Saturday 2 March 2024

Hyboria: article by Tony Bath (1974)

Thanks to Zhu Bajiee (Realm of Zhu blog), we acquired a scan from an article written by Tony Bath about his legendary Hyboria campaign. The article appeared in the magazine "Games and Puzzles", No.23 of March/April 1974. Realm of Zhu has discussed Hyboria before, but you can also find a lot of information regarding Tony Bath's Hyboria campaign on our pages dedicated to this early instance of imaginations and wargaming.

Click here for the full scan of the article.

The possible influence, or at least the similarity, of the ideas developed by Bath and original Dungeons&Dragons as published in 1974 has been well researched, most notably by Jon Peterson in his book "Playing at the World".

This specific article is interesting, since it was published in March/April 1974 (Original D&D was published in January 1974). That means this article was written *before* Tony bath could have known about D&D, and so it gives us some insights into the mindset of how "roleplaying" was already part of the wargaming community.

The article references many of the things that are familiar to fans of Bathian wargaming: the campaign chronicle, the personalization,  tracking everything on a large map ...

I will delve deeper into some aspects in later posts, but are some quotes I found enlightening:

The participants in the world of Hyboria, however, are enabled to project themselves far deeper into their roles, and the game goes on and on, each session leading automatically to the next, and affecting what happens in that next session. Because more time is involved, much more personality and reality can be introduced.

Players are of course required to act within the limits of their Hyborian characters. If they are given the character of an upright honest man they are not allowed to play dirty tricks or behave treacherously; should they attempt to do so they would be heavily penalized. Chance can always take a hand in their affairs, and from time to time I introduce a new element, just to complicate things, such as an embezzling treasurer, or an earthquake or a civil revolt I try to be as unbiased as possible in this - or, as one player puts it, hostile to everyone!

As a relatively new player in Hyboria, I have been particularly concerned with two aspects of the game system, 'The umpire as God' and 'the player in character'. In Hyboria, everything is controlled by Tony, who makes rules so that he can take consistent decisions and we players can _plan on the basis of past history. This very flexible system can open up entirely new facets of the campaign with very little difficulty. It does have its drawbacks, since no one can be absolutely impartial. As Warlord of the Varnar Confederation, I have to remember that God is an Aquilonian!

This doesn't sound like roleplaying, it IS roleplaying!

So, perhaps Tony Bath is the true inventor of the roleplaying game after all! :-)


  1. many thanks for posting this. I have been fascinated with the concept of Tony Bath's Hyboria campaign for many years, having read what is available; great to see that it has also contributed to the early years of D&D too - I'd say modern D&D still has a lot to learn from the old school.

    1. Hyboria certainly is a "cousin" of D&D, as stated by Jon Peterson in his excellent book "Playing at the World".

  2. Thank you to you and Zhu for unearthing this and the other Hyboria source material.
    I remember first reading the series in Battle and Military Modelling and wishing I could do something similar.
    I'm aiming for a smaller C18th version using Soldier King by GDW as a basis. Still working on the armies. My chronicle of progress is on my blog; recently stalled, articles like this help in keeping the motivation going.

    1. Thanks Neil, will follow your blog as well.

  3. Tony Bath's Hyboria campaign absolutely was one of the many contributing elements that helped eventually define fantasy wargaming and from it - roleplaying games. But I also think to declare "Oh no it's THIS person who "invented" RPGs, not this other person!" is ultimately just as reductive as any other such claim.

    Nobody "invented" RPGs. Numerous hobbyists over the US and UK, over a span of nearly a decade if not longer, ended up converging on the same practices and hobby ideas that eventually got published under D&D's name. I do wish there was more written on Tony Bath's campaign. I've read Tony Bath's Ancient Wargaming, and I have seen a few references to him in the works of Jon Peterson, as you say, but I suppose I just want there to be a bit more.

    1. I agree with your remark about who invented roleplaying. My last sentence was more meant as tongue-in-cheek than anything else. It certainly has become clear over the years that many similar ideas were floating around, but that D&D was the first to publish a commercial game based on these ideas - and afterwards became very successful in exploiting this idea further.

  4. Most interesting to read . I find great inspiration in Tony Bath, his world building and his gaming. Thanks for sharing this.
    Alan Tradgardland