Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Gygaxian Building Blocks

This post is nothing more than a quote swiped from a longer post over at theRPGsite, written by my favorite Prussian, Settembrini.  I just wanted to save a copy and thought I'd share.
The REAL and HUGE as well as BASIC innovation in D&D was the following:

1) Providing radically new building blocks for fictious situations.
2) Providing a robust model for interaction of said building blocks.
3) Providing the idea for interacting building blocks

Building Blocks:
- spells
- magic items
- monsters
- special abilities
- traps
(- planes & gods)
the combat stuff was already there in some form. Just look at the monsters, at the spells and realize how this stuff was basically made from whole cloth!
I cannot emphasize the importance of that enough.
Whole cloth!

Sure there are conceptual sources. But the procedure in which source material and original ideas were mixed and mashed and formed
into interactive building blocks for challenges and their resolution, is creative genius of the highest degree!
I really think identifying the Gygaxian Building Blocks (spells, magic items, monsters, special abilities, traps) is one of Sett's great contributions to the understanding what it is we do when we play this thing called D&D. You want a way to make the game your own but still recognizably D&D? Make your own blocks but don't change how they operate/interrelate.


  1. Pardon some self promotion - that was what I was hoping to do with Pars Fortuna - use the excellent Gygax/Arneson engine of play, but replace the races, classes, monsters. In my case, I used random generators to produce the races, monsters and magic items as a challenge to see if I could make sense of them. Hopefully the result won't suck.

  2. That was indeed a good comment by Sett.

    But surely some of those 'building blocks' were 'Arnesonian' (at least in part)?

  3. Clear and True. Good point-up.

  4. I think calling them "Gygaxian" is a few flavors of wrong, or at least half wrong.

  5. Oh, nm, Akrasia already hit on that truth above :)

  6. The game design forum on seems to emphasise the other way round - novel dice mechanics to produce 'D&D fantasy'.