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STEVEN R. MARSH (Lead Editor of the Expert Set and designer of the underwater encounter materials in the original Blackmoor Supplement; Compiled from Dragonsfoot and Yog-Sothoth forums through Sep 3, 2006)
Q: Steve, how closely did you work with Dave Arneson on the creation of the sahuagin, or did he pinch them without telling you first?
A: Gary put it all together, Arneson did not have that much to do with the actual work in putting Blackmoor together. So, one could say Gary "pinched" the underwater encounters, but he had permission, in order to fill out the book which was a bit thin without them.
Q: What DID Arneson contribute to Supplement II? I've long heard (from Gygax's mailing list) that Steve Marsh actually did the bulk of the writing for that booklet, but are you implying that even Gygax did more real work for it overall than Arneson?
A: If you've seen Dave Arneson's rules that he published as what he really intended, you can easily see that "massively different" from D&D isn't extreme enough to describe how different they were from what Gary did.
Gygax carried the load time and time again, and in Blackmoor, you need to assume that anything that isn't in terms of the Arneson rules was probably typed by Gary, and with the gaps filled in by Gary, etc.
Though I eventually did get a typewriter and quit sending him handwritten mssgs.
What he came up with is dramatically different than what Dave envisioned, something Dave has said many, many times in print and that Dave's published work reflects.
What I meant by carried the load is that he did most of the writing as well as the editing, typing, typesetting and marketing.
I never met Arneson, I know him only from his writing, his public statements and his fans. The multicoloured mimeograph rules he did were in the same line as Chaosium's early work (if you wanted multicolour printing, you went mimeo in the old day), so it isn't a slam to discuss them in terms of being multicolour mimeograph (though I do meet people who take that as an insult or a dig rather than a complement since they are unfamiliar with the state of the art back then) physically, though they did not grab me from a game designer's standpoint.
In this particular thread I was asked if Dave Arnesons stole from me and the general historical belief that I did most of the work behind Blackmoor was discussed.
I stated that Dave did not steal from me.
Dave's vision was very different from Gary's and others. Some parts of that I like (I like some kinds of skill based systems, even Gary has done one or two). Some parts I'm not that enthusiastic about (I take a different angle on elves and the like both in my personal world building and in what I did in the Expert Set).
But seriously. Take Temple of the Frog and translate it into Arneson's rules. Now, from there you can see just how far it migrates to become a D&D setting.
Take Blackmoor and subtract everything that Gary or I did. Ask yourself if there is enough material there to make a supplement? Ask yourself what percentage of the book was written by Dave Arneson?
Q: How much did any of you cats (Moldvay, Cook and yourself) put into the Basic or Expert Sets? Were any of you involved more or less on specific parts, or was it an editing/writing free for all?
A: The goal was to rewrite the rules set without adding anything new, or much of anything new other than enough to flesh out encounters and spell tables.
I pretty much wrote the Expert set by myself. Erol Otus mocked my idea of having the Woolly Rhinos be intelligent, so that got canned (I liked the idea of a potential psionic group of Rhinos in the far north, coordinating the defence of the herd against predators).
I also wanted to do a step reduction for Vampires. Stake them - 10hd. Cut off the head -6 hd. Stuff head with garlic -4 hd. Bury at cross roads, double hit dice reduction. That way, to kill a vampire really dead (so it would stay dead) would require various parts of the classic treatment depending on how powerful it was.
I came up with the striking spell for clerics to cast on staves to fill out the numbers for the spell charts. When I left, the project was pretty much finished up from a writing point of view, but since I was gone, I didn't get full credit, you know how that goes.
The Basic set was pretty much one person's work, as was the Expert set. You've read how Immortals was pretty much Frank Mentzer's work.
Q: Steve what motivated your idea of no psionics for elves in Eldritch Wizardry?
A: Well, the fact that at 5'5" I qualified for nationals in Judo at 172 lbs ... Oh, and I was about 19 and 5'2" when I came up with that rule.
Q: How far back do you go with D&D and/or TSR? How did you get started, did you play in Gary's home game, etc?
A: Ok, I only go back to around 1973-74. Every-so-often, both Gary Gygax and Greg Stafford would slip and both would move me back to an older relationship than I really had.
