A place still considered to be "like Mecca" for gamers.

TSR Hobbies, Inc. (1975–1983)

This is the company that most of us growing up playing D&D in the 1980s think of when we think of TSR. This corresponds to what many in RPG circles could refer to as the Golden Age of gaming. It was here that Dungeons & Dragons saw its greatest growth and early popularity. It was during this time that we saw the publication of AD&D, all the Basic sets, Dragon Magazine, and a host of other non-D&D games. Some I'll talk about next month. 

This was also a time when TSR Hobbies made some acquisitions and, sadly, when the seeds of their own downfall were planted. 

TSR (1983–1985)

In 1983, the company was split into four, TSR, Inc. (the primary successor), TSR International, TSR Ventures, and TSR Entertainment, Inc. The purpose here was to make D&D a multimedia brand long before such an idea was commonplace. So kudos to Gary and the team for coming up with it; it is too bad it did not develop the way they wanted. We did the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon out of it, but long talked about movie never happened. Also some of these business choices also split the company's focus and were never as successful as they needed to be. Long story short, TSR, all of them, was deep in debt and bleeding cash.

This era would end with the firing of Gary Gygax as CEO and the takeover of the company by the Blumes and Lorraine Williams. 

TSR  (1985–1997) aka The Williams Era

Given the time period, one would imagine that this was the most stable time in TSR's history, and from the outside, it was. D&D was doing well for all appearances. It had weathered controversy and was moving forward. AD&D 2nd Edition came out in 1989, there were novels coming out based on D&D properties that hit the New York Times best-seller lists and things looked good.

Sadly, even under new management, some of the old mistakes were still costing money, and new ones were also being made.

I will not do the en-vogue thing and rip into Lorraine Williams. She may have had only contempt for gamers, but under her leadership (or in spite of it), some really great material was produced. She never talks about her time at TSR anymore; all we have are the words of others. Granted, it did sound like a toxic work environment.

Not that things were all wine and roses outside the company either. Gary had left and become vocal of the new management. Many who were loyal to him also left. Others left, or were fired and their names, names we all knew, began showing up at other companies.

The Internet was in its early days, and like the Personal Computers before it, this was a technology readily adopted by and adapted by gamers. TSR saw people talking about D&D online and threatened to sue them, earning TSR's new name, "They Sue Regularly," and their new "logo," T$R.  

As fondly as people talk about the "good ole days" of TSR they forget how terrible they were in the end.

1997 And Beyond

There is no TSR beyond 1997. Wizards of the Coast, a company flush with cash thanks to the run-away success of the Magic the Gathering card game, saved TSR, and Dungeons & Dragons, from landing into deeper financial ruin. Wizards operated TSR as a standalone entity (a walled garden as it is sometimes called) but by the time Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition was ready TSR was gone.

Now, 25+ years later, we are seeing some similar patterns with Wizards of the Coast and their parent company, Hasbro. The difference is that Hasbro is not likely to run out of money any time soon.

For me, well I choose to remember TSR like this. It was a great company that fell into the problems that many companies do. But I will say this, talking to all the people who worked there and hearing them talk to each other at places like Gary Con, I choose to look beyond the stories, the rumors, the internet gossip, and the financial records and instead see it through their eyes.

When it was good, it must have been fantastic.

If you want to know more, there are some fantastic books on the topic.

Ewalt, D. M., & Manganiello, J. (2024). Of dice and men: The story of dungeons & dragons and the people who play it. Scribner.

Kushner, D., & Shadmi, K. (2017). Rise of the dungeon master: Gary Gygax and the creation of D&D. Nation Books.

Peterson, J. (2012). Playing at the world: A history of simulating wars, people and Fantastic Adventures, from chess to role-playing games. Unreason Press.

Peterson, J. (2021). Game Wizards. the epic battle for Dungeons & Dragons. The MIT Press.

Riggs, B. (2022). Slaying the dragon: A secret history of Dungeons and dragons. St. Martin’s Press.

Witwer, M. (2015). Empire of imagination: Gary Gygax and the birth of Dungeons & Dragons. Bloomsbury USA, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing, Plc.

All are available, well, everywhere there are books. Each presents a different point of view, but all get around to the same ideas. I enjoyed reading them all.

Tomorrow is U day and I am going to talk about the Universe!

The A to Z of Dungeons & Dragons: Celebrating 50 years of D&D.

Monday, April 22, 2024

#AtoZChallenge2024: S is for Satanic Panic

I survived the Satanic Panic
Click to get your own!
 Now, this is always a fun topic.  It would be difficult to talk about the history of Dungeons & Dragons and not talk about the 1980s moral panic known as The Satanic Panic.

