My four-book history of the roleplaying industry is currently on Kickstarter. This article talks about how we got there, what’s coming up next, and what you can expect to see in this brand-new RPG history column.
This article was originally published as Advanced Designers & Dragons #1 on RPGnet. It followed the publication of the four-volume Designers & Dragons (2014) from Evil Hat, and was meant to complement those books.
A History of a History
I’m a big fan of history. I have been since at least David Dal Porto’s American History class in the 11th grade. He made history interesting through games, simulations, and mock trials, some of which he published through his own History Simulations company. He describes his company as a “Publisher of role playing historical simulations” — so in some ways it was all about history and roleplaying from the start.
Fast forward to Gen Con Indy 2005, when I decided to create an online catalog of roleplaying games that could be a new generation’s Heroic Worlds, which was an excellent annotated catalog of the RPGs of the ’70s and ’80s — and a book that had graced my shelves for at least a decade. Somewhere along the way, as I worked on that catalog, it got me thinking about what had happened to older RPG companies that had now passed beyond the veil.
I wrote about Imperium Games first, because I wanted to know what had happened to Traveller’s second major publisher. Then I wrote about Chaosium because I knew lots about them — and indeed had worked for them full-time from 1996-1998. Aterward I decided to take my show online and kicked things off on August 3rd, 2006 with a history that I knew would get peoples’ attention: Wizards of the Coast.
From the beginning, I knew that my company histories might be interesting enough for a whole book, and that was confirmed in 2007 when Lisa Stevens encouraged me to start thinking about print publication. 11 online company histories eventually became 60 printed company histories in Designers & Dragons (2011), published in a single hardcover volume by Mongoose Publishing. But, the print run was quite small, and I still thought the books had a larger audience. Which brings us to the latest incarnation, a four-book Designers & Dragons series (2014) published by Evil Hat Productions. This time around there are about 85 company histories — or 100+ if you count all the “mini-histories” in the book.
This new column is meant to supplement the four print books. It’ll continue to expand and comment on the history of the industry in a more casual, online format.
A History of Three Columns
This is my third RPGnet column related to Designers & Dragons. The first one was called A Brief History of Game and it ran primarily from 2006-2007, before going on hiatus as I worked on the Mongoose edition of the book. The material in that original column formed the foundation of the first edition of the book, so after it was published I started a new column of new material called Designers & Dragons: The Column. This one ran primarily from 2011-2012, before it also got put on hiatus due to work on the upcoming books. Once more, much of the material from the old column has been used in the new book so I’m again starting a fresh column, which will contain all new material: “Advanced Designers & Dragons”.
There is still a scattering of articles in the old columns that was never reprinted, so I’ve linked them here in case you’d like to read more of my primordial ramblings on the history of our industry:
- 1e #7: The Chaosium Connections — a graphical look at a single RPG company.
- 1e #15: Genres: Super Heroes, Part One — An orthogonal look at the history of an RPG genre.
- 1e #16: Genres: Super Heroes, Part Two — The continuation of that super hero history.
- 2e #20: The Compiled Wisdom of Gigi D’Arn — The rumors of the ’80s.
I’ve also written some yearly looks at the industry, which are getting compiled into a PDF for Kickstarter backers if we hit our next big stretch goal, and which I’ll continue year by year starting on January 1, 2015. A few looks at yearly sales have complemented those more analytical pieces:
- 2e #4: The Top RPGs Over the Years
- 2e #6: 2008: The Year in Roleplaying
- 2e #7: 2009: The Year in Roleplaying
- 2e #8: 2010: The Year in Roleplaying
- 2e #9: 2011: The Year in Roleplaying
- 2e #10: The Top RPGs of 2011
- 2e #23: 2012: The Year in Roleplaying
- 2e #25: The Top RPGs of 2012
- 2e #27: 2013: The Year in Roleplaying
What This Column Will Be
This column will be a bimonthly (or so) continuing history of the industry. I intend my articles to be more analytical and thoughtful, looking at trends in a way that will complement the printed Designers & Dragons books. However, I expect some traditional histories will sneak in too, because I love writing them.
In fact, the first few articles in here will all be histories, as I’ve offered to write up to three histories for “Platinum Dragon” contributors to the Kickstarter, which will first appear in a nice PDF for Evil Hat, and then will be reprinted here as well. Preliminary discussions suggest that one will be a history of female professionals in the industry and another will be a sort of about-the-author covering my local gaming group. So watch for those late this year, after which this new column will really get going. Sometime around then, I’ll also have my yearly look at the industry, then there should be totally new articles in 2015.
And might I be thinking about more Designers & Dragons history books down the road?
Perhaps! In the meantime, I invite you to join me on the Designers & Dragons Kickstarter for my first 535,000 words on roleplaying history. We managed to unlock all four of the books, and as a result you can get the four PDFs for a steal at just $15 for the whole set.