On Early Tropes, Technofantasy

Science fiction has been a factor in Dungeons & Dragons from the earliest days,

Page 22 of Monsters & Treasure (1974) contains the text:

Robots, Golems, & Androids: Self-explanatory monsters which are totally subjective
as far as characteristics are concerned.

Page 11 of The Underworld & Wilderness Adventure (1974) contains the text:

Other monsters to consider, depending upon the level and the surroundings:
Giant Crabs, Giant Leeches, Giant Octupi, Crocodiles, Giant Squids, Sea Monsters, Nixies, Mermen, Griffons, Pterodactyles, Rocs, Invisible Stalkers, Cyborgs, Robots, Androids, [emphasis added] Shadows, Dopplegangers.

Cyborgs too!

And, of course, from Blackmoor:
This fellow is not from the world of Blackmoor at all, but rather he is an intelligent humanoid from another world/dimension. Originally, he and his compatriots were sent to the area to police it against incursions of similar beings, for it was discovered that a dimensional nexus point existed in this area that allowed such possibilities. . .Once each year the High Priest must report to a hovering satellite station, giving details of what has transpired below, and turning over any powerful "artifacts" taken during the previous time period. Failure to turn over sufficient loot will certainly result in his recall/trial/extinction — as will, in fact, the discovery of just what has been going on below! . . . At present the High Priest possesses a complete set of battle armour, a mobile medical kit, and a communications module. He has modified the Temple so that there is a complete set of alarms to warn of intruders and established identification rings to allow him to direct and control all movement. He has genetically modified the killer frogs to begin breeding frogmen and constructed the control ring to maintain his control ability over them. Other treasures have been brought to him and he has mastered their uses. He has no magical abilities of his own but when in the battle armour he is immune to many things.

There's also references to the ERB Mars books and more.

What's interesting isn't the science fiction tropes being in the original game, but how those monsters and ideas weren't transferred to the core books. I noted a particular lament recently about how things might have been different if science-fiction monsters had been placed inside the Monster Manual.

They, of course resurfaced in various products and nods, the most famous of which is Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.

Over half of the games I'm playing in have strong technological themes. I suggest adding a robot or laser pistol to your next game.

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7 comments:

  1. It's frankly weird that the SF part of SF&F was almost instantly excised from the game.

    Excised? Did I use that word right?

    I wonder why it happened.

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    1. It wasn't, the very first D&D campaign I played in (1977) was set in Spain in the 41st century after the Last World War. Magic worked, but there was all kinds of techno stuff lying around in ruins and forgotten places.

      Gamma World was seen as a natural extension of D&D and we played frequently converting D&D stats to GW stats and vice-versa. We even ran D&D/Traveller crossover games.

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  2. I'm glad it was excised. Expedition to the Barrier Peaks always rubbed me the wrong way for some reason. It's funny - I prefer SciFi (in its Traveller incarnation) in many ways to Pure Fantasy, but I don't like mixing them for some reason.

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  3. Don't forget the robot bits from First Fantasy Campaign:

    Robots: I roll one 6-sided dice for Armor Class, and another dice for the number of Hit Dice. All Robots have 10% chance of being able to throw one Lightning Bolt every turn up to 20 Bolts.

    Controller: Allows players to get Robots to do what the player wants, otherwise, there is only a 20% chance you can use the Robot, 20% chance it is defective, 60% that it is hostile.

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  4. Well, the various blob-types, coeurl (Displacers), flesh golems, and most of the giant (mutant) fauna are SF derived; Hiero's Journey was a big influence on D&D as well as on Gamma World. The Fiend Folio continued the trend with among other things, the Cifal, the Gorbel (monster from Dark Star) and about 5 egg-laying variations on the Alien creature. Robot-types, perhaps, went just a little too far in implying a previous advanced civilization or space intruders.

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  5. I love the combination of fantasy and sci-fi, magic-users and barbarians standing along side or fighting against robots, cyborgs and aliens. I've run and played a lot of games in the vein of Rifts and Encounter Critical.

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  6. This is almost certainly how Giorgio Tsoukalos plays Dungeons & Dragons.

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