Category Archives: Role-playing game history

Divination in D&D: Spells that fish for spoilers

The Tomb of Horrors begins with Gary Gygax boasting of a “thinking person’s module.” This description makes players suppose that the tomb rewards puzzle solving and ingenuity. But the tomb never plays fair. The poem in the entry hall promises … Continue reading

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Spells that ruin mystery and treachery

In my last post, I explained how Dungeons & Dragons includes a variety of spells that can ruin adventures. Confined to the original megadungeons, spells like Know alignment and Commune caused no trouble. But as D&D grew to embrace more … Continue reading

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Spells that ruin adventures, revisited

Have you ever had an adventure spoiled by a spell? Through the history of Dungeons & Dragons, a variety of spells carried the potential to short circuit or spoil whole categories of adventures—at least without significant planning to avoid the … Continue reading

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Mapping—or not-fun things that Dungeons & Dragons players learned to skip, part 1

In 1978, when I found the Dungeons & Dragons basic set, I noticed that the dwarf description included lot of fluff: stocky bodies, long beards, and an ability to detect slanting passages, shifting walls and new construction. I figured the … Continue reading

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9 facts about D&D’s first standalone adventure, Palace of the Vampire Queen

Before Curse of Strahd and Ravenloft came Palace of the Vampire Queen, a dungeon written by California gamers Pete and Judy Kerestan and distributed by TSR Hobbies. 1 Palace of the Vampire Queen may count as the first Dungeons & … Continue reading

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1981: Adventures at My First Gen Con

In 1981, Dungeons & Dragons was surging in popularity, but you could not tell from my school. When my buddy Mike and I asked our friend Steve whether he wanted to join our next session, he declined. As if warning … Continue reading

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5 role-playing products that shaped how I play Dungeons & Dragons 1978-2000

Tomb of Horrors (1978) In the early days, I enjoyed plenty of time to create my own adventures, so I had little interest in playing the published ones. But I still drew inspiration from them. Nothing inspired like Tomb of … Continue reading

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5 role-playing products that shaped how I play Dungeons & Dragons 1977-1978

Holmes Basic Set (1977) The blue box of the 1977 Holmes Basic Set introduced me to D&D. To ninty-nine percent of Dungeons & Dragons players, the edition that introduced them to the game stands as their most important. Why should … Continue reading

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Tomb of Horrors tests patience, but still ranks as Dungeons & Dragons’ best villain

In his notes to the dungeon master, author Gary Gygax promises that the Tomb of Horrors “is a thinking person’s module.” He warns, “If your group is a hack and slay gathering, they will be unhappy.” To back his claim, … Continue reading

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The difficult origin of Blackmoor, Dungeon & Dragons Supplement II

In my last post, I explained how Temple of the Frog, the first published dungeon, failed as a dungeon crawl and baffled the first Dungeons & Dragons players. To unlock Temple of the Frog, players needed to treat it as … Continue reading

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