Thursday, February 12, 2009

Interesting Tidbits

Although Eldritch Wizardry was released in 1976, the copy I have is from the 9th Printing in November 1979, which isn't surprising, since I didn't get into the hobby until Christmas of the same year. Consider that date for a moment. The Dungeon Masters Guide, the final volume of AD&D was first released in August 1979. What that means is that TSR was still printing OD&D books several months after the completion of Gary Gygax's magnum opus.

As it turns out, TSR did reprintings of all the OD&D books, including the White Box (now called the "Original Collector's Edition") in November 1979. That's actually quite interesting to me, because it gives some credence to Gygax's claim that AD&D was "a new game" and that TSR intended to keep OD&D on the market for the hobbyist market. Of course, that's not quite what happened in the end, with OD&D morphing into the more mass market-friendly boxed D&D lines (first Moldvay/Cook and then Mentzer). Similarly interesting is the fact that TSR's last printing of 1st edition AD&D Players Handbooks was in July 1990, which is over a year after the premier of 2nd Edition.

What this suggests to me is that there was clearly still a market both for OD&D and 1e after their successor products were published. Otherwise, TSR would not have bothered with new printings at all. This further suggests that the biggest impetus for both 1e and 2e came from TSR itself, not the existing players of the game or indeed newcomers to it. I suppose that shouldn't be surprising, but it's a little disappointing to see clearly that the inevitable cycle of new editions began very early in D&D's existence and could, in many ways, be called one of the game's oldest "traditions."

17 comments:

  1. I'm fairly confident (although I don't know for sure and can't get to the Acaeum from here,) that OD&D products continued to be reprinted well into the early 80s. I remember seeing them in Mail Order Hobby Shops catalogs in what I suppose to have been 1982 or 83. These may have been the 'collectors' editions' or something, but they were still in print well after 1979.

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  2. early that the inevitable cycle of new editions began very early<

    Just like the shameless money grubbing makers of college textbooks - coming out with a new edition every year. I still own about three beginning algebra textbooks...

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  3. The Monster Manual was printed in late Summer/early Fall of 1977, within a couple of months of the Holmes box. The PHB came out less than a year later in 1978, and the DMG was almost a year and a half later in late 1979.

    During which time, the OD&D products were all still being printed. I belive the last printings of both the OD&D box and supplements and the Holmes box was in December of 1979. They may not have even hit the shelf until 1980. And they were published in such quantity that they remained relatively easily available into the early 80's.

    In 1980 the only "new" D&D products were the compiled Geomorphs and Monster & Treasure Assortments, which were revised in such a way that you can tell much of the Moldvay/Cook version was "in the can" at that point.

    So, there was about a 3 1/2 year interregnum where the AD&D/OD&D/BD&D divisions were anything but clear, but while TSR was producing two or arguably three clashing rule sets.

    In fact, if you look closely at the Monster Manual, you'll see that the stats are actually more in line with OD&D than AD&D. (Eldritch Wizardry style psionics, very few LN-CN-NE-NG alignments, AC on creatures wearing armor "wrong," etc.)

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  4. It is of cardinal importance to remember what Gary said: By 1980 he had lost effective control of TSR to the Blumes. The B/X rulebooks were published in January 1981, so obviously they were created in 1980--the very year Gary no longer had control.

    Look at the list of acknowledgements on the 2nd page of Moldvay's Basic rulebook: Brian Blume, Dave Cook, Ernie Gygax, Allen Hammack, Kevin Hendryx, Harold Johnson, Tim Kask, Jeff Key, Rob Kuntz, Alan Lucien, Steve Marsh, Frank Mentzer, Mike Mornard, Jon Pickens, Brian Pitzer, Michael Price, Patrick Price, Paul Reiche III, Evan Robinson, Gordon Schick, Lawrence Schick, Edward O. Sollers, Don Snow, Stephen D. Sullivan, Ralph Wagner, Jim Ward, Jean Wells, and Bill WIlkerson.

    Gary is conspicuous by his absence in that list. I asked Gary about this on one of his ENWorld Q&A threads, and he said that he wasn't really keen on the Moldvay/Cook B/X rules.

    On a related note, the Fiend Folio was finished and submitted to the Lake Geneva TSR in time for its intended publication in late 1979, just a few months after the DMG.

    Instead, the TSR boys sat on it for two freaking years, relegating its publication to 1981.

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  5. In my opinion, the game has gotten better with every edition. 4th Edition awesome! I mean, that's the job of the people who work for gaming companies, to constantly work on improving the game.

    If they would have just released 1st Edition and never put out any other editions, nobody would be playing D&D nowadays, compared to the millions playing 3.5 and 4E. Let's not forget the the 4E core rule book set hit #2 on Amazons best Seller List - that's Millions!

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  6. @Ardwulf, you're half-right about those books--they were still in existence though it doesn't seem as though they were reprints. Ryan Dancey, former VP for Wizards talked about what he found when WoTC was looking at buying TSR:

    "Why did I still have stacks and stacks of 1st edition rulebooks in the warehouse?"

    Without more details it's difficult to discern if he was making a broad generalization or if he really meant 1E and not 0E.

    Archived source:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20040530094717/http://atlasofadventure.com/Archive/TSR1997Buyout.asp

    That post is a wealth of information BTW. It's a snapshot of two eras: the one he talks about and the one in which it was written.

