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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18
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4answers
793 views

Was Original D&D an Historical Wargame?

At the dawn of roleplaying, the Castle & Crusade Society and Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association (LGTSA) focused on Medieval Britain, and produced the Chainmail tabletop wargame rules with a ...
18
votes
2answers
2k views

What did Gygax and Arneson base the Bag of Holding on?

The Bag of Holding has been a staple of D&D since the game started. The idea of a bag that can hold more than it's physical capacity (and weight less than the it holds) can also be seen in other ...
18
votes
1answer
1k views

What RPG was the first to use stats, and what was it inspired by?

The notion that different characters or pieces have different attributes seems to be one we take for granted today, but upon a quick historical survey, it is not so. After all, in chess, a pawn takes ...
17
votes
6answers
892 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 ...
17
votes
4answers
2k views

What are the literary influences of the D&D Bard?

Can anyone tell me what sources, in literature, film, etc. inspired the Bard class for Dungeons & Dragons? I'm familiar with the Celtic Bards of history and legend, but the modern D&D Bard ...
17
votes
1answer
664 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 ...
16
votes
4answers
805 views

What's the origin of the term “gold piece”?

What is the literary or historical origin of the term "gold piece" to mean a gold coin? Was it used before D&D, or did D&D coin the term?
16
votes
2answers
790 views

Where does the word 'grognard' come from?

I see many people online describing themselves as grognards of a particular system or style of play. Usually they're referring to their die-hard love of an out of print version of a game. But where ...
16
votes
3answers
2k views

Where does the distinction between “Mind Flayer” and “Illithid” come from?

I know that a Mind Flayer is an Illithid, and vice versa. And I know in some of the D&D fiction, like Forgotten Realms and the like, that Mind Flayers refer to themselves or their race as ...
16
votes
2answers
1k views

Where does the idea of using the same character in multiple games come from?

I just read about a strange behavior in RPGs that didn't make much sense to me. To give an example: Susie joins up with a new game in Milwaukee. She makes a character for that game and plays in ...
16
votes
2answers
538 views

Why did WotC release Psionics under the OGL?

Wizards of the Coast released the core rules of D&D 3.5 under the OGL, but only added a small amount of material after that point. Was there some historical reason that the rules for psionics ...
15
votes
5answers
2k views

What was Braunstein, and why was it important to the beginning of the hobby?

I've heard of a game called Braunstein that apparently was the precursor to Dave Arneson's Blackmoor campaign. Can someone tell me what Braunstein was, and why it's important?
15
votes
2answers
3k views

Why is the Deck of Many Things called the Eater of Campaigns?

I hear this term tossed around a lot. Where does it come from and what does it mean?
15
votes
3answers
2k 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 ...
15
votes
2answers
677 views

Why did the designers make it so chromatic dragons can't shapechange?

In 5e, the Monster Manual states that each kind of Metallic Dragon gains the Change Shape ability by the time it is Ancient or Adult. However, no such ability is ever mentioned for Chromatic Dragons. ...
15
votes
1answer
668 views

Where did the misspelling 'Lloth' originate?

In the past you could sometimes come across the deity Lolth being spelled 'Lloth'. I once heard it was a typo that somehow kept being repeated. Where did the spelling 'Lloth' first appear?
15
votes
1answer
965 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 cultural/...
15
votes
1answer
561 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
747 views

Who actually is Tucker?

Tucker's Kobolds, from an article in Dragon Magazine, is an example of challenging higher-level player characters with lower-level monsters. Who actually is 'Tucker', in (modern-day) real life, and ...
15
votes
2answers
693 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 ...
14
votes
4answers
11k views

What exactly is a saving throw?

Dungeons and Dragons has had the concept of a "saving throw" for a long time. What exactly is it supposed to represent in the real world? And why is it called a "saving throw"?
14
votes
4answers
3k views

Why are Solars so powerful compared to other Outsiders in D&D?

Going through a number of D&D books that feature the Solar I noted that it is amongst the most powerful monsters in the book, frequently only matched in level and power by the likes of the ...
14
votes
2answers
986 views

What is the Symbol on the Amulet of Proof Against Detection and Location?

