Saturday, January 2, 2010

Gary Gygax in Europa Newsletter 1975: On D&D and Castle Greyhawk

Extracted From Europa WEB ARCHIVE, issues 6-8, April 1975.

Page 20 
E 6,8, page 18 GABT GÏGAX: D&D 
Part II of a Series by Gary Gygax (USA) 
Let us assume that you have shelled out the requisita number of
Page 16 of 46 

dollars to purchase all of the materials necessary for a DftD cam- 
paign - rules, dice, reams of various kinds of paper, pencils, and 
so forth. Several persons have expressed a desire to play the ga- 
me, so all you really need now is the game! That's right, folks. 
The referee of the campaign must structure the game so as to have 
something to play. He must decide upon these things: 
1) The overall setting of the campaign; 
2) The countryside of the immediate area; 
3) The location of the dungeon where most adventures will take 
4) The layout and composition of the nearest large town; and 
5) Eventually the entire world - and possibly other worlds, times, 
dimensions, and so forth must be structured, mapped and added. 
This might seem to be too large a task, but it isn't really IP you 
and your players are enjoying the game (and it is odds-on you 
willl). Furthermore, not all five things need not to be done BEFO- 
RE play commences. In fact, most of the fine referees I know of 
work continually on their campaign, adding, changing, and expan- 
ding various parts continually. A thorough discussion of each of 
the five areas of campaign play is necessary before considering 
how to go about involving players in the affair. 
Step 1 is something you do in your head. Now fantasy/swords & sor- 
cery games need not have any fixed basis for the assumptions made 
by its referee (my own doesn't) except those which embrace the 
whole of fantasy. This sort of campaign can mix any and all of the 
various bases which will be mentioned below — and then some-. 
Regardless for what setting you opt, keep it secret from your play- 
ers, or else they can study your sources and become immediately 
too knowledgable, thus removing the charm of uncertainty. Settings 
based upon the limits (if one can speak of fantasy limits) can be 
very interesting in themselves providing the scope of the setting 
will allow the players relative free-reign to their imaginations. 
Typical settings are: Teutonic/Norse Mythology; Medieval European 
Folklore (including King Arthur, Holger the bane, and so on); The 
"Hyborean Age" created by R E Howard; Fritz Leiber's "Nehwoh" with 
Pafhrd and The Grey Mouser; Indian Mythology; and Lost Continents 
such as Atlantis or Mu. Regardless of the setting you can have it 
all taking place on an 'alternative earth' or a parallel world. 
In this way minor variations can easily be explained/justified. 
When the setting is decided upon some good books dealing with it 
should always be kept handy. The time has come to begin working on 
the campaign« 
Step 2 requires sitting down with a large piece of hex ruled paper 
and drawing a large scale map. A map with a scale of 1 hex = 1 «ai- 
le (or 2 kilometers for those of you who go in for recent faddish 
modes of measure)(yes, I often use rods, chains, furlongs, and lea- 
gues tool) will allow you to use your imagination to devise some 
interesting terrain and places, and it will be about right for 
player operations such as exploring, camping, adventuring, and e— 
ventually building their strongholds. Even such small things as a 
witch's hut and side entrances to the dungeon can be shown on the 
map. The central features of the map must be the major town and 
the dungeon entrance. - 
Page 21 
Step 3 ! involves the decision, aspe et already mentioned a,nd the ac- 
tual Work of sitting down and drawing dungeon levels. This is very 
difficult and time consuming. Each level should have a central the- 
me and some distinguishing feature, i.e. a level with large open 
areas swarming with goblins, one where the basic pattern of corri- 
dores seems to repeat endlessly, one nothing but fire-
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Page 17 of 46 
dwelling or fire—using monsters, etc. 
As each level is finished the various means of getting to lower le- 
vels must be keyed and noted on the appropriate lower levels, so 
that if a room sinks fours levels it will then be necessary to im- 
mediately show it on 4 sheets of graph paper "umbered-so as to in- 
dicate successively lower levels. A careful plan of what monsters 
and treasures will be found where on each level is also most neces- 
sary, and it can take as long to prepare as the level itself, for 
you may wish to include something UNUSUAL (a treasure, monster, 
and/or trick or trap not shown in D&D) on each level. 
(Before the rules for D&D were published 'Old G-reyhawk Castle1 vras 
13 levels deep. The first level was a simple maze of rooms and cor- 
r.idores, for none of the participants had ever played such a game 
before. The second level had two unusual items, a Nixie pool and a 
