This personal diary is devoted to the unveiling of the old fantasy role-playing games of the past (1975-1989),especially those which - for whatever reasons - are lesser known, forgotten, obscure or neglected.
Besides, it deals with overlooked movies of the same genre, of the kind you can only find in VHS if you are lucky enough.
A journey into the abysses of fantasy.
Yesterday i re-opened my blog after several days (i was far, far away, both physically and mentally) and noticed someone commented again on my post about Ysgarth (here), and he was happy in having found someone had spoken about this game in the vast ocean of the web.
So, since i want this place to become the shrine and refuge of forgotten old fantasy rpg's...here it is, in part.
"I'm french and a long time gamemaster ( though I dont have time for this hobby since many years ) , using a lot of RPGs.
I always longed to find or try the legendary C&S without any results. I really love FGU games and I thought it was equivalent in quality as Sworbearer and so on.
A week ago , I photocopied a complete .pdf of the hardly available C&S 1st edition. And I was amazed !!!!
Why a game of such quality , such nearly perfection was so "underground" ???
Reading it , I'm still impressed of what was done ! System , background , everything ( god ! Magick is a marvel ! )... AD&D , I practiced a lot in campaign , doesn't at all compare ... Pendragon is a joke comparatively ...
Now , I'm trying to find time to play RPG again , using C&S 1st ed.
A bunch of utterances by Ed Simbalist are worth one hundred sentences of Gygax. And i'm not going to hide the fact that i regard "Chivalry & Sorcery" as the ineffable, unparalleled fantasy role-playing game of all time.
A lot of interesting stuff written by Simbalist is contained in the old fanzine "Alarums & Excursions", and i will shed light on that material in the future. As for now, i present this text, coming from DF #1 (which you can buy here for 75 $).
Besides examing in future posts the material by Simbalist from A&E, there will be another long digression by the author of "Chivalry & Sorcery" (taken from a very old fanzine dating back to the seventies) which deals with the differences between D&D and C&S and the views of the author about this topic ( which i never saw published online and that i think will generate much controversy). Stay tuned.
Text taken from the first issue (1979) of "Different worlds".
Ed is considered the scholar of FRP games. His output is prolific but very au thoritative. He has no equal in providing pure information specifically for use in
Fantasy Role Playing
Since its inception, fantasy role-playing (FRP) has evolved far beyond the
expectations of those who formulated the first sets of FRP rules or of those players
who first ventured into "dungeons" and "wildernesses" to face the Unknown.
FRP has become more than a mere game. It is an activity approaching the propor-
tions of a cult. It is a means of personal expression on a highly creative and
imaginaive level. It is the spontaneous creation of a "living novel" or a
•• psychodrama," interaction amongst players on many different levels as they
create alter egos in the persons of their characters and so enter, into imaginative
and exciting realms of existence denied to them in their everyday lives. The more
fully they themselves capture the spirit of their characters and imbue them with
rounded personalities, backgrounds, and motivations separate from their own, the
more the players become "actors" on a stage of their own making.
To repeat, FRP is not "just a game." The rules of FRP are regarded in a
manner unlike that accorded to the rules of any other game. Indeed, FRP rules are
merely the language through which players and Game Masters communicate
and simulate those elements of what might be termed "imaginative reality."
To play FRP is to engage in the creation of a group fantasy, to produce the Grand
Illusion of a world ethos by the deliberate suspension of one's disbelief. Thus it is
that twentieth century people can, for a few hours, escape into a fictitious world
and accept the "reality" of that world for the sake of pure enjoyment.
The illusion of reality is essential to any entry into a world of fantasy. One might
say that a "Spell" is cast and consciously submitted to by the participants. "Come
into my world," is an invitation extended by the Game Master, the director of this
group artform, and he employs the "rules" to delineate the outlines of the
world he has conceived and account for many activities which would or could
occur in it. The rules merely aid the Game Master to maintain the internal consist-
ency, the "laws" by which his world operates.
But even as the Game Master spins his web of illusion, the players themselves
add to the performance by playing their roles. Many are the times when the Game
Master finds that his creation has taken on a life and purpose of its own as he
responds to the creative output of the players. The story-telling-for FRP in a
very real way is a story-telling activity- becomes a group creation as the imagi-
nary life experiences and actions of each player/character are added to the basic
concept provided by the Game Master.
The experience is itself the thing, and once begun it becomes a group hap-
pening! As we designed and tested Chivalry & Sorcery, it became clear that the illusion of reality had to be maintained to bring out the finest in creative impulses from both the players and the Game Master.
Thus we aimed at creating the feeling of being in a world, of competing in and
even just surviving the physical and social "realities" of an existence differ-
ent from our own. We chose the feudal model as the basis of that imaginary
world because feudalism is a fairly universal cultural pattern encountered in
not only Medieval Europe but in many works of fantasy fiction and traditional
Indeed, the biggest illusion we succeeded in creating with the rules is the
belief of many commentators and players that Chivalry & Sorcery is realistic! The
"realism" of C&S is the totally imaginary High Chivalry of King Arthur and The
Faerie Queene, of Ivanhoe and Men of Iron and The White Company. Elements
of classical, medieval, Nordic and Celtic myth were mixed in for seasoning, with
liberal doses of Tolkein and the Dracula/Frankenstein/Dr. Jeykell and Mr. Hyde
horror story and movie tradition thrown in for good measure.
