Monday, August 21, 2006

War Games Through the Ages

On my desk is a stack of books, four volumes all written by Donald F. Featherstone. They are published in 1972, and cover fighting styles of different historical armies, meant as a guide for war gamers. The stack is four books high, and they give information about different armies in a way that is useful for gamers: How were the vikings dressed, how did they fight, and then at the end a quick little table with statistics for viking armies - and then the same for Normans, and Byzantines, and Chinese, and...

I have to return the books to the library, but knowing they exist is quite enlightening. This is a heavy, almost monumental, document of the wargaming tradition that Dungeons and Dragons grew out of. So if you happen to have these volumes in your bookshelf and would like to get rid of them - ever thought about donating them to research?


Vix said...

I have no books for you --sorry! I discovered you through a google search on Dungeons and Dragons. I am trying to find the origins of this role-playing game, pre-1974 when it was written and marketed by G. Gygax. It seems there were many stories then about how this crazy game was sweeping college campuses, causing students to dress up and roam the parks and buildings at night, pretending they were wizards.
If this touches at all on your research, can you possibly direct me to a book or article that might further my knowledge? I appreciate it, and thank you

Torill said...

The best source I have seen for this so far is online, in the telling of the story about Gary Gygax. I haven't seen a history of the Role-playing game yet, although that would be very interesting. I did see a few books directly concerned with RP games, but I don't know if they have what you are looking for. These are the links to them:

Writer Response Theory said...

Torill (and vix) - as I recall, for RPG history see:

Fine, Gary Allen. Shared Fantasy : Role Playing Games as Social Worlds, Chicago, IL: U. of Chicago Press, 1983.

Fine emphasizes the 1966 US release of the collected Tolkien as a catalyst for shifting the interest of tabletop wargaming community from historical reenactment towards fantasy - hero units followed, with RPG emerging closely thereafter.

For more interesting connections between wargaming and RPGs, Demian Katz has a fantastic and comprehensive article "Gamebook History" on gamebooks ("choose your own adventure" etc.) - it has a section on how gamebooks were used from 1976 on as an early way of implementing solo play for RPG systems.