Home » Computing » Geek City » RPG Character Generation - 1930s Precursor?
RPG Character Generation - 1930s Precursor? [message #4228] Mon, 07 November 2005 02:03 Go to next message
Eric  is currently offline Eric
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Registered: January 2003
Location: San Francisco
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Not Tuck or computer related, but of the few boards I'm on, this one seems the most likely one either to find this mildly interesting or to include someone who'd know how far ahead of the curve this was:

Background:
APBA Baseball is a dice-and-boards game that first came out in 1951 and still survives today. It produces a card each year for each major league player which, using two six-sided dice, provides play results that simulate the relevant baseball season.

Its predecessor was a 1931 game called National Pastime, which produced only one season (1930) before the Depression put it out of business. J. Richard Seitz of Lancaster, PA, who played the game and organized drafted-player leagues with friends as a teenager, eventually developed APBA from it by adding pitching and fielding ratings for the players, and marketed his game after the original patent expired.

As his National Pastime leagues in the 1930s progressed through most of the decade, Seitz kept the rosters dynamic by retiring cards of players who were no longer active in real baseball and creating cards for new major league players who had come along (Joe DiMaggio, Luke Appling, etc.).

Most real ballclubs during the Depression era were field-managed by active players; it was cheaper than hauling another body around. Accordingly, Seitz created cards for himself and the other league members so they could put themselves into their lineups.

'News':
Something that's just recently come to light in Seitz's league archives (he held onto all the league documentation for the remaining 60 years of his life) is a half-page of procedures that he apparently used for making the cards of himself and his friends. Until these turned up, we'd wondered if he was basing those on actual youth-league performance.

But it's now clear that he did them in D&D fashion using dice rolls: for example, one series of rolls would determine how many strikeout chances to put on the card, another series of rolls generated walks, one more for the hits, yet another for times safe on opponent errors.

Question:
I've read that RPGs evolved from wargames using miniatures on simulated battlefields. But can anyone tell me whether using dice to generate player ability before play started was part of normal or common practice?

Eric
Re: RPG Character Generation - 1930s Precursor? [message #4229] Mon, 07 November 2005 03:32 Go to previous messageGo to next message
Brooke  is currently offline Brooke
Messages: 695
Registered: August 2004
Location: Portland, OR
Senior Member
Eric wrote on Sun, 06 November 2005 23:03


'News':
Something that's just recently come to light in Seitz's league archives (he held onto all the league documentation for the remaining 60 years of his life) is a half-page of procedures that he apparently used for making the cards of himself and his friends. Until these turned up, we'd wondered if he was basing those on actual youth-league performance.

But it's now clear that he did them in D&D fashion using dice rolls: for example, one series of rolls would determine how many strikeout chances to put on the card, another series of rolls generated walks, one more for the hits, yet another for times safe on opponent errors.

Question:
I've read that RPGs evolved from wargames using miniatures on simulated battlefields. But can anyone tell me whether using dice to generate player ability before play started was part of normal or common practice?


Well, you have to understand that lots of things have been invented more than once. Or invented, lost, and invented again independently. Even invented "simultaneously" by more than one person (look up Elisha Gray, who invented the telephone at he same time as Bell, but got to the patent office first).

To the best of my knowledge (and I started playing D&D in 1975 Smile wargames had been using dice since at least the 1930s, if not clear back to H. G. Wells "Little Wars" (generally accepted as the start of wargaming with miniatures).

But each miniature figure represented several soldiers. Each "stand" of figures represented a unit (squad or larger). Dice rolls represented the uncertainties of combat.

TSR's Chainmail rules added the idea of special figures representing "heros", "wizards" and other special individuals.

This led to some folks trying to do "adventures" rather than battles, and individualizing the fgigures into characters. TSR's "Warriors of Mars" (quickly pulled from the market because they had neglected to get permission from the Burroughs estate) did more of this and added some other things.

These led to D&D, and all its imitators.

The baseball game may have had rolling dice for character abilities first, but nobody knew about it. Nothing developed from it. So while it is "prior art" it doesn't count because nobody knew about it. Rather like the ancient batteries from Mesopotamia.
Re: RPG Character Generation - 1930s Precursor? [message #4247] Fri, 18 November 2005 02:20 Go to previous message
Erin Halfelven  is currently offline Erin Halfelven
Messages: 712
Registered: September 2002
Location: Surf City, USA
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Administrator
In bthe sixties, there was a PBM rpg called Hyborian Age, based on the work of Robert E. Howard. This was a game played by fans, including some of the writers who had rights to work on new Conan adventures. I always thought this may have also influenced the development of D&D since some of the early players were also SF fans and may have heard of or even followed some of the games. Moves were often printed in low circulation fanzines.

During the seventies, my brother and I published a SF fanzine called Alternate Reality that had a gaming supplement called The Briefing Room where we ran PBM games of Diplomacy. It was through the network of Diplomacy players that our group, (The Second-Story Swamp) got introduced to D&D.

- Erin
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