Jason Zavoda, owner of the wonderful Hall of the Mountain King blog, posted the following text, of a Gary Gygax letter that appears in Alarums and Excursions Issue 2. I have copied and pasted the text here, because it provides tremendous insight into Gygax's thoughts on Dungeons and Dragons. I will let you draw your own conclusions about which Gygax, this 1975 version or the later AD&D version, was more correct regarding several topics he touches therein.
Hello! and our thanks for the two copies of AandE. Brian Blume
takes care of SR, and he immediately made off with one copy of your zine, so you
can rest assured of the trade arrangement.
It certainly is a good feeling
to have so many persons enjoying something one had a hand in creating. I have
been a sf and fantasy fan since age 12, a wargame enthusiast since age 10 and
began designing and writing about 1965. The games and rules are fairly
successful these days, but I have yet to sell a sf or fantasy story, and that
will be my next real project -- in a year or so when I have time to rewrite my
favorite fantasy novel in hopes of something more than the usual rejection
In case you don't know the history of DandD, it all began with the
fantasy rules in CHAINMAIL. Dave A. took those rules and changed them into a
prototype of what is now DandD. When I played in his "Blackmoor" campaign I fell
in love with the new concept and expanded and changed his 20 or so pages of
hand-written "rules" into about 100 ms. pages. Dave's group and ours here in
Lake Geneva then began eager and enthusiastic play-testing, and the result was
the DandD game in January of 1974. It is an ongoing game, as the GREYHAWK
booklet shows, and when Dave hands me the ms. for BLACKMOOR I am sure that there
will be more alternatives yet. I have personally worked out enough material
lately to do still another supplement, and the heaps of material sent in by fans
would certainly fill another -- besides providing a good bit of material for
publication in SR. So as long as players desire, TSR will continue to provide
more DandD goodies (although my partners bemoan the fact that this tends to
deprive the historical end of out operation.)
If you have seen WAR OF THE
WIZARDS, you are aware of how imaginative and creative a man Professor M.A.R.
Barker is. We have arranged, finally, to publish his masterwork, EMPIRE OF THE
PETAL THRONE. Professor Barker has been at work on his fantasy world creation
for something like 40 years! It shows in his work. I hardly know where to begin
in describing EPT. First, I must liken the whole of the Professor's work to
JRRT's (and I understand that Professor Barker has a novel which he hopes to
complete soon!). The whole of the game EMPIRE OF THE PETAL THRONE is perfectly
thought-out and logically structured. Its form was influenced by DandD (and I am
greatly flattered about that) although its author had been testing various other
forms prior to the publication of DandD.
I will not describe the world of
'PETAL THRONE, for Professor Barker does that himself, far better than I could
hope to, in his game. Suffice it to say tht we have spared no expense to do it
justice when TSR publishes it. The box will be about 9" x 12" with a full-color
illustration of the city of BeySy on the cover. The Professor is also one heck
of an illustrator, and he did that map in a medieval style with building
erections, larger-than-life figures of men, and so forth. In addition to a rules
book (about the same number of words as DandD, possibly quite a few more) done
in two-column, 3 1/2 x 11 size with a plastic ring binding so it will open flat
to any section, there will be three full-color, plasticized mapboards (similar
to the one found in STAR PROBE). Two are the map of the world, and the other is
the city of Jakala. The first two are done with permission, on SPI hex maps,
while the latter is done on a slightly smaller hex grid. The unfortunate part is
what the whole will cost -- the $20 price range -- but we plan to make the
separate parts available so that much cash won't have to be laid out all at
once. We expect the work to be available by 15 July.
We also have a
wonderful "parlor" version of DandD dungeon adventures coming up fairly soon --
great for when there are only non-addicts to play games with, for the family, or
when there is only an hour or two for play. The game is well done, and its
components are top-quality, and we expect it to be popular for many reasons --
not the least of which is it will help DandD enthusiasts demonstrate to the
uninitiated why they love fantasy games.
I sang through both of the tunes
in "Music to Loot Dungeons By". Good show!
There seems to be considerable
confusion amongst your contributors -- particularly those who tend to be in a
flap about incomplete or unpalatable solutions (to them) of DandD
rules/questions/problems. The game is complex and complicated. When it was
released, it was by no means in a final (or even polished) form, but were we to
sit on it for another few years in order to get it that way? Can a broad fantasy
game ever be finished? Of course we could not hold off publication, for it was
too much fun to keep from others.