Q: I did not realise that the Expert rules were mostly your work. The '81 Basic/Expert is my favourite edition of D&D, and of the two the Expert book was my favourite. Did you write Expert at the same time as Tom Moldvay was working on Basic, and did you collaborate, or was Basic produced first and then Expert built upon that base?
A: I just kind of wrote it.
Q: You hinted at a Companion book that was never produced, that would take characters to higher experience levels. There were some tantalising hints about new thief abilities that were never developed. Also thieves and other characters pretty much "topped out" in the Expert book, while the Mentzer version slowed down advancement to scale up to higher levels better. What did you intend for higher levels, did you ever playtest stuff for it, etc? If you had written it, where would you have taken the game?
A: I'm not sure. We figured we needed to do something. That eventually boiled down to a clash between Moldvay and Mentzer, long after I was gone, and I only know Frank's side of it which makes it sound pretty mild.
Ask Frank (sorry I don't remember/know the answer any more).
Q: You included some stuff from the Greyhawk supplement (like thieves) but not others (like paladins). What were the criteria for these choices? Was it political (i.e. "we want to promote AD&D so it gets the cool stuff") or was there something else.
A: Much of it had to do with the trademark/etc. squabble with Dave Arneson, and other of it with just what made for a "basic" or "core" game and what was extra.
Q: Gygax has said at various times and places that AD&D was intended to be a finished, tight game suitable for tournament play "the way the writers intended it to be" while D&D was intended to be the customable, do-it-yourself version of the game. I have always wondered how much of this was just putting a spin on issues related to the Arneson lawsuit, and how much was really true. I can imagine it would be frustrating to be given a project that was only a decoy that the company was not really interested in succeeding. What was your perspective on all this?
A: Gary really did decide that there needed to be two sets of rules: one for tournaments with fixed details -- the Law Shick rules that became AD&D, and he also agreed with a lot of us that there ought to be a platform for just creating house rules and letting it all hang out.
We intended the game to be the way Gary describes it. TSR would not have spent the time and money and energy for "just a decoy" -- which is why the project kept going long long after the Arneson stuff was settled.
Look who got the Cyclopedia (all the rules in one place -- an excellent project) and Metzer's Immortals -- the first real published rules for hero questing.
Statement: Sorry to flood you with questions, but this the first time I've gotten to talk to someone who created *my* favourite version of D&D.
Steve's Response: No problem. I keep thinking of doing a rewrite of D&D/AD&D 1st edition if I can get the proper rights, or perhaps just the parts I did not sign off on work for hire for.
Q: I'm sure this has been gone over somewhere else, but who created/wrote the "Sample Wilderness" of the original Expert rulebook? I'd assume it was Cook, as he expanded on it so much in X1, but didn't you write most of the actual Expert rulebook? Was the setting ever expected to go beyond X1 (and become Mystara as it did), or was the original intent to 'leave it be' as just an example of what the DM could create? Oops, part three (slightly related): Is the "Haunted Keep" shown in the Sample Wilderness map supposed to be the same (Sample Dungeon) from Moldvay's Basic rulebook?
A: I'd guess you are right. I don't recall talking with anyone about those much. Unfortunately, my copy of the Expert Set is lost somewhere (though I did buy a Rules Cyclopedia recently) and so I'm not able to refresh my memory by looking at it.
As for settings, I'm pretty sure Moldvay and Cook both hoped for the chance to expand the setting, but where starting with it as "just an example."
And yes, I did write most of the Expert Set, though much of it was more like organising it.
Q (from Sandy Peterson, author of the Call of Cthulhu rpg): It was always my opinion that werewolves are solidly within the Lovecraftian ethos. He wrote a poem in which a werewolf figured prominently, after all, and half-human half-bestial figures are extremely fundamental to his fiction. I am not sure that a whole D&Dish menagerie of werepigs, weretigers, and wereskunks would really fit into that worldview, though. I mean, do you?
A: Well, the werepigs came from a Lovecraft era writer who had a series of short stories. Every other one was just a mystery story (the fantastic elements were all fake) and the alternate ones were all hideous magical things.
The werepigs were monstrous entities from beyond the asteroid belt, trying to root around for a little food, as I recall. The Expert Set (D&D) werepigs came from those.
But, I'd agree. Lovecraft didn't seem to just go into permutations of things. Werewolves almost preclude other werecreatures by his internal logic.
