A monster on the verge of eating an adventurer.


Gygax '75

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on February 20, 2022

Tagged: osr gygax homebrew

Dark Souls Knight

In 1975 Gary Gygax wrote an article describing a simple approach to creating a campaign world over 5 weeks, which you could then expand upon through play: like God intended. Ray Otus took this article and expanded on its ideas to create a structured work book with concrete steps for each week and his own example of creating a small campaign setting. Recently Dungeon Possum posted about his plans to go through this process. This got me interested in doing the same. I am keen to create a basic-ass fantasy setting. I normally gravitate towards Gonzo He-Man nonsense. Playing Dark Souls and Demon Souls over the last year has me interested in Arthurian fantasy—by way of a confused Japanese man. And so that’s what I will go with. We’ll call it Misericorde for now, until I figure out the names for things in this setting.

Follow along on my blog, of course: Gygax ‘75: Misericorde.


Reading the DMG: Time is like a clock in the heart.

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on April 02, 2013

Tagged: readingthedmg ad&d dmg gygax


Strong words from Gary Gygax on running a campaign. This is one of the few places in the Dungeon Masters Guide where text is set in all caps. This is important: you’re just fucking around until you start correctly tracking the movement of time in your campaign.

On some level D&D is a game of resource management: do I have enough torches, food, spells, etc, to survive exploring this dungeon. If you aren’t mindful of how time passes one aspect of what makes the game difficult disappears. (AD&D takes this to extreme levels with combat and rounds being split into segments.)

That is time at the micro scale. In this section Gygax is referring to time at a more macro scale. How much time passes between adventures. Do other adventurers have time to sweep in and steal the choice treasure before the PCs get another shot? Gygax was running games with multiple groups of PCs operating in the game world at the same time. The interplay between the groups will be different depending on what each group gets up to and how long it takes. It’s easy to hand wave what happens outside of the dungeon, but there is some interesting game play to be had IF STRICT TIME RECORDS ARE KEPT.”


Reading the DMG: Matching Capes

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on October 08, 2012

Tagged: readingthedmg ad&d dmg gygax

Duties It is not practical to try to determine the time and expenses necessary to accomplish everything possible for the scores of standard hirelings possible to employ, so each DM will have to decide. For example, assume that a player character hires a tailor to make plain blue cloaks for all of his or her henchmen. This will take only about 1 day per garment and cost the stated amount of money plus 5 c.p. (10% of the cost of a cloak) per cloak for materials. However, if the same cloaks were to be fashioned of a material of unusual color and have some device also sewed upon them, time and materials costs would be at least double standard, and probably more.

This is the sort of wonderful throw away paragraph that makes the Dungeon Master Guide such a fun read. Gary Gygax begins by telling you, the DM, that he can’t possibly enumerate all the things a player could hire a person to do. That’s a fair point. You don’t want to make the rule book any loner than it already is. He then goes on to provide the fiddliest of rules for making matching capes. The rules seem so specific. Was this something that came up all the time in old-school games? I picture an entourage of dungeon delvers decked out like a boy-band fighting Orcus.


Reading the DMG: On Thieves

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on August 25, 2012

Tagged: readingthedmg gygax dmg ad&d

Gary Gygax introduced the world to the thief class in the first supplement to the original D&D books, Greyhawk. They of course lived on in Gygax’s magnum opus AD&D. Clearly he was unhappy with how they were being used under the loosey-goosey rules of OD&D.

Climbing Walls: This is probably the most abused thief function, although hiding in shadows vies for the distinction.

You sons of bitches. Gygax clearly wasn’t out to model spiderman when developing his thief class. To aid DMs when their players attempt to scale oil slick glass walls, the DMG includes a table–of course–that outlines how hard it is to climb up surfaces of various textures based on how slippery they are. I recently learned Gygax was an actuary, which actually explains so much about Dungeons and Dragons.

And I know you are dying to know what he has to say about hiding in shadows.

Hide In Shadows: As is plainly stated in PLAYERS HANDBOOK, this is NEVER possible under direct (or even indirect) observation. If the thief insists on trying, allow the attempt and throw dice, but don’t bother to read them, as the fool is as obvious as a coal pile in a ballroom. Likewise, if a hidden thief attempts movement while under observation, the proverbial jig is up for him or her.

I have to wonder how many times this came up in his games. I’m guessing more than once.


Reading the DMG: Watch out for those Charlatans.

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on July 19, 2012

Tagged: readingthedmg ad&d dmg gygax

I picked up copies of the new Premium AD&D 1st Edition reprints earlier this week at Hairy Tarantula here in Toronto. I was on the fence about getting them as I don’t have much interest in actually playing AD&D 1e. I decided to buy them because I heard they were great books on role-playing games in general, and an important part of the history of the game. I’m also a big fan of the art from that era–back when no one working for TSR really knew how to draw. The reprints are really well done1 and I’m quite happy with my purchase.2

The Dungeon Master Guide is the biggest of the three books that comprise the core AD&D 1e rules, and it is fascinating. I plan to post little snippets from the book as I make my way through it.

A word of warning. Many products might purport to be satisfactory for use with ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, but only those noted as OFFICIAL or Authorized AD&D items should be accepted. Do not settle for substitutes or second-rate material in your campaign; ask for approved AD&D products only!

I can only imagine what was happening in the table top gaming community back in the 70s, but clearly Gygax was unimpressed with the work being done by 3rd party publishers. I wonder what his thoughts about the OSR community would be. Gygax’s writing is full of exuberance and passion, but the start of the Dungeon Master Guide is full of talk of official rules and playing the game properly. It seems to run counter to ethos of old school gaming, as I understand it.

Of course, we then get to a table about contracting parasites while adventuring so why are you griping about Gary Gygax? Please!

  1. Wizards of the Coast wrote about the process they went through to create these reprints, and it’s really quite incredible. All three books pre-date digital typesetting, so they had to redone by hand. The designers at Wizards of the Coast had to recreate the layouts from scratch. It’s actually quite amazing when you look at a page from the original books and then the reprints. 

  2. I need to begin a moratorium on book buying.