Tuesday, October 1, 2013

1978 AP D&D article

Click for a larger view

Above is a screenshot of a June 1978 article on D&D from the Long Beach Press-Telegram, which I found online here. The author, Ed Goto, is indicated as Associated Press, so this article may have run elsewhere. The title is interesting as it refers to Sci-Fi rather than Fantasy: "Game Brings 'Sci-Fi' To Life". Some quotes from the article: 

Gary Gygax:
"You see, there really aren't any frontiers in the world anymore. There's not much heroic, there's not much danger without being foolish. But most people have an adventurous spirit. In real life, problems seem so insoluble, while in D&D you can take up arms and oppose them, sometimes with effect. If you are killed, you can be resurrected. It offers some really simplistic answers to problems and appeals to the imagination".

"It took 10 to 11 months before we sold our first thousand [copies of OD&D]. And about half were sold in California". 

Gygax estimates "10,000 enthusiasts in California, with 100,000 players nationwide" and the "current sales rate at 5,000 per month, mostly through small hobby shops." 

[The article doesn't mention Holmes Basic, though it had been out for almost a year, so I'm not sure if the 5,000 per month is just OD&D or all D&D sets.]

Robert Calvev, "president of Caltech's Wargaming Society":
"Think of it as wriitng your own science fiction story with you as the main character. Each player assumes the role of his playing piece and acts out the piece's role in the game. You have a character, you do what you want."

Gary Switzer, "manager of Aero Hobbies in Santa Monica":
"It's growing by leaps and bounds all the time."

Steve Lucky, "partner in a West Coast games distribution firm, said his company's D&D sales climbed from 800 in 1975 to a current total of 70,000."

Example of Play:
"There's a noise behind you in the corridor," the referee says blandly.
 A player with a character in the back of the group of characters says quickly, "My fighter turns around and draws his sword. What does he see?"

The referee's description of the large, two-legged monster causes groans, "It's a balrog!"

"My wizard fires a lightning boll at it," says a player. "Mine too," adds another. The referee rolls dice to see how badly this wounds the creature as the players fidget noisily. "It's not dead and it's still coming towards you," the referee announces. "We run away," says the head of the party.

Checking his floor plan, the referee says, "You run 20 feet down and the corridor branches left and right." The group leader gulps, "We turn right." Rolling dice. The referee smiles, You have just run head-on, face-to-face into a getup of very surprised elves.""

Player vs Player Conflict:
"For example, during one game, a player had his wizard announce that he had a "Hoover wand," which could suck the body of a dead character into itself, holding it there until recalled. This allowed the "corpses" a chance to be resurrected after the game.

Several deaths later, one particularly disliked player also lost a few characters, which he asked the wizard to place in the wand as well. The wizard agreed and the bodies vanished.  What this player did not know was that the other "dead" characters were only feigning death, a tactic approved by a note handed the referee. Further, the Hoover wand was just a pointed stick, the disappearing characters being turned magically invisible by the wizard holding the slick.

The now invisible and supposedly dead characters then got up and trailed behind the party except for the target player's characters who actually were dead. This led to a brief end-of-game meeting between the target player and the wlzard's player.

Target: "Okay, I want my characters out now."

Wizard: "What characters?"

Target: "Out of the wand."

Wizard: "What wand?"

Five seconds of silence followed, broken by a screamed, “But that's not fair!"

But it was."


  1. Replies
    1. I'm sure it is. Thanks for that great video link. Part way through I noticed a sign for Balboa Game Company near the ceiling. I checked and The War House and BGC shared the same address. I'd guess BGC is the same company mentioned in the article. And they published The Complete Warlock in 1978.

    2. I wondered what became of the BGC. I never put those two pieces together.

  2. Ah, yes: the annoying habit in the past of referring to the fantasy genre as "sci-fi". That always vexed me. It says on the back of my vintage Fritz Leiber books that they're "sci-fi": at least the author knew differently, as he coined the phrase "swords & sorcery".

  3. That PvP conflict snippet was pretty intense! All the best game tropes were there early on!

    1. You think? Well, you may have had different experiences. When I was 17 we had a group that included a jerk of a stuck-up DM and this one holy-roller PC (a Paladin) who was his best bud. He used to detect evil on the other characters and essentially arrest any he didn't like. He tied my character up in a dungeon room for acting "chaotic" (not "evil"). Me and the other gal bode our time till I was 5th level and got Fireball. We waited till we were on a precipice along a rockface only 10 inches deep single file. Put a 10' pole behind the paladin, knocked him off. We demanded all rolls be done for all 7 of us to see, so his buddy DM couldn't save him. When he started to get up, I thew 5 magic missiles at him, then finished him with a fireball. Using a helm of telepathy and my scroll of dimension door, we left and never played with them again. How's that for early PvP conflict resolution?

  4. I find the Gygax quote about frontiers very interesting. D&D and the fantasy genre, Star Wars and the sci-fi renaissance, video games, PCs, action figures - all of these things were gateways out of a real world that had been poisoned by the massive upheavals of the '60s.

    My theory is that the geek subset of our generation was defined by the imaginative effort required to manage these new head games.