Our magical systems were patterned uon, but never imitated, a dozen traditions found in various times and in various cultures. Of course, elements of hard military and economic history underlie many of the systems, as do insights into social
organization, but these are tempered by a sense of romantic heroism and derring-
do. In short, Chivalry & Sorcery systems may appear to simulate reality, but the realism itself is purely in the minds of the players!
It is gratifying that this sense of realism has made an impact, but I would
like to point out that the thrust of Chivalry & Sorcery was never directed toward
presenting hard reality for its own sake.Rather, we felt that establishing a
foundation for a fantasy campaign which has its systems rooted in the real world,
even the wildest fantasies can be sustained.
Everyday, mundane considera tions take care of themselves that way, with reduced reminders that "such-and- such" situation "wouldn't really happen that way" to interfere with the fantasy illusion that the players and Game Masters are trying to create. As Tolkien and many other commentators on the subject have noted, all fantasy is founded upon our perception of reality. The trick is not to let the fantasy be entirely bounded and controlled by hard reality, merely informed and guided by it. In examining the brief but eventful history of FRP, one cannot help but notice
the continual modification of the "rules."
From the moment that FRP began, Game Masters started to alter and improve and
add to the existing rules. Variants sprang up in profusion, despite calls for "One
True Way" of FRP gaming. This design creativity on the part of players is their
inevitable and necessary response to their particular needs. Any set of FRP rules has, as a primary task, the sustaining of the particular fantasy world the players are attempting to establish. It is unthinkable that there could be any set
of rules that would answer all the needs of all players everywhere to create any
fantasy world that might be conceived!
Moreover, it is likely that one of the main appeals of FRP is the freedom of players
to put their own personal touches into the activity. From the Game Master's point
of view, it is fun to develop his own world, to design or alter rules in order to
simulate the conditions and effects he desires. It is fun to see others enjoying
the results of that creative talent. In fact, it is the biggest "high" a Game Master
That is the reason that I encourage layers to "meddle" with the rules I
design. An unrepentant meddler myself, I like to play with the systems. It not only
gives me some feeling of pride in my creations, but it is absolutely necesary if I
am going to adapt the rules so that they sustain my world. "Come into my world,
and welcome," but first I have to be sure that the world will remain consistent, that
it will function the way I want it to function. Every Game Master faces the
same problem. Is there any wonder that variant systems appear?
In talking to Greg Stafford, for example, I discovered that he employed many
Chivalry & Sorcery systems to set up his Dragon Pass world for FRP. I also borrow
from his systems, and those of other games as well. So should it be, for the
idea of a "pure" FRP campaign ignores the needs of individual Game Masters.
One uses anything that does the job, and one never fears to modify a promising
system or concept to fit his world. The only criterion governing such modifica-
tions and adoptions of systems is that they work! If they produce the results
desired, well and fine. Who cares who designed the systems of what publisher
FRP is an individual activity expressing the needs and expectations of those
engaged in the activity. One is limited only by his imagination and his design
Knowing the investment of time and imaginative energy that is required to
design an FRP world, and fully aware of the infinite potentials for enjoyment and
creativity that are available to the role player who willingly accepts the "reali-
ty" of an FRP world, I sometimes become impatient with players who insist on
being their usual twentieth century selves and refuse to live in the fantasy as their
Perhaps I am insulted as the Game Masterlstory-teller/director of the
activity, but it grates to see all that work and all that potential ignored as some
player tries to win the game in the same manner as he would approach a game
based upon the "adversary" model. One simply cannot "win" a role playing game
because ther are no "victory conditions" as in, for example, a board game
simulation of the Battle of Kursk. The "game" is the Game of Life, with each
character choosing his own "victory conditions," and success is not simply a
matter of counting bodies or gold or experience points.
Chivalry & Sorcery reflects that philosophy. What is the aim of FRP as
embodied in C&S? Be a Lord. Aspire to power and position. Rule a kingdom or
barony or barbarian tribe. Make war. Conquer Empires. If you are a common-
er, seek the golden spurs of Knight-hood-or maybe even just freeman status
if you are a serf or slave. Gain respect and reputation by performing deeds of valour.
Seek gold. Become a Merchant Prince. Become an explorer or freebooter or the
best darn pickpocket in the nation. Do good. Do evil. Avenge an ancient wrong
against one's family. Regain a lost throne. Marry a princess. Protect the
weak. Oppress others. Escape the consequences of your acts by cunning and
deceit and plain bribery and corruption of public officials. Be a Robin Hood. Smite
the Godless. Take holy orders. Go crusading. Make a pact with the Devil.
Seek universal knowledge. Unlock forbidden secrets. Know yourself!
