Reddit Reddit reviews Playing at the World: A History of Simulating Wars, People and Fantastic Adventures, from Chess to Role-Playing Games

We found 29 Reddit comments about Playing at the World: A History of Simulating Wars, People and Fantastic Adventures, from Chess to Role-Playing Games. Here are the top ones, ranked by their Reddit score.

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Playing at the World: A History of Simulating Wars, People and Fantastic Adventures, from Chess to Role-Playing Games
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29 Reddit comments about Playing at the World: A History of Simulating Wars, People and Fantastic Adventures, from Chess to Role-Playing Games:

u/circuitloss · 101 pointsr/dndnext

Maybe in a very general way you could say that. But the history is quite complicated.

If you haven't read Playing at the World, I would highly recommend it. It is, hands down, the best academic study of the history of roleplaying games. Peterson did a mind-boggling amount of research, and mines obscure old gaming 'zines for some really interesting stuff.

One of the biggest revelations to me was that Arneson had been playing a kind of proto-RPG called a "Braunstein," invented by a college kid named David Wesely. These were games where people would take on the roles of average people in a medieval or Napoleonic town, like the Mayor or the Baker. They would run entire campaigns around these towns and the lives of the people in them and it heavily influenced Arneson's later work on D&D.

In fact, it was Arneson's Braunstein-style world called Blackmoor that would later evolve into a D&D campaign. (Monsters literally showed up in the castle dungeon...)

u/kinderdemon · 11 pointsr/rpg

Jon Peterson's Playing at the World is the gold standard for high-quality historical research as far as I am concerned. He runs an excellent blog on games too.

u/SquigBoss · 10 pointsr/RPGdesign

Yes! I'm a student studying RPG design, so I like to think I have at least a vague idea of what I'm talking about.

Some various sources, some paid and some free:

  • Roleplaying Theory, Hardcore, a series of old blog posts by Vincent Baker. A lot of this stuff is boiled-down versions of what the Forge--which others have mentioned--was all about.

  • Second Person by Herrigan and Wardrip-Fruin; it's a bunch of essays about roleplaying and roleplaying games. It covers both digital and tabletop, so it's a little all over the place, but it is quite good.

  • Playing at the World by Jon Peterson. It's a huge history of roleplaying games and related games, which covers less hard theory than it does the evolution of the game itself. Super helpful if you're into the history, less so if you're not.

  • #rpgtheory on Twitter. There's definitely some flak in there, but it's also definitely worth checking on every week or two, to see if there's been any good threads popping up.

  • The Arts of LARP, by David Simkins. This is LARP-focused, but it has a lot of good stuff on roleplaying in general, especially the more philosophical angles.

  • ars ludi, Ben Robbins' blog. He writes about all sorts of stuff, but if you go through the archives and find the green-triangle'd and starred posts, those are the sort of 'greatest hits.'

  • Role-Playing Game Studies, by Zagal and Deterding. This is another collection of essays (which includes some stuff by Simkins and Peterson, too, IIRC) and is kind of the go-to for this sort of thing.

  • And the Forge, as mentioned by others.

    That's a pretty good list of theory and texts and stuff.

    One of the ways to learn good RPG theory, I've found, though, is to just read good RPGs.

    It's also highly worth digging through acknowledgements and credits of your favorite RPGs and then tracking down the names mentioned. If you're reading a big, hefty RPG, like D&D, pay special attention to any consultants, specialists, or other people listed under strange credit areas.

    Anyway, when you eventually dig your way through all of this, I'll probably have read some more, so hit me up if you want more suggestions. Those top seven or eight things are probably the best place to start.

    Edit: my personal list of games was rather reductive, as several commentators have called me out on, so I've removed it. Go read lots of RPGs.
u/DXimenes · 8 pointsr/RPGdesign

>The problem with RPG design theory is that there are barely any references to speak of.

Look, that's both not entirely true if you actually put in the effort (and you can find many resources right here on this reddit) and not an excuse.

Like any field of study, RPG design can't spontaneously burst forth from a void of knowledge. It stems from other fields of study - in this case game design (RPG Design is, after all, roleplaying game design?), game studies, storytelling, writing, &c.