Note: I will liberally use outside links in this one because I want to cite my sources and educate. 


Let me set the stage first. It is the start of the 1980s. Regan is in office riding a wave of conservatism and backed by "The Moral Majority." The 1970s were a time when there was a great Occult Revival (mentioned many times here) and this was the natural reaction.

In addition to flamboyant fashion choices, some really excellent music, and questionable hairspray techniques, we also got a strange moral panic in the form of everyday people accusing their neighbors of being secret practicing Satanists.

While there are a lot of triggers for this panic, the one that almost everyone agrees on is the publication of a book called Michelle Remembers, a lurid tale of repressed memories of Satanic Ritual abuse. Now, reading this there are just a lot of things that don't add up. At all. A recent Skeptical Inquirer article goes into more detail, but suffice to say that despite no tangible proof, this was the spark that lit the flames and the model that all so-called Satanic Experts would follow. This book leads to the tragic travesty of the criminal court system in the McMartin preschool trial. People lost their careers, their homes, and their lives, all for nothing but a panic. It was The Crucible all over again. This is not the last time I will use a witch analogy.  While that was going on other forms of media were not immune. Rock and Roll music took a hard hit, and it led to the creation of the PMRC. Movies had had their troubles before with the Hays Code, and comics had the Comics Code Authority, which had kept both mediums very conservative. But what didn't have those was the brand new pass time of mostly young high school and college age kids with higher than average IQs and a penchant for not conforming. That pass time was Dungeons & Dragons.

How does the Satanic Panic lead to Dungeons & Dragons?  Well, there is a great summary of the Satanic Panic and how D&D was involved from Goddless Panther.

I LOVE that he used my Mystery Science Theater 3000 version of the cover of Dark Dungeons track.  It is too bad that no more of this series was produced.  I also got a kick out some of the picture of old D&D stuff.  He had another series on his older account.

The first one is here: (the production values are a bit low). There is a playlist by another user of all these videos, warning there is a lot of crazy here.

Dungeon & Dragons & Devils

Going back to 1980 to 1985, the most popular version of the Dungeons & Dragons game was the 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rules.  While all the above insanity is going on D&D is about to take a hit.  That hit comes in the form of James Dallas Egbert III and private investigator William Dear. James was a smart but depressed kid who had gone missing from his Michigan State University dorm room in 1979. He had played D&D and listened to some Metal music, but had suicidal thoughts. Mostly around him coming to terms with his own homosexuality (the 1980s were shit for many kids). He went down into the steam tunnels under the University (where it was rumored that people would play D&D) and had planned on killing himself with some quaaludes. He was not successful and went to hide out with some friends, and then he traveled around.

Enter William Dear. Egbert's mother hired Dear to locate him after what she perceived as the authorities' inaction. Dear went to Egbert's dorm, saw his D&D books, and came up with this notion of a cult conspiracy whole-cloth. This was substantiated in his mind when reports came out that he had been spotted at the Gen Con game fair in nearby Wisconsin. 

Egbert was a troubled kid. I don't want to make light of that. He did finally kill himself and it is sad. He needed therapy, and at that time, he would not have gotten it, and he certainly didn't get the support. 

No. This sad tale was made worse by the utter incompetence and attention seeking of Dear. He recounted his investigation in the book The Dungeon Master.  You can read more about it in this article in two parts by Shaun Hately, The Disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III, Part I and Part II.  The events would be fictionalized in Rona Jaffe's novel Mazes and Monsters, and the movie of the same name starring a very young Tom Hanks. Every gamer I know hated it, and every mother in 1982 had to ask me about it.

Then 60 Minutes happened.

D&D's 60-Minutes of Fame

D&D's popularity made the target of some sketchy reporting back in the day. Watching some of the videos from back then are always entertaining; at least now they are with the distance of time. 

CBS, the station that not only aired the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon on Saturday mornings and the rather terrible Mazes and Monsters made for TV movie also was, more famously, the home of the weekly TV news magazine 60 Minutes. Ed Bradley presented what was supposed to be a balanced view on the game with interviews by D&D creator Gary Gygax and someone who we (the gamers that is) had not heard of, but would soon know all too well, Patricia Pulling of B.A.D.D. or "Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons." She would team up with former Dr. (he lost his license) and convicted sex criminal Thomas Radecki to try and discredit the game. 

Here is the clip below. If it looks like a bad VHS copy...well it is.

