Dungeons & Dragons: Fantastic Medieval Wargames Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Miniature Figures is the first ever commercial release of the Dungeons & Dragons game in 1974.
It is also known officially as the Dungeons & Dragons 3-Volume Set, the Dungeons & Dragons Collector's Edition, or simply Dungeons & Dragons. Colloquially, it is referred to as the White Box, Brown Box, or Woodgrain Box. It is the first release of what is referred to as Original Dungeons & Dragons, OD&D, or 0e.
Men & Magic
Men & Magic is a 34-page booklet detailing rules for player characters, combat, and spells. Many of the iconic D&D rules used throughout later editions were first defined here.
It begins with a foreword by Gary Gygax, dated 1 November 1973, describing the game's origins in medieval wargaming, the Castles and Crusade Society, Gygax's Chainmail wargame, and its influence from the fantasy works of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, L. Sprague de Camp, and Fritz Leiber.
Men & Magic suggests that a campaign can be played between four to fifty players, with as many as twenty players per one "referee" (Dungeon Master). Such a high player ratio would be unthinkable today, and modern commentators tend to assume this refers to multiple smaller player groups within the same campaign world. However, Gary Gygax would recall that he did indeed run sessions with around twenty players at the same table, although this party size was not typical. In 2022, Tim Kask, who once ran a game with 17 players, suggested that the simpler rules of OD&D made large parties more practical than in modern D&D.
The "referee" (the Dungeon Master) is expected to design their own "underworld" (dungeon).
Only three character classes exist: Fighting-Men (which would later be known as fighter), Magic-Users (later wizard) and Clerics. Dwarves, Elves and Halflings are playable, with dwarf and halfling limited to playing Fighting-Men, and elves able to switch between Fighting-Men and Magic-Users. Humans, referred to as Men, are the default race. Rules allow for changing class.
Ability scores are rolled on 3d6, with the dice rolled by the referee, giving the original range of 3-18 for the traditional ability scores. A sample character sheet for a character named Xylarthen is shown, consisting entirely of a name, class, six ability scores, gold piece value and experience total.
Rules are presented for equipment, combat, saving throws, turn undead, spells from 1st to 6th level. Characters have named level titles, and rules are given for Fighting-Men and Clerics of up to 10th level, and Magic-Users of up to 16th, although there are no Magic-User spells above 6th level or Cleric spells above 5th level. However, a character may progress to higher levels.
The rules recommend that players own Gygax's Chainmail wargame, and refer the player to Chainmail at various points. Most notably, the game suggested the use of Chainmail for combat, although an "alternative" combat system was provided. Men & Magic noted that elves and halflings retain certain abilities from Chainmail (improved skill with magic weapons vs certain creatures, and missile weapons, respectively), although those abilities assume the player is using the Chainmail combat system. Reportedly, Gygax himself played D&D with the "alternative" combat rules, and only referenced Chainmail in the hopes of selling more copies of that game.
Monsters & Treasure
Monsters & Treasure is a 40-page booklet featuring statistics for monsters, magic items, and treasure.
The following monsters appear in this book: basilisk, black pudding, centaur, chimera, cockatrice, djinn, dragon( white, blue, green, blue, red, golden), dryad, dwarf, efreet, elemental (fire, air, earth, water) elf, gargoyle, ghoul, giant (hill giant, stone giant, frost giant, fire giant, cloud giant), gnoll, gnome, goblin, gorgon, gray ooze, green slime, griffon, hippogriff, hobgoblin, horse (light horse, medium horse, heavy horse, draft horse, mule), hydra, insects or animals (large, small), invisible stalker, kobold, lycanthropes (werewolf, wereboar, weretiger, werebear), manticore, medusa, men (bandit, berserker, brigand, dervish, nomad, buccaneer, pirate, caveman, merman), minotaur, mummy, nixie, ochre jelly, ogre, orc, pegasus, pixie, purple worm, roc, sea monster, skeleton, spectre, treant, troll, unicorn, vampire, wight, wraith, wyvern, yellow mold, and zombie.
