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Other Gaming => Adventure Gaming => Topic started by: bayonetbrant on August 24, 2019, 08:46:15 PM

Title: Stray RPG stories
Post by: bayonetbrant on August 24, 2019, 08:46:15 PM (

Title: Re: Stray RPG stories
Post by: Martok on August 25, 2019, 12:57:19 AM
A sweet story.  Sounds like she was, indeed, one cool grandmother. 
Title: Re: Stray RPG stories
Post by: bayonetbrant on August 26, 2019, 09:10:28 PM
Kotaku: Dungeons & Deceptions: The First D&D Players Push Back On The Legend Of Gary Gygax. (
Title: Re: Stray RPG stories
Post by: Martok on August 27, 2019, 10:49:47 PM
Kotaku: Dungeons & Deceptions: The First D&D Players Push Back On The Legend Of Gary Gygax. (

Interesting, thanks for the link Brant.  Some of that I'd read/heard before, some of it I hadn't. 

At times, one gets the impression that Gygax & Arneson are to D&D what Edison & Tesla were to electricity. 
Title: Re: Stray RPG stories
Post by: bbmike on August 28, 2019, 08:28:16 AM
Or what the Skipper and Gilligan were to charter boating.
Title: Re: Stray RPG stories
Post by: bayonetbrant on August 28, 2019, 09:21:46 AM
Interesting, thanks for the link Brant.  Some of that I'd read/heard before, some of it I hadn't. 

At times, one gets the impression that Gygax & Arneson are to D&D what Edison & Tesla were to electricity.

this is just another one of many different versions of the creation myth
Title: Re: Stray RPG stories
Post by: bayonetbrant on September 19, 2019, 12:40:20 PM
I remember reading this article when it got emailed around back in 2000.  This is such ancient history to so many gamers today it's amazing, but it was very real, very meaningful current events when it happened to us (

In the winter of 1997, I traveled to Lake Geneva Wisconsin on a secret mission. In the late fall, rumors of TSR's impending bankruptcy had created an opportunity to made a bold gamble that the business could be saved by an infusion of capital or an acquisition with a larger partner. After a hasty series of phone calls and late night strategy sessions, I found myself standing in the snow outside of 201 Sheridan Springs Road staring at a building bearing a sign that said "TSR, Incorporated".

Inside the building, I found a dead company.

In the halls that had produced the stuff of my childhood fantasies, and had fired my imagination and become unalterably intertwined with my own sense of self, I found echoes, empty desks, and the terrible depression of lost purpose.

The life story of a tree can be read by a careful examination of its rings. The life story of a corporation can be read by a careful examination of its financial records and corporate minutes.

I was granted unprecedented access to those records. I read the TSR corporate log book from the first page penned in haste by Gary Gygax to the most recent terse minutes dictated to a lawyer with no connection to hobby gaming. I was able to trace the meteoric rise of D&D as a business, the terrible failure to control costs that eventually allowed a total outsider to take control away from the founders, the slow and steady progress to rebuild the financial solvency of the company, and the sudden and dramatic failure of that business model. I read the euphoric copyright filings for the books of my lost summers: "Player's Handbook", "Fiend Folio", "Oriental Adventures". I read the contract between Gary and TSR where Gary was severed from contact with the company he had founded and the business he had nurtured and grown. I saw the clause where Gary, forced to the wall by ruthless legal tactics was reduced to insisting to the right to use his own name in future publishing endeavors, and to take and keep control of his personal D&D characters. I read the smudged photocopies produced by the original Dragonlance Team, a group of people who believed in a new idea for gaming that told a story across many different types of products. I saw concept artwork evolve from lizard men with armor to unmistakable draconians. I read Tracy Hickman's one page synopsis of the Dragonlance Story. I held the contract between Tracy and Margaret for the publication of the three Chronicles novels. I read the contract between Ed Greenwood and TSR to buy his own personal game world and transform it into the most developed game setting in history - the most detailed and explored fantasy world ever created.