Reports from many credible sources and even Gygax himself (in the pages of Dragon magazine) was livid and called the whole thing a "Witch hunt." However, one thing is certain. After the 60 Minutes clip aired there was a rash of D&D book burnings. If there is ever a side that is burning books your best place is to be on the side they are not on. Ben Riggs, in his Slaying the Dragon, comments on how anytime the staff at TSR saw a book burning advertised, they would increase the number of books going to that town's retailers because they knew they would sell out. 

Pulling, Radecki, and BADD would be around to bother D&D players for a while. Pulling had started B.A.D.D. due to the suicide of her son Irving. I get she had pain and grief and a need to lash out. But her target was all wrong. Long story short, while Pulling, Radecki, and Dear would all get pulled into high-profile cases, which all seemed to involve the same secret cabal of D&D Playing Cultists (weird, I never got a call from them for the meetings), eventually, they were shown to be the frauds they were.

One of the biggest blows to Pulling and B.A.D.D. was from game designer Michael A. Stackpole who piece by piece dismantled Pulling and all her arguments in his Game Hysteria and the Truth. I would read this later when he re-published it as The Pulling Report.

You could not believe the elation I felt when I had discovered that on the internet. Everything I had heard for YEARS from "concerned people" and all the shit I got from ignorant fucks. Stackpole destroyed them all. Every single argument. I am still friends with Michael today.

Eventually, they would fall into disrepute.

The FBI would also release a report that essentially said that there is no evidence of any sort of systemic Satanic ritual abuse in the United States. The New York Times followed up with an article saying something similar.

Too late for some who were destroyed by this bullshit.

What happened to D&D?

Soon after the 60 Minutes piece, Gary was out of TSR for unrelated reasons. The specter of the Satanic Panic still held over them, though. When AD&D 2nd Edition was released, demons, devils, and overt signs of evil had all been removed in an enforced morality

And like the pendulum that swang to make things more conservative, it swang back the other way. I can recall a LOT of books, both in stores and online, in the early days of the Internet, that were like, "Oh, you think D&D is evil? I give you fucking evil!" I am not blameless in that, either. 

My Life with the Satanic Cult

Now, I am not a Satanist. I am an atheist. But growing up in a small mid-Western town, the average person on the street doesn't know, or even care to know, the difference. Add in my D&D playing in the 1980s? Yeah. 

There was this time, I think around 1985-1986 or so, that "someone" had found a "satanic altar" in the cornfield just south of my High School. The panic that shot through the school was amazing to watch. I was equally fascinated and horrified. Fascinated by how much it affected everyone and horrified by how quickly it ripped through the school and what it did. The next day, people were wearing their "satan busters" armbands. These were homemade armbands with an inverted cross in a red "busters" circle with a slash through it. 

Something like this
The "Satan Busters." Yes, this is what they wore.

The assistant principal, who was always a pretty good guy, came to me and some of my other gamer friends and basically said until this stupid shit blows over, we should keep our D&D books at home. I chaffed under the notion that something *I* wanted to read had to be dictated by a mob of scared idiots. It pissed me off, but the guy had a point. Plus, he was a 6'2" guy who would regularly bench press 350+ lbs, and I was an asthmatic 15-16-year-old who weighed 125 soaking wet. I wasn't going to argue. Plus, over the next few days, shit got really weird.  I think my love of psychology was certainly strengthened then. As was my love for witches. I felt I understood them a little better after that. Not that anyone was trying to burn me (far from it), but they were trying to burn the things they feared. There were at least two or three book burnings in my town by people on the conservative religious side. Which was, in truth, the vast majority of the town.

As the panic spread, the stories got crazier and crazier. One involved one of the few openly gay kids in my glass, which sucks, really, but sadly all too predictable. Rumors that "they" were going to sacrifice a cheerleader. I remember seeing girls crying. And more. People were going to have prayer vigils to keep the cultists back, and some were going to bring weapons (mostly knives).  

It all began to sound like a pretty cool D&D adventure. The characters would have been the ones fighting evil. But it also had about as much to do with reality as a D&D game.

It blew over, of course, and a few days later, the whole thing looked rather silly. I never really knew if someone had found something and thought it was an altar or if it was all made up whole cloth. Hard to say. I never really got over how insane everyone was. 

I have to admit my own (at the time) anti-theism influenced my early D&D games. So, there were lots of undead, demons, and (you guessed it) witches. An immature reaction? Yeah, of course! But I was a teen at the time, so by definition, I was immature.