Magic items appearing in this book are swords of up to +3 bonus and with various special abilities or bonuses against monster types, including also a -2 cursed sword; armor of up to +3 bonus; other magical weapons (arrows, daggers, a bow, axe, mace, war hammer, and spear, but no other magic weapons); potions of animal control, clairaudience, clairvoyance, delusion, diminution, dragon control, esp, fire resistance, flying, gaseous form, giant control, giant strength, growth, healing, heroism, human control, invisibility, invulnerability, levitation, longevity, plant control, poison, polymorph (self), speed, treasure finding, and undead control; scrolls of a number of spells or of protection against lycanthropes, undead, elementals, or magic, or which may be cursed; rings of invisibility, mammal control, human control, weakness, protection, three wishes, delusion, water walking, fire resistance, protection, regeneration, djinn summoning, telekinesis, x-ray vision, spell turning, spell storing, and many wishes; wands of cold, enemy detection, fear, fire balls, illusion, lightning bolts, magic detection, metal detection, negation, paralyzation, polymorph, secret doors & traps detection, and snake staff; staves of commanding, healing, power, striking, withering, and wizardry; and in the category of miscellaneous magic, the amulet vs. crystal balls and esp, bag of holding, boots of levitation, boots of speed, boots of traveling and leaping, bowl commanding water elementals, brazier commanding fire elementals, broom of flying, censer controlling air elementals, crystal ball, crystal ball with clairaudience, crystal ball with esp, displacer cloak, drums of panic, 24" range, efreet bottle, elven cloak and boots, flying carpet, gauntlets of ogre power, girdle of giant strength, helm of chaos (law), helm of reading magic and languages, helm of telepathy, helm of teleportation, horn of blasting, 10" range, medallion of esp, 3" range, medallion of esp, 9" range, mirror of life trapping, scarab of protection from evil high priests, and the stone controlling earth elementals.
It introduces the concept artifacts, described as super-powerful items of law or chaos, naming the Teleportation Machine, Fighter's Crown, Orb and Scepter, Magic-User's Crown, Orb and Scepter, Cleric's Crown, Orb and Scepter, and Stone Crystallization Projector. No statistics for these items are given.
It also presents treasure maps, weapons with intelligence or alignment, and valuables such as gemstones, jewelry, and coins of precious metals.
The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures
The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures is a 36-page booklet consisting of advice on running RPGs. It begins with the process of building and mapping a multi-layer "underworld" or dungeon, citing the example of Gygax's Greyhawk Castle, having more than a dozen lvels with further branches.
It describes the Wilderness, unexplored overland, recommending the separate game Outdoor Survival to simulate this purpose. It has rules for castle and prices for constructing and maintaining castles, and rules for sailing ships.
Reference sheets were included which reprint tables such as spell lists, item costs, the saving throw matrix, and the magic item table. The number of reference pages varies between six and twelve in different printings, although these all contain the same information.
The second and third printings included a Correction Sheet with errata.
The origin of Dungeons & Dragons can be primarily traced to the miniature wargaming hobby, of which designers Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson were both players, and fantasy fiction of the mid 20th Century.
Gygax began wargaming in 1958, and would go on to co-found the International Federation of Wargaming in 1967. Around February or March 1970, the Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association (LGTSA) was founded, whose members included Gary Gygax and Jeff Perren.
Wargaming at this time was dominated by Napoleonic and modern warfare simulations. When the LGTSA acquired a number of Elastolin brand medieval miniatures, Jeff Perren devised a set of rules for medieval miniatures, which were revised by Gygax and printed in the April 1970 issue of the fanzine Panzerfaust, later also appearing in the Castle & Crusade Society newsletter Domesday Book, issue 5 (July 1970).
In 1970, Gygax expanded on these rules to create the medieval wargame Chainmail, published by Guidon Games in 1971. Chainmail included a Fantasy Supplement, providing optional rules for fantasy creatures and magic. Gygax's Fantasy Supplement draws substantial influence from Leonard Patt's Rules For Middle Earth, published in New England Wargamers Association newsletter The Courier in 1970. Chainmail also included "Man-to-Man" combat rules for simulating small-scale combat where one miniature represented a single man.
Chainmail's introduction of fantasy elements to a hobby previously known for historical accuracy initially proved controversial. One LGTSA member quit over it, while co-author Jeff Perren was unimpressed.
In his early years as a game designer, Gygax worked a full-time job while writing and gaming in his spare time. At one point he worked on games after 10pm for a few hours each night and slept only 5 hours.
Arneson's Blackmoor campaign
Gary Gygax met Dave Arneson at the first official Gen Con, held on August 24, 1968. After the publication of Chainmail in 1971, Arneson became a player of the wargame, which he used to play an ongoing campaign where each player controlled one character.
In 1972, Arneson and Dave Megary visited Lake Geneva to demonstrate Arneson's Blackmoor and Megary's Dungeon! board game, both of which drew influence from Chainmail. Megarry sought a publisher for Dungeon!, and Gygax, chief editor for Chainmail publisher Guidon Games, seemed a logical choice.