And I read the details of the Random House distribution agreement; an agreement that TSR had used to support a failing business and hide the fact that TSR was rotten at the core. I read the entangling bank agreements that divided the copyright interests of the company as security against default, and realized that the desperate arrangements made to shore up the company's poor financial picture had so contaminated those rights that it might not be possible to extract Dungeons & Dragons from the clutches of lawyers and bankers and courts for years upon end. I read the severance agreements between the company and departed executives which paid them extraordinary sums for their silence. I noted the clauses, provisions, amendments and agreements that were piling up more debt by the hour in the form of interest charges, fees and penalties. I realized that the money paid in good faith by publishers and attendees for GenCon booths and entrance fees had been squandered and that the show itself could not be funded. I discovered that the cost of the products that company was making in many cases exceeded the price the company was receiving for selling those products. I toured a warehouse packed from floor to 50 foot ceiling with products valued as though they would soon be sold to a distributor with production stamps stretching back to the late 1980s. I was 10 pages in to a thick green bar report of inventory, calculating the true value of the material in that warehouse when I realized that my last 100 entries had all been "$0"'s.

I met staff members who were determined to continue to work, despite the knowledge that they might not get paid, might not even be able to get in to the building each day. I saw people who were working on the same manuscripts they'd been working on six months earlier, never knowing if they'd actually be able to produce the fruits of their labor. In the eyes of those people (many of whom I have come to know as friends and co workers), I saw defeat, desperation, and the certain knowledge that somehow, in some way, they had failed. The force of the human, personal pain in that building was nearly overwhelming - on several occasions I had to retreat to a bathroom to sit and compose myself so that my own tears would not further trouble those already tortured souls.

I ran hundreds of spreadsheets, determined to figure out what had to be done to save the company. I was convinced that if I could just move enough money from column A to column B, that everything would be ok. Surely, a company with such powerful brands and such a legacy of success could not simply cease to exist due to a few errors of judgment and a poor strategic plan?

I made several trips to TSR during the frenzied days of negotiation that resulted in the acquisition of the company by Wizards of the Coast. When I returned home from my first trip, I retreated to my home office; a place filled with bookshelves stacked with Dungeons & Dragons products. From the earliest games to the most recent campaign setting supplements - I owned, had read, and loved those products with a passion and intensity that I devoted to little else in my life. And I knew, despite my best efforts to tell myself otherwise, that the disaster I kept going back to in Wisconsin was the result of the products on those shelves.

When Peter put me in charge of the tabletop RPG business in 1998, he gave me one commission: Find out what went wrong, fix the business, save D&D. Vince also gave me a business condition that was easy to understand and quite direct. "God damnit, Dancey", he thundered at me from across the conference table: "Don't lose any more money!"

That became my core motivation. Save D&D. Don't lose money. Figure out what went wrong. Fix the problem.

Back into those financials I went. I walked again the long threads of decisions made by managers long gone; there are few roadmarks to tell us what was done and why in the years TSR did things like buy a needlepoint distributorship, or establish a west coast office at King Vedor's mansion. Why had a moderate success in collectable dice triggered a million unit order? Why did I still have stacks and stacks of 1st edition rulebooks in the warehouse? Why did TSR create not once, not twice, but nearly a dozen times a variation on the same, Tolkien inspired, eurocentric fantasy theme? Why had it constantly tried to create different games, poured money into marketing those games, only to realize that nobody was buying those games? Why, when it was so desperate for cash, had it invested in a million dollar license for content used by less than 10% of the marketplace? Why had a successful game line like Dragonlance been forcibly uprooted from its natural home in the D&D game and transplanted to a foreign and untested new game system? Why had the company funded the development of a science fiction game modeled on D&D - then not used the D&D game rules?

In all my research into TSR's business, across all the ledgers, notebooks, computer files, and other sources of data, there was one thing I never found - one gaping hole in the mass of data we had available.

No customer profiling information. No feedback. No surveys. No "voice of the customer". TSR, it seems, knew nothing about the people who kept it alive. The management of the company made decisions based on instinct and gut feelings; not data. They didn't know how to listen - as an institution, listening to customers was considered something that other companies had to do - TSR lead, everyone else followed.

