Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

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Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

Post by Cthulhudrew » Sun Dec 31, 2017 1:22 am

A series of articles just came out at Geek and Sundry about the history of Dungeons and Dragons. A fairly broad overview that leaves out a lot of the specifics and details, but interesting nevertheless.

The Story of D&D Part One: Birth and Resurrection of Dungeons & Dragons
The Story of D&D Part Two: How Wizards of the Coast Saved Dungeons & Dragons
The Story of D&D Part Three: How Third Edition Became the Mother of Many RPGs

(Wasn't quite sure the best place to post this, so if anyone thinks it might fit better in another forum, please let me know and we can get it moved.)
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Re: Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

Post by Big Mac » Tue Jan 02, 2018 11:41 am

Cthulhudrew wrote:(Wasn't quite sure the best place to post this, so if anyone thinks it might fit better in another forum, please let me know and we can get it moved.)
This place is OK. It's kind of industry news, even if it is old news. ;)
Ben Riggs at Geek & Sundry wrote:TSR grew from being run off Gygax’s dining room table to a corporation valued at millions of dollars with offices in Great Britain and Los Angeles. Oh, and the company had a mansion on the Isle of Man.
TSR had a mansion on the Isle of Man? :shock:

I've never heard of this. What did they do there?
Last edited by Big Mac on Tue Jan 02, 2018 2:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

Post by bayonetbrant » Tue Jan 02, 2018 11:42 am

well, part 3 has this curiosity
Meanwhile, Paizo, the previous publisher of D&D magazines such as Dragon, decided to continue publishing adventures for 3rd edition.
Yeah, got it - Paizo took over Dragon and Dungeon magazines, and that gave them a leg up on the competition with a crew that was already handling D&D-related material when they decided to strike out w/ Pathfinder and all that it entails.

But the article series never talks about how the magazines ended up in Paizo's hands in the first place, and it's the first mention of the magazines at all. There's no discussion about TSR creating the magazines (or how much of the perceived rules bloat of the 1st and 2nd editions was first road-tested in those magazines). It's as though the magazines were always under Paizo's stewardship, and Paizo was there all along.

Seems like that would've at least been worth a mention of how the magazines were spun off after the Hasbro purchase, and how that internal base of knowledge was leveraged to pretty rapidly build out Pathfinder, even if the articles focus on the D&D name itself.
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Re: Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

Post by bayonetbrant » Tue Jan 02, 2018 11:42 am

Of note, there's almost no discussion at all of the development of 4th edition, much less the public backlash against it, other than "it existed, so Paizo made Pathfinder".

I got that 90% of the RPG'ing world hates DD4e, but it seems like there's almost nothing about why it happened or how it went wrong.
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Re: Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

Post by Big Mac » Tue Jan 02, 2018 2:06 pm

EDIT: I've been ninjaed by Baynetbrant...twice. ;)

They did skip quite a few important details, but then again I suppose they only had so much space. They said that WotC made things right with Dave Arneson, but didn't cover the fact that he (like Gary Gygax) was also pushed out of TSR and prevented from working on his setting (Blackmoor). And I think it might have been nice to mention that Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax both worked on 3rd Party Products for 3rd Edition.

I like 3e, but the way that 3e was spoken about (and how Paizo was D&D when 4th Edition wasn't) was a tad slanted. The OGL was a great thing (and I'm sure glad that it's been brought back for the 5e SRD) but there was no mention of anything WotC did after 3e. It was almost as if this article was written about a year into the 4th Edition Era by a commenter who was looking at 3rd Party Publisher campaign settings that were migrating from 3.5 to Pathfinder RPG.

The article also omitted the fact that WotC encouraged the Paizo founders to take on their magazine business (including the staff that worked for it) so that they could get shot of it. Paizo had to work pretty hard to get rid of the uneconomical things that had been hidden under the carpet (like a freephone "call Star Wars" number) so that they could stop those things from killing their business.

Another thing missing was the story of D&D's campaign worlds. This was the D&D engine, from OD&D to 3.5 and then to the D&D clones, rather than a story of all of D&D. After Gary Gygax got ousted there was a spread not just of rules, but of campaign worlds. One of these worlds was Forgotten Realms and I would argue that FR is as important, if not more important than the D&D game engine. (The Realms have certainly managed to transend the changes in editions. So while grognards have broken off every time the rules have changed, the hard-core Realms fans are mostly still buying things.)

