Friday, October 1, 1976

Gygax's Letter in Alarums & Excursions #15


Gygax's Letter in Alarums & Excursions #15, October 1976

Dear Lee,

Hereafter you will find comments regarding A&E 14 done in the order in which the material they pertain to appears in the zine. This is bound to cause a rather disjointed missive for which I beg your kind indulgence in advance.

Your stand regarding future publication of variant material is most appreciated, for we do not particularly feel happy to see some rehash of our copyrighted material. With regard to commercial sale of material pertaining to D&D, I can state that TSR is absolutely opposed to the practice in those cases where there is infringement upon our copyright. In the case of your supplemental material, I cannot say but will certainly tend to look more favorably on an enterprise of yours you have been most careful and conscientious regarding the rights of TSR. Please let us take a loot at the material if you wish to go ahead.

Rick Schwall played in "Greyhawk Castle" once or twice, but he either was with a very small group -- I do not recall -- or his memory is not good. Rob and I do not bother to place adventurers on any sort of graph if the group is three or less. All placement is easily kept track of with so few players involved in combat. When more than three persons are in a party, we always require that they align themselves in a march order, the leader be in the front rank, and changes in marching order be noted. The party keeps one copy of this, and they must furnish us with a duplicate. When combat takes place we sometimes use miniatures, otherwise paper and pencil, to record positions, actions, hits given and hits scored. My favorite grid for character positions in combat is a large sheet of staggered squares covered with acetate. Colored china markers are used to show positions, moved, etc. When running large groups through a tournament scenario, such nice touches must be done away with in the interest of time.

Lee, no matter how carefully something is written, and I am not thereby claiming D&D was written with a view towards deletion of ambiguities, there will always be some person at work to twist the content to their own ends. A classic case is the Avalon Hill game STALINGRAD, which stated the German player could place up to 8 factors of German units in Finland. As the rules did not mention Rumanian units, some of these clever fellows put them into Finland too! I take exception to the statement that I am not able to write very clearly. Correctly put forth in a form asserting that D&D was not written without loopholes or carefully would be quite acceptable. When I treat historical subjects, rules are written in a far different manner. Specifically to the point, magic-users are not allowed to wear any form of armor or use any form of weapon other than daggers. We have amended our treatment to allow them to use staves as weapons as well. Characters able to operate in two or more classes at once do not fall under the injunction against armor and weapons. Thieves can use nothing better than leather armor, and they may never use a shield. They may use only daggers and/or swords, magical or not. I would allow them to use a garrot or sling in some cases. Likewise, I would allow the use of a fine chainmail short of magical nature. The point is that the DM should make such decisions. (Ooops, I just blamed you for something evidently written by Glenn Blacow... Sorry!)

Glenn has quite a few novel concepts. Evidently he believes a dungeon should be rather like a fun house, with a monster behind every door and so much magic available you can't keep track of the enchanted swords without a scorecard. Anyway, I personally dislike refereeing for expeditions above six persons, but demand usually force me to take more. The largest party we ever took into "Greyhawk Castle" was 16 --- and four actually survived to tell of it. And that without 75% occupancy and no more than a half-dozen traps on a typical level. In any event, from your statements, Glenn, I do believe you could handle play in my dungeon -- or even Arneson's -- and do well, but how can the clean-up crew be considered "helpless"? An encounter with an ochre jelly dropping from the ceiling can be rather devastating.