On page 150 of the D&D 5e Dungeon Master's Guide, there is an illustration of the Amulet of Proof against Detection and Location. The illustration depicts a closed eye, with a symbol above it, ...
14
votes
3answers
2k views

Where does the stereotype that wizards can't wear armor come from? [closed]

Why are wizards and their ilk so restricted in their choice of personal armor in most fantasy roleplaying games? (...let alone novels etc.) Sure, learning takes up a lot of time, especially about ...
14
votes
2answers
1k views

Why can't a Cleric use a sling?

So by the book 1st Edition AD&D, clerics can't use a sling. Other than game balance (it essentially means that other than the odd thrown hammer clerics have no ranged weapon ability which further ...
14
votes
1answer
1k 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
905 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 ...
12
votes
6answers
1k views

Do all RPGs make 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 ...
12
votes
4answers
642 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 ...
12
votes
1answer
698 views

Where is the origin of the “Duck in a Dungeon” trope?

Let's say your party is in the second floor of a dungeon, and you just arbitrarily see a duck, in the dungeon. The act of there being a duck in a dungeon should provoke a fight or flight response ...
11
votes
6answers
557 views

History of role-playing games

Is there a definitive book (or a website) on the history of role-playing games? Optimally the book should be reasonably new (so Heroic Worlds doesn't qualify) and cover also non-mainstream games.
11
votes
2answers
369 views

When was the term “game master” first used?

Dungeons & Dragons coined the term "dungeon master" for the role of the player running the game and adjudicating the rules. When is "game master" first attested (as in, "proven to have existed by ...
10
votes
3answers
3k 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 ...
10
votes
1answer
884 views

Why did Giant Space Hamsters cause community outrage?

I remember there being a community fallout surrounding the introduction of Giant Space Hamsters, but never got the details at the time, and had an adolescent "WOW, hamsters, giant, in space, this is ...
9
votes
3answers
1k views

When did the powers that be decide that my lanky frame warrants twenty-five square feet?

I was playing with AutoREALM the other day and noticed a lack of a five-foot-unit of measurement. There are inches, feet, yards, meters and then fathoms (apparently, six feet). This tool seems fairly ...
9
votes
2answers
766 views

Is it confirmed that the Hammer of Thunderbolts is intentionally based on Mjolnir?

In Viking Mythology, Thor has 3 prized possessions: First a hammer, Mjölnir. To be able to wield it properly, he must also wear his magical belt Megingjord to increase his strength, and his iron ...
9
votes
1answer
473 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 ...
9
votes
2answers
850 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 ...
9
votes
6answers
422 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 ...
9
votes
1answer
230 views

Has “write in to impact the metaplot” been tried since the 90s?

The Wikipedia article on Torg describes a way that players could attempt to influence the metaplot of the default setting: At the time of its release Torg's 'Infiniverse' campaign was an ambitious ...
9
votes
1answer
68 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, ...
9
votes
2answers
332 views

What game made leading questions a GM technique?

I am looking at history of gaming to understand the range of RPGs that are being played today. In the context of sharing some influence on narration between players and game masters, loaded or ...
9
votes
0answers
224 views

When, where, and with whom did the Dark Chaos Feat Shuffle originate?

In trying to give credit where it's due, I'd like to learn the name or pseudonym of the originator of the Dark Chaos Feat Shuffle (DCFS) (link is to a definition not a source), and where and when both ...
8
votes
2answers
2k views

When was Armour Proficiency first included and why?

It's a crazy idea that you need some sort of special ability to use/put on armour, it's just clothing really. I know DnD is not simulationist but most components have a fantasy justification. When ...
8
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the history of the term “Dungeon Master's Screen”?

The question What's the name of cardboard wall DMs use to hide their part of table? has a fairly clearcut answer--"X Master's Screen," where X is "Game" or "Dungeon" depending on the speaker, the game ...
8
votes
2answers
2k views

In what edition of DnD was the Barbarians's rage introduced?

In what edition of DnD was the Barbarian's rage introduced?
8
votes
3answers
341 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 ...
8
votes
2answers
471 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. ...
8
votes
3answers
575 views

Why were AD&D modules designed for so many player characters?

Recently I've been looking through AD&D modules for session ideas. Something I've noticed is that many of the modules were designed for more player characters than I've generally seen in one ...
8
votes
2answers
363 views

When did the word “buff” become used to describe bolstering effects in RPGs, and why?

This english.se answer describes how the word "buff" evolved independently in video game dialect. When was the word "buff" first used in tabletop RPGs to describe bolstering effects, and was it ...