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Real History of the Red Dragon Inn

The following is a history timeline of the Red Dragon Inn and AOL's former Free Form Gaming Forum, with a few highlights of general AOL milestones thrown in as well. If you have something noteworthy to add, please send it to us.


1985-1991: Quantum Computers launches Q-Link, an online service. (Quantum's AppleLink and PCLink are launched soon after.) In Q-Link's chat area, the People Connection, is a room named "The Red Dragon Inn." (Its initials, RDI, form the basis for the name, RhyDIn.) In 1991, the rights to AppleLink are sold back to Apple Computer, and in November of that year, PCLink and AppleLink are renamed America Online (AOL). Also in 1991 Quantum Computer Services officially changes its name to America Online, Inc. In February of 1991 the DOS version of AOL is launched, built on the GEOS GUI engine.

On Q-link, the RDI is run by the Phantasy Guild. As one understands, it is much like an IRC room today—except the technology is different and the crowd is much smaller and more unified. When AOL is formed, many features found on Q-Link are brought over, including the chat area, the People Connection. And with it comes the Red Dragon Inn, along with the limit of 23 people in the chat room. Q-Link remains a separate entity (running on the same server) until it is shut down in 1994.

RDI Marv is the first supervisor of the RDI area. When RDI Kairee, one of the first hosts for the RDI on AOL takes over as supervisor of the area, she gives it the name Free-Form Gaming Forum.

From 1992-1993: The first real growth occurs with the introduction of the first Windows-based version of AOL in January of 1993. By December AOL passes the 500,000 member mark. Rates drop from $6 an hour to $3, and the daytime surcharges are eliminated. Still, the RDI is very small and most patrons know each other or at least know of each other. It is during the latter stages of this period that RDI Main becomes difficult to enter on peak hours, and rollover RDI rooms emerge in the People Connection list (RDI1, RDI2, etc. all the way to RDI13 sometimes!).

In mid to late 1992, Duel of Swords, a matrix-based game similar to playing rock-paper-scissors which originated on Q-Link, starts up in the RDI. In 1993 it is given its own room on the People Connection menu and is hosted on a regular basis. Not too long after, RDI Panthr begins hosting a new game in the Dreamweaver's Lair, Duel of Fists. In January of 1995 the first match of Duel of Magic is held, introduced by RDI Klytus.

August 16, 1994: AOL reaches the 1 million member mark.

1994-1995: sees the beginnings of the Guild movement. FOES, SOULS, Crystal Fortress, all begin during this period, and another surge of growth in early 1995 fills these factions with recruits hungry to learn how to RP. During this time, RP shifts into two divided factions of dice- and rules-based play and free-form. In early 1995 RDI Panthr and RDI Sam are brought in as Forum Assistants to help manage the quickly growing FFGF.

February 21, 1995: AOL reaches the 2 million member mark.

July 6, 1995: AOL reaches the 3 million member mark.

December 28, 1995: AOL reaches the 4.5 million member mark.

Late 1995-96:The guilds up their stakes by creating the many Guild Forums still existing today. RWC is the first of these, but many follow soon after. These are more organized, and larger groups deepen the divide between dice and free-form play, as each insist the other conform to their "rules".

"The Duels", as the three are commonly known, as get their own conference rooms and hosts, becoming a sub-forum under the FFGF.

1996: In February, AOL hits the 5 million subscriber mark. In May it hits 6 Million, and in July AOL announces the 20/20 plan. Twenty hours for $20. By October 1 it announces the service is going to a flat rate, and as of December 1, AOL's new rate is $19.95 a month, unlimited access.

April 1996: RDI Kairee "retires" and RDI Panthr is named the new forum supervisor.

This change opens a floodgate, and new players swamp the RDI. For many, the place becomes intolerable, and many of the member rooms gain popularity. There have been related member rooms almost from the beginning. But, with the deluge of new players, older players find their game lost in a sea of ignorance (which is not stupidity but sometimes no less frustrating in quantity).

April 8, 1996: Nomad opens a folder on the FFGF message board entitled "What Is Good Roleplaying." It would later be renamed several times until settling on "Players Assisting Players."

December 1996: After a 30-day trial period, the FFGF permanently bans the use of dice in the Red Dragon Inn, Great Hall, Dragon's Lair, and the dueling rooms. A new area, Realms of Chance, with a hosted chat room, forums, file library and other resources is opened to cater to those wishing to use dice as part of their RP.

July 1, 1996: AOL Releases WinAOL V3.0

January 20, 1997: RDI Panthr announces the creation of the Realms of Chance by holding a contest to name the new chat room that will be a part of this FFGF sub-forum.

March 13, 1997: The Last Chance Saloon, part of the new Realms of Chance, opens for the first time, hosted by RDI Sam.

June 1997: RDI Panthr steps down, and RDI Sam becomes the fourth Supervisor of the FFGF.

September 2, 1997: AOL reaches the 9 million member mark.

November 17, 1997: AOL reaches the 10 million member mark. AOL International soon passes the 1 million member mark.

