On the eve of virtual 2020 Gen Con, let’s turn back the clock a half century and look at one of the more obscure Gen Cons: the fourth, held in 1971.
Some groups playing first-edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons might have run initiative by the book, but with the incomprehensible rules text, no one knew for sure.
While every version of Dungeons & Dragons has a rule for who goes first in a fight, no other rule shows as much of the game’s evolution from what the original books call rules for “wargames campaigns” into what the latest Player’s Handbook calls a roleplaying game about storytelling.
Designer Monte Cook explains that feats came from the development of the third edition’s skill system. Two ingredients from D&D’s history contributed to skills.
In the first two years of D&D’s existence, a time over which only a few thousand copies of the game had sold, scattered early adopters began to play D&D by post.
The Dungeons & Dragons tournaments run at the 1970s Origins conventions are the stuff of legends: there was the Tomb of Horrors (1975), the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (1976), and then the famous Against the Giants trilogy (1978).
Let’s say you had the time to investigate hundreds of tabletop games, plug in their publication dates and work out how each one was related to another.
D&D’s 4th edition deliberately minimized the number of settings and the number of setting-dependent supplements it released. Despite this approach, Dark Sun was the most successful 4E setting and pleased fans old and new.
4th Edition D&D re-released only a few settings, including Forgotten Realms, Eberron, Dark Sun, and the new setting Nentir Vale. Why so few settings? Why was Dark Sun such a runaway success? And how does this relate to 5E?
When Dave Arneson ran a session of his Blackmoor dungeon for his D&D co-creator, Gary Gygax’s biggest impression came from two innovations: (1) the dungeon expedition and (2) how characters improved with experience.