In today's hypercompetitive market, that's an impossible mentality. At Wizards of the Coast, we pay close attention to the voice of the customer. We ask questions. We listen. We react. So, we spent a whole lot of time and money on a variety of surveys and studies to learn about the people who play role playing games. And, at every turn, we learned things that were not only surprising, they flew in the face of all the conventional wisdom we'd absorbed through years of professional game publishing.

We heard some things that are very, very hard for a company to hear. We heard that our customers felt like we didn't trust them. We heard that we produced material they felt was substandard, irrelevant, and broken. We heard that our stories were boring or out of date, or simply uninteresting. We heard the people felt that >we< were irrelevant.

I know now what killed TSR. It wasn't trading card games. It wasn't Dragon Dice. It wasn't the success of other companies. It was a near total inability to listen to its customers, hear what they were saying, and make changes to make those customers happy. TSR died because it was deaf.

Amazingly, despite all those problems, and despite years of neglect, the D&D game itself remained, at the core, a viable business. Damaged; certainly. Ailing; certainly. But savable? Absolutely.

Our customers were telling us that 2e was too restrictive, limited their creativity, and wasn't "fun to play'? We can fix that. We can update the core rules to enable the expression of that creativity. We can demonstrate a commitment to supporting >your< stories. >Your< worlds. And we can make the game fun again.

Our customers were telling us that we produced too many products, and that the stuff we produced was of inferior quality? We can fix that. We can cut back on the number of products we release, and work hard to make sure that each and every book we publish is useful, interesting, and of high quality.

Our customers were telling us that we spent too much time on our own worlds, and not enough time on theirs? Ok - we can fix that. We can re-orient the business towards tools, towards examples, towards universal systems and rules that aren't dependent on owning a thousand dollars of unnecessary materials first.

Our customers were telling us that they prefer playing D&D nearly 2:1 over the next most popular game option? That's an important point of distinction. We can leverage that desire to help get them more people to play >with< by reducing the barriers to compatibility between the material we produce, and the material created by other companies.

Our customers told us they wanted a better support organization? We can pour money and resources into the RPGA and get it growing and supporting players like never before in the club's history. (10,000 paid members and rising, nearly 50,000 unpaid members - numbers currently skyrocketing).

Our customers were telling us that they want to create and distribute content based on our game? Fine - we can accommodate that interest and desire in a way that keeps both our customers and our lawyers happy.

Are we still listening? Yes, we absolutely are. If we hear you asking us for something we're not delivering, we'll deliver it. But we're not going to cater to the specific and unique needs of a minority if doing so will cause hardship to the majority. We're going to try and be responsible shepards of the D&D business, and that means saying "no" to things that we have shown to be damaging to the business and that aren't wanted or needed by most of our customers.

We listened when the customers told us that Alternity wasn't what they wanted in a science fiction game. We listened when customers told us that they didn't want the confusing, jargon filled world of Planescape. We listened when people told us that the Ravenloft concept was overshadowed by the products of a competitor. We listened to customers who told us that they want core materials, not world materials. That they buy DUNGEON magazine every two months at a rate twice that of our best selling stand-alone adventures.

We're not telling anyone what game to play. We are telling the market that we're going to actively encourage our players to stand up and demand that they be listened to, and that they become the center of the gaming industry - rather than the current publisher-centric model. Through the RPGA, the Open Gaming movement, the pages of Dragon Magazine, and all other venues available, we want to empower our customers to do what >they< want, to force us and our competitors to bend to >their< will, to make the products >they< want made.

I want to be judged on results, not rhetoric. I want to look back at my time at the helm of this business and feel that things got better, not worse. I want to know that my team made certain that the mistakes of the past wouldn't be the mistakes of the future. I want to know that we figured out what went wrong. That we fixed it. That we saved D&D. And that god damnit, we didn't lose money.