Rumors concerning the way we play D&D seem to be flying about all sorts of places, and unfortunately most of these bits of information are only partially correct at best. Dan Plerson says that we are rumored to play competitive D&D with group against group. It so happens that when we get the campaign into high gear, there is considerable competition between three or four factions, and they find it enjoyable to attack each other when the opportunity arise -- and they do play to make such opportunities. As a DM I find this quite suitable. It does not occur frequently. It almost never happens during dungeon expeditions. Here is how we have things set up:

The game world is a parallel earth, but the continents are somewhat different. Most of our campaign activity takes place on what corresponds to North America, on the eastern half of the continent. The "Blackmoor" lands lie far up on the northeast coast. "Greyhawk" is in the central portion. There are a few other independently run campaigns located on this map. There are also some other dungeons related to the "Greyhawk" campaign located at some distance from the free city of Greyhawk. Players in our campaign may freely play in "Blackmoor", but to get there they must adventure cross country. With one or two other campaigns, we do not allow any cross-campaign play other than this, for these is too great a disparity of DMing. The territory within 500 or so miles of our main dungeon is mapped out at 5 miles to the hex. Territory within 50 miles of Greyhawk city is mapped more closely, and monster locations are indicated. The entire world is mapped out in rough form, with notes regarding typical encounters in given areas as well as particular special places, for hardy souls who wish to go forth to seek their fortunes.

Charlie Luco is quite correct. Kuntz and Ward should have known better than to fly in the face of an already published monster, and the Rakshasa business is now too late to correct. The whole of GODS' needs correcting due to the mis-stripping done at the printer. When we do this, we will probably enlarge the format to 8 1/2 x 11, add a lot more material and make necessary corrections at the same time. Rakshasas will stay as they are in SR, and the indian demons will be properly indicated to be something else altogether.

Mr. Konkin's ethos is rather strange in equating good with law and chaos with evil, but becoming embroiled in a philosophical discussion is the last thing in the world I need, so let's skip it.

I do not believe that Wayne Shaw has ever played in an actual "Greyhawk" expedition, although he may have been involved in a tournament game sponsored by TSR which I had a hand in devising. From his comments, I am forced to suppose that the good man does not care to think, and his answer to problem solving is to kill. At least he got the wrong impression. I invite him to set up an appointment to have a go at the real thing, and let us see if he "naturally" slays the creatures he encounters. I lose all patience with sophomoric players of this sort; they belong in a Monty Hall dungeon.

It seems that Dungeons & Beavers players are getting paranoid. We did not design GODS' simply to shame them or whatever. The supplement was written to conform to the major type of play going on in the country. If the beings therein do not fit into their particular manner of play, it is easy enough to ignore the whole work -- or add a zero to the hit points each can take. Yes, fellows, I find 20th level to be absolutely incredible, for you won't get it in the games hereabouts -- or in most other places which I hear in talking with DMs. It makes good players angry to hear about umpteenth level characters when they have had to play two actual years, carefully and intelligently, to rise to tenth level or so.

A good example is the Origins I dungeon -- incidentally drawn from a similar tomb designed by Alac Lucion. Very few of the players who engaged in the tournament were able to think out the problems. In a test run, Rob Kuntz, in his game persona as a 13th level (evil) lord went through the entire tomb in four hours actual time. He took 14 orcs and a couple of low-level flunkies with him. He lost all the party, but his character personally looted the lich's tomb and escaped with the goodies. Rosenberg is wrong, for there were a number of ways to get out the place, although only two to get out with anything except your skin. I hope that in the future I will be able to have more individuals try "Greyhawk Castle." It's not as touch as "Blackmoor," but I think it might give some few an enjoyable time.

Thanks for sending A&E along! I hear you missed GenCon West I, but I hope that you'll make II and I'll see you there. Arneson went to this year's event, and it is my turn to go in '77

Best regards,

E. Gary Gygax

Thursday, January 1, 1976

Gygax's Letter From Alarums & Excursions #8


Alarums & Excursions #8

A Letter From E. Gary Gygax in Alarums & Excursions #8
...and related letters...

There was an interesting comment in the October ish which I cannot allow to pass unchallenged. This veritable pearl of wisdom dropped from the learned lips of one "Barry." [Well, not really. It actually occurs in PERCEPTION 2, pages one and two written by Dick Eney. It is addressed to Barry who had condemned "xeroxing D&D rules instead of paying for them" in an earlier issue. Future allusions to "Barry" will be changed to "Eney" by the typist. -- LG.]