We were told that TSR was known for screwing over Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, and that Peter Adkinson made this right, but when WotC failed to extend the Dragonlance licence, Ravenloft licence and the Dragon and Dungeon licence, there were quite a few people who thought that Margaret Weis Productions and Paizo had been screwed over. And I do know that WotC sold a reprint licence for the Forgotten Realms comics to IDW and they both cheated Jeff Grubb out of his repeat royalties. (I'm not sure if that is a pre-Hasbro or post-Hasbro thing, but they didn't need to do that stuff.)

I think that what we have with 5th Edition, with the return to the SRD/OGL combination and some major PR work from Ed Greenwood over dissatisfaction from Forgotten Realms fans, is an effort by WotC to recreate the narrative that D&D is in good hands again.

I think that, for the main part, D&D is in good hands. I don't play 5e, but the Advantage/Disadvantage concept is something that seems really easy* and really fun. I think that DM Guild is a real-effort to reengage with fans (although it's also clearly an effort to monetise fanon material). And I think that the existence of a 5e SRD published under the exact same OGL as the 3e SRD is going to allow some enterprising person to hack the Pathfinder SRD and the 5e SRD and (totally legally) publish a 5e/Pathfinder hybrid.

* = It's such an easy concept, that I've picked up on the slang term "Sadvantage". :)

I think I would have liked to have seen Ben Riggs publish a part four, where he does cover the positive things that came out of 4th Edition, as well as showing how WotC learned from Paizo and "Paizofied" the process of creating D&D Next and a new line of Forgotten Realms adventures.
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Re: Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

Post by Big Mac » Tue Jan 02, 2018 2:15 pm

bayonetbrant wrote:well, part 3 has this curiosity
Meanwhile, Paizo, the previous publisher of D&D magazines such as Dragon, decided to continue publishing adventures for 3rd edition.
Yeah, got it - Paizo took over Dragon and Dungeon magazines, and that gave them a leg up on the competition with a crew that was already handling D&D-related material when they decided to strike out w/ Pathfinder and all that it entails.

But the article series never talks about how the magazines ended up in Paizo's hands in the first place, and it's the first mention of the magazines at all. There's no discussion about TSR creating the magazines (or how much of the perceived rules bloat of the 1st and 2nd editions was first road-tested in those magazines). It's as though the magazines were always under Paizo's stewardship, and Paizo was there all along.
Yep. It's skipped. They probably should have pointed out that TSR got one magazine...and then got a second one. There was also Polyhedron...which later got folded back in. There are a lot of milestones in the history of the magazines, including the Dragon annuals and things like the fact that The Shackled City Adventure Path got reprinted as a hardback book.
bayonetbrant wrote:Seems like that would've at least been worth a mention of how the magazines were spun off after the Hasbro purchase, and how that internal base of knowledge was leveraged to pretty rapidly build out Pathfinder, even if the articles focus on the D&D name itself.
I'm actually of the opinion that the D&D magazine business was dumped onto Paizo. They were encouraged to set up a company and hire all the D&D magazine staff. If Dragon, Dungeon and the (quickly cancelled by Lucasfilm) Star Wars magazines had folded, Paizo would probably have been left paying redundancy payments.

And...considering that the Paizo staff were ex-TSR magazine staff and (for a short time WotC-staff) the way that WotC "took the magazines back in house" for their DDI concept, pulled the rug from underneath people who had been working for those magazines through multiple editions of the rules. DDI was an interesting concept, but WotC didn't need to try to kill off Paizo to implement it. (And if you look at the way that WotC used to sell digital stuff via 3rd parties during the 3e era and how they have returned to that with DMs Guild, you can see that DDI was a business mistake.)
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Re: Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

Post by Big Mac » Tue Jan 02, 2018 4:52 pm

bayonetbrant wrote:Of note, there's almost no discussion at all of the development of 4th edition, much less the public backlash against it, other than "it existed, so Paizo made Pathfinder".

I got that 90% of the RPG'ing world hates DD4e, but it seems like there's almost nothing about why it happened or how it went wrong.
Having gone through the 4th Edition Era, I'm now thinking that this is a false narrative that is partially created by fans that didn't like 4th Edition.

The reality is that Paizo have been handed a number of lemons by WotC and have been very good at getting their staff to turn those lemons into lemonade.

The magazine business was not as profitable as they were led to believe, but they created an online store and subscription service that (even before 4th Edition had been published) was pulling in 3rd Party Publishers of D&D compatible material and getting those companies to distribute via Paizo's onlne store. WotC, on the other hand, was never any good at selling direct to customers.