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  7. I was working for a games retailer in the late 1980s (until mid-'91), and we kept filling orders for 1st edition AD&D books until the distributors ran out. Whatever was in the warehouse could easily have been sold, I think.

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  8. If only WOTC would admit that 4e is a separate game, totally different from anything that has gone before!

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  9. In fact, if you look closely at the Monster Manual, you'll see that the stats are actually more in line with OD&D than AD&D. (Eldritch Wizardry style psionics, very few LN-CN-NE-NG alignments, AC on creatures wearing armor "wrong," etc.)

    The MM is quite consonant with Holmes too, which is a plus in my opinion.

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  10. I asked Gary about this on one of his ENWorld Q&A threads, and he said that he wasn't really keen on the Moldvay/Cook B/X rules.

    I'd love to know what his issues with the rules were.

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  11. In my opinion, the game has gotten better with every edition. 4th Edition awesome! I mean, that's the job of the people who work for gaming companies, to constantly work on improving the game.

    I think you'll find, round these parts anyway, the notion that games "improve" over time isn't very well regarded.

    If they would have just released 1st Edition and never put out any other editions, nobody would be playing D&D nowadays, compared to the millions playing 3.5 and 4E. Let's not forget the the 4E core rule book set hit #2 on Amazons best Seller List - that's Millions!

    The number of people regularly playing D&D today is almost certainly fewer than those who were playing it during the height of the RPG fad in the early to mid-80s. Likewise, I think it unlikely that either 3 or 4e have outsold the boxed D&D sets from the same period (Moldvay/Cook and Mentzer).

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  12. If only WOTC would admit that 4e is a separate game, totally different from anything that has gone before!

    This approach was never on the table, because WotC isn't just selling a game, they're selling D&D. That is, it's being sold to people who are already heavily invested in D&D and so they have to stress continuity rather than rupture with the past, even if it's patently untrue.

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  13. I don't think it likely that any paper-and-pencil RPG could match today the sales of D&D back at the high tide of the fad. It's like comparing sales of sliderules or typewriters, or maybe lava lamps and "black light" (UV) posters. Considering that the rage for D&D pretty much coincided with the Disco Era, it's a good showing still to be a going concern at all; I survived with a deep aversion to plaid ...

    My impression is that WotC touts the difference as "better." Moreover, they have invested (and continue to invest) in market research to guide their production. They want to make things people want to buy. Cosmetic changes here and there would have been less costly, but that course did not seem likely to bring in sales enough to be worthwhile.

    No "old school renaissance" is going to turn me into a big spender on RPGs. Maybe that's true of most of us in that demographic. A rules-light, home-brewing ethos seems not very conducive to consumerism. I suspect it was an assumption of that very attitude that led Gary at first to figure dungeon modules and so on were a business best left to Judges Guild, and to pooh-pooh the concept of an ever-expanding line of rule books. He seems to have changed his tune along the way!

    There's a niche market for old-style publications, and Wizards facilitated that with the OGL. There are a few things not up for grabs, and one of them is the Dungeons & Dragons trademark. ("Advanced D&D" may have lapsed, though, at least in the USA.)

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  14. I strongly suspect those unsold 1e books were Dungeon and Wilderness Survival Guides. They must have massively overprinted these, as they were bundled with other overprinted "classic" modules only a year or two before second edition came out.

    Hell, they were still on the shelves "new" well into second edition.

    Also, I understand that Temple of Elemental Evil was such a strong seller that it was kept into print a few years into the early 1990s.

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  15. I asked Gary the following questions:

    Gary, how much (if any) input did you have on the 1981 Basic (edited by Tom Moldvay) and Expert (edited by David Cook with Steve Marsh) D&D rulebooks?

    Were you pleased with these 1981 rulebooks, or do you think they lack some of the "magic" of the earlier rulebooks?

    Whose idea was it to publish these books, thus replacing the older D&D Basic rulebook edited by Dr. Holmes?

    Gary responded on Oct. 13, 2007:

    The direction of the D&D game versions noted was that of Brian and KEvin Blume.

    That I did not particularly like it was evident by my placing Frank Mentzer over the D&D line thereafter. Count on Cook doing whatever he wished when you see his name on smething, and Schick was much the same.

    Cheerio,
    Gary

    link: http://www.enworld.org/forum/archive-threads/193204-gary-gygax-q-part-xiii-53.html

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  16. Also, I understand that Temple of Elemental Evil was such a strong seller that it was kept into print a few years into the early 1990s.

    I can believe it.

    I'm not a huge fan of the module myself, but it did something very valuable: provide many people with a big dungeon, nearby home base, and surrounding wilderness to tool around in. I think people underestimate just how useful this set up is. It's a pity you don't see more products that offer such things anymore.

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  17. Count on Cook doing whatever he wished when you see his name on smething, and Schick was much the same.

    I recall Gary frequently speaking poorly of both Zeb Cook and Law Schick. I know the final version that Oriental Adventures took was very different than the way Gary had intended it and he blamed Cook for those differences.

    Still, I wish I knew precisely what it was he disliked about Moldvay/Cook, considering that extolled the Mentzer versions, which, to me anyway, are about 90% identical to their immediate predecessor.

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