Stuffed Crocodile

Mazes, Martians, Mead

The (maybe) first D&D game ever played in Germany

Midgard_rulebook

Midgard 1st ed. 1981

Here’s an interesting anecdote about the beginnings of roleplaying games in Germany. It’s from an article by Manfred Roth on fantasyguide.de, must have been written around 2003, and the article itself it mostly is about the development of the German game Midgard. It traces the whole development from the foundation of the SCA-like fantasy interest group FOLLOW(“Fellowship Of the Lords Of the Lands Of Wonder”, yes, in English) in 1966, to the development of the first versions of Midgard (originally as “Empires of Magira“, yes, the title also was in English).

pic75448

Cover of the Armageddon rules

Like in the English-speaking world the beginnings of roleplaying came from wargaming, or at least something close: One of the main activities of FOLLOW was a fantasy wargame/civilization building game called Armageddon, which soon developed an aspect of free roleplaying, not unlike in Diplomacy or wargaming circles in other places. People would get into roles associated with the cultures they were playing, do extensive worldbuilding, and take on various roles connected to that. The world of Magira was developed in this context, and was used for the first forays into proper tabletop roleplaying later on. It still is being developed in a much diminished context even today.

Which brings us to the following part, about what most likely was the first game of D&D ever played in Germany, or at least the first one played by Germans:

One of the first members [of FOLLOW] was Josef Ochmann, who later became known as the signature artist of the first MIDGARD-years (for example his rulebook cover that can (jokingly) be described as “mixed group of adventurers with Neuschwanstein”).

Midgard_2_DFR

The referenced cover, of the Midgard 2nd edition

In the course of his studies (of Art and English, although he “only” became a teacher of these subjects later…) he spent half a year in England. There he got into contact with fans of SF and fantasy who partook in a “brand new” game, something with “Dragons, and Catacombs”; Dungeons and Dragons in the original edition. And it was about something that was called “roleplaying”.

He brought three small rule books to the Fest der Fantasy 1976 [1], they were not very expansive (about 50 pages each), badly printed and with lots of text and tables, technically only “thicker fanzines” and of course completely in US-English, but when you looked at it, and were interested, you could find it fascinating.

odnd

Cover of the first OD&D booklet

Unfortunately there was no time to really try it out, so it took a whole year longer before the first test game was run as a part of FOLLOW activities, during the Fest der Fantasy in 1977 in Gumattenkirchen (a forlorn little village in Southern Bavaria)[2]

Jens Ochmann acted as the referee (following the logic of him being the only one with the rules) and he commanded about 12 players and their player characters across the board for 8 hours, and through one of those so called “dungeons” [3] the game was about according to the title. Other participants were among others Elsa and Jürgen Franke, Edi Lukschandl (founder of Follow), Gustav Gaisnauer (later president of the EDFC)[4], Ludger Fischer (author of the Alba sourcebook), Karl-Georg Müller (first editor of “Gildenbrief” and “Mythos”[5]), Dieter Steinseifer (the grey eminence in every german fantasy fandom), and a few others (like the writer of these lines).

442px-Quellenbuch_Alba

The Alba sourcebook by Fischer

It was the first, the wild, the pioneer age, and it was beautiful and funny. You used 3d6s, because percentage and other dice formats still were in the far future; the values from the D&D-lists had been converted by Josef; then you received your character statistics “without mercy” (once rolled they staid, even if it was Constitution = 01)[6], fantasy money to equip with (from lists that nowadays would be almost laughably simple and easy to use)

Gustav Gaisbauer’s character had Appearance 100 [7], but only 1 copper piece, which wasn’t enough for anything but a loincloth (which had to be bought, because even today roleplaying in Germany is a rather prudish affair…), so he went as a longotian (a folk from Magira) pretty boy. In the first room there was nothing to see than a heap of clothes in the corner. If you picked them up 3 gold coins fell out (a fortune!). The Longotian had something to wear, and two rooms down the road he died of the plague he contracted from the clothes (yes, back then diseases were fast and hard and saving throws brutally high…) – the first “casualty” in the epoch of FOLLOW roleplaying games.

Monsters were wonderfully ugly and powerful (I especially remember slime-spitting frogs and giant spiders oozing acid), the combat round took 1 minute, the movement round 10 minutes, and the referee had, according to the rules, roll 1d6 every movement round, in addition to all the dangers with the rooms. Which he did, and constantly had new “wandering monsters” appear when he got a “1”. And when these appeared first we had to determine what it was on the next table.

If you went in a file down a long but only half-meter wide corridor and your armor scratched and scraped on the walls left and right, then (table is table!) a centaur appeared and charged the first in the group with a lance, through this narrow corridor, in the dark!

That’s how it was back then (and it is doubtful if  so much changed for the better in the logic used by these games since then). After 8 thrilling and amusing hours the final showdown took place, when a warrior amazon blocked the path of the group and beat up the strongest guys, until Lugh macBeorn (aka Ludger Fischer) checked his character sheet, realized he had “learned Don Juan”, and lifted his chainmail shirt (!), which distracted the amazon with the things under it so much she could be overwhelmed. The epitome of true roleplaying! [8]

All this was 26 years ago. We never checked thoroughly, but this first game could have been one of, if not even the first, roleplaying game by Germans in Germany (and much earlier, we found out 3 years later at a con in the US-base in Frankfurt, American soldiers and employees didn’t play it here either).

[1] the FOLLOW convention is still ongoing once a year, although they seem to have let the registration for http://www.fest-der-fantasie.de lapse

[2] Gumattenkirchen is just down the road from Braunau am Inn on the Austrian side of the border, a picturesque but otherwise rather boring part of Bavaria]

[3] the word “dungeon” has become well known as a term in German RPG circles. You can assume that many of the specific terms used in D&D during this game were left untranslated. Germans have a fascination with using English loan words, and the group described most likely had English as a second language in school. The use of English terms did continue into the first published German roleplaying games. Empires of Magira kept terms like “hit dice” intact.

[4] Erster Deutscher Fantasy Club (“First German Fantasy Club”)

[5] Gildenbrief was the official Midgard magazine from 1985 to 2015, Mythos (later SPIELWELT) was a more generic RPG magazine running from 1978 to 1992, and technically as a part of the magazine WunderWelten technically until

[6] the author describes the OD&D chargen method of 6x3d6 in order, but transposes the Midgard rules over it.

[7] here he also transposes percentage-based Midgard rules over the description of the OD&D session. I assume the character had a Charisma of 18 instead

[8] not really sure what having “learned Don Juan” is supposed to mean. I assume after 8 hours of play there was a need to end the session somehow

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