On The Use of Strategos for the Implementation of Hit Points and Experience by the Twin Cities Gamers - by Michael Wittig
Today we have a guest author on our blog- Michael Wittig.
A well done documentary requires many disciplines. Sure, there is the obvious shooting and editing, but what is just as important is a great deal of painstaking research.
As the film began to reveal a very complicated history it was necessary to reach out to other investigators who were involved in similar endeavors. Thus we got to know our small group of game experts: Michael Wittig, Daniel Boggs, and Ara Winter.
Any concept, or theory, that pops up during the making of the film has to run a gauntlet of debate within our small group of researchers. Often as we discuss one item, it will lead us to reveal other equally important elements.
Today's article is a case in point. We had been discussing (Read this as vehemently arguing) how it is likely Blackmoor began earlier than the dates found in Corner of the Tabletop. We won't go into any of the details on that debate except to say that there are hints that Blackmoor could have begun on christmas of 1970, or earlier.
This is very troublesome because it implies that Blackmoor begins before Gygax and Perrin publish Chainmail in 1971.
It was during this debate over origins that Michael Wittig revealed some charts to the rest of the group that he had extracted from Arneson and Hoffa's adaptation of Strategos.
While it is very clear that other games will create admixture within the eventual Dungeons & Dragons publication, certainly Chainmail is part of this, the antiquity and familiarity of Strategos within the Twin Cities, seems to indicate that Totten's game is the true ancestor of all modern RPG's.
Michael Wittig's observations follow:
On The Use of Strategos for the Implementation of Hit Points and Experience by the Twin Cities Gamers
By Michael Wittig
Some writing about the origins of D&D have suggested that Chainmail (1971) provided Dave Arneson with inspiration for Hit Points and Experience in his seminal Blackmoor campaign.
An example of the use of hit points from Chainmail's "Fantasy Supplement":
“Ogres are killed when they have taken an accumulation of six missile or melee hits in normal combat.”
Interestingly, this rule only applies when Ogres are attacked by normal troops and not those from the Fantasy Supplement
—if an Ogre is attacked by a Hero, or even another Ogre, for example, the rule doesn’t apply. Still, the mention of an “accumulation” suggests that normal troops need to deliver a total of six hits to kill an Ogre, regardless of whether the six hits are delivered over one turn or multiple turns.
Arneson frequently stated that he used a combat resolution chart from Chainmail, yet only for a short period at the beginning of his Blackmoor campaign. Thus, over time, many have come to assume that everything he designed in Blackmoor must also be a derivation from Chainmail.
It appears odd that Dave Arneson, already a published game designer, who is well versed in most of the game systems of his time, would not look to other sources in order to solve problems within his Blackmoor game systems.
While it is clear that Arneson drew inspiration from Chainmail as well, a more likely source for the application of Hit Points and Experience in Blackmoor must come from something that is much closer to home: his own rules for Strategos-A, which he and Randy Hoffa (founder of CinC Miniatures Company) wrote and published in Arneson’s local newsletter The Corner of the Tabletop in 1969. Strategos-A is a set of wargaming rules for “refighting battles during ancient times,” and was based on David Wesely’s: Strategos-N (1968).
Strategos-A states under War Machines that Elephants require “5 hits to kill”:
Anyone familiar with Arneson’s: The First Fantasy Campaign (1977) might recall that Arneson alternates between the modern term “hit points” and his original term “hits” throughout his campaign notes. What is perhaps more fascinating is that Arneson actually appears to have used the same “hits to kill” from Strategos-A throughout the Blackmoor dungeons, albeit abbreviated to “HTK”:
But Hit Points aren’t the only thing that Strategos-A appears to have inspired. Again, some have suggested that Arneson’s development of experience levels was influenced by Chainmail’s division of Wizards into Magicians, Sorcerers, Warlocks, and Wizards, but this division did not appear in print until January of 1972—long after the Blackmoor campaign evidenced progression based on experience. Yet again we find more likely influences in Strategos A, where soldiers are granted advantages based on how many battles they’ve previously fought in:
Arneson and Hoffa’s Strategos-A in turn drew from Wesely’s: Strategos-N, which incorporated similar advantages based on troop experience:
While it is possible that Chainmail inspired Arneson’s Hit Point and Experience systems, we find it more likely that Arneson simply drew from his own extensive experience playing Strategos with his friends in the Twin Cities.
More from Secrets of Blackmoor:
We find Michael's observations to be very compelling.
While some historians do not place much historical value on the use of Strategos in the Twin Cities, what we find over and over, is that Strategos is the primary source for all of their wargaming -- it's their go-to system of choice!
By all indications, they discover Strategos: the American Game of War (1880) possibly as early as 1963, and will adapt it for their own use shortly thereafter. David Wesely will not publish his version called Strategos-N (napoleonic) until 1970, yet the existence of other manuscripts based off of his work support his claim that he had a typed draft by 1968. Greg Scott (founder of GHQ Miniatures Company) describes using Strategos shortly after he joins their group in 1964.
Early derivations of Wesely's work appear in1969. This is when two new versions of Strategos are published in Corner of the Table Top: Strategos-RT (russo-turkish war); and Strategos- A (ancients).
Early drafts of Don't Give Up the Ship typed up by Dave Arneson utilize the morale mechanics from Wesely's Strategos-N, and David Megarry's Dungeon! board game, which is designed in 1972, has components that come from Strategos.
The pathology created by the Twin Cities gamers as to their preference for, and use of, Strategos is very clear.