Saturday, July 23, 2016

Mining for Gygax Quotes - ENWorld Q&A from 2002 Part 1

Okay, so I should do something else and I'm reading my blogroll instead. As those things never go well, I read a post quoting Gygax by Delta from the great Delta's D&D Hotspot. And I think, yeah, why not read some Q&A with the man himself while I should do something else ... and off I went.

The ENWorld Q&A with Gary Gygax from 2002 we are talking about here sports 880 pages, going strong for 6 years, no less and Gygax was very active in it, questions coming from all kinds of directions. Around page 8 I thought, I need to collect some of those for later reference (as I always lack those) and the logical consequence is making a post out of it!

Still one of my favorite memes with the man :D [source]
And here it is, questions and answers I thought interesting and relevant from the first 50 pages. Please remember, selection is always also a form of interpretation, but I linked the exact spot I took the quote from to have some context for those in the mood to dig in further. Other than that I didn't alter what was written nor do any spell correction (Mr. G. took the time to answer lots of questions, but he did so very fast, too, it seems).

Thanks, Delta, for pointing me in this direction! This is a great source of all kinds of information about our hobby and I'm really enjoying working my way through this :) Also a warning: this starts 2002, so there's lots of talk about 3e ...


Q: 1. To what degree, in your opinion, has D&D returned to its original roots (style and spirit-wise)?

A: 1. There is no relationship between 3E and original D&D, or OAD&D for that matter. Different games, style, and spirit.

A: The main differences in the older works I did and 3E are style of writing, reliance on archetypes, limitatations on character advancement, availability of and creation of magic items, and general single-class play for human characters.

Play is mainly reliant on rules. I ignored those I write when DMing if the game called for that, and in all added what was logical in terms of the game environment to play. Thus much of adventuring was not "by the book," but rather seat of the pants play by DM and players alike.

Rules lawyers are unmentionable...

Creating adventures is something that generally relies a lot on the system bases, rules, monsters, eivironments, etc. In regards to the first named, the more rules one must pay close attention to, the more difficult it is to create adventure material.

Q: 2. In your own words, how would you summarize the difference between AD&D and Basic/Expert/etc. D&D?

Q: 3. How important do you feel the concept of 'character archtypes' is to the D&D game? Do you feel that 3e rules, by going away from having core character classes, has lost something important here?

A: 2. I am not going to try to do critical comparative anayyses here or in any chat. That's a task that demands much careful thinking and effort. The only thing I can say about the matter is this: Play the two and judge for yourself. I think that AD&D is a "tighter" game than D&D was, more directed, less free-form. However, that applies mainly to those DMs who followed the book, if you will, as AD&D could be played in the same style as D&D.

A: 3. I feel very strongly that the archetype is crucial to the D&D game, and yes, I believe that 3E has suffered by virtually abandoning that concept. Without it I don't think the game will maintain so strong an appeal as it originally possessed. Time will tell.

Q: 3) How do you explain hit points, or do you even bother?

Q: 4) In 3e, there's one big goal - Become the hardest bastard you can (I.E., gain power and lots of it.) What were the big goals in OD&D? Wealth? Land? Nobility?

A: 3) That's easy. HPs represent not only the physical person, but that one's luck, skill in avoiding damage. As luck runs low, muscles tire, and reflexes slow their measure, HPs. are lost to reflect this. The last few remaining are the actual physical body being harmed. Okay, its rationalizing, but it works pretty well, I think

A: 4) In OAD&D there was plenty of play aimed at power, just as there is in 3E. Of course those that I knew as "good" players aimed first and foremost at having fun playing the game, regardless of rise in rabk and all the rest that goes with power gaming. The challenge of each session was enjoyed more from a group perspective, likely. As the team prospered, so too the enjoyment, cameraderie, and resulting stories. Many a group downplayed combat, developed campaigns in which roleplay was the key. Politics and economics? Sure. While OAD&D certainly focused on combat mechanics and rules, it did not hinder other sorts of play. The XP system in 3E does that with a vengence.

In comment 371

Q: Of course, OAD&D's XP system promoted the gaining of treasure above all else. At least there are plenty of ideas in the 3E DMG for changing the XP system, and more online. Is that comment due to (a) the rate of advancement in 3E, (b) that XP is given only for overcoming monsters, (c) some other reason, or (d) some combination of (a), (b) and/or (c)?

On a related topic, what are the highest level OAD&D characters you've played or DMed? (That have started at a low level and worked their way upwards, of course!)

A: Indeed, the wealth was featured--most realistically if one considers human motivations. If you, the real you, were an adventurerer, what would miotivate you more that the lure of riches? Sure, altruistic things, honor, patriotism and the like come into play, but most adventures are based on the lure of treasure. Note also that casting spells earned XPs, as did successful performance of various class abilities not related to fighting. But enough comparative analysis.

