Thursday, May 22, 2008

Meanwhile, Over at Dragonsfoot ...

... former TSR Publications Editor, Tim Kask, drops what James Raggi rightly calls a "bombshell" in response first to this comment by Greg Ellis:
As someone who was introduced to RPG's via AD&D, for years I had the impression that the old three-booklet D&D game was much simpler, more primative and considerably less detailed.

That is, until I went back and read it.

With Greyhawk and the other supplements, it's essentially the same game as AD&D...
Sure, there are some differences... but all of the building blocks are there.
Kask explains,
You couldn't have made my point better if I had paid you to read script I wrote...

OD&D must be considered as the three boxed books and all four of the supplements; AD&D was, in part, a tidying-up of the contradictions.
Now this isn't news to old schoolers; we've known this for years and have been trying, often unsuccessfully, to make plain the true history of D&D.

Ellis then goes on by stating further (in the original thread):
One could argue that the extra detail baked into AD&D maybe isn't such a good thing; it seems to have encouraged a generation of players who enjoy fussing over the wording of the rulebook instead of deferring to their DM's judgement.
This is where things get interesting, because Kask's reply is not only one with which I agree, but one that I don't believe I've ever personally heard uttered by anyone associated with TSR in the days of the transition between OD&D and AD&D.
You win the prized Periapt of Perspicacity Award! Congratulations.

We shot ourselves, altogether unknowingly, in the foot. We had no idea that we were corrupting the original players into a flock of nit-pickers and rules lawyers. It was our own fault, although I don't think any of us could have seen that far into the future and foreseen it.
This is heavy stuff. Good stuff. Valuable stuff. Heck, Kask is providing us with lots of valuable insights and perspective in that whole thread on Dragonsfoot. Anyone at all interested in the history of the hobby and how and why it evolved as it did, often for the worse, sometimes for the better, would do well to wade through all 70+ pages of the thing. It's a gold mine of information.


  1. AD&D *snip* encouraged a generation of players who enjoy fussing over the wording of the rulebook instead of deferring to their DM's judgement.

    Great stuff. I've read a few pages and this is truly enlightening.


  2. I've been following it since he started. He's a cranky old coot but he likes to tell a good story. You got to love Dragonsfoot - you can ask for advice and Frank Mentzger himself might answer.

  3. I read 15-20 pages of it last night: I would like to say I'm surprised there is so much bitterness directed at Dave Arneson after 30-some years. But then, it's gamers on the Internet.

  4. It's not just gamers on the Internet, though. The feud with Dave has been going on a long time and, unfortunately, everyone involved thinks they know the true story. I suspect, after so many decades, there are many true stories and it's hard for people who weren't directly involved to disentangle them all. Heck, it's probably even harder for the people who were involved. :)

    That said, I find it all very fascinating from a historical perspective. I don't give full credit to everything Mr. Kask says, just I don't give it to everything Mr. Arneson says. They all offer valuable insights and perspective on the early history of the hobby, even when it's cloaked in polemic. Gamers are an opinionated, prickly lots; we always have been. In that respect if no other, things aren't that much different in 2008 than they were in 1978.

  5. Gamers are an opinionated, prickly lot

    Yep. That pretty much sums me up, less the whole "ly lot" bit. ;-)


  6. I've been pretty ambivalent about Tim Kask ever since he arrived at DF last year. On the one hand he's entertaining as hell (and apparently even moreso in person, from accounts of those who met him at last year's LGGC) and an invaluable source of first-hand behind-the-scenes history and gossip about the early days at TSR (1975-80) -- it's extremely cool that he hasn't worked in the "industry" for 25+ years and therefore isn't concerned about pulling punches or hurting feelings, and also isn't compromised by having done a bunch of hackwork to pay the bills.

    But, on the other hand, (1) he's just cranky as hell and seems surprisingly bitter over things that occured 30+ years ago (and let's not forget in his account of his feud with Arneson the background fact that, by his own admission, one of his first acts as a TSR employee was to take Arneson's submission for Supplement II, throw 80% of it out, and replace it with stuff from other authors -- pretty damn presumptuous and no wonder that Arneson might feel less-than-kindly towards him when they ended up working together a few months later...), and (2) his attitude towards the game, and the direction he helped steer it in during his tenure at TSR, is pretty much the polar opposite of where I would've liked for the game to have gone -- considering everything that didn't hew closely to Gary's vision as total crap pretty much a priori, making a big (and mostly artifical) distinction between professionals (TSR) and amateurs (everybody else), and generally shaping D&D into something singular and specific (Gary Gygax's game) rather than the broad DIY toolkit that it (perhaps more by accident than design -- that certainly seems to be his position, evidenced by his claims that, for instance, there is no distinction between the boxed set and Supplement I and the latter should be viewed as nothing more or less than material that would have been included in the former if they'd had more time and space) started out as.

    That said, though, his is the only of the "Celebrity Q&A" threads at DF that I not only follow, but follow eagerly.

  7. That said, though, his is the only of the "Celebrity Q&A" threads at DF that I not only follow, but follow eagerly.

    I feel much the same. I also understand your ambivalence about Kask's presence. On the other hand, I'm used to looking for rays of truth amidst all the bile and cantankerousness. I agree that it's a bit odd that he seems so bitter about things that happened 30+ years ago, but as I said earlier in these comments, gamers are an opinionated and prickly lot. We often hold grudges over the smallest things. I guess I'm not surprised that Kask does so as well, however bad it makes him look.

  8. Kask strikes me as very insecure and with a major chip on his shoulder. His contributions are at best of tertiary importance to the game yet he seems to bask in the reflected glory of his associations. Having said all that, there ARE some very interesting titbits an insgiths to be gleamed from his Q&A.

  9. DF is a very cool site. It's nice to see all these TSR alums come on and discuss gaming.