The origins of Role Playing Games

I’m sure that something like this has been come up beore but I want to get a better idea.

More or less what I have heard Igax created D&D in the early to mid 70’s and it some how grew out of war gaming (this only what i have heard from sources that suspect are 3rd or 4th hand)

But on the white-wolf fourms i have been flamed for claiming that D&D was the first RPG and in that flame several pepole claimed that their were many proto RPG’s and that D&D was the one that got popular (but many of the pepole on the white-wolf fourms are anti D&D to start with)

So I just want to get a better understanding of where Role Playing Games came from

Nitpick: That would be Gary Gygax

I have been playing D&D and other RPG’s since 1979 and I hadn’t heard of any earlier systems. I will see if I can scare anything up. Judges Guild dates into the mid 70’s might be a lead.

I saw an interview with Gary Gygax on television. What he said was that FRPGs evolved from war games played out with little miniatures. Somebody got the idea of using fantasy scenarios instead of just “real battles,” and somebody else got the idea of creating background stories for the battles. One thing lead to another, and all of a sudden you had the Player’s Handbook, the Dungeon Master’s Guide, the Fiend Folio, the Saturday morning cartoon, and that really atrocious movie . . .

But the guy who interviewed Gary Gygax was Phil Donahue, so with that timeframe established, you’ll have to figure a good probability for memory fault into what I just said. I’m pretty sure it’s accurate though.

The answer will be very dependent upon your definitions. Is monopoly a role-playing-game? Cops ‘n’ robbers?

The game with miniatures was called “Chainmail.” It involved miniature warriors, knights, archers etc. The combat used six-sided dice. Based on the popularity of The Lord of the Rings, someone wrote a supplemental rule booklet that let you add things like wizards, dragons and orcs.

The first D&D was a boxed set of three paperback booklets. It had the basic idea of a group of people, each playing a single character, plus a dungeon master who designed the adventure ahead of time. The characters had races and classes based on Tolkien, and attributes like Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution and Charisma which were determined by rolling dice.

I’m pretty sure that the other types of dice - with 4, 8, 12, and 20 sides - were used with this version.

There were supplements (“Greyhawk” was the first, IIRC), which added spells, new character classes, new playable races, new magic items, new monsters, etc.

There was also a game called Empire of the Petal Throne, which legend has it was played by Gary Gygax, and others in the mid seventies. I played the damn thing, and although it has older roots than D&D the only way the game was playable, was to ignore the lame assed rules. Gygax didn’t so much borrow from it, as flee from it.

Now some of the monsters from EPT were cool as hell. Still in my fondest game memories wander the deadly shape changers, the Miholle, and those damned annoying little frog men, the Hlutgru. In fact, after no fewer than six universe collapses, still survive one hundred Miholle, themselves dedicated to the evil schemes now forsworn by their former leader, Fu Hsi.

Watch out if their eyes turn red, no matter what they look like.


Why don’t we just kick in the door, and follow the right hand wall?

Well war games are RPGs in a way. Diplomacy, for example, was invented in 1958.

Roleplaying wargames have existed for over 200 years, with three basic principles:
[ul][li]Counters or figures used to simulate miltary units.[/li][li]Portions of the board are hidden from the players, giving them only limited information.[/li][li]A referee is needed to objectively judge the effectiveness of tactics.[/li][/ul]
The Germans were masters at this sort of game, a kriegspiel. It was typically used to train junior staff officers and it’s not hard to see why. The General tells the Major that the Polish artillery has opened up on the forward battalion. So the Major says he orders the Cavalry into position for a charge, then the General tell the Major that if he did that, the horses would be bogged down in the mud and the Cavalry wiped out. In order to keep the game fair, the General should let the Major know if his tactics would succeed, instead of just slapping him down all the time. Eventually, the Major would learn to take key factors into account so that when he eventually commanded a regiment, he would do so competently.

Interestingly, Cornelius Ryan documents in his book “The Longest Day” that many German Generals were away from their posts on the coast of France on June 6, 1944 becuase they had gathered for an elaborate kriegspiel. In this one goofy case, having a kriegspiel actually helped them lose the war.