December 30, 1998: AOL reaches the 15 million member mark.

December 17, 1999: AOL reaches the 20 million member mark.

2000: Sometime around the mid to the latter part of the year 2000, the Games Channel (run by EA) picks up several gaming forums on AOL that had previously come under the banner of the Arts and Entertainment People Connection rooms. At this time, the Games Channel chooses not to sponsor (or produce, as the term is in the industry) the Red Dragon Inn, Stars End Bar, Gateway Station and the three Duels (there may be others I'm not remembering here). After a desperate search for sponsorship to keep the areas open for the players, the new People's Connection Games takes over these areas, leaving the rooms open and hosted in the A&E People Connection room listing.

October 24, 2000: AOL reaches the 25 million member mark.

2001: In February of 2001, People's Connection Games, seemingly at the behest of many who posted in OOC boards of the Free-Form areas over the years, moves the RDI, Stars End Bar, Gateway Station and the Duels to conference rooms. These rooms hold a capacity of 48 as opposed to the 23 accommodated by the A&E listed rooms. They also create the Red Dragon Inn Keep, a supposedly "more cerebral" RP room that allows no in-character fighting and is meant to be the RDI's "advanced RP setting". The A&E room of the Red Dragon Inn is left in place, though, and goes unhosted, eventually becoming a general mish-mosh of people who no longer really know what the room is for or about.

June 25, 2001: AOL reaches the 30 million member mark.

October 16, 2001: Version 7.0 of AOL is released. There are 2.5 million downloads in the first five days.

2002: In the early fall of 2002 the Games Channel (run by EA) decide they wanted the areas back that they had previously passed on. All the areas remain in the conference rooms and the A&E RDI remains unhosted. A couple months later, AOL begins the push for the Groups@aol and many can see the writing on the wall.

October 15, 2003: Version 8.0 of AOL is released.

2003: Mid March of 2003 the players and hosts of the Free-Form/Duels, Word and Trivia, and Wargames/Play-by-mail areas are informed that at the end of the month these areas are being converted to "member-run, member-managed" games, and they will no longer be hosted in chat or on the boards. EA continues to "produce" these areas, and states that they will continue to support them. Though, what support remains is a far cry from anything cohesive or coherent of years past. It also means that our areas cannot seek another sponsor on AOL in order to return to a hosted environment with tools and information readily at hand for those new to the games.

October 15, 2002: Version 9.0 of AOL is released.

2004: After the hosts are removed from the RDI, many players abandon the area, leaving it for folks who don't know the history or the purpose of the room to take over. However, some (thankfully) can't let go. A few members try to go in and host on their own time. Others save bits and pieces of what was the RDIF and turn it in to a member mail list group. RDI Fayalki is instrumental in much of this, and when AOL agrees to bring some hosts back to the "member run" RDI, he is chosen by a consensus of long time forum participants to be the spokesperson for the group.

Summer 2004: A few hosts return to the RDI conference room. While there continue to (and probably always will) be issues to deal with, the room begins to hit 20 or even more than 30 participants on a nightly basis.

December 2004: AOL debuts its Web-based message boards, which include the RDI Group's area. The new boards are accessible to AOL members from the Web by going through www.aol.com, or from inside AOL at Keyword MESSAGE BOARDS. Meanwhile, AOL's proprietary boards mirror the content found on the Web. No word is given as to when the AOL boards will be phased out.

January 5, 2005: AOL drops another bomb on the roleplaying community when it announces that community leaders hosting member-run areas will be stripped of their tools. On January 10, RDI hosts sign on to find they no longer have the means necessary to gag unruly members in chat or remove disruptive message board posts. CLs are told that they are to continue in their roles by providing a "model" of behavior for members to emulate.

January 22, 2005: RDI Fayalki steps down as spokesperson for the RDI Group and, 7½ years after leaving FFGF management, RDI Panther once again leads the Red Dragon Inn community.

June 8, 2005: AOL discontinues the Community Leader program.

June 20, 2005: RDI Panther and a staff of volunteers launch Dragon's Mark, a community-supported project envisioned as the premier free form role-playing site on the Web. Dragon's Mark is comprised of its anchor setting, the Red Dragon Inn, along with four affiliate sites: Denizens of RhyDin, the Dueling Zone, Rings of Honor and the Temple of Divine Light.

July 12, 2005: RDI Panther resigns as "spokesperson" for the RDI Group. The Red Dragon Inn, as developed as part of Dragon's Mark continues providing a cross-genre setting based upon and under the Red Dragon Inn name. Services offered include hosting for the AOL member room, a web-chat based area, and message forums for both IC and OOC postings.

March 16, 2007: After nearly a year in the planning, the first 'non-RhyDin' offering for FFRP option opens for Dragon's Mark as Pharos Station goes live to the public.

May 28, 2007: Just before turning two, prompted by the success of the Red Dragon Inn, Dragon's Mark moves to an upgraded server setting. The RDI continues to grow, and the new, non-shared server hosting is needed to meet the growing demands.

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