The problem with 4th Edition, is not actually the 4e rules (which some people admittedly didn't like) and it is not actually the Spellplague (which a lot of angry Realms fans didn't like). The problem there is that 3rd Party Publishers got messed around for months and months over the transition. Companies have to make money and with WotC holding back the 4e SRD and farting around over the terms of the GSL (the replacement for both the OGL and d20STL) a lot of companies were forced to consider publishing products under rules other than 3.5...or 4e.

MWP bailed out of D&D compatible material, when the Dragonlance licence ended and I've always been massively disapointed in that. I like the people who work there, but they quit making stuff that I could use.

Paizo's first lemons to lemonade move was to appeal to Dragon and Dungeon subscribers and ask them to take a new subscription called "Pathfinder Campaign Setting". And - shortly afterwards, when they had been churning out 3.5 Pathfinder material, they ran up against the GSL/4e brick wall and decided that continuing with the OGL and SRD was more important than rebooting their campaign setting to fit in with WotC's hoop-jumping exercises.

I think that the Pathfinder Campaign Setting might have worked pretty well under 4th Edition rules, but it was WotC who pushed Paizo away, IMO.

And the fact that Pathfinder is (and always will be) a 3rd Party OGL product is a lemon that Paizo dealt with more successfully than any other 3rd Party Publisher in the world. While other companies have played by the letter and not the spirit of the rules (and made so called "crippled content") Paizo ran a public playtest of a document that added in the missing bits left out of the SRD along with a bunch of house rules that they beleved to be improvements*.

* = I won't agree or disagree with the Pathfinder rules being an improvement, as that's down to personal taste, but I do think that the fact that the Pathfinder Reference Document contains the entire rules system, is an improvement over WotC's approach to creating an SRD.

I think that a combination of legal restrictions, having a store for 3rd Party D&D publishers, the need to set up Pathfinder Campaign Setting as a life-boat and a determination to not be driven out of business is what has made Paizo succeed with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. When people credit Pathfinder's success to people not liking 4th Edition, they are kind of taking away from Paizo's hard work.

(And, lets face it, 4th Edition might not have been as popular as Wizards of the Coast hoped, but it was still popular with a lot of people...some of whom are here today still enjoying it. If anyone other than WotC had published it and if it had not been called D&D, I think there would have been a lot less bad stuff said about it.)

I think that Geek and Sundry were wrong to leave the impression that D&D dwindled and Pathfinder and other OGL systems were now D&D. The customer base certainly has a lot more options now, but that's not really a balanced claim they made there.

(And I don't say this to stand up for 4th Edition. If they want to talk about 4e not connecting with fans, they should be mentioning things like the Old School Revival and not pretending that new RPGs inspired by D&D are bigger than D&D.)
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Re: Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

Post by ghendar » Tue Jan 02, 2018 5:30 pm

Big Mac wrote:
I've never heard of this. What did they do there?
Delved the catacombs under Peel Castle. What else? ;)
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Re: Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

Post by ghendar » Tue Jan 02, 2018 5:33 pm

bayonetbrant wrote:Of note, there's almost no discussion at all of the development of 4th edition, much less the public backlash against it, other than "it existed, so Paizo made Pathfinder".

I got that 90% of the RPG'ing world hates DD4e, but it seems like there's almost nothing about why it happened or how it went wrong.
As much as I dislike 4th Ed, you're right, it should be covered in detail just like any other era of the game
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Re: Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

Post by ghendar » Tue Jan 02, 2018 5:48 pm

Big Mac wrote: I think that a combination of legal restrictions, having a store for 3rd Party D&D publishers, the need to set up Pathfinder Campaign Setting as a life-boat and a determination to not be driven out of business is what has made Paizo succeed with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. When people credit Pathfinder's success to people not liking 4th Edition, they are kind of taking away from Paizo's hard work.
I agree with you that Paizo should be credited with the hard work needed to survive (and thrive!). They took the ball, ran with it, and scored the touchdown. Kudos to them. As a disaffected 3e fan, I had plenty of negative feelings for WotC when it became apparent just what 4e would be and I applauded Paizo heartily and supported them when I could. However, part of that success is definitely due to a large segment of the D&D community not wanting to abandon 3.x and being extremely pissed off about 4e. Paizo saw this. To their credit they did something about it by tapping into that group of disgruntled and disaffected fans.