fountain of snakes. The third featured a torture chamber and many 
small cells and prison rooms. The forth was a level of crypts and 
un'dead. The fifth was- centered around a strange font of black fire 
and gargoyles. The sixth was a repeating maze with dozens of wild 
hogs (3 dice) in inconvinient spots, naturally backed up by appro- 
priate numbers of Wereboars. The seventh was centered around a cir- 
cular labyrinth and a street of masses of ogres. The eigth through 
tenth levels were caves and caverns featuring Trolls, ¡triant insects, 
and a transporter nexus with an evil ?izard (with a number of tough 
associates) guarding it. The eleventh level was the home of the 
most powerful wizard in the castle. He had Balrogs as servants. The 
remainder of the level was populated by Martian White Apes, except 
the sub-passage system underneath the corridores which was full of 
poisonous critters with no treasure. Level twelve was filled with 
Dragons. The bottom level, number thirteen, contained an inescapa- 
ble slide which took the players 'clear through to China', from 
whence they had to return via 'Outdoor Adventure'. It was quite 
possible to hourney downward to the bottom level by an insidious 
series of slanting passages which began on the second level, but 
the liklihood of following such a route unknowingly didn't become 
too great until the seventh or eighth level. Of the dozen or so 
who played on a fairly regular basis, four made the lowest level 
and took the trip: RobKuntz, now a co—referee in the campaign 
went alone; and three of his friends managed to trace part of his 
route and blunder along the rest, so they followed him quickly to 
the Land of China-.- Side levels included a barracks with Ores, Hob- 
goblins, and Gnolls continuallying warring with eachother, a museum, 
a huge arena, an underground lake,, a Giant/s home, and a garden of 
Step 4 should be handled concurrently with designing the first 
three or four dungeon levels. Here your players will find lodgings, 
buy equipment, hire mercenaries, seek magical and clerical aid. 
drink, gamble and wench. The town would do well to resemble some of 
those in Howard's "Conan" series or Leiber's city of "Lankhmar", 
Strange towers, a thieves quarter, and temples of horrible deitie:; 
add greater flavor to play. The 'Thieves Guild ', a scoiety of evil 
clerics, a brotherhood of lawful men, and so on bring a bit more 
interest also. If a few warring nobles from the surrounding terri- 
tory also send large parties of men into the place occasionally 
Page 22 
E 6-.-8, page 20 Gary Gygax: D&D 
some interesting brawls can occur. Honest and. dishonest merchants 
should be indicated. Taverns which drug patrons should likewise be 
indicated, and so on. In any event be sure and leave room for addi- 
tional things and expansion. 
Step 5 is, as noted, something that you won't immediately have to 
worry about; but it is a good idea to have a general plan in mind
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Page 18 of 46 
worry about; but it is a good idea to have a general plan in mind 
immediately. The general geography of the 'world' should be sketch- 
ed out. If you plan to make it possible to visit other worlds, ti- 
mes or places the general outline of all such areas should, also be 
sketched out. For example, you might wish to have the Moon an in- 
habitable (and inhabited) place which can be traveled to by means 
of a Flying Carpet, A deseciption of this lunar world should be lo- 
cated somewhere as well as a raeans of getting there, but only AFTER 
you have something solid in the way of maps and the like. 
Having accomplished those parts of the five steps which Te immedi- 
ately necessary (probably taking a week or so), you are ready to 
begin to- play. 
Let us further assume that there are four prospects. These players 
should begin together and for a time at least operate as a team if 
possible. Each in' turn rolls three dice to record the various sco- 
res for the makeup of the character they are to play and. how large 
an initial bankroll the character begin vrith. This accomplished, 
players decide »hat class of character thoy wish to play, the type 
(human, elf, etc), a,nd the alignment of the character (the la,tter 
can ba secretly told the referee, with an announced alignment be- 
ing false). At this stage each player locates his base in some inn 
or the like, and then they can set forth to explore the town and 
purchase their adventuring equipment. Those that are careful and/ 
or lucky might also be able to hire a few men—at—arms to accompany 
them also. The latter is particulary true if players pool their 
funds. In a short time the first dungeon expedition can be made, 
but that is the subject of Part III of this series, so we will re- 
turn to it again later. 
There is one further subject to be dealt with here, and tha,t is 
selection of character type. It is pretty obvious that high base 
scores in the areas of Strength, Intelligence, Y'isdom, or Dexteri- 