Present Day

I would love to say that this happened in the past, and then we woke up. But that is never the case, is it? Yeah, Dungeons & Dragons has largely been fine for the last few years and is gaining incredible support from high-profile players like Stephen Colbert, Vin Diesel, Joe Manganiello (who I just missed at Gary Con), Deborah Ann Woll, Anderson Cooper, and the entire cast of Critical Role. 

D&D is largely safe these days, but the Satanic Panic still rears its ugly head. Pizzagate is just one recent and really stupid example.  Another making the rounds is the "fact" that Taylor Swift is the daughter of (or a clone of) Zeena Schreck nee Lavey. Even better, she is the daughter of Zeena and Zeena's own father, Anton Lavey, the founder of the Church of Satan. So Anton is her father AND grandfather.  

Taylor Swift & Zeena Lavey. Not related. Or clones.

Seriously. I wouldn't put this into a game because my players would never believe it. 

So, put on some Ozzy or Iron Maiden, grab some dice, and let's play some D&D! It's 2024, all of those critics have been shown to be frauds, and none of the rumors about D&D from 40+ years ago ever came close to coming true.

Remember, "If Dungeons and Dragons is Satan's game, then Satan is a giant nerd."

Tomorrow is T Day, and I am going with the company that started it all, TSR.

The A to Z of Dungeons & Dragons: Celebrating 50 years of D&D.

Friday, March 12, 2021

25 years of The Other Side!

"A fine website, but even more than that...THANKS FOR THE GREAT PARODY OF THE DARK DUNGEONS TRASH! Best wishes."

Gary Gygax circa 1999

Back in 1994, I moved to Chicago to work on my Ph.D. and be closer to my then-girlfriend (spoiler, I married her in 1995).   I was working at the College of Education at the time as their tech-monkey.  I told them I knew how to write code. I did/do, but it was all Pascal, Fortran, and some C and VisualBasic.  What they wanted was HTML though they really didn't know it at the time.   I built their student databases and worked on their nascent website.  

My very first website, made in 1995, was The Chicago Campus Crusade for Cthulhu.  I had all my Call of Cthulhu materials online and it was a parody site.  This was quickly followed by my Gateway2000 PC site (yes I was a huge fan of Gateway computers). I had built them both in Notepad, a tool I still use today to edit all my HTML.

The earliest captures were 1998, but by then I had been on for 2-3 years. I was using the "noarchive" tag and "Frame breaker" scripts a lot back then because there was a real concern for webpage theft and spaghetti publishers. I thought that would help. What they do was keep my site from being archived by bots.

This kept me from finding the very first versions of my sites, though I still have all the HTML code backed up.  I did notice that when I went back for my second Ph.D. my student account was reactivated and there are some captures from around then as well.

In any case, the knowledge I gained from those sites was poured into my newest site, The Other Side.

The Other Side, circa late 1990s
So dark. Very Internet. Much frames.

I named it after an old newspaper column I wrote for my school newspaper in High School and then my first year of undergrad.  Plus it sounded mystical and new agey.

I am not 100% sure of the exact day it went live. I know it was between March 10th and the 12th because that was my wife's birthday.  Also, I was in a Cognition of Memory course at the time when I jotted down my first ideas for it in my notebook.  So that was Spring term 96.

The site changed over the years. I added more and more material and soon it was the home of my first Netbook of Witches and Warlocks, published in 1999. I had moved from my campus site to RPGHost for the longest time. From there I was also on Xoom, NBCi, Tripod, and then PlanetADnD.

edgy edge guy
Whoa, easy there Darklord.

Around 2003 or so I kept getting hacked and my sie taken down.  My host asked me to take it down for a bit because of all the DoS attacks he was getting.  So for a while, all that remained were some mirrors of the site that I rarely updated.

The site was revived in 2007 on this blog. 

I still use the same background, though in a much-lightened fashion. Some of the material written for that old site has also come back here. 

Sadly many of my then contemporaries are gone. PlanetADnD is no more. BlueTroll has been gone a long time. All the old hosting services are long gone. I see that ADnDDownloads is still up after a fashion. Mimir, the Planescape site, is still going and looks the same as it did back in the 1990s, though I don't think it has been updated in 10 years and many links are broken.

While I miss some of the "wild west" days of finding the perfect, or the perfectly odd, netbook, things are better now.  DriveThruRPG gives me legal means to complete my collection and DMGsguild covers my need for fan-created material. And that is just the tip of the iceberg as it were. 

Do I have it in me to go another 25? Well...I'll be in my mid to late 70s then, so no idea.  But I am going to keep having fun with this as long as I can.

Thanks for being with me this long!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015 much for that idea.