Big Mac wrote: (And, lets face it, 4th Edition might not have been as popular as Wizards of the Coast hoped, but it was still popular with a lot of people...some of whom are here today still enjoying it. If anyone other than WotC had published it and if it had not been called D&D, I think there would have been a lot less bad stuff said about it.)
I agree completely. Had 4e not been "D&D" but another RPG, then it would not have been hated. WotC, as the IP owner, would obviously never consider naming it something other than D&D. Brand recognition and all.
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Re: Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

Post by Havard » Tue Jan 02, 2018 6:21 pm

ghendar wrote:
bayonetbrant wrote:Of note, there's almost no discussion at all of the development of 4th edition, much less the public backlash against it, other than "it existed, so Paizo made Pathfinder".

I got that 90% of the RPG'ing world hates DD4e, but it seems like there's almost nothing about why it happened or how it went wrong.
As much as I dislike 4th Ed, you're right, it should be covered in detail just like any other era of the game
Yes, and as Big Mac says this is actually misleading. 4E would probably have been talked about much more positively if it had been called something other than D&D. Many people loved the game, but it could be considered a failure because WotC's expectations for the game were not met. One of the reasons for this was probably that it failed to appeal to many of its existing fan base beyond what is to be expected for new edition backlash. Most likely it found many new customers among new gamers, but I wonder if these continued into 5E, continue to play 4E or simply left the hobby.

But I agree with you all that this complex issue should have been covered in detail.

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Re: Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

Post by Havard » Tue Jan 02, 2018 6:33 pm

A few comments on the origins part of the article.

Overall, I find this section well written, but I have a few comments:

As with many publications, this article exaggerates the importance of Chainmail. I went into detail on this in my article called Blackmoor was just a Chainmail variant Fallacy. I do like that the game mentions Braunstein as one of the most important influences on Dave Arneson's game.

I also think the story of the "18 hand-written pages" Dave Arneson mailed to Gary is problematic since it was clearly something TSR repeated over and over again to suggest that was all Dave contributed to the game. Dave himself explains that in addition to the pages he mailed to Gary there were countless phone calls, in addition to the fact that Dave showed Gary how he ran his game. The last part is thankfully mentioned in the article.

Most serious researchers are clear that both Dave and Gary were essential to the contribution of the game, but sadly fan "historians" often fail to present the right balance when retelling this part of the history of D&D.

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Re: Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

Post by bayonetbrant » Wed Jan 03, 2018 7:17 pm

Let's face it - to truly capture the essence of it all, you'd need to write a multi-volume book series.

There were plenty of business mis-steps by the Lorraine Williams reign of terror that had nothing to do with a mansion of the Isle of Man.
There were plenty of unintended consequences with the OGL.
There was no shortage of poor behavior towards long-time contributors and the intellectual heavyweights behind many of the genius moments in the industry.

D&D is very much its own brand, known far and wide outside of the gaming world. That doesn't make it anywhere remotely the 'best' any more than McDonalds is the epitome of American cuisine.
But it's the key touchstone at the core of the hobby and trying to sum up the history in a handful of paragraphs is pretty damned tough.
To me, the authors of this series did a reasonable job, but it's clear that it's a younger author who lacks the perspective of a long-time player who has seen some pretty momentous decisions that are still rippling forward today that weren't even mentioned in the article. And their omission was unlikely due to any malice or incompetence, but rather simply a lack of historical perspective.
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Re: Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

Post by Havard » Wed Jan 03, 2018 7:53 pm

bayonetbrant wrote:To me, the authors of this series did a reasonable job, but it's clear that it's a younger author who lacks the perspective of a long-time player who has seen some pretty momentous decisions that are still rippling forward today that weren't even mentioned in the article. And their omission was unlikely due to any malice or incompetence, but rather simply a lack of historical perspective.
Makes sense. :)

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Re: Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

Post by ghendar » Wed Jan 03, 2018 11:03 pm

I can't say if incompetence played a part or not. I have no way of knowing that. However, it seems like the research is.....lacking. That doesn't necessarily imply incompetence though.
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Re: Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

Post by Big Mac » Thu Jan 04, 2018 5:33 pm

ghendar wrote:I can't say if incompetence played a part or not. I have no way of knowing that. However, it seems like the research is.....lacking. That doesn't necessarily imply incompetence though.
I'd agree with that.