ty indicate that becoming a Fighter, kagic-User, Cleric or Thief 
(see the upcoming D&D Supplement "Grayhawk" to be released someti- 
me before the summer of this year). But what about those players 
who roll just average (or worse) totals? They are the ones who 
should take advantage of the non—human types, for these have 
built—in abilities despite the general handicap of being unable to 
work up as high as humans. If the character is poor anyway, will 
he ever bo worked up very high? Possibly, but the odds are against 
it as a human, but as an Elf, Dwarf, Hobbit, Half-Elf or even some 
other creature some interesting', possibilities exist. It is up to 
the referee to help bis players in this area by pointing out the 
advantages and disadvantages of each type. ?/hat do you do if a 
player opts to become a Golden Dragon? Agree, of course. Allow the 
player to adventure only with strictly Lawful players, and normal 
mon—at-arms would never go near even a good dragon. He would be 
Yory Young, siso being determined by a die roll. Advancement in 
ability would be a function of game time (the dragon would normal- 
ly take about four years to grow to its next level) and accumula- 
ted treasure - let us say that for every 100 000 pieces of gold 
(or its equivalent) the dragon in effect gains an extra year of 
growth, counting magical items which go into the horde ,p,s fairly 
high in gold vaine. While the pLayer will be quite advanced at 
first, those who are playing more usual roles will surpass him ra- 
ther quickly, and in this way you'll not find a G.D. dominating. 
Page 23 
E 6-8, page 21 DSD 
********* ******** ************************ **** ****** ** if ****** ***** 
wlh. : D&D seems to get more and more popular; some quotations and 
remarks (out of letters and other zines) may prove it: 
STEPHEN M TYMESON (Hawaii, USA): In our Rame club,"right now, Mi- 
cro Armor 1/285, Third Reich and D&D are the most (...). 
Greg Hines and his group has a set of D&D clarifications, correc- 
tions and additions that are terrific. Their dungeons must be the
1/2/10 1:21 AM 
Page 19 of 46 
most elaborate around. Much of this stuff will bo published in a 
new magazine, they hope this summer. Their system covers the loop 
holes and makes play faster and. easier inspite of adding about a 
million new things." 
NICKY PALMEIt (Danmark/UK): In his zine "Battleground" (in which se- 
veral PBM-CoSira—games are played) he started a PBM-D&D-Kame also. 
He explains: "There are two possibilities: a single expedition, or 
a series of special rules combined with the solo rules ¡¿ iven in 
the "Strategic Review" (l,l). Probably it'll be the first; I have 
been trying the second., though, with Graham Buckell, and it works 
marvellously — he sends me 50 or so sealed bits of paper, and I 
open them in accordance with my actions ("If you take the left 
turn then open no. 21"..."If you try and break open the box, thon 
open no. 33", etc). He may combine the two. So far there are 4 
players interested in playing; we should get a couple more nearer 
the date." 
(Nicky shortly reviewed D&D also in BG 11,3). 
KEVIN SLIMAK (in "The American Wargamer" II,7: 12): "St Louis ap- 
pears to be one of the few areas that isn't hooked on DSD at pre- 
GEORGE PHILLIES (in "The American Wargamer" 11,8:8-9): "To judge 
from published accounts in-wargaming magazines (and I see a lot of 
local magazines) D&D (by Gary Gygax) seems to be the most popular 
gaming title in some time. The explanation must in some sense be, 
psychological, since D&D is entirely unlike any previous sort of 
wargame (if it is one, a thing of which I am not convinced). No- 
velty has its effect, but the novelty has worn off, at least local- 
Previously, there have been three sorts of wargaming efforts: 
boardgames, miniatures and Diplomacy (...) It would appear that 
Gary Gygax has added a Fourth dimension to the wargaming scene." 
"D&D is not a competitive game in the usual sense, at least not as 
played here. It is more, in the old sense, the game of life - you 
vs the world, as represented by ;the gamemaster and the dice." 
"In a sense the popularity of D&D arises from its ability to ap- 
peal to the 'Rommel syndrome'*- the feeling that one actually is 
the character represented in the game." 
"In D&D you are one character (perhaps a few characters, but usu- 
ally individual ones) with a set of strength determined in the ga- 
me. This is a very seductive approach; it is ¡>ju 
sion oneself as .a real person in some other world, than it is to 
believe that one is all of the German eastern front commanders. 
Furthermore, many wargaraers are also SF fans, and D&D can appeal 
to the imagination — the notion that one can create one's own 
( (Cf also: Flying Buffalo's "WargaroerJ s_Inf qroiation" 1,1; "Ab- 
wehr" 11,8:5; then the reviews mentioned in "Íhe__Guide to Warga- 
ming Periodical Literature" 111,4, No. 951-9H3; and, of course: 
Europa 3,14; 4/5,17.61)). *• cf Orvw^s a . <-, \ 
Page 24 
