Everything you always wanted to know about tabletop RPGs

Shannon Appelcline’s four-book series Creators and Dragons presents an incredibly detailed look at the history of tabletop role-playing games, with profiles of over 100 companies, including TSR, Wizards of the Coast and White Wolf.

“The scale of the project was obviously huge, and the only way it could have happened was to do one article at a time, one company at a time,” Appelcline explains in episode 369 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy Podcast. “If I had ever looked and said, ‘Hey, I have to pull out four books’ – which together was half a million words – I probably would have run the other way.”

For each article, Appelcline gathered as much information as possible from magazines and websites, and then did their research with people who actually worked at the companies in question.

“Sometimes they would fire him and say, ‘Hey, this is all great. It looks exactly like what we did. I don’t know how you figured it out, ”Appelcline says. “And sometimes they’d say, ‘I can’t believe you misunderstood that. I am very angry about this. I need you to fix this. And if anything, this last feedback was more helpful than the first, obviously. “

Along the way, he discovered that the history of tabletop gaming is full of clashes, betrayals and scandals, which makes Creators and Dragons a surprisingly lively reading. “I had at least one person who read it who said he was amazed – for such a small industry with such small margins, where there just wasn’t a lot of money at stake – that there is so much drama, ”he said. said.

Chronicle the rise and fall of so many different companies has also convinced him that he never wants to create his own role-playing outfit.

“I think once you’ve read Creators & Dragons, you would see how really, really enthusiastic and optimistic – almost sacrificial – it would take to want to start a role-playing business, ”he says. “I have immense respect for the people who do it, because I know exactly how difficult it is to do it.”

Listen to the full interview with Shannon Appelcline in episode 369 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.

Shannon Appelclines on Licensed Games:

“These days there are very strict licenses that have very limited terms and can be removed at any time. Or [your product] could be significantly delayed because people have to check permissions. So I have a feeling that there are some dangers in licensing that may arise and grab you. The first is that you put a lot of effort into really expanding and improving a property, which, for example, Western games did it in the 80s with their Star wars Game. It’s a little weird to think about it now, but after the original trilogy of movies, Star wars was basically dead, and the only people actively developing it were West End Games. They put a lot of work into it, and now they’re gone, and Star wars has evolved.

Shannon Appelcline on the construction of the world:

“One of the secrets of the role-playing industry is that people buy a lot more books to read or put on their shelves than they’ll ever play. … It’s pretty fun to see these worlds you’ve read being statistically defined, and a lot of these licensed games also do a miraculous job of developing the world and showing it in detail that you would never have seen in the real world. delivered. ICE Role-playing game on Middle-earth was one of the first really extensive licensed lines – that was mostly in the 80s – and they just did an amazing job producing supplement after supplement – bulky 60- or 80-page supplements – that detailed the individual lands of Middle-earth, on a level you would never see, even in the very vast the Lord of the Rings books.”

Shannon Appelclines on Fantastic Heartbreakers:

“” Fantasy heartbreaker “was a term that was coined by Ron edwards in an article he produced. Ron Edwards basically suggested that a lot of people came up with their own versions of Dungeons & Dragons, not seeing how the rest of the industry was working, and they repeated a lot of ideas that had already been seen by the rest of the industry. When Edwards wrote the article one of the things he said was that all of these games were thrown in the trash of history, but there was some really good stuff in them, and a really great excitement. , and even if they didn’t well – because they weren’t as original as the designers thought – there might still be little things in them that we can find. But the term more generally has come to mean simply “those games which are copies of D&D. ‘”

Shannon Appelclines on Game Designers:

“I think the average designer of a tabletop game in the market today is someone who can’t do not design games. These are people who are driven by their ideas and creativity, and they just can’t help themselves. They have all of these things bubbling up and they want to make it available to other people. They love the systems they create, they love the stories those systems can tell, they love the fans who care about their stories. … The role-playing industry has always had very low margins. I think a lot of people don’t understand how much an average role-playing company does – or an average designer does – for a lot of effort. You just put them together and you get people who really want to be there because they have great things that they want to do.

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