The Foundations of Gaming: Classic Fiction and its Influence on Early Role Playing Games
July 8, 2014
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Things have been quiet around here, but I haven’t quite dropped off the face of the earth. I’ve continued my weekly column over at Castalia House:
REVIEW: Shadow of the Storm by Martin J. Dougherty — This one provides a look at the new Traveller novel set on the Solomani Rim.
RETROSPECTIVE: The Dying Earth by Jack Vance — Gamers bandy around the term “Vancian Magic” quite a bit, so this one delves in to what that stuff really is all about.
RETROSPECTIVE: Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson — This one’s all about the surprising origins of Basic D&D’s three point alignment system.
RETROSPECTIVE: The Winds of Gath by E. C. Tubb — Here I dig into the origins of the term traveler and into the origins of Traveller’s high passage, low passage, and the low lottery.
What started off as a series of book reviews has turned into a tour of the literary underpinnings of the early role playing games. I wasn’t sure how this was going to go– I’ve tried to let the work speak for itself– but I’m going to level with you here. This is my best work. I have no idea what I’m going to say when I pick up a new book, but I sit down and I stay at it until I come up with something. This is 99% perspiration and completely unlike my blogging here. It’s a lot of work. Every paragraph is like an individual problem to solve.
I wouldn’t be spending this much time on it if it wasn’t something that I thought had potential. I’m thinking of working towards making this sort of thing into a book. (Working title: “Appendix N: Reflections on Golden Age Science Fiction and Fantasy and the Development of Tabletop Role Playing Games.”) Unlike all of those other ones that are written on the premise that D&D is the main thing or the only thing, I would also delve into Traveller and Gamma World and who knows what else. I could be wrong, but I think all kinds of things could be turned up that would not only be entertaining, but would also open up new premises for adventures and game designs. This could be a resource for picking out summer reading as well as a tool for breathing new life into some old games. I think a collection of thirty or so of these columns would make for a great read even for people that are only casually interested in hobby games.
However, this series of posts has not set the internet on fire. I am just not getting the amount of feedback on this that I was expecting. Maybe this stuff isn’t as interesting as I thought it was. Maybe my attempt at doing good writing for once is completely wasted effort. Maybe there’s some other project I should be working on instead. I don’t know. But if you are really digging this stuff and want it to continue, then I need to hear about it. I can delay gratification up to a point. I can quietly persevere for a time. But if I don’t get some kind of sign in the next few weeks, I may need to slow down, step back, and try a different tack.