These questions cover the the entire history of role-playing games: the history of game companies, trends within the hobby, developments of new kinds of mechanics, and gaming's place in culture.

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22
votes
2answers
898 views

Why did the D&D devs design spontaneous casters to lose out on a spell level compared to prepared casters?

In D&D 3.x, spontaneous full casters (like the Sorcerer or Oracle) gain their higher level spells a level later than the equivalent prepared caster classes (like Wizard and Cleric). For example, ...
3
votes
2answers
173 views

How different is D&D since it first came out?

I have never played Dungeons and Dragons, but I have participated in several other RPGs, and my Dad recently posed interest in playing since he was an avid D&D player when he was younger. I ...
36
votes
7answers
2k views

What's the deal with alignment languages?

In early D&D, there was the concept of an "alignment language." The original "little brown book" D&D says only: Law, Chaos and Neutrality also have common languages spoken by each ...
6
votes
1answer
315 views

Who popularised the abbreviation of XP for experience points? Was it Basic D&D?

Basic Dungeons and Dragons page B22: Experience points (abbreviated XP, as ep stands for electrum pieces) are given for non-magical treasure and for defeating monsters. Is this why in most games ...
27
votes
3answers
2k views

Where does the Transform Vampires/Werewolves into lawn furniture rote come from?

I remember the 90s when Mage players would tell Vampire players that a Mage can very easily transform a Vampire or Werewolf into lawn chairs, and that they could get quite a good collection. I didn't ...
3
votes
2answers
137 views

Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos in pre-CoC D&D?

I'm interested in the appearances of elements of H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos in D&D previous to the publication of Call of Cthulhu in 1981. Is there a comprehensive, detailed list available ...
29
votes
6answers
2k views

In an even fight, how many rounds does a typical monster need to drop a PC?

Inspired by the closed question: DnD Next Hitpoint Inflation, There have been claims of HP inflation in dnd-next, and there certainly were increased in the absolute value of HP in 4e. In order to ...
9
votes
3answers
458 views

Why Does Spellcasting Have Levels?

I was reading this question, and it occurred to me: I don't know why the designers of 5e chose this magic system. There are a lot of spellcasting systems out there, and I want to know why they choose ...
19
votes
1answer
505 views

Where does the elven “trance” come from?

In various editions of Dungeons and Dragons, elves have the ability to "trance" rather than sleeping normally. Does this elven trance have a source from fiction? I know that almost everything in ...
5
votes
1answer
194 views

Why are there no bonus cantrips for high ability scores?

It seems that in DnD 3.5 RAW, cantrips are not included in the ability modifiers and bonus spells progression chart, meaning that beyond level 2 a wizard cannot increase his number of cantrips per ...
28
votes
6answers
3k views

Is there a name for the standard 7-die set?

I'm curious if there is a formal name for the standard 7-die set (d4, d6, d8, d10, d10*10, d12, d20), and is there any backstory or history associated with it?
50
votes
1answer
2k views

What's the inspiration for the owlbear?

The standard explanation for the owlbear in-universe is "A Wizard Did It." Which is fine, as far as it goes, because the trope of "madman tinkering with bizarre mutations" is part of our speculative ...
47
votes
6answers
5k views

What is the background of Christian resistance to role-playing?

While in high school, a classmate introduced us to MAGUS, a fantasy RPG popular in Hungary. We played a simplified version with no dice-rolling and stuff; basically it was one person telling a story ...
49
votes
2answers
4k views

What is the “whiskey flask” problem with Paradox?

So, I've just read @Jadasc's eye-opening (+1) answer to @Flamma's question Where does the Transform Vampires/Werewolves into lawn furniture rote come from? (+1). At the end of his answer, Jadasc ...
7
votes
3answers
2k views

Where does the term “nova” come from?

At first, I didn't know what "nova" meant, but I've seen it enough in context to infer that it means "doing a ton of damage in a short period of time." Later I discovered that the term isn't as common ...
6
votes
0answers
255 views

What was it like growing up through the Dungeons and Dragons moral panic? [closed]

I have heard that in the 1970s and 1980s there were a huge uproar over tabletop RPGs much like how Online game addiction is now. I would like to know what was it like for you growing up in the ...
27
votes
4answers
4k views

Why do Sorcerers use Charisma?