I have played a PC of over 20th but less than 30th level. Advancement of that particular character came because of long play and some pretty clever stuff done therein, if I do say so myself. I have DMed for some higher level PCS, and my observation was that the players really didn't have the expertise to have gained such level in my campaigm. the highest level ever gained in my campaign is around 20th, Some players could have gotten above the level their best PC had attained, but they preferred to play several, as I have always done, and keep the levels lower.

In comment 376

Q: XP for casting spells in OAD&D? I must have missed that, as I've never seen it used - or perhaps it's one of the many features of your campaign that wasn't in the original rules. Not that it matters!

A: Now I could swear that's in the rules somewhere, maybe UA? Anyway, we always played it as 100 XP per level of the spell cast--usefully in an adventure or to assist someone during or after, so clerics were rewarded as well as m-us.

Q: Gary, I'm curious about your thoughts on the D&D (or AD&D) Paladin class. Many gamers see the Paladin's Lawful Good alignment restriction as an essential part of this class. Other players, however, have no problem with allowing Chaotic Good Paladins, Lawful Evil Paladins, and Paladins of any and all alignments.

Do you think that the Paladin's Lawful Good alignment restriction is an appropriate, or even an essential, element of this class? I myself am all for having "Holy Warriors" of all alignments, but I've always viewed the "Paladin" title as being uniquely bound to the service of both Law and Goodness. Maybe I'm just a traditionalist.

Also, from where did the class concept originate? Is it true that Poul Anderson'sThree Hearts and Three Lions story is one of the main influences of the AD&D Paladin?

A: As far as I am concerned, the Paladin is Lawful Good--perior. The class takes vows, swears an oath, and then follows it. The concept is drawn from some legend--Authurian--and some quasi-legend--the paladins of Charlemaine plus the code of chivalry as it was written, more honored in the breach than the keeping. As described in the game system, any characyer that was of paladin class would cease being so immediately his vows were broken.

Playing a proper paladin is often mishandled also. They are not stupid per se, only bound by oaths. For example I did allow paladins to slay dangerous prisoners if those individuals renounced Evil. In such a state of grace, killing them is actually a Good act, for they will then go on to a better life in another world instead of being sent to some dark and dismal plane to suffer for their ways after death. While a paladin will fight to the death if necessary, they are not usually bound to suicidal valor for no pirpose.

Anyway, while Poul Anderson in his excellent THREE HEARTS & THREE LIONS was treating Oiger the Dane as his protagonist, that work was not the source for the paladin class. I did borrow a good deal from the troll he had in the yarn though

In comment 439

Q: 3. I'm sure the answer to this is available elsewhere, but could you say how you came up with the name Dungeons and Dragons? (if it was covered earlier in the thread, sorry).

A: There is some false information put out on this subject from T$R after I split. When I wrote the initial and second drafts of the D&D game ms. I had it's title as "The Fantasy Game." This was for two reasons: One, I hadn't settled on a name yet. Two, when I did choose a name, I didn't want it known intil a product was out. During this period I made up a two-column list of names. All in column one could stand alone or go with one in the second column to form a longer title. I read the lists to my regular players, and my family, asking what they thought best. Of course the list had both "Dungeons" and "Dragons" on it. Those two in combination were the favorites, and when my (then) little daughter Cindy clapped her hands and said the really liked that name, I agreed. It was my favorite too--after all, I had formed the Castle & Crusade Society as a part of the International Federation of Wargaming about three years before that.


That's it for today, all I found interesting enough to collect from the first 50 pages, either for later reference or because it's relevant to posts I written in the past (like about experience in the old RC just the other day). Damn, it's fascinating and I'm really curious what's still in store. I like what I read from the man, too. Seemed to be a very nice guy to chat with and pleasant all around.

I hope you found it as interesting and I will continue this series eventually (Gary Gygax Day is coming up fast, so there is hope for another installment soon). But now I really should do something else ...


  1. Replies
    1. It is, isn't it? Those quotes are the ones that somehow stuck out, but there is so much more! He wanted to give Castle Greyhawk the Hackmaster treatment (GreyHack) because it was closest to OAD&D at the time. Made me a bit sad to read about him looking forward to retirement and finally having the time to play more ... Well, good stuff, all in all.

  2. Nice work. I've done some of that "mining", albeit with a particular focus, compiling Gygax quotes about the original Basic set & Holmes. See: Gygax on Holmes

    1. Thanks! And I'm very interested in his ideas about basic, so that's cool. I don't know if they'll talk about this in the EN thread (I'm sure it'll come up, though), but there was some lose chatter about the RC and that Gygax didn't pay much attention at the time (being busy with AD&D), but had a chance afterwards to try it and liked it. But that's not a lot to go with ...

  3. You might also be interested in this K&KA thread where I recently compiled some info on other places where Gygax posted:
    Gygax Q&A threads


Recent developments made it necessary to moderate posts again. Sorry about that, folks.