How the Hickman Revolution Changed D&D Forever

The DM Lair talks about the “Hickman Revolution,” which added more story and plot. The criticism, of course, is that it takes away from the game play and lethality.

Normally, when I see something like this, I think it’s just going to be Hickman bashing. I was pleased to see a very thoughtful examination.

Discussion of this video has continued on the Dragonlance Fandom Facebook group. Margaret Weis had the following to say.

Actually it was Laura Hickman who introduced story into gaming.

-Margaret Weis

Tracy Hickman responded to that saying, “If anything, it’s the Laura and Tracy Manifesto!”

Hi. Not quite finished with the video yet but wanted to pause and say that Laura was the pioneer here. Our first application of story integrated with D&D gameplay was a self-published adventure called Rahasia … a story designed by Laura. The background on the ‘manifesto’ is more legendary than true so I’ll comment on that shortly.

-Tracy Hickman

Tracy would add further clarification.

I just finished this remarkable video. May I say for the record that I agree with the conclusions 110%. While some of the legends surrounding the ‘Hickman Manifesto’ and its subsequent Revolution have a level of ‘truthiness’ to them (it was actually Laura who was the first pioneer of integrating story into games in our first self-published ‘Rahasia’ among others), the conclusions expressed are, in my view, entirely correct.

For many years at GenCon and other conventions, I would give a lecture entitled: “It Isn’t Whether You Live or Die…” it’s how you play the game. In it I fervently espoused the idea that character death in the midst of heroic action was vastly preferable to a boring, long-lived character trudging along in the middle of the party and soaking up XP. Indeed, the book I did with my son, Curtis, entitled ‘XDM: Xtreme Dungeon Mastery’ focuses on the virtues of heroic demise over boring character levels. Perhaps this could be the subject of an interview with these thoughtful YouTubers, but one needs to consider the fact that this so-called ‘Manifesto’ was a paragraph written for a specific, self-published product over 40 years ago.

When we then tried to translate those principles into Dragonlance not long afterward, we were pioneering techniques in the integration of story and game on a scale that had never been attempted before … and I’ll tell you right now that we were learning as we went. We did the best we could with our guesses on what would work … and it often didn’t. Now, 40+ years later, through my work in books, games and more recently VR, I’ve learned a great deal more about the player’s central role in interactive narrative. Even so, I’m delighted to see that our original principles have stood so well these four decades … and that thoughtful, videos like this one are still exploring it.

-Tracy Hickman

About Trampas "Dragonhelm" Whiteman

Trampas “Dragonhelm” Whiteman is best known for co-creating and administering the Dragonlance Nexus fan site. He is co-author of three Dragonlance books – Holy Orders of the Stars, Knightly Orders of Ansalon, and Races of Ansalon. When not evangelizing Dragonlance and other settings, Trampas is a husband, father, podcaster, and web designer. Trampas also enjoys reading comics, reading fantasy and scifi novels, and playing D&D.
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