But I can do without wereskunks, etc. Gargh.
Sandy responded: If you're talking about House on the Borderlands, the swine-thing weren't really werepigs. They were just monstrous half-human entities.
Steve responded: Well, the best we could do in slipping them into D&D was the devil swine. I know, we made compromises ...
Q: Some questions and thoughts about the devil-men of the deep:
(1) Correct pronunciation?
(2) Was this species inspired by a myth or fantasy story? (Lovecraft's deep ones seem a likely influence.)
(3) Who created them anyway? I once asked EGG about the inspiration, and he disavowed responsibility. Steve Marsh, I presume?
(4) They get an unusual amount of detail and background in the MM, and are among the few beings specifically described as devil-worshippers (though Jim Ward had to muck that up in the DDG). What sorts of clever uses have you all put these sinister beings to?
A: This is one of the races I did that ended up in Blackmoor. The name is a Spanish name of an historian that came off the back of the Christ in the Americas pamphlet used by the LDS Church. Like the Ixit, there are two "official" pronunciations. First, pronounce it like you would in Spanish class. Second, Sa ha gwin (which is not intuitive).
An old Justice League of America animated show and my own imagination provided the concept, with a heavy touch of sea Aztecs and the question what would evolved sharks as a social species be like.
MM has so much detail because Blackmoor had so much detail. Not a Lovecraft influenced creature (I've done a lot of those, mind you, just not this one).
I'm glad Sahuagin are still around. I was going to auction the residual rights to them, but Paul thought that would get me sued by Hasbro.
I have to note that Frank also let the inside pronunciation for the Ixit out of the bag (there is an unpronounced syllable in the name) when someone decided to do a Dragon Magazine article (in fact, I wrote them to ask how they figured out the correct pronunciation and they told me that Frank had walked by, said "Oh, it is pronounced ..." and walked off. He is sneaky that way.
Note Frank discloses the second syllable emphasis, the "gin/gwin" ending and the sa start. I'm not sure how he pronounces "hwa" but I alway slurred and just used "ha" when I discussed them.
Q: It says in the introduction to the Monster Manual that Steve Marsh made the watery creatures for Blackmoor with a little tinkering added by Gary.
A: Pretty spot on.
Q: 1. Is the description of the Sahuagin in Blackmoor as you wrote it?
2. What other stuff, Steve, did you create that's in the Blackmoor supplement?
3. Just how much stuff in that publication can be traced to creators other than Arneson?
A: Well, if you've seen Arneson's FRPG, which he insists is exactly the way he intended and played, and then compared it to D&D, you will get an idea of the shape of the manuscript that Gary got for Blackmoor and what he added and fixed up. He then added my underwater stuff, which was the prototype of the plane of water.
Gary did all the hard work (editing, etc.) himself.
I did some magical items, monsters, etc. I had an ecology in mind, and an adventuring pathway and items and such to support it. Just not a lot of time free at the time.
Q: Steve Marsh, what game are you the author of or what is your involvement with classic DandD, ADandD 1st edit., or ADandD 2nd edition?
A: I was involved with Blackmoor and on, both as an author in supplements, working at TSR for a summer, doing a stand-alone game (Saga) and the Expert Set rules.
Q: I remember seeing a blue booklet for classic DandD. For what campaign world was it for and did it continue from where the red book stopped? Did blue expert allow TN-alignment clerics to worship a deity, a force, or the philosophy of TN-alignment?
A: You've got me, I don't remember the colours.
Q: I'd like to break down the old Blackmoor supplement for Dungeons & Dragons:
I understand Dave Arneson wrote Temple of the Frog, but for his own campaign. Who altered it to fit with D&D? Where did those god-awful Hit Location rules come from, and has the person responsible been punished? Where (exactly) did the various classes, underwater rules, monsters, etc. come from? Who wrote what and why? What I'm after is basically a complete breakdown of credit for the individual aspects of that booklet. I figured you'd be the one to ask.
A: Gary Gygax converted Temple of the Frog to D&D.
I thought Arneson gave us the hit location rules from his own campaign (the way he saw FRPGing at the time, characters would have fixed hit points).
Underwater was pretty much mine, with Gary's typing.
The classes show up in the Strategic Review with credits.
Gary was looking for material to fill out the page count on Arneson's supplement.