It could be that Geek & Sundry put some sort of limits on how much historical details the author was allowed to include and they put down what they thought was most relevant.
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Re: Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

Post by ghendar » Fri Jan 05, 2018 12:18 pm

The following response is not an indictment on Geek and Sundry. It's merely my feelings on research

It could very well be they purposely limited details. However, I come from a background of primarily history with some archaeology. My belief is that if you're going to write history, you do it correctly and put in the time to do exhaustive research. We have enough fake news and incomplete news in the world today. We should be striving for something better instead of treatments that purposely leave out details and/or use incomplete research. If you're going to write the story of anything, give us the whole story. Put in the time and do it right.
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Re: Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

Post by bayonetbrant » Fri Jan 05, 2018 6:39 pm

ghendar wrote: If you're going to write the story of anything, give us the whole story.

Folks have done that for this topic, but it's a multi-volume book series. :shock:
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Re: Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

Post by shesheyan » Fri Jan 05, 2018 7:51 pm

bayonetbrant wrote:
ghendar wrote: If you're going to write the story of anything, give us the whole story.

Folks have done that for this topic, but it's a multi-volume book series. :shock:
Indeed. Researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time :

https://www.amazon.com/Designers-Dragon ... B00R8RB656
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Re: Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

Post by shesheyan » Fri Jan 05, 2018 8:08 pm

Big Mac wrote:
bayonetbrant wrote:Of note, there's almost no discussion at all of the development of 4th edition, much less the public backlash against it, other than "it existed, so Paizo made Pathfinder".

I got that 90% of the RPG'ing world hates DD4e, but it seems like there's almost nothing about why it happened or how it went wrong.
Having gone through the 4th Edition Era, I'm now thinking that this is a false narrative that is partially created by fans that didn't like 4th Edition. The problem with 4th Edition, is not actually the 4e rules (which some people admittedly didn't like) and it is not actually the Spellplague (which a lot of angry Realms fans didn't like). The problem there is that 3rd Party Publishers got messed around for months and months over the transition. Companies have to make money and with WotC holding back the 4e SRD and farting around over the terms of the GSL (the replacement for both the OGL and d20STL) a lot of companies were forced to consider publishing products under rules other than 3.5...or 4e.
I was a fan of 4E when it came out and defended it tooth & nail on forums for the first year. The problem with 4E was the rules/power bloat and the endless publishing of a new book almost every single month. Also, the game play became a problem at higher levels. It was a lot of work for the DM to keep track of all (not forget) the powers for each creature of an encounter. Frankly, I felt like I was playing a regular wargame in which one player (me - the DM) was playing against 4 (armies) opponents. I was completely drained at the end of each game. Something I never felt before 4E and don't feel with 5E. I would have liked to play 4E for a longer time period but it became mentally and physically impossible for me... I spend the rest of the 4e period trying out other non-d&d rpg systems - which is not a bad thing.
Currently playing : Coriolis The Third Horizon • D&D5E • Want to try : BlueHolmes

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Re: Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

Post by ghendar » Sat Jan 06, 2018 12:23 am

shesheyan wrote:
bayonetbrant wrote:
ghendar wrote: If you're going to write the story of anything, give us the whole story.

Folks have done that for this topic, but it's a multi-volume book series. :shock:
Indeed. Researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time :

https://www.amazon.com/Designers-Dragon ... B00R8RB656
Go big or go home :D
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Re: Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

Post by Havard » Sat Jan 06, 2018 12:36 am

Go big or go home :D[/quote]

Sadly Applecline makes many of the same mistakes in these books as these articles do when it comes to the early history of the game.


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Re: Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

Post by ghendar » Sat Jan 06, 2018 1:01 pm

I don't think there is a history out there of anything that you can't poke a few holes in or is not subject to some bias. It is what it is. That's why it's important to read multiple sources in order to get a more complete picture
Last edited by ghendar on Wed Feb 21, 2018 3:28 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Geek & Sundry Chronicles the Story of D&D

Post by shesheyan » Sat Jan 06, 2018 1:14 pm

Havard wrote:
Go big or go home :D
Sadly Applecline makes many of the same mistakes in these books as these articles do when it comes to the early history of the game.


-Havard[/quote]

Its a second edition. He must have made some changes following feedback ?

@Harvard: Have you read? HAWK & MOOR - The Unofficial History of Dungeons & Dragons: Book 1 - The Dragon Rises
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00JY ... s_rw_dp_sw
Currently playing : Coriolis The Third Horizon • D&D5E • Want to try : BlueHolmes

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