“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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