1974 is an important year for the gaming hobby. It is the year that Dungeons & Dragons was introduced, the original RPG from which all other RPGs would ultimately be derived and the original RPG from which so many computer games would draw for their inspiration. It is fitting that the current owner of the game, Wizards of the Coast, released the new version, Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition, in the year of the game’s fortieth anniversary. To celebrate this, Reviews from R’lyeh will be running a series of reviews from the hobby’s anniversary years, thus there will be reviews from 1974, from 1984, from 1994, and from 2004—the thirtieth, twentieth, and tenth anniversaries of the titles. These will be retrospectives, in each case an opportunity to re-appraise interesting titles and true classics decades on from the year of their original release.
Both Rona Jaffe’s original novel and another which involved roleplaying, John Coyne’s Hobgoblin were reviewed in Dragon Magazine #75 (July, 1983). In ‘Tales stranger than fantasy’, Michael Lowery highlights that in both novels, “Above all else, both writers view fantasy gaming as something that must be explained, like teenage alcoholism or joining the Moonies. And examined: Just what is it, anyway, that leads intelligent, seemingly normal people into fantasy role-playing? In both works, game players are eventually shown suffering from dissociative schizophrenia (or some similar malady), which the reader is invited to blame on fantasy role-playing.” He identifies Mazes and Monsters as the better novel, but still calls it, “…[A] Problem Novel, and the Problem is role-playing games.” before concluding that, “Neither of these books is likely to be enlightening to the FRP gamer, except as examples of what reasonably intelligent adult non-players imagine we must be like. In both books, the attainment of mature adulthood is accompanied by the abandonment of role-playing games. Need I say more?”John J. O’Connor’s review, ‘TV: 'MAZES AND MONSTERS,' FANTASY’ in The New York Times (December, 28, 1982) in contrast, was more positive. “Miss Jaffe takes her story and characters through some fairly predictable turns as the game proceeds to its ''logical extension.'' At one point, the underlying message is spelled out directly: ''The most frightening monsters are the ones that exist in our minds.'' But, gradually, her carefully diagrammed contraption begins to work with reasonable effectiveness. He concludes, “And in the end, the film achieves a broader ''ritesof-passage'' experience than most viewers might be expecting.”