Monday, November 20, 2017
The debut issue of the Strategic Review carried the first expansions to Dungeons & Dragons to appear under TSR's imprint, including rules for solo gaming which Gygax credited to himself and George A. Lord. It can be hard to glean deeper insight into how these early systems came together, but the excerpt shown above relates a second-hand summary of Lord's initial correspondence with Gary Gygax about potential approaches to solo D&D. The account was written by Scott Rich, and it appeared in the eleventh issue of his Midgard Ltd. campaign's newsletter Midgard Sword & Shield from October 1974. Notably, Rich appends a parenthetical suggestion that has some striking similarities to the rules that TSR would imminently publish.
Thursday, November 9, 2017
This D&D advertisement dates from the first half of 1977, a stopping point when TSR would release no new material for the original Dungeons & Dragons game and hadn't yet put anything out to replace it. The body text is familiar from other contemporary advertisements, but the form given shown here let you order a white box, all the supplements, a Swords & Spells, and a subscription to bi-monthly The Dragon magazine. The cover of that magazine's first issue supplied the slayable fellow shown at the top.
Wednesday, November 1, 2017
The original Dungeons & Dragons rules invited fans to make their own additions and modifications to the system, and many early adopters took TSR up on that offer. While some of the unofficial supplements and variants they produced became classics, others fell into total obscurity. Keith Abbott's Loeran Supplement is one that received notices in many fanzines of the day, but ultimately reached a very small audience. It is of interest, however, as Loera was an early attempt to create a massively-multiplayer tabletop game: as the supplement says, "to create the first effective world-sized campaign."
Monday, October 23, 2017
There was little mainstream press dedicated to Dungeons & Dragons before the calamitous summer of 1979, and virtually none prior to 1977. This particular article by Mike Duffy is from the Detroit Free Press, from August 17, 1976, and it introduces us to D&D through the legendary Ryth campaign conducted by the Metro Detroit Gamers. It does a good job of explaining how D&D captivated early fans: as one put it, "All you can think about is the game."
Monday, October 16, 2017
From the summer of 1971, this excerpt shows the initial Wizard system developed for a game called Midgard, as disseminated through the seventh issue of Hartley Patterson's original Midgard fanzine. This issue dates a little after the release of first edition Chainmail, and a little before the additions to the Wizard rules Gygax would write up at the end of the year for the International Wargamer which divided Chainmail Wizards into level-like ranks. It is noteworthy for several historical reasons, not least for ostensibly being the earliest spell-point system.
Friday, October 6, 2017
This late-1970s variant on one of the earliest Dungeons & Dragon advertisements repeats some conventional wisdom of the day about female participation in the gaming community. But as the text suggests, D&D had the potential to be "a game which women play and enjoy equally with men." Women did take up D&D in numbers very different from prior self-identified wargames, though their integration into the community faced its share of challenges.
This advertisement could be found in the wild as a full-page in Fantastic Stories magazine, June 1977. TSR then actively targeted not just gamers but fans of fantasy fiction--by some estimates, about a third of whom at the time were women.
Saturday, July 29, 2017
This short piece "In Search of Pygmalion" from October 1974 has no byline, but it was written by Dave Arneson. It tells of an evil magician named "the GIN of Sailik" who spirits away the immortal Pygmalion. The zine it appears in, the Bel-Ran Rumormonger, was the in-character journal of Scott Rich's "Midgard Limited" game, where players would contribute background on their sections of the campaign world. As the story of the lascivious Gin and the ensorcelled Pygmalion may be familiar to fans of the Blackmoor setting, this piece provides a striking illustration of how Arneson recycled elements across the games that he played, and moreover of how hard it can be to impose firm boundaries around which game events were and were not components of a campaign like Blackmoor.