Sorcerers use Charisma as their primary Ability Score for spell-casting in Dungeons and Dragons. Wizards use Intelligence to cast, and Clerics use Wisdom. Intelligence and Wisdom make sense for the ...
25
votes
3answers
1k views

Did having a 'Caller' player positively influence the gameplay in Moldvay's Basic D&D?

In the 1980 Basic D&D rules (Gygax and Arneston, Moldvay editing), the following text appears in Part 4: The Adventure: THE CALLER: One player should be chosen to tell the DM about the plans ...
8
votes
6answers
324 views

How can I learn about other editions of D&D?

I am presently a 4e player, and I love the game. But I am also interested in the other editions of the game, and would like to be able to get a good overview of them. By overview I mean a good look ...
18
votes
4answers
2k views

Barbarians vs Berserkers

This is a history-of-gaming question, and it has to do with the name choice between Barbarian and Berserkers. Due to the race-and-class mixing and matching of many different gaming systems, you can ...
5
votes
3answers
414 views

How can I find old Dungeon and Dragon magazine articles without a subscription?

I have an interest in the pre-WOTC editions of Dungeons & Dragons, and would like to learn more about the history and foundation of the game; I would therefore like to get a hold of various back ...
7
votes
2answers
1k views
102
votes
14answers
8k views

Who created the idea of Experience Points?

The idea of XP in all its many forms has been around for quite some time. What designer had the idea of quantizing success and advancement through a numerical method? What game was it for? The ...
54
votes
15answers
9k views

Why does everyone carry a 10' pole?

Based on this comment over on CRPG Addict: No adventuring party is complete without a ten foot pole. ... Jason, but WHY? In God's name, WHAT IS IT FOR?! What is a 10 foot pole used for ...
20
votes
4answers
2k views

Why do D&D Paladins Have to Be Lawful Good?

In just about every edition of D&D (save for 4e), Paladins are required to be Lawful Good. If they stray from that, they are completely stripped of their powers. This means that evil deities can't ...
37
votes
5answers
3k views

What is the purpose of old-school D&D class level limitations?

When I played 1E and 2E, racial level limits was one of the first rules we decided to ignore. We decided that it would prevent us from playing (say) an Elven fighter for as long as the party might ...
6
votes
4answers
709 views

Do critical failures always act as event triggers?

In all the games I remember playing, critical failures have always, in every case triggered an event. This critical failure is due to exceptionally bad rolls on dice, either a 'natural one' in DnD or ...
7
votes
2answers
267 views

How was Changeling played with cards?

AFAIK, Changeling 1st edition was played with cards, at least some parts of the game. That was removed from 2nd edition. I think it wasn't very successful, but I'm still very curious about that. ...
19
votes
1answer
644 views

How has D&D changed over time in its guidance to DMs as to when to extrapolate from written rules and when to improvise?

This answer (to a question about a levitating character trying to catch an object that exceeds the spell's weight limit in D&D 2e) states that: The spell levitate has a maximum weight limit, ...
7
votes
2answers
320 views

Where did the option to trade rolling for a minimal success first appear?

Some games include a clearly defined method for allowing players to opt not to roll in favor of accepting a certain minimum level of success. For example, Ubiquity has its "Take the Average" mechanic ...
10
votes
1answer
495 views

How did Robilar plunder the Tomb of Horrors?

I was reminded last time on how evil the Tomb of Horrors dungeon is (instant death traps, an absolute necessity in one room is gruesomely fatal in another room). Sure, Gary Gygax constructed it to ...
15
votes
1answer
289 views

Was the Tomb of Horrors module representative of Gygaxian DMing?

Twice today (and many times past) I have run across people begging the question that Tomb of Horrors is a typical example of the Gygaxian GMing style. It seems to be "common knowledge" that Gygax was ...
37
votes
4answers
4k views

What is “the d20 bust,” and what does “post-d20 game” mean?

