Sunday, October 03, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 54

This is an ongoing series looking at books that influenced me as a fantasy author.

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition Dungeon Master's Guide
by Gary Gygax

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Master's GuideTabletop gaming has been around for about 35 years now, and many players got their start with the game that started it all, Dungeons and Dragons. I was a kid in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and a fan of fantasy literature, so it was only natural for me to pick up on the D&D craze that was kicking off at the time. Yep, I bought all the main rules books (and then some) as well as some of the pewter or lead miniatures, tons of gaming dice, tactical maps ... basically all the goodies that went along with the game.

But even back then I knew I was going to be a writer. And as an enthusiastic reader, I didn't just have those rulebooks for gentle perusing. No, I read them cover to cover. Multiple times.

Yes. I was a D&D nerd in junior high school. To be more exact, I as an AD&D nerd back in junior high. What's the difference? Advanced Dungeons and Dragons was a slightly more complex version of the game than the original D&D, but not so much so that it really made a difference. If you played AD&D, you had probably played regular D&D, too. I had. My preference was AD&D, which was in its first edition back then, and is all the way up to version 4.5 last I'd check.

But back to writing and reading.

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (Dungeon Masters Guide, No. 2011)Of all the rulebooks for AD&D, the biggest one, and the one that took the longest to read because it was so full of text was the Dungeon Master's Guide. Look at the artwork with this article for the two different covers this book was released in, the first one in the late '70s and the other in the early-to-mid '80s. Since then, there have been other versions of the DMG for newer versions of the AD&;D and D&D games, but this first one is still my favorite.


Because it was much more than a book about rules. Sure, you had your dungeon mastering rules, but there were also lots of long chapters about fantasy in general and the fantasy genre and the books and authors that influenced the creation of the game in the early-to-mid 1970s. In the back of the DMG there were tons of lists of great fantasy authors, and that was better than cake and ice cream for my young self back then (and I really liked cake and ice cream ... still do, for that matter). It's just too bad today's gaming books, at least the ones I've read or flipped through, don't seem to have that same connection with the roots of the fantasy genre. Today's books seem to be nothing but rules and they're usually quite short, often leaving out what many a player would consider important rules. Why do publishers do this? My guess is so you'll have to go buy another gaming book that contains those important rules.

Without the 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide, I would have missed out on a lot of great fantasy reading at various points in my life. That book steered me towards plenty of great masters in the fantasy genre, and I'm thankful for the book at Gary Gygax for that.

And I'm thankful for one other thing. That DMG was actually a pretty good read. I can't say the same for many of today's gaming books, which might be one reason why I haven't gamed in at least 5 years.

Up next: Dracula


David Barron said...

At the risk of outing myself as a nerd to add to my staunch geek presence, I agree wholeheartedly.

But some of the independent game companies carry on along the 'rooted' path. For instance, I got a solid grounding in classic pulp from the "Spirit of the Century" (Evil Hat Productions) gamebook.

Charles Gramlich said...

Never played any organized D&D type games. I probably would have loved 'em but where I grew up they were not to be found.