It's okay if that's not your objective, but from you writing the article and bothering to post it here, I figure you're trying to get somewhere with your methodology, right? At least to validate it, subject it to scrutiny. If your objective is to develop something that other people can rely on and refer to, you should find something to back it up.


Please, don't interpret this as an attempt to shut you down. Much on the contrary, I like that you wrote this. I'm all for people writing stuff, thinking about RPG design, &c. but when you write something so, as you put it, other people can benefit it I think it's only responsible to do some proper research and hold it to a higher standard.

u/panzagl · 8 pointsr/wargames

Zones of Control

Or, since he was also into early RPGs:
Playing at the World

There are several books about the creation of D&D/biographies of Gary Gygax, my favorite is Empire of Imagination

u/Limond · 8 pointsr/DnD

Playing at the World by Jon Peterson is exactly what you are looking for. First and final chapters is the history of D&D itself while the middle chapters are a much more technical look at how the core mechanics evolved from wargaming starting back from chess variants and evolving to the system in the original D&D. It also looks at the gaming and fantasy culture that played a huge part in shaping D&D.

While I found it simply fascinating how so many things happened at just the right time and the right people came together and how things connect. It is mind blowing honestly. I can't recommend the book enough.

If you are new to D&D I do recommend getting a hold of some PDFs of the original rules and giving them a read so you know what they are talking about a bit more. Something I wish I had done, but it didn't hamper my fascination or enjoyment at all.

u/TheCultureOfCritique · 7 pointsr/DnD

These are both good reads for nerds and novices:

u/TBSJJK · 6 pointsr/osr

Closest will be Jon Peterson's work in the development of the RPG in terms of wargaming. Though he might not get down to the nitty-gritty of each stat. You'll have to pull up Chainmail and maybe the stuff from the 'rough draft' of 0e (if that's available).

*Here's a section on HD for example:
>Because of the murkiness of the system, it is
difficult to expose the linkage of the hit points in Dungeons & Dragons to
the Chainmail cumulative hit mechanism. A determined reader can
extrapolate, however, that hits in Dungeons & Dragons cause a
standard 1–6 points of damage.


>But in the context where “cumulative” hits applied in Chainmail—to cases
like mundane Fighting-men attacking a giant—the parallel is inescapable: a hit
in Dungeons & Dragons deals the same range of damage that a hit die
grants, and a certain number of hit dice in Dungeons & Dragons provide
the same system effect on average that the ability to take that certain number
of hits provided in Chainmail. A giant could withstand eight cumulative
hits in Chainmail, and so a footman would need to score eight hits on
the giant to kill it. If a giant in Dungeons & Dragons has eight “hit
dice” worth of hit points, how many hits would a Fighting-man need to slay the
giant in Dungeons & Dragons? If we go by the arithmetic mean of 3.5
for a d6, then an eight hit die giant would have 28 hit points, and eight hits
from a Fighting-man (also dealing an average of 3.5 each) would suffice. Statistically,
it takes the same number of hits in both systems.

u/awildselfappears · 6 pointsr/DnD

For the serious history deep-dive, it's gotta be Playing at the World

u/Soylent_G · 5 pointsr/mattcolville

It may be beyond the scope of your argument, which seems to be "What Alignment Has Come to Mean," but I think every DM would be well-served by considering the origins of the Alignment concept. Playing At The World goes into great detail, but a TL;DR is

  • Alignment is a carry-over from the Chainmail wargame rules, where it acted as a shorthand for "Which army are you fielding?" It had less to do with ethos, and was more about which units were available to you to select when building an army.

  • In the Chainmail rules, the factions were limited to Law, Chaos, and Neutrality. Good was synonymous with Law, and Evil with Chaos. It's not until early 1976 in an issue of The Strategic Review that Gygax suggests that the Good/Evil axis is a sliding scale that colors the character of forces aligned to each faction.

  • The idea of the forces of Law and Chaos were borrowed from the fantasy fiction of the day, particularly Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson and the Eternal Champion series by Michael Moorcock.