Thank you for listening,
Ryan S. Dancey
VP, Wizards of the Coast
Brand Manager, Dungeons & Dragons

Title: Re: Stray RPG stories
Post by: bayonetbrant on September 19, 2019, 12:42:32 PM
also fascinating
Title: Re: Stray RPG stories
Post by: Martok on September 19, 2019, 02:20:12 PM
Fascinating, indeed (including the above article by Dancey).  :2thumbs: 
Title: Re: Stray RPG stories
Post by: bayonetbrant on June 03, 2020, 10:54:50 PM
A "history" of the different versions of D&D (
Title: Re: Stray RPG stories
Post by: bayonetbrant on June 30, 2020, 06:00:31 PM
I'm reading the 4-volume set of Designers & Dragons right now. Wow. Insanely, meticulously completist
Title: Re: Stray RPG stories
Post by: mirth on June 30, 2020, 06:03:08 PM
Insanely, meticulously completist

Yes, you are.
Title: Re: Stray RPG stories
Post by: bayonetbrant on July 25, 2020, 10:40:32 PM
Title: Re: Stray RPG stories
Post by: bayonetbrant on August 09, 2020, 11:18:28 AM Legends of Grayskull Tabletop Roleplaying Game Announced.
Title: Re: Stray RPG stories
Post by: bayonetbrant on October 01, 2020, 07:09:45 AM
Paranoia.... In the 14th century?!
Title: Re: Stray RPG stories
Post by: bayonetbrant on November 03, 2020, 01:19:45 PM
I'm reading the 4-volume set of Designers & Dragons right now. Wow. Insanely, meticulously completist

interview with the author of the Designers & Dragons

Title: Re: Stray RPG stories
Post by: bayonetbrant on November 20, 2020, 11:16:50 AM
saw this one in an RPG group on FB

Several levels into a campaign, the party has infiltrated a cult stronghold, disguised as members. They meet a giant and discover he's only grudgingly working for the cult, so they convince him to help them cause problems.

The giant reveals that there's an evil dragon, aligned with the cult, in the caverns below. Party tries to recruit him but he says he can't fit through the tunnels, otherwise he'd love to kill the dragon.

Bard: "Wait, I just learned Polymorph. Could I turn him into a rabbit, then turn him back when we get there? I could do it again after the fight to get him out."

They convince the giant to go with that plan, but this story ain't done yet!

At the end of the relevant tunnel, they can see the larger chamber with a dragon in it. (Same size category as the giant, but can get through the tunnels due to its more serpentine body shape.) They prepare to attack...
...then someone had an idea.

As I mentioned, this dragon was aligned with the cult, and the party were all disguised as cultists. And they currently have a snack-sized bunny which can instantly revert to the same size as the dragon. When happens when Polymorph expires *inside the dragon*?

"You'll need to convince the giant to go along with this."

They succeed.

"It'll be suspicious if you all walk in together to deliver a small snack."

They throw a Bardic Inspiration on the warlock and send him in.

"You need to convince the dragon of your ruse."

They succeed.

"The rabbit has like 1HP, if you leave it on the floor the dragon will likely pop the Polymorph before it's fully inside."

They opt to feed it directly to the dragon, hoping for a swallow whole.

"Okay, but the dragon doesn't care about individual cultists, so make a DEX save to keep your arms."

Made it.
And that's when a dragon popped like a balloon without ever rolling initiative.
Title: Re: Stray RPG stories
Post by: Martok on November 20, 2020, 07:14:02 PM
Ah, fantastic!  Reminds me of the time my group managed to defeat the Tarrasque by creating a pool of water around it, and then electrocuting it to death.  :D 

Title: Re: Stray RPG stories
Post by: bayonetbrant on February 15, 2021, 04:33:38 PM

I have decided to take a dive into the d20 System era, so today’s game is its starting point, Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition (2000) from Wizards of the Coast. I worked at WotC from 1998 to 2002 so I was there for the development, launch, and follow-up to 3E. I did no design work on the core game, but I was in roleplaying R&D, so I was involved in the internal playtesting, meetings, and discussions. Everyone involved in 3E got a Player’s Handbook with their name embossed on the front cover. The pictures show mine.

