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GenCon 1971 and the Castle Sewer Game

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.

How D&D Got an Initiative System Rooted in California House Rules

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.

For 10 Years D&D Suffered From an Unplayable Initiative System. Blame the Game’s Wargaming Roots

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.

How Dungeons & Dragons Gained Feats

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.

Dungeons & Dragons at a Distance: Early Play-by-Mail D&D

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.

Dave Arneson’s Origins 1977 Tournament

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).

A giant family tree of tabletop RPGs

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.

Why Dark Sun Was 4E’s Most Successful Setting (Part 2)

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.

Why Dark Sun Was 4E’s Most Successful Setting (Part 1)

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?

XP Started as One of D&D’s Breakthrough Ideas. Now the Designers Don’t See the Point

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.