Dave and I disagree on how to handle
any number of things, and both of our campaigns differ from the "rules" found in
DandD. If the time ever comes when all aspects of fantasy are covered and the
vast majority of its players agree on how the game should be played, DandD will
have become staid and boring indeed. Sorry, but I don't believe that there is
anything desirable in having various campaigns playing similarly to one another.
DandD is supposed to offer a challenge to the imagination and to do so in many
ways. Perhaps the most important is in regard to what the probabilities of a
given situation are. If players know what all of the monster parameters are,
what can be expected in a given situation, exactly what will happen to them if
they perform thus and so, most of the charm of the game is gone. Frankly, the
reason I enjoy playing in Dave Arneson's campaign is that I do not know his
treatments of monsters and suchlike, so I must keep thinking and reasoning in
order to "survive". Now, for example, if I made a proclamation from on high
which suited Mr. Johnstone, it would certainly be quite unacceptable to hundreds
or even thousands of other players. My answer is, and has always been, if you
don't like the way I do it, change the bloody rules to suit yourself and your
players. DandD enthusiasts are far too individualistic and imaginative a bunch
to be in agreement, and I certainly refuse to play god for them -- except as a
referee in my own campaign where they jolly well better toe the mark. Let us
consider the magic-user question.
We allow magic-users to employ the
number of spells shown on the table, so a 1st level m-u gets exactly one 1st
level spell to use once before he must go back to his books and prepare to use
the spell once again -- or a spell once again. To allow unlimited use of the
spell is to make the m-u's too powerful. There is a better solution, of course;
one I have been aware of since the first. That is to utilize a point system
based on the m-u's basic abilities and his or her level. Spell cost is then
taken as a function of the spell and the circumstances in which it is cast and
possibly how much force is put into the spell. All that would have required a
great deal of space and been far more complex to handle, so I opted for the
again, as a case in point, Ted Johnstone says I have
trouble telling which rules are so completely obvious that he doesn't need to
explain them. That, dear friends, is a statement which could only be made by
someone who has never authored a set of rules or a game! Many of the rules which
are completely obvious to me are totally obscure to others. I can say in
complete truthfulness that I have had to explain each and every section of the
rules to some players, either in person or by letter.
I desire variance
in interpretation and, as long as I am editor of the TSR line and its magazine,
I will do my utmost to see that there is as little trend towards standardization
as possible. Each campaign should be a "variant", and there is no "official
interpretation" from me or anyone else. If a game of "Dungeons and Beavers"
suits a group, all I say is more power to them, for every fine referee runs his
own variant of DandD anyway.
I recall that I told Bob Sacks that in
Greyhawk we do not have existing religions included, for this is a touchy area.
We have such groups as "The Church of the Latter Day Great Old Ones," Church of
Crom, Scientist", "Brethren of St. Cuthbert of the Cudgle", and so on. Gods
sometimes intervene. There are some artifacts and the like which aid clerics. In
general, however, clerics are powerful enough without much aid, for they have
quite a few advantages and work up very quickly. Fighters are really the ones
whom everyone should be irate about, for they have the hardest time of it, if
not backed up by other classes or by lots of other fighters or blessed with the
most powerful of magic gear.
How does one use gunpowder weapons in the
confined spaces of the dungeon? What happens to ears? Blackmoor has some
gunpowder usage but the filthy stuff won't work in Greyhawk's world.
the way, a score of 18 is only the usual top limit for humans in Greyhawk. We
have monsters with intelligence scores well over 18, and one player is about to
work out a deal which will jump his to not less than 19.
Ted that I too subscribe to the slogan "DandD is too important to leave to Gary
Gygax." Gosh and golly! Whoever said anything else. However, pal, best remember
that it is far too good to leave to you or any other individual or little group
either! It now belongs to the thousands of players enjoying it worldwide, most
of whom will probably never hear of you or your opinions unless you get them
into THE STRATEGIC REVIEW. As soon as we can manage it, we intend to have expand
SR, publish bimonthly and include a letter column.
Thanks again for
sending AandE. It was most enjoyable. Watch out though, that it doesn't start
DandD down the road of DIPLOMACY fandom with its constant feuds, bickering,
invective, etc. Now tell the fellows to pick on Dave Arneson awhile -- after all
he had as much to do with the whole mess as I did!
Regards, E. Gary Gygax