1. Do you believe that a game is meant to be "DM vs. the PCs?" If so, at what point is the DM being unfair to his player,s and at what point is he just providing a good challenge?
GG: "No, I do not. The game master is there to entertain and lead a group in an imaginary adventure, whether it's comedic or dramatic - whatever it turns out to be. He is there to entertain. I think that it should be evident if the game master is unfair. Only the game master really knows, though. The game master himself must not be adversarial - he plays the adversaries, but he must favor the players a little because they are entertaining him even as he is entertaining them. It's a mutually supportive group. Really tough adventures are for player characters who are really tough."
2. People have mentioned the influence that you've had on modern medieval fantasy. To take a more specific look, what do you think of the fact that Final Fantasy (most specifically the first game) has Mind Flayers, Beholders, those Beholder-bomb things, Otyughs, Displacer Beasts, Elementals, Bahamut, Tiamat, etc. etc.?
GG: (laughs) "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! there's not much else I can say - I think it was Gamespot's top 30 most influential people in gaming rated me number 17, tied with J. R. R. Tolkien. Their answer for that rating was, "Just look at every on-line game, and see what influence he's had on gaming!" "As for monsters in online games, the Displacer beasts I ripped off from the novel, Voyage of the Spaceship Beagle...if I recall rightly. That was one of the monsters in there - they sucked out something from humans with their tentacles, I don't remember!"
3. How did you come up with the name Mordenkainen? Does it have a meaning, or is it a case of stringing together syllables to find a name?
GG: "I really enjoyed the Finnish mythology Kalavala. The main figure in that mythological book has a similar name--Vainomoinen, a great wizard."
1. Where did you get the idea for the Beholder?
"That was Rob Kuntz's brother, Terry. He had the basic idea, but I detailed it for publication."
2. What is your opinion on the seemingly endless variations of established monsters? (example: the troll variants in MMIII)
GG: "I think that it's probably a waste of paper to print that up. I mean, that's something that the gamers should be able to do, unless it takes up only a few lines under a basic heading, then it's fine...if it helps someone who's a little lacking in initiative to create new creatures from old. But generally, unless it's something new and interesting, why bother with it. I mean, you can take the stats from virtually any monster and put them to any other - you know, 'This is a Snork, which is a small, flat type of a creature that looks something like a coffee table with six legs..."
Me: "Ah, the flumph!"
GG: "Yeah, the flumph is a good example of a really stupid monster. It was so stupid that I did a knockoff of it for the Legendary Adventure game system. Sometimes it heals you and sometimes it harms you - it's a stupid monster that's good for a laugh."
3. Can you drown the Tarrasque, or do you think that's too much of a cop-out?
GG: "I suspect you can't. The Tarrasque is originally from French mythology and Francois Marcela Froidevals' campaign. I was playing in it with a 13th level characters as a servant-type - the regulars were mainly 30th and 40th level guys (back in the late 70s). He ran it very well, but things like the Tarrasque were not impossible for his better players to beat."
4. Did you plan for the game to become so monster-centric that it is easily possible to play a full game without any humans or demihumans in the game at all?
GG: "Well, in a dungeon crawl, yeah. Not necessarily in normal play, but in dungeon crawling where the only human types are in the party - although I always had plenty of humans and demi-humans in the dungeon, too."
5. What was the inspiration for the Elementals? They seem to be some of the first monsters that have no root in mythology, yet have become incredibly ingrained in medieval fantasy since you introduced them to D&D.
GG: "It just seemed like a good idea at the time - there should be elementals to challenge players. You know, something that a Wizard could conjure up. Conjuring elementals is not unknown in fables."
"As an aside, my first drawing that my mother kept was one I did from paper that lays over cigars in a cigar box. On the back of that, I drew pictures in black crayon of a great ugly troll because I loved the stories of the Billy Goats Gruff. it was a vaguely cubicle thing with great many legs and eyes. I was about three years old when I did that."
1. To clear up questions about religion, are you a Christian?
GG: : "Yes, I am a Christian."
2. Do you believe that there is a point where Fantasy becomes unhealthy, either based on content or immersiveness?
GG: "People tend to overdo what they like, and so if you are a compulsive personality, sure. You see people do that with online games, whether they are fantasy or Grand Theft Auto, or whatever. You allow what should be recreational entertainment to take over your life because you enjoy it so much. But those people need some psychological counseling - normal people just don't do that... Although golfers do tend to go out and play golf in thunderstorms and get hit by lightning sometimes - abd you know about the famous 'Golf Widows'." People tend to make time for what they like to do and then overdo it, that's just human nature." "Content-wise, that would depend on the individual involved, it's far too general. A group of adults will probably play a game far differently than a group of adolescents, although the adults might be adolescent in a lot of areas (laughs)."
3. What is your basic philosophy about fantasy worlds? Mythology?
GG: "That's a big question. My basic philosophy regarding a fantasy world is that a game master should have one that fits his own personality and his group. When I wrote Greyhawk, I left a lot of it open, without details, so that the game masters could do what they wanted to with it. I just gave them framework to build on." "Mythology is to be used in your game as you like it, because your world doesn't necessarily have the same mythology as ours. Myth is a great place to get monsters and ideas from."
4. What advice would you give concerning extremely impressionable players?
GG: "I'm not a mental health professional, so I can't give any advice. For the average person without a severe neurosis or psychosis, don't worry about it."
5. Is there a point when using names from mythology/the Bible would be unadvised? Or is the break between fantasy and reality enough to allow virtually anything?
GG. "Absolutely - a fantasy world is not the real world. You shouldn't confuse make-believe with reality. There is no gold to be had in the game. The gold and gems are not real. The monsters are not real. Nothing in the game is real - it's all imaginary!"
(The following is a short aside from the conversation right after the phone interview concluded - it's abbreviated, though.)
Me: "I always enjoyed the fact that the game sprung out from military miniatures."
GG: "The spectacle of miniatures is what got me into the games. Whether historical or mythological, I always liked the look of the fully-painted figures and a scenic tabletop."