“Dungeons & Dragons” — The Hypnotic Side

When Dave Arneson showed Gary Gygax the new game he and his friends were playing, it probably didn't occurr to either that they were on the brink of creating not only a new game but an entirely new type of game, resulting in a revolutionary new gaming industry.

Dave Arneson took the traditional miniature game, where miniatures represented groups of individuals and started using them to represent individuals. He also added the elements of character classes and experience levels, allowing for character specialization and growith. This was a revolution, in that players could project themselves into the character, developing them over time and play. Since both he and Gary Gygax were avid minature ship game players, he shjowed Gary his game and together they created Dungeons & Dragons.

As source material, they drew on the fantasy literature of the time, the late 1960's and early 1970's, especially such works as the newly published Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Conan novels that were being reprinted at the time, not to mention a great deal of other fantasy fiction. They also incorporated a system of magic spells based on Jack Vance's Dying Earth novels and short stories but also including elements from other fiction or actual magic systems. That system involved memorizing spells and later casting them, causing the magician to forget the spell until re-memorized.

In addition to the system, a whole host of magic spells were created for the expanding classes of spellcasters, including not only wizards but priests and beyond, that would eventually coalesce into a series of magical 'schools'. Each school involved magic of a certain theme or type: for example, the school of illusion whose spells cause hallucinations, spectral images, etc., wherease the school of divination involves spells that seek out information. The particular school of interest here is the school of enchantment. Originally, enchantment involved the enchanting of tools and devices with magical powers and properties but it eventually changed to involve spells that enchanted or controlled others.

And there were a lot of enchantment spells. A beginning wizard had a wide portfolio of spells to choose from, for all nine schools of magic, and that included such first level enchantment spells as Charm Person and Sleep. The overall (eventual) nine levels of wizard spells include spells such as Geas (which commands the target of the spell to accomplish a certain task). That is not to say priests didn't have enchantment spells as well, only that they were not collected into wizardly schools. A later addition to the character classes, bards, were especially good at enchantment spells. Their historical antescendants were the bards of Celtic legend, capable of enthralling audiences or defeating enemies with their song. The bard class had this power as a natural and supernatural ability, plus they could also cast spells through their songs, many of which had enchantment effects.

Thanks to the open-ended nature of the game, soon other companies and individuals were publishing supplemental rules to Dungeons & Dragons, further adding to the spell lists, including enchantment spells. And once the concept of roleplaying games was developed, more game systems were published. And since hypnotic and enchantment spells and powers were such prevalent theme both in the original game and in the underlying source material, they would appear in many of the subsequent games and systems, especially the superhero game systems and the later occult (especially vampire) game systems. And that doesn't include systems which replace spells with psionics or mechanical devices as per the setting, but they still have the same function.

And it all stems from one game player's leap 'outside the box' of traditional miniature games.


It is fitting that I devote this post to Dungeons & Dragons, as I will be attending GenCon this weekend. This is the convention that popularized the game almost 40 years ago, the convention Gary Gygax himself started in his basement and which has grown to the largest gaming convention in the US. I've been attending for the past 32 years in a row and it is one of the few conventions that I attend at all any more, but it is also one of the conventions that will try to attend as long as I am able.

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