Today I wrote a letter to Mike Carr, creator of the game Dawn Patrol. The earliest edition of Dawn Patrol was a 25-copy run back in 1968 (back then the game was called Fight in the Skies) and I'm curious to know how much has been added in later editions. Particularly, I'm curious about the age of the role-playing rules section. As written, the rpg rules are a relic of the bygone transitional era in which rpgs still looked a lot like traditional boardgames run at a 1:1 scale. As I've mentioned previously in this blog, Dawn Patrol is a roleplaying game in the same way that BattleTech or Car Wars can be called roleplaying games. You can track the adventures of individual pilots/mechwarriors/drivers from session to session, but past that their isn't much to work with.
Still, these games aren't that different from the original version of Dungeons & Dragons. Keep in mind that in the little beige books giving a name to your character was optional. The baseline assumption was what Dave Arneson has referred to as "doppleganger" play. The players pretend that they themselves are operating in the gaming milieu. Hence Richard Snider's paladin is named Snider, Tom Keogh's character was Keoghtom, and the spell Sustarre's Flaming Chariot was named after Dennis Sustarre. From this point of view, Dawn Patrol actually goes farther than original D&D into the realm of what we now consider roleplaying.
What's my point? With all due respect to Mssrs. Gygax and Arneson, it looks like maybe, just maybe, they did not publish the first roleplaying game. If the roleplaying rules in Dawn Patrol appeared in Fight in the Skies, then maybe Mike Carr beat D&D to the punch.
But let's not make a mountain out of a molehill here. I'm not a D&D hater by any means. The '81 Basic/Expert D&D rules is still my favorite roleplaying game and I'm certain I've logged more hours hacking orcs in dungeons than any other roleplaying activity. EGG and Dave Arneson are still aces in my book. Heck, when I sat down and ran D&D 3E I set the campaign in the World of Greyhawk, more specifically in Blackmoor. Keep on the Borderlands is still one of my all-time favorite modules and the 1st edition DMG is still my fave hardbound RPG book.
But in the interest of an accurate historical perspective on the hobby, I'd like to know which came first: Mike's chicken or Gary's egg. Hopefully, Mr. Carr will get my letter and solve this little mystery for me.