Thursday, December 17, 2009

Founding Fathers

My latest column is up at The Escapist. It focuses on the "prehistory" of RPGs, going all the way back to 1811 and the invention of what would come to be known as wargames.


  1. Heya James,

    Nice to see any garnering of interest for the historical perspective in general.
    With that in mind, and that no feedback from here can generally be taken as "good work, thanks", I'm not quite sure what your article's intention is.

    > It focuses on the "prehistory" of RPGs, going all the way back to 1811 and the invention of what would come to be known as wargames.

    It's not a "history of wargaming", obviously (no Scruby or Featherstone), neither is it a "key wargaming inspirations for roleplaying" (many of the names listed are marginal and/or remote, whereas the likes of Allan Calhamer, Hugh Walker and Tony Bath are not present, nor even (arguably) Leiber and Fischer given first-contact date to EGG & co.).

    Scanning through top-down was very "familiar territory" and upon reaching Jane, for example, it was obvious what was going to be clipped there before reading.
    Crediting original sources or, perhaps better, providing links for further reading (please!) would be good practice, IMO. And not just the hobby side, either? e.g. (all the way down to 1:1 scale, but perhaps not the "scenarios" most RPGs would have in mind. :)

    Thanks! :)

    > "much in the same fashion as a roleplaying game's Game Master"
    - use of the term "gamemaster" pre-dates Blackmoor.

    > While wargaming is still very much alive today, in terms of sales and popularity, it's a shadow of its former self.
    - "pure wargaming" was always a relatively niche market and is actually /less/ so nowadays in some parts of the world (UK, GW; 'nuff said?).

  2. Irbyz,

    I am always interested in additional information on the history of wargaming (miniatures or otherwise) to fill in the admittedly-large gaps in my own knowledge. If you have some suggestions on that front, I'd appreciate it.

    The article's certainly a mish-mash, but it's intended for a very general audience, for whom wargaming of any sort is largely unknown, never mind its relationship to RPGs. I didn't go into any depth, because I had a very limited wordcount and I felt it more interesting to do a quick pass over some "famous names" than anything more genuinely scholarly.

    But, as I said, I'd love to be pointed in the right direction, if you have some suggestions for expanding my knowledge.

  3. Many thanks for the reply, James.

    Yes, a definite "thumbs up" to see such an article in a general audience context which is why external links might be a good option to help encourage further since even with Google there are few "obvious" starting places. Wikipedia's article ain't bad, though... :)

    Allan Calhamer's Diplomacy (and many hundred variants including EGG's own pre-RPG Hyborian Diplomacy) is definitely too large an elephant in the room not to give a nod to, though, on either developmental track.

  4. Where does Lin Carter fit into the mix? He did work with FGU, but from comments irbyz has made elsewhere, it sounds like Carter may have also been an early wargamer too.


  5. As far as I can tell, around the time hex-and-counter wargames took off in the U.S., miniatures took off in the U.K. Try this blog:
    for a look at material from that time- Some of the big names are Don Featherstone, Charles Grant and Peter Young. Also google 'Old School Wargames' as there has been a movement similar to the old-school RPG movement where people are getting back to the 'basics' of 1960's-era wargaming.

  6. Battlegames magazine has a free pdf compilation from its print editions up now that includes an article by Don Featherstone about the early years of post WWII miniatures gaming in the UK that would be useful background.