Reading this gaming industry retrospective I ran into a few phrases which confused me. The d20 bust caused by 3.5e (2003) and the over-saturation of d20 products ran right into the Great ...
3
votes
2answers
127 views

Is there a difference between a Hack and a Clone?

I was recently thinking about cyberpunk-2020 and how much I'd like to update the game while maintaining the features I like best about it. This led me to realize if I did embark on such a system ...
13
votes
2answers
316 views

History of the Alignment System

Who created the alignment system? Was it Gary Gygax & Dave Arneson (D&D)? Or David A. Hargrave (Arduin)? Or perhaps Michael Moorcock and Paul Anderson? Where did it come from? In what ...
17
votes
1answer
875 views

Who first decided that “metagaming” is bad?

My understanding of early D&D play is that there was a general expectation that players could use any and all of their own skills to overcome challenges — including knowledge that their ...
26
votes
3answers
1k views

What inspired the D&D version of the Rakshasa?

Rakshasa have been part of D&D for more than 35 years, appearing in every edition. These evil magic cat-people are clearly inspired by the rakshas from Hindu and Buddhist mythologies, but they ...
20
votes
2answers
550 views

Where did the Chromatic/Metallic Dragons come from?

In the AD&D Monster Manual, the Chromatic (evil) and Metallic (good) dragons are introduced. Each color of dragon has a different habitat, personality and breath weapon. (Or two breath weapons, in ...
17
votes
1answer
408 views

History of the Wish Spell

A friend of mine was wondering about the history of the wish spell in Dungeons and Dragons. It is his suspicion that the spell “only” exists because they needed something for genies to cast to work in ...
23
votes
4answers
3k views

Why can't clerics use sharp weapons?

In many versions of D&D, clerics can't use bladed/edged/pointy weapons, and are instead restricted to things like staves, clubs, maces, etc. Why is this? Is there some historical reason? Is ...
4
votes
2answers
185 views

What is the first crowd-sourced pen-and-paper RPG product?

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 ...
37
votes
6answers
2k views

At what point did polyhedral dice become part of D&D?

I was reading some articles the other day about Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson and the history of Dungeons and Dragons. I started to wonder: Where did these guys from Wisconsin get the now iconic polyhedral ...
8
votes
1answer
47 views

Trying to find a panel discussion on the history of TSR that was posted to a gaming podcast

I listened to a podcast that had a panel with ~3 people from the heyday of TSR telling stories of their time there. I'd really like to find this interview again, but I listen to a lot of RPG podcasts, ...
29
votes
2answers
730 views

What is the etymology of the term 'Gish'?

I understand that it roughly means a fighter/mage, as per this question: How to optimize a Gishy [Fighter/Mage] Character? But I just wanted to know more about how the term came about. It's so hard ...
6
votes
1answer
162 views

Speak with burrowing animals

What was the first game system that canonically gave Gnomes the ability to talk to burrowing animals? I know D&D 3.5 had it, but was there something earlier?
4
votes
1answer
327 views

What was the first D&D Module?

I'm planning to start an Old School Campaign next week, for players who have mainly played D&D 3.0 and 3.5. I'd like them to play a real classic old school module. I have both B1 - In Search of ...
17
votes
6answers
668 views

Is the use of XP as a narrative currency for both GMs and players a novel idea?

In Monte Cook's new roleplaying game Numenera, XP is used as a narrative currency not only by the GM but by the players as well. Taken from his design diaries: Say the PCs find a hidden console ...
13
votes
1answer
891 views

What's the history of the Darkness spell?

In D&D 3.0, the darkness spell was a sphere of blackness, impenetrable even to darkvision, which was terrifyingly powerful (except against demons and devils). In D&D 3.5, it's a zone of 20% ...
13
votes
1answer
314 views

What Works Inspired Paranoia?

Paranoia is obviously descended from dystopian works such as 1984 and Logan's Run with black comedy that I have sometimes heard is inspired by Monty Python's Flying Circus. For a long time I had ...
15
votes
1answer
565 views

Which cultural trope(s) does the D&D cleric refer to?

On the level of game mechanics, the classic D&D cleric melds the healer, the crusader and the witch/vampire hunter in one person. Is this a genuine D&D mish-mash or is there any ...