Now in all fairness, I must preface my remarks with the admission that I once said something very like what this good fellow did with regard to "pirating" of miniature figures. Jack Scruby wrote a rebuttal which made me look a tad foolish and set the matter straight. So now the shoe is really on the other foot and it pinches a trifle.

Leaving aside the question of legality -- and it is illegal to copy works held under copyright, of course -- I must set you all straight about costs. The production of a game or rules set entails very many expenses beyond the base printing cost, and I must say that the printing cost of D&D runs quite a bit above the six bits that Eney mistakenly asserts is the cost. (If, in fact, he can have the three booklets printed, the separate charts also done, and assembled, the box made and wrapped, and the whole put together and shrink-wrapped for that price, he should contact me immediately and let me know the name of the printer!) However initial printing cost is not the only consideration. First, a substantial sum of money must be raised in order to pay for from 3,000 to 5,000 copies of the print run, and a place to house all these sets must be found. Then material to handle orders, wrap them and ship them must be arranged for, as well as someone to do the actual work. Records must be kept. Taxes must be paid. Royalties must be reported and paid to authors and artists. Salaries must be paid. Overhead must be paid. And there is always the good old discount! We offer them, hobby stores get them (and most folks would rather go and pick their materials up immediately than wait for a mail order), and distributors get very substantial ones. They're all necessary and beneficial -- except that in some cases the authors make more money on a run than TSR does! That's fine as long as the overhead and fixed expenses get taken care of, but it doesn't consider what is to be done for new productions.

As A&E has not hesitated to point out, TSR deserves to gain some profit for its venture. Frankly, we do not think anybody else would have been willing to hazard what we did in pioneering the fantasy game field. In this same vein, we have many other new designs which we wish to publish, but each entails a considerable amount of time, effort and capital. TSR employees all receive minimal wages in order that the firm will have enough excess to produce new material. To correct the learned Eney, D&D, GREYHAWK, CHAINMAIL et al., most certainly are bread and butter to five or six TSR employees (including myself, my wife and our five children). They are also the bread and butter of those who look forward to new material from TSR.

This whole matter irritates me more than a little when I think of the time and effort I have put into it for the past few years, the work all of the TSR people have put in with an average remuneration of something less than two dollars per hour, while some nit babbles about matters he has absolutely no conception of! (As I was careful to preface this whole thing with the admission that I once did the same with regard to the costs of miniature figures, I trust no personal offense will be taken.)

Again, Eney seemingly shells out a buck for A&E without qualm or complaint because it contains something he enjoys greatly. Doesn't D&D deserve the same regard? I think so. It is illegal to copy D&D. It is unethical. And in the final analysis, it might mean real loss to great numbers of people. That isn't to say that there is the least objection to copying parts of the books for your own use or for that matter if some individual is too damn poor to afford the cost of his own copy of D&D, it is better he get a Xerox than not be able to play. But how many copies are simply made so as to profit the fellow illegally duplicating his D&D? Or how many are made in order to save the money, so as to use it for some other form of entertainment? It all boils down to the question about whether or not the laborer is worthy of his hire. Evidently Eney does not think so. I appreciate A&E's stand with regard to this matter and letter is written primarily to vindicate it, for I doubt it will turn those with a dishonest bent from whatever course they choose.

From Alarums & Excursions #1 by Barry Gold

Lee and I, as publishers of Alarums and Excursions, recommend that you buy the rules to Dungeons and Dragons if you don't already have them. Xeroxing somebody else's copy is unethical and illegal too. If you are going to get involved enough in the game to build your dungeon, you should at least spring for $10 for the rule books. If you aren't making your own dungeons, you don't really need the books - some other player can tell you how to make and play a character. So there is no excuse for making a bootleg copy and depriving Gary Gygax, the game's inventor, of his fair share.