Gygax was impressed by Blackmoor, and adapted it into his own version, which he first playtested with his son Ernie and his daughter Elise, at the time 12 and 10 years old respectively. He ran a campaign on the first level of what would become Castle Greyhawk, which was well received, and started work on a second dungeon level. Rob Kuntz, Terry Kuntz and Don Kaye joined the playtest group.
Arneson sent Gygax around twenty pages of hand-written notes detailing his rules. Gygax, who had expected a complete set of rules, would later describe Arneson's submissions as "nothing usable", and he rewrote the entire rules himself; he would cite an interview in Different Worlds #3 to show that Arneson agrees Gygax wrote every word. Nevertheless, Arneson's initial contributions were significant enough to guarantee him a join creator credit on the final work, and surviving notes from Arneson's Blackmoor dated to 1972 show influence in OD&D.
The initial 50-page draft took Gygax around two weeks to write, around November 1972. Gygax would cite his Chainmail rules as a substantial influence. He then sent drafts to around twenty members of Gygax's wargaming groups (the IWF, Castle & Crusade Society, and LGTSA), who were primarily college students at the time, for playtesting and review. Recipients of these early drafts were members of the . It received a great deal of feedback, overwhelmingly positive. 
Two months later, or around early spring 1973, Gygax revised the original draft and expanded it to around 150 pages, creating roughly the format of the three booklets. He then mailed out playtesting and review copies of this version to about twice as many players as the first version. Gygax would at one point describe extending the rules to around 100 pages.
By late spring of 1973, 100 or more sessions of the game had been played.
At least two surviving copies of pre-publication rules exist. The first is referred to as the Dalluhn Manuscript, named for discoverer Keith Dalluhn, consisting of two booklets. The second is known as the Mornard Fragments, 24 pages of rules given by Gygax to Mike Mornard in summer 1973. Thorough analysis by D&D historian Jon Peterson suggests significant influence from both Blackmoor and Chainmail in these early documents.
Due in part to budgetary constraints, most of the art was provided by amateur artists. Artists credited in Men & Magic are Keenan Powell, Greg Bell, C. Corey, Dave Arneson, Tom Keogh, and Dave Sutherland.
The cover art for the box set, depicting a warrior on horseback, was provided by Greg Bell, a teenage wargamer and member of the Castle & Crusade Society. Bell submitted the artwork late in the product's development, Gygax complaining in a letter dated December 27, 1973 that the art was not in yet. Bell substantially copied this work from Strange Tales #167 (Apr 1968), page 11, and it would be replaced with another artwork. Other artworks Bell based on this comic issue include the barbarian on Men & Magic p.16, the dungeon scene on the back cover of Monsters & Treasure, and the swordsman captioned "FIGHT ON!" in The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures p.36. Other works of his in the box set were likewise referenced from comics.
The werewolf artwork from Monsters & Treasure p.20 was an old work drawn by Tom Keogh, a childhood friend of Gary Gygax who passed away before the book was published. In mid-January, Dave Arneson and other friends submitted last minute art, including Arneson's drawing of the purple worm. Keenan Powell's art is dated to June and July 1973.
While writing on the first and second drafts, D&D was known by the working title of The Fantasy Game. He had not yet decided on a name, and wanted to keep it secret until the game was ready to release.
The name Dungeons & Dragons was chosen by Gygax's daughter, Cindy Gygax. In the summer of 1973, he compiled two lists of potential titles, with "Dungeons" on one list and "Dragons" on the other. The names in column 1 were able to stand alone, while the column 2 were able to combine with names from column 2. Gygax read the list to his players, who liked the names "Dungeons" and "Dragons. Gygax recalls that Cindy clapped her hands and exclaimed "Oh daddy, I like Dungeons & Dragons best!", and Gygax went with this selection.
On October 1, 1973, Gary Gygax formed Tactical Studies Rules with close friend Don Kaye, named for the Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association of which they were members. Kaye borrowed $1,000 against his life insurance policy to fund the company's articles of incorporation and the printing of the company's first game.
In order to fund the first print run of the Dungeons & Dragons 3-Volume Set, TSR first produced the single-volume 36-page rulebook Cavaliers and Roundheads, released in October 1973. This product was less successful than hoped, turning a profit of only $700 by the end of the year. Printing costs for Dungeons & Dragons, initially estimated at $2,000, ended up running to almost $3,000, leaving TSR unable to fund the publication. In December 1973, TSR secured $2,000 from fellow LGTSA member Brian Blume in exchange for equal partnership in the company.
The art budget for the box set was around $100, with most sourced from amateur artists. Artists were paid between $2 and $3 per drawing, with an additional $2-3 for every 1,000 copies printed.
