Gygaxian Dungeon Masters?

Soulless One

Souls for my Master!
#1
I've seen the word Gygaxian used to describe DM's and games a few times now. Can someone clarify what this means? I think I just realized my 1st Ed. DM is 'Gygaxian' and that's why all his npcs speak in gruff tones, drink a lot, and try to kick our asses. Is there a pill for this?
 

Corundum

stymied creative impulses
Validated User
#2
My understanding of the phrase, as used on these forums, is as follows:

- A "Gygaxian" GM is one who runs a game such that there is strong rivalry/competition/enmity between the GM and the players. The GM does his best to screw over and/or kill PCs at every possible opportunity.

- A "Gygaxian" game is one that has inconsistent/nonsensical structure. Dragons in 20'x20' rooms, fountains that (roll 1d6) 1-3: permanently raise the drinker's Strength by 1d4 points / 4-5: lower Intelligence to 3 for 1d10 days / 6: summon a hostile water elemental, and so forth.
 

The Disgruntled Poet

Registered User
Validated User
#3
Corundum said:
My understanding of the phrase, as used on these forums, is as follows:



- A "Gygaxian" game is one that has inconsistent/nonsensical structure. Dragons in 20'x20' rooms, fountains that (roll 1d6) 1-3: permanently raise the drinker's Strength by 1d4 points / 4-5: lower Intelligence to 3 for 1d10 days / 6: summon a hostile water elemental, and so forth.
I agree with the above.





Corundum said:
- A "Gygaxian" GM is one who runs a game such that there is strong rivalry/competition/enmity between the GM and the players. The GM does his best to screw over and/or kill PCs at every possible opportunity..
I don't agree with this. Although the Gygaxian method may be to view things in game/wargame terms more than storytelling and character interaction, I don't find the old AD&D books to stress the DM's role being to go after characters. Rather, the old books counsel fairness and having fun.

Now they're certainly might be Gygax-influenced campaigns run by old-schoolers have gone that direction, but that's another matter. :)
 

Calithena

Fantasy Roleplayer
#4
This is how the term is used on rpg.net. Both uses are rather unfair. Gygax explicitly criticizes the 'killer DM' approach in the various D&D manuals, as the previous poster noted. But second, if you look at Gary's actual published dungeons even from the OD&D days - Keep on the Borderlands, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, Village of Hommlet, the G and D series - all of these are actually relatively high on the 'realistic and well thought out' scale, compared to TSR stuff by other authors (e.g. Search for the Unknown, White Plume Mountain, Ghost Tower of Inverness) and even more so to third party stuff. None of those are killer dungeons, either.

The only EGG modules that sort of fit the stereotype are two late satirical works - Dungeonland and Magic Mirror - and the Tomb of Horrors, which is the tomb of a demi-lich and explicitly designed as a meat grinder (though it can be beaten by a good party). But even these three modules have a design logic that goes rather beyond the kind of design that's being attributed to Gary with this use of 'Gygaxian'. (They are sort of killer dungeons though, I'll admit.)

There's plenty to criticize Gary for if you're so inclined, most particularly his egregious Dragon editorials from around the advent of AD&D. His dungeon design would be about on the bottom of the list of things I'd go after though. Other than Paul Jaquays I can't name any equals offhand when it comes to consistently excellent old-school dungeon design.
 
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#5
I'm not sure. I've seen a couple of places detailing his old campaigns where he comes off as a fairly vindictive kill 'em all DM. It may just be the people involved, but it seems like there was a certain adversial angle to his approach.
 

OldKentuckyShark

Doritos from Japan
Validated User
#6
Softmetalgazebo said:
I'm not sure. I've seen a couple of places detailing his old campaigns where he comes off as a fairly vindictive kill 'em all DM. It may just be the people involved, but it seems like there was a certain adversial angle to his approach.
Some of it may be Gygax's penchant for talking about his old roleplaying days as if they were war stories. It tends to exagerate things.

"And that's when they ran away from the purple worm into the gelatinous cube! Oh, the looks on their faces. But thanks to a little quick thinking, a a lot of lucky rolls, they survived... just in time for the room of a thousand kobolds!"

I always used to read old Gygax stories and wonder how anyone survived. But they did survive, for the most part.
 

Calithena

Fantasy Roleplayer
#8
(a) Gygax and Mentzer. Frank has done some great work, principally BECMI D&D. But when Frank and Gary work on something together, well, Cyborg Commando.

(b) Another late work. Only GURPS 1e has disappointed me as badly as ToEE in my whole history of gaming.

Still, it is a tough dungeon, and it does have Gary's name on it. It's a meat-grinder if you start it right after Hommlet, yeah, but if you get up to a reasonable level first it's not so bad. I wouldn't call it so nonsensical, either - just kind of lackluster.
 
#10
Calithena said:
This is how the term is used on rpg.net. Both uses are rather unfair. Gygax explicitly criticizes the 'killer DM' approach in the various D&D manuals, as the previous poster noted. But second, if you look at Gary's actual published dungeons even from the OD&D days - Keep on the Borderlands, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, Village of Hommlet, the G and D series - all of these are actually relatively high on the 'realistic and well thought out' scale, compared to TSR stuff by other authors (e.g. Search for the Unknown, White Plume Mountain, Ghost Tower of Inverness) and even more so to third party stuff. None of those are killer dungeons, either..
Huh? The G and D series have your characters frequently do things like walk into a room with 25 giants armed to the teeth. I don't know how anyone could survive those at the prescribed levels for play. Of course that's the whole irony of Gygax - he did write constantly in the DM guide about balance and fair play, while releasing these absolute character killer modules. There are basically two ways they end up being played - with all the PCs killed in the first couple of rooms, or with the DM doing the opposite of being the killer and bending all sorts of rules so the characters escape certain death.
 
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