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A brief history of Role Playing Games

Role playing games, warcraftThe first strategy game that attempted to realistically model conflict was the Kriegspiel, developed by a Prussian staff officer, von Reisswitz, in 1824. Kriegspiel, from the German for wargame, was a system used for training officers in the Prussian army. The first set of rules was Instructions for the Representation of Tactical Maneuvers under the Guise of a Wargame, produced in 1824 by von Reisswitz, a lieutenant in the Prussian army, based on earlier work by his father. Today it is considered the grandfather of modern wargames.

In 1913, Little Wars, a slim set of miniature rules written by H G Wells published. Little Wars is recognized today as the first recreational wargame and gamers and hobbyists regard Wells as "the Father of Miniature War gaming."

In the 1930s, Fletcher Pratt, a Civil War historian and fantasy author, developed a set of rules for naval engagements, known by the title Fletcher Pratt’s Naval Wargame.

In 1938, children’s book The Hobbits written by J. R. R Tolkien published in Great Britain. In 1954, the Lord of the Rings saw only modest critical interest, at least initially. But the elements to be found init, including the conflict between good and evil in a fantastic world populated by elves, dwarves, hobbits, orcs, men and other were to become an integral part of fantasy role-playing gaming that we see today.

In 1953, Civilian wargaming began in the US when Charles S. Roberts, developed a game called Tactics. It posited two hypothetical countries, with typical post-World War II armies, going to war with each other. This was the first of the modern commercial wargames (as we know them).

It was in near the end of 1973, that Dungeons & Dragons was published by Tactical Studies Rules (TSR)

Professor Muhammad Abd-al-Rahman Barker, a professor of Urdu and South Asian Studies, at the University of Minnesota, writing under the pen name M. A. R. Barker, was the originator of an entire world-Tekumel. It became the setting for a role-playing game called Empire of the Petal Throne, published in 1975 by TSR, Inc. Born Philip Barker, he converted to Islam in 1951 on his first trip to India. Tékumel, is a fantasy world based on from ancient India, the Middle East, the Aztecs and Maya, and other non-European sources. Besides being published by TSR, Tékumel has spawned three other professionally-published roleplaying games over the course of the years:

  • Swords & Glory, published in 1983 by Gamescience.
  • Gardasiyal: Adventures in Tékumel, published in 1994 by Theater of the Mind.
  • Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne, published in 2005 by Guardians of Order.
While drawing heavy influence from fantast literature and world histories and myths, games like WarCraft from Blizzard, a multiplayer online network game, have become global phenomena.


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