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Questions tagged [history-of-gaming]

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.

140
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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 ...
97
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1answer
18k views

Why is the D&D gorgon a metal bull?

In mythology, the gorgons were Medusa and her sisters; snake-like beings who petrified those who saw them. In Dungeons & Dragons, gorgons are bulls with metal scales and the ability to breathe ...
95
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15answers
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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 (its ...
95
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3answers
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Why are psionics controversial?

I have recently had a conversation with some of my friends about psionics and their place in the D&D universe, both lore-wise and gameplay-wise. We were discussing the psionics as an optional part ...
90
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1answer
9k views

Why does “dungeon” mean the places adventurers go to kill stuff?

Why does ‘dungeon’, in the context of roleplaying games and D&D in particular, mean the places adventurers go to kill stuff? I’m asking because ‘dungeon’ usually means a kind of prison, and I can’...
87
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1answer
24k views

How has D&D's guidance to DMs on when to extrapolate from written rules and when to improvise changed over time?

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, ...
77
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4answers
9k views

OD&D said it could be played with 20-50 players and one referee. How was that expected to work and still be fun?

Original D&D is often the shorthand name for the 1974 Dungeons & Dragons, Vol. 1, Men & Magic, written by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. The section on "Scope" has this quote: Number of ...
71
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4answers
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What is Pathfinder's relationship to D&D?

Pathfinder is often conflated with D&D, 4e I think, but it isn't actually named "Dungeons & Dragons." What is Pathfinder's relationship to D&D, and how does it fit in with the various D&...
68
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1answer
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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 ...
64
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2answers
8k 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 ...
63
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5answers
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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 ...
63
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6answers
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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 ...
60
votes
1answer
24k views

Why is mayo in the alchemy jug?

The 5e Alchemy Jug (on page 150 of the Dungeon Master's Guide) has several uses. Some are common and useful, like water, poison, acid. Some are natural ingredients and liquids, like honey, vinegar, ...
59
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4answers
22k 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 ...
58
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1answer
4k 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. ...
55
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8answers
25k 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?
52
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6answers
9k views

Has Christianity ever been given stats?

Background We have plenty of material through several editions of D&D for several pantheons of old - Norse, Greek, Egyptian, and etc. Have there ever been published material for Christianity? Or ...
50
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3answers
9k 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 ...
48
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4answers
6k 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 Recession. ...
45
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6answers
8k 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 ...
44
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2answers
5k 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 ...
42
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4answers
4k views

What is the origin of the concept of punishing players in-game as a GM?

I have observed GM punishing players by punishing their PCs, often through intentionally implausible, humiliating, and sometimes fatal events. Where and when does this GMing technique originate, and ...
41
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7answers
6k 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?
41
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4answers
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What is the bad history around the three-fold or GNS model of RPG's?

On a forum elsewhere, I recently started a discussion about how people might categorise popular RPG's according to the GNS theory model. My intention was merely to stimulate discussion. I was ...
41
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1answer
5k views

What is this story I recall about an extremely long ever-changing character backstory?

I read recently a post that was going around about a player who didn't like his DM, so he wrote an ever-changing backstory (hundreds of pages so no one would read it) for his character that allowed ...
41
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2answers
4k views

What is the reason behind “one level at a time” level advancement in D&D?

During the answering to this question about large experience point gains getting truncated -- when a single XP award would raise a character more than one level at a time -- the following question ...
41
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1answer
4k views

What explanation do the D&D devs have for designing spontaneous casters to lose out on a spell level compared to prepared casters? [closed]

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, ...
39
votes
6answers
8k 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 ...
39
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4answers
2k 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 ...
38
votes
3answers
5k 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 ...
38
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3answers
7k 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 ...
37
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6answers
6k 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)
37
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6answers
4k 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 ...
37
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1answer
1k views

Is there any documented proof of Mage: The Ascension writer intoxication?

I have several times been told that Mage: The Ascension is a rulebook written in a state of perpetual intoxication. There has been numerous allusions to it for years, and it has been argued the ...
36
votes
2answers
3k views

Was “Warfare & Wizardry” a real game?

I recently downloaded the "Mazes & Minotaurs Player's Handbook: 2012 Silver Jubilee Edition" PDF. I believe this PHB is a revised / updated version of the Legendary Games Studio-revised 1987 ...
36
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4answers
5k views

What is the 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 ...
36
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4answers
6k views

Origin of “You all meet in a tavern…” cliche in fantasy roleplaying games?

Where does this silly (but fun) cliche come from? I couldn't find a definitive answer online. The value of the tavern as a place where characters can meet, find new adventure hooks, and spend gold is ...
36
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2answers
4k views

Was there ever an official “win condition” in early D&D editions?

Just saw a post in a D&D group saying: Challenge for those not playing for decades. What was the only official way to beat the game? (That quote is the whole message of the post, for those who ...
36
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2answers
5k 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 ...
35
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3answers
4k views

What is the history and significance of the “dire” prefix to creatures?

Some animals in Pathfinder bestiaries are prefixed with "dire". Does this come from the wolf species Canis dirus, an early edition monster/template or something else? Where does this come from and ...
35
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1answer
6k views

Why aren't Halflings Hobbits?

Just curious, given how heavily from Tolkien D&D drew, and the fact that games like Wizardry used Hobbits, is there a good design reason why Gygax and company used Halflings (a term that also ...
35
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1answer
3k 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 ...
35
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3answers
6k views

When did rolling a natural 20 on the d20 become a “critical success” in the history of Dungeons & Dragons?

I've only played Dungeon @ Dragons in its 5th edition, and I have only limited exposure to earlier editions from PC games, but never understood the rules behind them (or knew the calculations), so I'...
35
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1answer
2k views

Evolution of the Rogue in D&D

How and why has the concept of the "rogue" evolved over D&D's history? It seems that what the general perception of what people think of with a "rogue" or "thief" has changed drastically over the ...
35
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3answers
4k views

What is the origin of the expression/trope “Rocks fall, everyone dies”

I think most people are familiar with this scenario (either first hand or via media). The PCs are going off the rails, the GM gets fed up, and then suddenly, Rocks fall, everyone dies This is more ...
34
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1answer
2k views

What is the origin of D&D 1-9 spell levels?

D&D spells in all editions (except for 4e powers) are categorized according to "spell levels". This is something that I haven't seen in other games. When did these spell levels first appear and ...
33
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3answers
11k views

Why do druids use scimitars?

I know this question has been asked on other forums, and I have heard some explanations, but I wondered if there was a source that could be cited (not the rule itself, rather an outside source that ...
33
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2answers
5k views

Is Dungeons & Dragons the origin of “Bahamut” as a dragon?

Bahamut, the platinum dragon god of good, metallic dragons, takes his name from the Bahamut of Arabian mythology, the great fish upon which the earth rests. The similarities between dragons, serpents,...
32
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4answers
4k views

What is the origin of the term fizzled?

When a spell like raise dead fails due to something such as a soul not being willing to return to its body, it will cause the spell to fizzle. It's a term I'm used to and not surprised to see describe ...
32
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3answers
7k views

Why are elves immune to a ghoul's paralyzing touch?

I was reading Are Half-Elves immune to the paralyzing property of a Ghoul's Claw action? and it struck me that I have no idea as to why elves would be immune to the paralyzing touch of a ghoul, ...