Fantasy Wargaming

As I mentioned in my previous post, I found a copy of Fantasy Wargaming at Half Price Books last week.  This brought back personal memories for me, but also represents a slice of gaming history that I’d like to write about here.

This book is delicious with its old school gaming weirdness.  The modern gamer in me finds it nearly incomprehensible.  It rips into D&D because its ‘scenarios exist in a vacuum, and that is why we call them unsatisfactory,’ and ‘the sheer unlikelihood of such a motley crew being able to agree…’  I suppose this may have been true in 1980, but wasn’t Gygax using Greyhawk and wasn’t Ed Greenwood using his Forgotten Realms, even then?  The difference is that Fantasy Wargaming roots itself squarely in the European middle-ages while D&D of that era requires dungeon masters to create their own worlds.

Other oddities include:  ‘I’m no great advocate of women’s lib but . . . [John Norman’s Gor novels] are sufficiently strong in places to be more than mildly offensive . . .  For heaven’s sake don’t let a “liberated” wife or girlfriend read them, though, or you’ll never hear the last of it!’  Later, in the character generation chapter, readers are instructed that ‘Players wishing to play a female character must unfortunately take the penalties of a patriarchal society.  Make the following adjustments …  physique and endurance -3, charisma -2, social class -3, bravery -2 [!], greed/selfishness/lust -3.  They will be excluded from combat . . . and expected… to adopt a domestic position as wife, housekeeper and servant.  These factors are invariable.’  Oh dear.

There’s some entertainingly odd stuff in here too:  a character’s characteristics are subject to astrological sign based alterations.  There are also rules for conjuring demons, angels and gods, and it offers advice that ‘Characters in Fantasy Wargaming should live their lives in continual awareness of salvation and damnation.’  You don’t see this sort of thing in 4e.

My experience with Fantasy Wargaming reminds me how delightful it is to live in the here and now, where 4th Edition D&D is balanced and fun, and there are a legion of other games should I need a break.


1 Comment

Filed under Legacy D&D, Other Systems, Third Party Publishers

One response to “Fantasy Wargaming

  1. mikemonaco

    Well, it was published in 1981 but work on it started quite a bit before that, given the glacial pace of publishing back then. I think they were reacting more to D&D and T&T as gonzo dungeon crawl games (which now I think I’d rather run than something historical) than Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms specifically, which were not really being used by most gamers. Forgotten Realms was mostly Ed Greenwood’s game, which he wrote about for Dragon, and Greyhawk existed only as a supplement to OD&D (with little to no actual setting there) and the Gazeteer which was pretty sparse. Most people just made up dungeons, not worlds, in the late 70s.

    I’ve been reading through the whole thing and trying to explain it in general terms on my blog, starting here.

    I tracked down one of the coauthors and founds out a little more about Bruce Galloway — he died in an accident in 1984, just 32 years old.

    I guess I’m a lot more fond of this book than you are, but it really is a blast to read. Roll 3d6 in order and play what the dice give you. But for some of us that’s a feature not a bug! Different strokes.

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