Not everything will work.  Not everything will work well.
Sometimes though things do work, and do work well, but not in the way you thought they might.

Today's example was the giant post I had started and wanted to wrap up in the next day or so.
I was calling it "In Search Of...Castle Greyhawk".  A play on the old In Search Of TV show and by desire to uncover mysteries from my gaming past.

Sidebar: I found a bunch of stuff I had written decades ago on some old floppies.  There were a lot of treasures there but also a lot a things I was researching.  Back then I didn't have the resources I do now so research was a longer, more difficult process.

Back to In Search Of...

SO I wanted to post a lot on the historical Castle Greyhawk. What was it and how could I play it today.

Turns out all that work was done years ago.
I knew that +Joseph Bloch was the go to guy for this kind of information.  His blog Greyhawk Grognard is full of these sorts of tidbits and his game Adventures Dark and Deep is a love letter to the Gygaxian games that never were.
He has already done all the heavy lifting on this topic, in part of his working on Castle of the Mad Archmage.   In fact part of my own research was to look into how he wrote CotMA.

But he posted most of his own findings years ago.
In particular this post is the most useful,

Now I am a bigger fan of "Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk" than Joseph is. But I have the benefit of something he did not have back then; his completed Castle of the Mad Archmage.

So now my research is done. Admittedly by someone else.  I just need to see if I want to run a Castle Greyhawk adventure at all.

I'll start working on my next "In Search Of..." post.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

White Dwarf Wednesday: Games Workshop History

I know, sort of a cheesy way to use my supposed retired weekly feature.  But a couple of things came up in the past week to make it seem worthwhile.

First up is Part 1 of a History of Games Workshop. It also covers the same time I spent discussing White Dwarf here.  From Unplugged Games.

Honestly it is a fascinating read and gave me some insight to what I was reading "between the lines" in White Dwarf.

Ian and Steve
The map of Ian Livinstone's first dungeon just begs to be used somewhere.

There is some great anecdotes here too. For example they had a bigger issue with the cover of White Dwarf #44 than I did.

And then from ENWorld, a posting about how the first ever Games Workshop store is now going to be demolished.

Opening day in 1978
And today
While Games Workshop went into new directions around the end of my reviews, I still enjoy all the fun and wonder those early days gave me.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


This has been passed around a lot lately, but still an interesting read.
The development of the module Quagmire by Merle Rasmussen.

The article is less about module design than it is about commercial module development.  It is insightful on how things were created in the heyday of TSR. Also if you look hard enough you can even see the seeds of TSR's eventual demise here.

I post this though because it is an interest footnote to me.  I remember this adventure. I picked it up and completely gutted it because what I wanted was a swamp with a tower in it.  All that hard work detailed above and I chucked it all!

This article did make me want to pull my old copy out, but I remembered that it was one of the many pre-2e materials I lost back in the mid-90s. Thankfully I do have the PDF.  I might use it in my current game, but everything is so packed now I fear I will end up doing exactly what I did in the past; chuck the adventure and make it an interesting locale to stop over in.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Margot Adler (1946 - 2014)

I have long stated that the witches of my books and posts here have had far more to do myth and fairytale than they have had with the witches of modern paganism or Wicca.

But even a casual glance at my work will reveal that while my witches are more Baba Yaga than Isaac Bonewits or Fiona Horne, there is a bit of modern pagan thought there.  This is no surprise really.   I have often talked about how my influences are in line with the occult revival of the 70s and even the Satanic Panic of the 80s.
So in addition to reading a lot of fantasy stories about witches I also read a lot about Wicca, paganism and modern witchcraft.

One of those books I remember well was Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moon.
What I liked about it was how it took each of these religions/belief systems and gave them equal weight.  Some books I read at the time were either predominantly pro-wiccan and thus put their system in the est possible light or had a Christian bias and thus looked down their nose on all the systems.
It also avoided what I have come to call "Margret Murrayism" and make claims that could not be supported.

For gamers I would say pick up this book to see how you can run cults and faith in your games.  Yes there are other texts, and even some that are better suited for this. But this is a good overall text and also one I think fits the feel that some of us want in our "Old School" games. Either the original 1979 printing or the revised 1986 one would be best for this.
The 2006 revised edition though is the only one I can find for an eReader.

This is also one of the books that I attribute to my cultivation of my own feminist thought (yeah I know that "feminist" is a bad word to some and loaded word to others. I don't care. I can use it to describe myself as I choose).   It shares that distinction with Carl Sagan's "Dragons of Eden" and Carl Jung's "Man and His Symbols".

Margot Adler died today after a long battle with cancer.  She was 68.