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Back in the day (around 1996 - 1998), I worked with a number of people from the DC Heroes RPG e-mailing list to put together an enhancement supplement for the game system, which was no longer being published. The document produced was referred to as The Unofficial 4th Edition, a direct supplement to DC Heroes RPG: 3rd Edition from Mayfair Games. It was freely available online for some time.

The document was polished and subsequently published by Pulsar Games as The Sidekick Sourcebook, to expand (and patch) their base Blood of Heroes RPG (essentially a reprint of the aforementioned DCH 3rd Edition rules). Contributors were given a large discount to purchase the product, and the interest at the time effectively assured it would be produced (sort of pseudo-crowd-funding). The rules were later imported directly into their comprehensive rulebook product, Blood of Heroes: Special Edition, making Sidekick Sourcebook somewhat obsolete.

As the contributions to the document were culled from varied sources and rules were determined through evaluation of in-depth debate and discussion, I felt that Sidekick worked as an example of an online, crowd-sourced project (working directly multiple people from disparate sources agreeing and disagreeing on rules, to create a final product).

I realize that while it was produced somewhat early in the age of the internet, Sidekick probably was not the first crowd-sourced pen-and-paper RPG product. Historically, is there a first (digital and/or analog), and if so, what is it?

I'd like to know how far back this sort of thing goes.

Note: some answers I've received are compilations of mostly prior works (previously published articles, for example). While that probably qualifies in the spirit of crowd-sourcing, what I would prefer as an answer would be something created by contributors actively polled for content, deliberately worked together for the sake of achieving the goal of a centralized document.

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Net-Books

The first entirely fan-organized online initiatives (not involving publishing companies) would be the net-books of the late 1980's. These were generally presented as text files, "formatted" for 75-90 column, 54-72 line pages of monospaced type. (Low number is 10 cpi 6 lpi, high is 12 cpi 8 lpi - the two standard sizes for printers of the era.)

The first net-book I encountered was a book of about 200 new AD&D spells circulating WWIV-Net in 1988-1992. I saw it first in 1988.†

As an aside, the same time frame also was my first encounter with pirated books - the same BBS had a full text version of the D&D Basic Set rules, but without images.

Professionally Published magazines with Fan-Submitted Content

TSR began the movement in Dragon Magazine; Games Workshop followed suit with White Dwarf. White Dwarf had more, and a higher percentage, but was the later magazine.

Dragon issue 2, August 1976, has several articles that appear to be submitted by fans. The first article in the magazine, "Monkish Combat in the Arena of Promotion" is credited to John Seaton, and is subcredited with "Playtested by the Missouri Mercenary Group, a division of the McHenry Mercenary Group."

Professionally published non-periodical collations of fan submitted content

White Dwarf beats TSR to the punch with the 1981 collation of the material in the Fiend Folio from the pages of White Dwarf; TSR winds up with the copyrights.

However, GDW beats them both - kind-of - with the 1980 Best of JTAS Vol. 1, a compilation of the best articles from the first four issues of Journal of the Traveller's Aid Society. Some of the material is by GDW staffers Marc Miller, Frank Chadwick, and Loren Wiseman; one is an article by one of Marc's players, William H. Keith (yes, the author, but not back then); Don Rapp's ship map was a fan submission, and at least one other article I have good reason to believe was a fan submission. Whether Bill Keith counts as a fan or not at the time (he was not yet a professional, but was in the designer's home campaign) is arguable. I leave it to the reader whether or not he counts, but having corresponded with him, he remained a fan of the game even well after he was professionally publishing under license for it.


† I recall the timing because it was just before I moved out of my parents house, which was fall '88.

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One strong contender would be the original Fiend Folio for Dungeons & Dragons from 1981. The monsters were collected from reader submissions to the "Fiend Factory" column in White Dwarf magazine. (Games Workshop had the license to publish D&D products in the UK at the time.)

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