    When you take these three points together you come to the conclusion that Alignment is a feature of the default, assumed setting of OD&D. It's not necessarily appropriate for all fantasy settings. If the driving conflict for the setting of your home campaign is not the eternal struggle between Order and Disorder, and faction membership to Law or Chaos doesn't dictate your characters actions, then Alignment as a concept has little utility in your game.

    In my personal campaign, Alignment is not applicable to creatures native to the Prime Material plane (or its equivalent); It only applies to creatures from the far planes (demons, devils, devas, angels) and creatures powered by their connection to those planes (undead). In my game's cosmology, the father you get from Prime, the closer to two-dimensional your fundamental nature becomes. As such, you become vulnerable to magic that acts against that fundamental nature, like Protection from Good/Evil. Such spells have no effect on creatures of the Prime, no matter how Evil or Chaotic they act.
u/Allandaros · 5 pointsr/rpg

Jon Peterson's Playing at the World is probably going to be very helpful on this front.

u/livrem · 4 pointsr/gamedesign

> I don't think you can have quality emergent complexity (depth) without elegance. Elegance is a byproduct of a strong core mechanism, and without that you really have no chance.

Sorry, but that is just euro-gamer-snobbery. Emergent complexity is very strong in over-designed complex games like many oldschool roguelikes (Nethack etc) or Cataclysm: DDA or Dwarf Fortress. Nothing elegant about the designs, but just throwing in that amount of complexity creates an environment where interesting complex stories emerge all the time.

There is at least one equivalent in boardgames I have experience with: Advanced Squad Leader. Hundreds of pages of rules, but thanks to there being rules for everything and lots of different units moving on different terrain fun things happen all the time.

Of course almost any pen-and-paper role-playing game ever would probably be a good examples of this as well. Even when the rules are (unusually) short, the presence of a human game-master means that complexity is limitless.

This is something that comes up a lot in the book Playing at the World: Games where players can "try anything". Of course only real rpgs can really do that, but some roguelikes, computer-rpgs, and ameritrash-games (and a few wargames like ASL) also comes close. Allowing the player to attempt to do anything that would make sense in a situation, rather than restricting them to some small set of "elegant" rules, is a fantastic way to make interesting things emerge.

u/utherdoul · 3 pointsr/IAmA

I find JRPGs fascinating, particularly the early games; they took D&D in an almost retro direction, skipping over a lot of character customization and emphasizing exploration of a huge, monster-filled landscape. It's like they refocused on the games that inspired D&D, making modern fantasy-themed miniatures wargames.

I heartily recommend Jon Peterson's Playing at the World for a deep history of role-playing games. You might also be interested in The Creation of Narrative in Tabletop Role-Playing Games, The Fantasy RPG: A New Performing Art, and Gaming as Culture. And my book, of course.

There are definitely games that rely too much on the Tolkien tropes, but overall, I think it's not a problem --there's so many good RPGs that have nothing to do with fantasy at all, and plenty of great sword & sorcery games that bring their own ideas to the table.

u/Esoteric_Wombat · 3 pointsr/rpg

For an exhaustive (720 pages) history of RPGs check out Playing at the World. Short version: kind of yes, but really the Germans did it first.

u/harlows_landing · 3 pointsr/mattcolville

I've been reading Jon Peterson's book about the origin of D&D, so I am really curious to see what a modern version of The Ruins of Castle [Greyhawk] looks/plays like. Colville is great at mixing the best (and oft-forgotten) aspects of classic D&D into What The Game Has Become.

I'm also curious about the source material he'd use for a megadungeon like this. If he uses TSR's cheeky Castle Greyhawk book from 1988, I hope the PCs get farther than that damn gas spore that totaled my party when I was 12. (Y'see, the DM described it as a "sphere," but we thought he said "spear...")

u/digitaljestin · 2 pointsr/DnD

Don't get me wrong, I've never played it. I've just had it described in a book I'm reading:

Highly recommended, by the way.

u/njharman · 2 pointsr/dndnext

As a fantasy, I guess it's ok. But that is so not the accurate history at all. So much so I call it an outrageous misinformation could do actual damage to education / history. I hope it does not become popular.

If you want the actual history read this

u/facecube · 2 pointsr/IAmA

Hey Mr. Ewalt, thanks for stopping by.