Think of Greyhawk being the Gary/Chicago Gamers supplement.
Blackmoor is the Arneson/Misc. Fans supplement.
Eldritch Wizardry is the Tim Kask supplement.
AD&D is the Law Schick supplement.
(realising that Gary is doing huge amounts of the work, e.g. he typed all of Blackmoor from other people's handwritten notes, etc. -- though my input into EW was actually typed -- he supervised the meetings and the writing for AD&D, and did boatloads of it).
That is kind of a shorthand, obviously. Gary is the huge shadow that everyone is working in and that is doing the lion's share of the work throughout.
Q: In the Expert rulebook, the dwarf's saves are 2 points better than as they are listed in Moldvay Basic (except for Dragon's Breath which is the same.) I combed the Moldvay Rulebook to see if the dwarf was supposed to get some kind of +2 to magic based saves. I found nothing. Any insight on this? In OD&D dwarves and halflings save as a higher level fighter. It doesn't match up exactly, but is this the reason for the Expert revision?
A: I'm pro-dwarves. That is the long and the short of why these superior and hardy creatures get a superior saving throw. Not to mention, it brings them closer in line with the OD&D rules we were tracking.
Hope that helps. Same reason dwarves get psionics in Eldritch Wizardry and Elves don't.
Q: I've got a couple of really obscure questions for you about the 1981 revision of D&D that you worked on.
Sometime in 1980, the three Monster & Treasure Assortment sets (originally put out in '78 and '79) were compiled into one volume. At the same time, the lists of monsters and treasures were edited a bit to conform with some of the changes.
1. As you were one of the ones working on the 1981 edition of D&D, were you the one who did the editing of the 1980 M&TA? If not, do you know who it was? Possibly Tom Moldvay or Dave Cook?
2. There are a number of inclusions on the M&TA lists that were still anomalies to the 1981 rules, and it makes me wonder whether there were any "late scratches" to the 1981 rules. Particularly, I'm wondering whether the Good/Evil alignment axis and demons were at one time going to be included, but were excised late in the game. Since you did much (most? all?) of the work on the Expert set, I'd particularly like to know what recollections you have on the decision not to include demons and other entities from the lower planes.
A: There were questions about how much was going to be added back into D&D. First the starter book, then the expert set to take gamers through most normal play, then an expansion.
The hope was to make it clearer, though people had different ideas (e.g. I wanted the woolly rhinos to be lawful good and intelligent, I wanted vampires to require different steps to kill them, basically each step reducing the number of hit dice they had: so stake a vampire, reduce it by 12 hit dice. If it is 12 or less, staking it reduces it to dust. More than 12, then you need to add a step, such as cutting off its head, or stuffing the head with garlic, or burning the whole thing and burying the ashes at a cross roads).
The loose ends never got as cleared up as one might like. Now it is times past.
Tom Moldvay and Dave Cook worked as a team on a lot of things, especially the entire D&D project, though they had very little ego involvement (e.g. they handed off the Expert Set to me). No one was certain where it was all going to end up at the time.
That is as much as I remember.
Q: Hey Steve, up to this point, what is you favourite version of D&D?
A: OD&D. I liked the original books, with kludges, a lot. Everything else just looks like house rules to me.
I always kept going back to OD&D, with additional classes, etc. (OD&D being the first three books, Greyhawk, Blackmoor, etc. except instead of the psionics of EW, I used the character classes the powers were taken from).
Q: Steve, being an enthusiast of the World of Mystara, I wonder what input you had into the development of that setting. For instance, did you write or edit the section in the Expert Rulebook describing the town of Threshold and the list of adventure ideas? (e.g. the Blackstone Heath municipal garbage disposal containing a captured black pudding, or Bargle hiding a force of fighters near town by transforming them into trees.)
A: Don't I wish I could claim credit.
Q: So the Known World was all Cook's work?
A: With very modest input from the rest of the guys in the room. Kind of like when you are doing something and you talk about it and someone chimes in here or there. Everyone talked, everyone chimed in a bit here and there. But Cook did good work. I can't really say more, because I don't know more.
Q: I wonder did you ever DM or play in the Known World?
A: Everyone did in play tests (I got to play in a little). Playtests involved whoever was running them springing for chips and sodas to get everyone else to play.