Now AD&D Second Edition had been published in 1989 and WotC bought the ailing TSR in 1997, so it made sense to do a new edition. The goal was to retain the core of D&D but to rationalize the rules to make them more consistent and ideally easier to learn and play. In previous editions of D&D, sometimes you wanted to roll high and sometimes you wanted to roll low. Sometimes you rolled a d20 and sometimes percentile dice. A lower armor class was better than a higher one, with the result that +3 armor actually reduced your AC. This is the sort of stuff that 3E addressed successfully. There was a core mechanic for everything. Roll a d20, add modifiers, and try to hit a target number (hence the d20 System). Armor Class would now go up instead of down. Thief skills were no longer percentile but d20 rolls like anything else. This was all to the good.

The thing to understand about WotC in this period though is it was a group of competing factions and within the company there was a lot of disagreement about the direction of 3E. I remember Harold Johnson (an old TSR hand and the designer of Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan) holding up a playtest packet in a R&D meeting and thundering, “This document is an act of hubris!” You can think of the game as the end result of a series of negotiations more than the implementation of a vision. This was not always to the game’s benefit. One of the Magic designers, for example, came in one day and said, “I playtested the game with six rogue PCs and the skill system is totally broken.” The skill system was then rewritten, despite the fact that a six rogue party is not how D&D is played. The decisions made all seemed logical enough in isolation, but the end result was a game that was just more complicated than it needed to be. Anyone who ever tried to design a high-level monster of NPC can tell you that. Because of things like synergy bonuses, the ability to add character classes to monsters, and other finicky rules, it was difficult to actually stat up adversaries correctly. The full-time paid designers at WotC had a hard time with it, which you can see from the product reviews of this period. There was a whole sub-genre of them that ran through books notating all the math mistakes. Roleplaying R&D ultimately came to rely on an extremely detailed Excel sheet that Penny Williams put together over several years, since the promised electronic tools (there was a demo CD with the Player’s Handbook) had a host of problems in development.

The long-term issues of D&D 3E are not necessarily obvious at first blush and it plays well at low to medium levels. And I don’t mean to denigrate anyone’s efforts. Many smart and talented designers, editors, artists etc. worked hard under challenging conditions. The game’s launch was a big success for WotC and there was much enthusiasm over the first new edition in 11 years. There was also excitement about an announced licensing plan that would allow other companies to publish 3E compatible material. I will get into the launch of the d20 System as a brand and license tomorrow. #CuratedQuarantine
Title: Re: Stray RPG stories
Post by: Martok on February 15, 2021, 06:32:57 PM
Some interesting insights there, especially for me, as I still play the 3.5 edition. 

Title: Re: Stray RPG stories
Post by: bayonetbrant on March 22, 2021, 10:46:34 PM
As of 2021, WotC has now owned D&D longer than TSR did

WotC 1997-2021 = 24 years
TSR 1974-1997 = 23 years

yeah, ouch....
Title: Re: Stray RPG stories
Post by: bayonetbrant on April 23, 2021, 10:34:39 PM
Pholy huck   :o

Warriors of Mars released the same year as the original Dungeons and Dragons. In 1974, TSR – back when it was known as Tactical Studies Rules – published this set of miniatures rules set on Barsoom, the setting of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter pulp fiction series.

Gary Gygax noted in his foreward to Warriors of Mars:

The essence of Barsoom — the fearless warriors, the men, the monstrous animals, the geography of Burroughs’ Mars, the social customs, the weaponry — has been formalized into rules which permit the creation of whole new sagas.

The tale can be as simple as a minor skirmish between two swordsmen, or it can be as complex as the interactions which arise between several of the Barsoomian city-empires. It can be the lone adventures of a hero pitted against the harsh realities of Martian wilderness, or it can be the epic tale of a voyage of discovery aboard a small flier.

All this was not to be, however.

The book was published without permission from the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate, and a cease-and-desist order meant there would be no further print runs of Warriors of Mars. It’s quite rare today.

I created this post because I have just put a beautiful condition Warriors of Mars up for auction!
Title: Re: Stray RPG stories
Post by: Martok on April 24, 2021, 02:51:56 AM

Title: Re: Stray RPG stories
Post by: mcguire on April 24, 2021, 10:13:06 PM
Wonder how much I could get for that copy of Modern Armor ( I've got in storage? Probably not $1500.