I recently read Playing At the World, which seems to cover similar territory. What distinguishes your book from that one? I'm going to need a defense to tell my girlfriend about why I have two big histories of D&D.

u/TheyCallMeDeans · 2 pointsr/odnd

I’m really excited to see this. I’m guessing you’ve already read Playing at the World ? If you haven’t, it goes into great detail about Braunstein, Blackmoor, and the rest of the hobby’s DNA.

u/CptFreindship · 2 pointsr/Pathfinder_RPG

I would suggest reading Playing at the World by John Peterson. I had a lot of questions regarding the history of rpgs and this book was the most precise and well researched book I could find. I would highly recommend it.

u/slyphic · 2 pointsr/rpg

There exist no roleplaying games prior to 1974, so that avenue of inquiry is right out the window.

There's a good number of strategy and combat board games from earlier, but looking through the brief mechanical descriptions on BGG, and having actually played a decent number of them, I feel confident in saying that the idea of "leveling up" or persistent play with advancement did not exist prior to D&D.

To reiterate, D&D did in fact invent "killing things to get OP."

edit I also don't recall reading about any earlier games with progression in either Shannon Applecline's Designers & Dragons serires, or Jon Peterson's Playing at the World

u/Invisig0th · 2 pointsr/gamedesign

If anyone is interested, about the first half of this (huge, heavily researched) book covers the history of D&D starting with ancient chess and progressing through 18th-19th century wargames. There's a fair amount of discussion about the things Gygax used which video games subsequently adopted (XP, levels, hit points, polyhedron dice, etc.) It's a big book, and dense, but it is fascinating reading if that's your thing.

Playing at the World

u/macbalance · 2 pointsr/DungeonsAndDragons

It's not bad, but I felt it was too focused on the author's own life story in relation to gaming, and thin on details. Playing at the World is better, but has a lot of build-up about the history of wargaming (going back centuries) and stops around the time of AD&D 1st edition shipping. The author said he wanted to avoid the ugliness that occurred after that (Gygax's exile to the west coast, the Lorraine Williams hire and takeover, general lack of direction) because it's negative, but the 2nd edition era was still an amazing time for creativity even if the head of the company was weird, and I haven't seen a book that chronicles that. I'd love to get a follow-up to PatW that has a similar scholarly tone and covers the highs (The D&D 'fad' era when they were merchandising like crazy, various big releases) and the lows (morale-killings at TSR, the utter failure to be cool with the internet for years, forced Buck Rogers games, eventual near-bankruptcy and sale to WotC). The designers who were important in that era re often still involved in gaming (often in computers) but they're not getting any younger, and I'd love to read their stories now, instead of rumors and 3rd party anecdotes.

u/wlueger · 1 pointr/digitaltabletop

thanks, i'll have an eye on it, love the way you are doing this, for sure you have me for this game!
You should get on twitter an tweet your progress... i'm also there (@WLueger), making a card game about the habsburgs, also always wanted to make a war-game, especially the "stalingrad" theme i was interested in. but as i started with this book:
i realised that i'm not that far ;-)

u/Miss_fortune · 1 pointr/boardgames

I'm currently working through Playing at the World by Jon Peterson. While the primary focus is on how D&D evolved out of war-gaming, its a great read on how all the early war gaming culture working and how such games themselves also evolved.

Fair warning it is very cool but written in a rather academic tone. (Which i love as a history nerd because the fact his sources include all the war game zines just makes it so great)

u/bcwalker · 0 pointsr/MMORPG

Read for yourself, as this is THE definitive history of tabletop RPGs. You may have a copy in your local library system. Also, the testimony (included in the book) of surviving original gamers make this quite clear: THEY DID NOT CARE.

u/ludifex · 0 pointsr/DnD

No information? You didn't look very carefully. There are whole message boards dedicated solely to the campaigns currently running and modding it.

The modules are easy and cheap to buy:

Believe it or not, the rules weren't arbitrary and were playtested extensively. Here's a fantastic document that goes through the rules and the reasons behind them:

Here's a popular essay on the playstyle and mindset behind 0th edition.

Playing at the World is one of the most well-known book son D&D and it covers the development of 0e in ridiculous detail.

There's even a youtube channel by that book's author that really fascinating: