My last post (yesterday) stated that the earliest known "rumor table" in a role-playing game module was the one in Mike Carr's B1 In Search of the Unknown, which featured the dungeon known as The Caverns of Quasqueton.
Read that other post first to understand this one.
Paleologos left a comment there pointing out that Judges Guild 102 The Caverns of Thracia had a rumor table, too.
I have read that module but I never knew it in the old days. So, I took a closer look.
Now it gets interesting. We have a tiny mystery here, folks.
The Caverns of Thracia was published in 1979 (not 1980 as the friendly commenter wrote). It was early enough in 1979 that a second printing was called for in the same year. But the weird thing is that the rumor table in Thracia is structured exactly like the one in B1. It explains, under the heading "The Taverns of Thracia" (ha ha), that you roll 1d4 and determine whether the player gets 1, 2, 3, or 0 rumors. Then you roll 1d20 per rumor. Here, however Jaquays specifies that the DM should write the rumors down and pass them out to the players.
There is no way that both modules happened to create, independently, a 1d4 system for coming up with 1, 2, 3, or 0 legends, followed by rolls on a d20 legend table. One of them borrowed from the other.
JG102 calls them "legends" and "legendry," not "rumors." This matches B1's word-choice, too, except that B1 calls them "legends/rumors." The term rumor was introduced for these in B1. This might suggest that JG102's system was invented first, along these terminological lines:
"legend" JG102 > "legend/rumor" B1 > "rumor" B2
Now add to this the close similarity of some of the rumors:
JG102: "The caverns go no deeper than two levels."
B1: "The complex has two levels." And: "The complex has more than one level."
JG102: "For safety, seek ye the Pool of Watery Wonders."
B1: "The treasures of Zelligar and Rogahn are safely hidden in a pool of water." And: "There is a room with many pools of water hidden within the complex."
The similarities of detail jump out at the reader. Again, one was written using the other as a model.
JG102 was published in 1979. The useful acaeum site states that there was a pre-publication version of B1 in 1978 that nobody can find today (known only because it appears in a picture), but otherwise it first became available in November of 1978, when it was included in Holmes' Basic D&D Set.
Going by the dates alone, it would seem to be settled: JG102, from 1979, closely borrows the model of B1, from November 1978. That would just show the immediate impact of B1, right?
Not necessarily! I believe that Judges Guild D&D publications had to be approved by TSR before they were released, hence receiving the label "approved for use with Dungeons & Dragons." If that's so, I suspect that the folks at TSR had a draft of The Caverns of Thracia before the latter was released, in which case Carr may have borrowed from Jaquays' work before Judges Guild published Thracia (or, was allowed to publish it?). JG102 says in its Designer's Comments that it was "designed to accommodate adventurers of the 1st and higher levels." B1 was similar, although it was intended to instruct new DMs on how to do their job, which is different from JG102.
As an author of published research, I've been plagiarized mildly by people who read drafts of my work and then published something closely related very quickly, while publication delays with presses made my own work, which was original, come out later. In the case of B1 and JG102, we are talking about less than a year of discrepancy in publication. It's entirely possible that Jaquays' legends tables (and other contents) were first, and that Mike Carr had a pre-publication copy awaiting TSR's approval. TSR didn't include an introductory adventure in their Basic Set (Holmes) until its fourth printing, November 1978. Was TSR trying to avoid letting Judges Guild beat them to a market for introductory adventures? Did the people at TSR borrow some of Jaquays' good ideas?
I think a very close comparative look at JG102 and B1 is called for. I am not going to do that here, but there are other obviously similar features deserving immediate comment, which add a little strength to the idea that Jaquays' work was first.
For example, both B1 and JG102 enumerate rooms sequentially regardless of the level, rather than beginning enumeration from 1 again on each level. But Jaquays writes explicitly that this was a novelty: "I have tried something different in the numbering system used. Instead of renumbering each time a level is changed, I have simply continued with consecutive numbers." It sounds as if Jaquays was doing something self-consciously new (different from other early modules like V1 Palace of the Vampire Queen). B1 explains how to use its number key for the novice DMs, but makes no remark about its sequential numbering as anything new. It therefore may well have been copying JG102. If Jaquays had seen it already in a well-known module released with every new Basic Set, why would she explain that she was doing "something different"?
There's another instance in which Jaquays explains the rationale of her work in a way that suggests it's original. She wrote in JG102 about how to start the adventure.
Drop a few hints and let the players take it from there asking pertinent questions of the locals and being generally nosey, a pre-requisite for all adventurers. To speed things up, the referee might want to use the section titled, The Taverns of Thracia, to randomly assign knowledge to characters.
The table of legends here is explicitly stated to take the place of a normal role-playing event: PCs asking around for information about the adventure locale. The legendry is offered "to speed things up" (again, one of the rationales for the use of a rumor table to begin with). The need for an explicit rationale suggests that it was a brand new practice.
[Yet another little novelty in Thracia, not found in B1: JG102's legend table includes two special outcomes indicating that your character happens to know a language relevant in the dungeon. This really brings home the idea that these tables were ultimately about bringing the background of the setting to life.]
As I pointed out here at the start, the dungeons themselves have similar names, too. "The Caverns of Thracia" in one, "the Caverns of Quasqueton" in the other. Both feature a first dungeon level with corridors and chambers of dressed stone and even angles, and a second dungeon level with natural caverns having irregular walls.
Which is prior, then? Thracia or Quasqueton? Which one had the 1d4/1d20 rumor table first? Both modules have had enormous impact. Both are well-regarded today. B1's Quasqueton was the starting point for many munchkins who began to play with Basic D&D sets, but Thracia became an ideal for the OSR people who revived it much later (starting with posts like this one).
I would be inclined to assume, based on the publication dates alone, that JG102, which was published later (by less than a year) borrows from B1, but the textual clues point in the other direction. If anybody knows better, please leave a comment. Can anybody ask Jennell Jaquays or Mike Carr what they remember about this?
Leave comments also if you find more genuine similarities between the two, or if you happen to know about the month-to-month publication history of JG102.
One clarification: B1 was published first. It still has the earliest published rumor table. The point here is that it may have used a few of Jaquays' written ideas months before they were published, taken from a draft copy.
(Thanks again, paleologos, for drawing my attention to JG102's table of legends.)
Alea iactanda est brought up the first Traveller Adventure to be published, The Kinunir. Turns out this may have been the module with the first Rumor table, after all.... if it was published in the first half of 1979. See the comments below. (Thank you, AIE!)