Category Archives: Role-playing game history

The Dungeons & Dragons spells Gary Gygax never meant for players

Dungeons & Dragons first supplement, Greyhawk, raised the game’s highest level spells from 6th level to 9th. None of Gary Gygax’s players had reached the level required to cast the new spells. Tim Kask remembers that as he and Gary … Continue reading

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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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