Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Gary Gygax on Fantasy Battles

Once again, Chris Kutalik has pointed me toward a post over at the excellent Vintage Wargaming blog where there's a scan of an old article by Gary Gygax from The Wargamer's Newsletter. In this case, it's from issue #127 (October 1972) and he discusses how best to represent various monsters and fantasy characters using model extant at the time. The article's also interesting because Gygax notes, as he later would elsewhere, that he does not consider Tolkien to be "authoritative" when it comes to fantasy -- an opinion that's all the more interesting because it predates the publication of D&D and thus cannot be dismissed as a disingenuous dodge.

19 comments:

  1. Slothrog - Is a purer, more elegant expression of anarchist wargamer aesthetic even possible? Truly was Gary a man of parts.

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  2. With all due respect, Mr. Gygax says other authors are "as authoritative" as Tolkien.  Combined with the elaborate description of the Balrog and the Nazgul, it maes me think there was still careful word parsing going on as to the Tolkien estate.  I don't think Tolkien holds any privileged place,  nor do I think Mr. Gygax thought so, but I still believe he went a bit out of his way to downplay the influence Lord of the Rings had--sometimes, I think, a bit of necessary revisionism even without any legal issues.  Still, definitely a fascinating article.  

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  3. Slothrog: the creature that WILL pass - eventually.

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  4. Michael (Gronan) MornardJune 13, 2012 at 6:00 PM

    Gary put in Balrogs, Nazgul, et. al. because we plagued him mercilessly until he did.

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  5. That's pretty interesting stuff. It's kind of a shame that I don't see that kind of DIY thing in the hobby anymore. I can't afford a lot of "real" miniatures, but customizing and putting glitter on toy dinosaurs sounds like a hoot.

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  6.  Well then I stand corrected!  But his later Tolkien disavowals will always sound a little like protesting too much to me

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  7. 'Orcs are 30mm Turks'... and swarthy to boot, I'm sure. Ouch.

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  8. Interesting, even if his later disavowals were much more harsh, and for me obviously marketing/copyright concerned even with this factored in.   In this articles he basically says others are equal to tolkien, later he would act like tolkien was a mild afterthought at best.

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  9. Zenopus ArchivesJune 13, 2012 at 9:28 PM

     Marx Megatherium (Giant Sloth), from the '60s-'70s.

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  10. The origin of the rust monster (and others) as a plastic toy starts to make a lot of sense in the context of "slothrogs" and kitbashing dragons out of plastic dinosaurs.

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  11. Put yourself in his shoes and imagine how annoying it must be:  you make a conan / kitchen sink fantasy game and it's fans wont shut up about Tolkien.

    It's a lot worse now that the movies are out. 

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  12. Gygax he doesn't say that Tolkien wasn't authoritative with regards to fantasy. He states that "other authors were as authoritative as he."

    In other words, Gygax thought other authors were as "authoritative" as Tolkien within the genre. Its a far stretch from that to your statement that Gygax did "not consider Tolkien to be "authoritative" when it comes to fantasy..."

    Other authors could not be as "authoritative" as Tolkien with regards to fantasy literature if Tolkien himself were not an "authority," given the context and simple wording of the sentence in question from that Fantasy Battles article. In order for Y to as "authoritative" as X, X would have have to be "authoritative" in the first place. N'est pas?

    Furthermore, the use of the term "authoritative" in the scare quotes should point to the fact that Gygax likely considered all such discussions of "authoritative" fantastic literature to be on par with discussions on whether Mighty Mouse or Superman would come out on top in a boxing match.

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  13. You've actually featured that here before... :-)

    http://grognardia.blogspot.com/2009/12/1972-gygax-article.html

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  14. Wow, you're right. My memory really *is* getting worse. :)

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  15. Question: What fantasy units were in play prior to that?

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  16. I find this discussion to be interesting, about Tolkien's influence on the game. That's because, as an outsider myself, I always considered D&D to be 'that game based on Lord of the Rings and some other fantasy types.' When I started playing it with my boys, nothing I saw in the original rules (by that, I mean AD&D) changed that notion. So it was quite a shock when I read, at the time of Gygax's death, so many quotes of him dismissing it outright. I'm not an expert, but it did pique my curiosity, and I spent quite a few months reading up on the topic. I came to the conclusion that while it might be overstating the case to say Tolkien was the main influence, it certainly isn't doing so to say he was a main influence.

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  17. I find this discussion to be interesting, about Tolkien's influence on the game. That's because, as an outsider myself, I always considered D&D to be 'that game based on Lord of the Rings and some other fantasy types.' When I started playing it with my boys, nothing I saw in the original rules (by that, I mean AD&D) changed that notion. So it was quite a shock when I read, at the time of Gygax's death, so many quotes of him dismissing it outright. I'm not an expert, but it did pique my curiosity, and I spent quite a few months reading up on the topic. I came to the conclusion that while it might be overstating the case to say Tolkien was the main influence, it certainly isn't doing so to say he was a main influence.

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  18. Heh, had the same thought. And Native Americans and Huns. Tempered by a Viking giant, I suppose, but it seems like an almost comically literal representation of some of the problematic history embedded in those "clear all the orcs out of the cave" plots.

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  19. Gygax would probably have made the point that noone is "authoratative"; it's fantasy after all!

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