Monday, May 17, 2021

"This is Not My Game"

Back in March, I wrote a post about an interesting section of the original (1975) edition of Tunnels & Trolls that I found quite interesting, if only because it highlighted the similarities and differences between the approaches of Gary Gygax and Ken St. Andre. While re-reading T&T recently, I came across a passage I'd meant to bring up previously but had forgotten. The passage in question occurs early, in a section entitled "Troll Talk," where St. Andre recounts his memories of the creation of T&T and his general feelings about it and its genesis. He writes:

Lastly I wish to make one thing perfectly clear. This is not my game in any sense of the word except that I'm taking the trouble to get it printed so anyone who wants to can have a copy of the rules. Please feel free (as a Dungeon Master, not as a player-character) to modify and improve these basic rules as your imagination dictates to be right for you. You will recognize your successes by the enthusiasm of your dungeon-delvers and likewise the opposite.

This reminds me somewhat of the "afterward" [sic] of Volume 3 of OD&D, which counsels the referee to "decide how you would like it to be, and then make it just that way!" It also brings to mind Gary Gygax's reply to Ted Johnstone in Alarums & Excursions, where he agrees with the sentiment that "D&D is too important to leave to Gary Gygax." 

Just so.


  1. For T&T, anyway, I think that one has to "modify and improve" the basic rules to get a satisfying game (and I say this as someone with a long-standing affection for T&T). A lot of the earliest RPGs are like that: more frameworks for building a game than actual games. I've always thought that that's what lay behind Gygax's comment that OD&D was a "non-game." The number of places where it was vague or underspecified meant that it would inevitably spawn hundreds of variants. (I'm not sure that AD&D really fixes that problem, but it's at least less underspecified.)
    Now that I think about it, it's impressive that Runequest requires so little modification (at least IMO); the authors did a really good job of setting down clear rules for what they wanted to do.

  2. Once the Hobby turned into a Industry, it was the nail in the coffin of the St. Andre's and Hargrave's and Bledsaw's and early Gary types. It was no longer feasible to be so casual about one's game, if one wanted to compete and succeed. Not that I blame ANYONE for wanting to make a living from, and controlling one's designs and IP. I love Capitalism. But from a Fan standpoint, I prefer the those first few years where it was new, exciting, and people were sharing in the hobby. Some say the OSR today is an offshoot, yes- maybe in some ways, but the vibe is wholly different than the 1970s.