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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105
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 ...
59
votes
15answers
10k 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 ...
52
votes
1answer
3k 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 ...
51
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 ...
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 ...
40
votes
1answer
2k views

Origin of the term “Splat Book”

Where does the term "Splat Book" come from? Roughly a splat book is any book not required to play the system. There is some debate over its exact meaning, but that is not the point of this question. ...
39
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 ...
39
votes
7answers
3k 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 ...
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 ...
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 ...
32
votes
5answers
5k views

How did D&D end up so focused on fighting, when its inspirations weren't?

There are a lot of systems around nowadays that don't focus on combat, and that's great. But I was struck recently by the fact that D&D has always been, and remains, heavily oriented toward ...
31
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 ...
31
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?
30
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 ...
30
votes
2answers
883 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 ...
30
votes
1answer
1k views
+50

What explanation do the D&D devs have for designing 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, ...
29
votes
5answers
8k views

What are the differences between Holmes, Moldvay, and Mentzer D&D?

What are the differences between Holmes, Moldvay, and Mentzer D&D? Also, which one came first?
28
votes
6answers
2k views

What were the driving factors in the falling out between Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax?

Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson created the hobby together when they wrote D&D. But later on they had a falling out - what caused that? (We don't need minutiae, just the biggest factors)
28
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 ...
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 ...
25
votes
2answers
1k views

Origin of the word “Soak” for avoiding damage

If anything ever boggled my mind in role playing, then it is the term "soak", as in "soaking damage". Soaking brings pictures of wet clothes to mind, as making stuff wet is what the word is in fact ...
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 ...
24
votes
1answer
775 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, ...
24
votes
4answers
813 views

Why do characters with a high prime requisite gain bonus XP?

In earlier versions of Dungeons & Dragons, a character with a high ability score in their class' prime requisite receives a bonus to all experience he earns. For example, the 1983 Frank Mentzer ...
23
votes
4answers
4k 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 ...
21
votes
4answers
3k 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 ...
21
votes
3answers
2k views

Where do dual-wielding rangers come from?

The classes in D&D are clearly selected as classic archetypes, either from an iconic character or frequently reccurring within Fantasy fiction. The idea of bow-wielding rangers is a good example ...
21
votes
1answer
420 views

What inspired the Ioun Stone?

While looking over the rules for Ioun Stones a question came to mind. What inspired the Ioun Stone? It is present in nearly all editions of D&D, and also made it into Pathfinder. This ...
20
votes
2answers
638 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 ...
19
votes
1answer
565 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 ...
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 ...
18
votes
1answer
927 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 ...
17
votes
6answers
710 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
622 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 ...
17
votes
4answers
1k 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
2answers
1k views

Were Illithids inspired by Cthulhu?

Mind Flayers seem to look a whole lot like Cthulhu. Is there any relationship/inspiration between the two?
17
votes
1answer
445 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
5answers
1k views

Where does the D&D concept of a dwarf come from?

Where does the modern D&D of a dwarf come from? I've noticed it's fairly far from the old Germanic concept of a dwarf. Where did Gary Gygax and company get the idea for the current long bearded, ...
16
votes
4answers
528 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?
15
votes
2answers
500 views

Why is the soft level-cap set at level 20, specifically?

I've been wondering lately if there is any sort of precedence or context for the soft level-cap of level 20 in various D20 style tabletop games. I say soft cap because I'd like to, for the purposes of ...
15
votes
1answer
647 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 ...
15
votes
1answer
326 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 ...
15
votes
2answers
445 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 ...
14
votes
4answers
6k 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
2answers
529 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 ...
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
5answers
1k 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?
13
votes
1answer
381 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 ...
13
votes
2answers
737 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 ...
13
votes
2answers
346 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 ...