Game Design, or Game Master Development?

Game Design, or Game Master Development?

Reading this post about the Lost Dungeon of Tonisborg at Roleplay Rescue got me thinking.

I’ve been doing a TON of research into D&D/early FRP games and their connection to Wargames. There is a serious cultural issue that has arisen, in that the first people to play these Fantasy Role-Playing Games were wargamers, but the second people were Fantasy Fiction readers. And they almost immediately started to disagree on what, exactly, people should be doing with the new FRP games.

@SavevsTPK is only the latest to have spotted this in the book The Elusive Shift by Peterson.

what is a fantasy role playing game

Over and over I read the rules, play the old games, and find myself wondering, are there two groups of people out there, reading the same rulebooks, but playing different games?

The answer is yes.

From I Cast Light blog:

At the end of the book, I had come to the realization, on an almost cosmic horror level, that the RPG community as a whole has not advanced any large arguments about what RPGs are and their purpose in about 30 years.

Here is what I am talking about:


“We might observe the initial players of Dungeons & Dragons divided into two camps- with due caveats about overlapping membership and interests- that reflect the two cultures of wargaming and science-fiction fandom: there were games people and story people.” 

[Post publication of the Greyhawk supplement in 1975]: “D&D is too important to leave to Gary Gygax.”

[Lee Gold writing in her first issues of Alarms & Excursions 1975]: “In their midst, Gold found, that, compared to her own group, ‘the Dungeonmaster is player much more against the characters’. Her assessment corroborated Kevin Slimak’s concerns about the problems of antagonism incumbent on the power imbalance between the referee and the players.”


“Play a Gygax game if you like pits, secret doors, and Dungeon Roulette. Play a game such as in Alarums & Excursions if you prefer monsters, talking/arguing/fighting with the chance met characters and a more exciting game”

[From Bill Seligman 1977]: “The problem TSR has is that the term ‘D&D’ is starting to refer to fantasy role-playing games in general, and not just those bound by the D&D official rules”

“Kevin Slimak, feeling ‘tired of trying to kludge a good game out of Gygax D&D…'”


Another interesting bit is how Gygax shifts from commenting on D&D as an open system to AD&D as a closed and complete system. Distinguishing between the two. This further leads to another discussion about if AD&D lays down too many rules which destroy the free-form play of the early little brown books/white box.

6mm Fantasy lizardmen & beastmen

I will be second to none in my conviction that I do not know the answers, but for me, D&D (as depicted in the OD&D/AD&D rules, is a wargame.
And that is how I will play it.

Thanks for reading. Share a comment!

LFG Playtest Campaign 1 - The Shadow of Evil Chaos is an experiment with a new (to me) game system, Low Fantasy Gaming, and a new magic hack designed to bring the atmosphere of danger from the pulp novels of Swords & Sorcery. We are playing fully online over a Discord Voice server, using some home-brew maps, art and characters designed on the HeroForge 3D printing site.
Follow all of the posts here: LFG Playtest Campaign 1.

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