E 6-8, page 22 ! GART GYGAX / SANDY EISEN: D&D 
((wlh. In E 4/5, p 61, Sandy some remarks about D&D, especial- 
ly he mentioned: "This has impressed me as very good indeed when 
I started playing, but now the shine is wearing off as I see that 
it is not really as open—ended as it seemed to be. Nevertheless it 
is still good- fun.")) 
I am first of all interested in knowing who it was that introduced 
the D&D campaign to you I More, importantly, however, I ^ould like 
to know what caused you to find the "shine" rubbing away ~nd the
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Page 20 of 46 
game not "as open—ended a,s it seemed to be". The campaign does 
rest very heavily upon the referee, but if he is doing a proper 
job it will be completely open—ended. The usual fault is a tenden- 
cy to make a D&D cajnpaign into a give—away, with dungeon levels re- 
sembling a magical department store. Players progress so quickly 
that 20th level becomes a run—of—the—mill thing, and where can it 
go from there? (On the other hand there is .a campaign I know of 
where I am informed by a player that after eight month of constant 
adventuring there is an 8th level Magi'c-U'ser as the highest level 
in the game, .and that is tough but good). 
Those who find their campaign in a too-much, too-soon fix can try 
to rectify it by including desi—gods, super-powerful supernatural 
types and the like. This isn't the way D&D was me'ant to be played, 
but it is a fantasy game, and if it saves a game so much the bet- 
ter. There are all sorts of other things that can be done also. 
Other-world adventures can be staged, .and by getting into a semi- 
science fiction situation some of the power of high-level players 
can be negated. Devines, and tricks can be used to nullify and take 
away magic items. Tricks, geases, and quests can cause levels tò be 
lost. Monsters which drain levels can be sot so as to surprise and 
have a good chance of draining players. As a last resort you can 
begin again, and avoid the mistakes originally made. Let me know . 
the specifics if you think I can be of any help. 
SANDY'S REPLY TO GARY (by Sandy Msen, UK) 
I was introduced to D&D, and I a,m currently living in a, campaign 
being refereed by Roger Lighty from Pasadena (now living in Chur- 
chill College Cambridge, UK). I founr the first few games intensely 
enjoyable and exiting; I really lived the part and ny 'willing sus- 
pension of disbelief' found myself there — in the dungeon. My ac- 
tions (and of course my thoughts a,bout these actions) were dicta- 
ted by real-life considerations and no thought of Wargame mechanics 
entered my head to distract me from the 'events' going on. 
However, on my first games, by browsing through the rules booklets 
and pastering Roger with questions, I picked up a rough idea of the 
game mechanics and it was this knowledge that, with its attendant 
realisation thp.t D&D was just another minitures combat system 
(abeit a highly imaginitivo and distinctive one) broke the spell 
of perfect involvement.I had been under until then. Thus when I 
spoke of D&D not being so open—ended, you misunderstood mo. I ^ id 
not mean in terras of the long—term course of the campaign and the 
lifcs of the characters, but rather the possibilities inherent in 
each fight, encounter, discovery, etc. These are still wide, but 
inevitably when you are awarr of the rules, you play out each si- 
tuation with an eye to obtaining best odds/chances of survival,etc. 
considering the rules rather than the situation you are in. 
To avoid this I have decided that when I design and run my own dun- 
geon I will not permit the players (people who do not know about 
D&D yet) to discover the rules. Of course this will put them at a 
great disadvantage, and I feel I may have to put over quite abit of 
Page 25 
E 6-8, page 23 TSR 
information in the form of legend/folklore/tales so that they will 
have some idea of what they are up against and what to try, but all 
without-disclosing the game mechanics. Although learning-by-your- 
mistakes will be a harder way, I feel that it will be more enjoyable 
both for the players and the referee. 
I can appreciate your concerns over too-rapid progress and possibi- 
lities for hra.nching-out after characters have made it to the top, 
but it does not really apply to us, as the campaign I'm in seems


Spiralbound said...

Thanks for posting this, but it is extremely difficult to read a raw OCR transcript. Some time spent cleaning it up and reformatting it for the web would have been appreciated. As it stands, while it is an interesting read, I gave up around the 4th paragraph due to the poor readability.

Rob Kuntz said...

Too bad, I found it readable after blowing it up some and I need glasses. Cutting and pasting into a word program might do the trick as well, as the actual text clarity is very good.

grodog said...

James had some good discussion of this over on his blog @ and Fid posted the content originally in DF @