Above all, survive and conduct yourself in the sure knowledge that a victory
marks only one skirmish amongst many that Life will inevitably bring to you as a
If one is going to create a world that is "alive" and charged with real adventure,
role playing is essential. One must get inside his character, see what motivates
him and makes him unlike any other,breathe life into him as an individual, and
above all surrender one's twentieth century self to the illusion and be that
character-see, feel, think, and act as he would. Only then will the activity be more
than counting gold or bodies or experience points. '
This is the consideration upon which FRP succeeds or fails. For FRP is a
socializing activity, a deliberate gathering of friends to enjoy and marvel at the
wit and cunning and skill we all exhibit as we contribute to our mutual enjoyment of
the activity. Not to be outdone by our fellows, each of us responds to the
contributions of our friends with equally fine character play, always aware of the
degree of sensitivity and expertise with which the Game Master orchestrates and
directs our efforts as we enfold the living drama. Weare all playwrights and actors
and audience rolled into one. If it is a good performance, we are highly grati-
fied and, though limp with repeated adrenalin surges, we make plans to meet
for the next foray into "Our World."
D&D is the ultimate fantasy game.Players start as a Fighter, Magic-User,
Cleric, or Thief. They may choose to be a human, elf, dwarf, half-elf, or
even a hobbit. They must decide to be lawful, neutral, or chaotic. There is
never any winner. In a good campaign players start in a town. First, they
must get a room at one of the several inns. Then, they usually go to a
general store to pick up some equip- ment such as rope, sacks, etc. If
they have any money left, they'll go to a tavern, have a drink, and try
to hire some men. How well they fare at this is determined by charisma,
one of the abilities. The other abilities are intelligence, strength,
wisdom, dexterity and constitution.
They'll then begin to ask towns people about the surroundings, about any
legends, etc. The next day bright and early they'll pack up and set out
down the road. If they have bad luck, sometimes they even have to get a
job to keep from starving! All this takes a lot of work and time for the
referee, but it's more than worth it! The most stimulating part of the game
is the fact that anything can happen. Nothing' is impossible. Even when you
are standing between a cliff and a troll, there is still hope, perhaps
Levitation boots! Over a hundred monsters are provided for, from
trolls, orcs, zombies, werewolves, vampires, dragons, gargoyles, rocs,
and giant purple worms, to hell hounds, rust monsters, giant slugs,
and even tyranosaurus rexes and giant tics. Whether you're exploring the
depths of the dungeons, roaming in some forsaken wilderness, or being
pursued by an evil wizard in an intricate castle, I'm sure you'll be having
one heck of a good time!
If you took everything possible or impossible that you ever dreamed
about, read about, or imagined; put it in a medieval setting, and heaped
it all into one set of rules for a game, you would have created DUNGEONS
& DRAGONS. As a game, D&D is a fantastical outlet for the imagination.
It has the quality of being infinitely flexible, and with it comes the
reality of impossibility.
What you get when you buy D&D are
three booklets, filled with basic guidelines for a fantasy campaign.
The first book is Men and Magic. This basically tells about getting a
character, equipping him, and getting off to a start. Magic and clerical
spells are listed and described forreference whenever needed. With these spells, magic-users and clerics can make people, monsters, things, and objects, do anything from sleepingto serving them or dying. With rules for developing your own new spells, the sky's the limit.
I feel that book II, Monsters and Treasure is the
most interesting book of all. This book describes all the mean, nasty,
and horrifying creatures that the players get to fight. Then, when
they are finished fighting, this book describes many rich treasures and
countless magic items, to aid the players in finding more and better
loot. Volume III, The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures is probably the
most important book, because it tells how to go about playing the game, in
either of two settings. Dungeons must be mapped out by the referee in
advance, and care taken to detail. The wilderness is rather a do-it-
as-you-go- situation. This book also includes ways to spend your
treasure, and other interesting things such as; Castle construction,
Naval combat and adventures, Baronies, and much more.
There are drawbacks to the game
however; as there are in any game.D&D cannot even begin to get
interesting in less than 20 hours playing time. Hundreds of hours of
work must be done ahead of time by the referee, and it takes a fairly
long time to prepare on the part of the players.
In this game there is no victor as such, but the object is to gain exper-
ience (by finding treasures and beating up on monsters) and become more
powerful and gain more possessions. Staying alive is a big part of the
game, as there are always monsters that hate you, lurking in the gloom.
But, if you should happen to die, don't worry; you can always start again.
If more complexity is desired, the supplement GREYHAWK adds outstanding
improvements, and many more ideas. Also, the Strategic Review, a TSR
newlestter has some good things.
Thoughts experiments. I revel in them. They just pop up in my mind unexpectedly.
So, you already know it. Maya predicted the end of Dungeons & Dragons once and for all by 2012.
You just have a bunch of days left to play it. Your own life will be spared, but not your handbooks and manuals. They are going to vanish all of a sudden, 2012/12/21, devoured by a metaphysical entity known as "The incorporeal eater".
That said, you have just 1 minute, not more, to decide which game you'll play instead of it. You will be bound by your decision for the rest of your lifetime.