The latest prices we have are D&D $10, Chainmail $5, Greyhawk $5, dice $2.50 per set --- one each D4, D6, D8, D12, D20. Chainmail is the predecessor of D&D and is useful for resolving missile fire in melee. Greyhawk is the first supplement, with new spells, monsters and treasure.

From Alarums & Excursions #5 October 1975 Depth Perception 2 By Dick Eney

BARRY: There are mutterings of Discontent over your comment anent(Sp?) depriving Gygax of his fair share by xeroxing Dungeons and Dragons and, by extension, Greyhawk and Chainmail. as I believe that I (hem hem) am unlikely to be tagged as one of the irresponsible hippie types trying to tear down the fabric of our Free Enterprise system, maybe I'd be the right one to state them.

Firstest, let us Define Our Terms. D&D, Greyhawk, and Chainmail are fanzines (and there are more than a few Fanzines with better artwork and proofreading). That is, they are something that is published in connection with Gygax's hobby and for fellow hobbyists; they are not his bread and butter and so we don't have to make a baseline calculation of what brings him in a decent annual salary, as we would with a fulltime professional. On the other hand, we do have to him justice and make sure that a work which has brought us so much pleasure doesn't wind up costing him something out of pocket. All X so far?

Now let's make a cost guestimate. Volume I is 36 pages and a heavy cover, II is 40 pages and a heavy cover, and III is 36 pages and a heavy cover. Pages are four to a quarto sheet, so there are 18 standard-size sheets and three heavy covers. Let's assume something I don't really believe for a moment: that he hadn't the information to shop around for a price break or quantity discount, and paid the prices for commercial instant-print lithography, i.e. got badly ripped off. Nevertheless, even paying premium rates like that, 1000 sets of D&D -- that is, of all three booklets together -- should have cost him about $733.80. If he printed 2000 at once it would have been nearer $1268.80 (or $624.40 per thousand). Greyhawk, similarly, should have stood him $341.20 per thousand; if he got 2000, then $583.00 total (or $291.50 per thousand). Any of you can check this with your friendly neighborhood instant-print lithographer, so I won't bother with the calculations here. I did run it past George Scithers, who gets similar-size print runs for AMRA; he gets distinctly better prices for the whole operation including commercial stapling, even though AMRA uses odd-size special-order paper, runs half-tines, and is far superior in quality of repro to D&D.

Personally, I paid the full list price for Dungeons and Dragons and Greyhawk both, just as I did for other stuff like Warriors of Mars and intend to do for War of Wizards and Empire of the Petal throne and probably more. Presumably many of the rest of us did or would do the same, as a point of honor. But when somebody charges me $10 for an item that should have cost him less than 75c, that's a markup of well over a thousand percent (unless I punched the wrong buttons, it comes to 1264% for D&D and 1366% for Greyhawk. all in all, I am not about to dump on Xerox fandom on the grounds that Gygax is being screwed every time that green light flashes.

NOTE: Comment by Sherna Burley From Alarums&Excursions #7

Dick Eney: I find your calculation of Gary Gygax's profit frightening. You have overlooked a couple of factors, though. First, the box probably costs quite a bit (no; about 15c retail -- R.E. [Dick Eney]), and its label costs something too. Second, and more important, I bought my copy from a friend, a (fan) dealer, who was able to give me a discount. This means that, whatever Gygax gets for this set, it is not always the full $10. When there are all those overhead costs, including postage on his mail orders...

As a (partial) beneficiary of Xerox, I am glad to think, however, that he does make quite a bit more profit than seems reasonable, even if not the 1264% you calculated. (Let it be noted that I bought D&D and GREYHAWK, and would not have had the money to buy a new set to replace my lost V.I of D&D.) [I've never seen any offer of single volumes; does anyone know if they are replaceable other than by this sort of bootlegging? -- R.E. aka Dick Eney]