Dungeons & Dragons was first printed late in January 1974 by Lake Geneva company Graphic Printing, who were hired by Tactical Studies Rules to print 1,000 copies at a cost of $2,300. Gary Gygax and others personally hand-assembled the sets in his home. The Acaeum suggests that the first printing may not have been generally available for purchase until the second quarter of 1974.
Dungeons & Dragons initially appeared in a woodprint-pattern box with cover art of a man on horseback, which also appeared on the cover of Men & Magic. It would later be discovered this art was traced without permission from Strange Tales #167 (Apr 1968), page 11, and would be changed in later printings. The decision to use a woodgrain pattern box was based on the ready availability of such boxes at the printing company. Likewise, the decision to print in a three booklet format was based on what types of paper were available and how many pages the printing company could staple together. Previous rulebooks, such as Chainmail, were printed in a stapled single-booklet format.
The first printing took eleven months to sell out. Gygax considered this a moderate success and a good start.
Dungeons & Dragons was reprinted several times, and grew in popularity. A second printing of 1,000 copies was made in January 1975, which included an errata sheet, and sold out in just under six months. In April 1975, a third print run of 2,000 copies was made with Heritage Models of Dallas, Texas, which sold out in five months. Gygax would later suggest higher values for these print runs, though D&D historian Jon Peterson argues that these later figures are inconsistent with contemporary sources and probably incorrect. The Strategic Review #2 (Summer 1975) advertised the errata sheet as included with the latest printing and available separately by mail order.
A fourth printing of 5,000 copies was made in November 1975. This changed from woodgrain design to a white box (hence the set's nickname of the White Box), largely because the woodgrain cardstock was no logner available. The fourth printing also changed the box art, likely due to the plagiarism issue. A fifth printing made between Dec 1975 and Apr 1976 changed the typeface to be easier to read.
A sixth printing in 1977 was labeled the Original Collector's Edition to differentiate it from the Basic Set (Holmes) (1977) released that year, and removed several references elements to the works of Tolkien (e.g. ents, hobbits). A seventh printing is believed to have been made between 1978 and 1979.
Some copies of the box set were assembled from different printings. For example, at one point when assembling the third, fourth or fifth printing, staff discovered a forgotten box of reference sheets from the second printing, and included these.
In 1979, Gygax cited estimates that pirate copies of Dungeons & Dragons amounted to between 20% and 50% of sales. TSR later had an employee seize pirate copies of Dungeons & Dragons products at conventions.
Wizards of the Coast reprint
In 2013, the 3-Volume Set was given a digital reprint by Wizards of the Coast. It featured new cover art and minor corrections, such as removing a leftover mention of "hobbit", as well as an updated copyright notice.
Reception and influence
Influence on later games and works
- Main article: Influence of Dungeons & Dragons
In the preface to the Player's Handbook (5e) (2014), Mike Mearls cites that "almost every modern game, whether played on a digital device or a tabletop, owes some debt to D&D". YouTube game design analyst Mark Brown describes D&D as arguably "the single most influential game of all time".
Dungeons & Dragons pioneered and popularized the tabletop roleplaying game, establishing what would become entire genre. Numerous subsequent roleplaying games have been released since, including medieval fantasy (Tunnels & Trolls, Ars Magica, Dungeon World) and other genres (Call of Cthulhu, Shadowrun, Paranoia); see Wikipedia's List of role-playing games.
D&D inspired the popular roleplaying game (RPG) genre of video games. English-language games like Wizardry, and Ultima (1981) went on to inspire the Japanese roleplaying game (JRPG) subgenre, cited as influences by the creators of popular franchises Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest.
Outside of RPGs, numerous video game genres can trace their influence to D&D, often via mechanics introduced by D&D and popularized through the videogame RPG genre. Such genres include the first-person shooter (Doom was inspired the creator's D&D game, featured hit point mechanics, and focused on exploration); MOBAs (via Warcraft 3, via Warhammer); roguelikes (via Rogue); soulslikes (via Dark Souls, whose creators were inspired by JRPGs and Fighting Fantasy gamebooks); and even the visual novel genre (tracing their lineage to text adventures inspired in part by D&D). Popular video game mechanics introduced by D&D include character class, hit points, healing, experience, level up, numeric ability scores, randomized damage, and dungeon exploration.
In December 2016, a copy of the first printing was sold for $22,100, the highest price ever paid for any non-unique retail D&D product.
- Original D&D Set at The Acaeum
- OD&D Dungeons & Dragons Original Edition (0e) at DriveThruRPG
- OD&D Dungeons & Dragons Original Edition (0e) at Dungeon Masters Guild
- Curmudgeon in the Cellar XLV, 3m30s. Tim Kask, YouTube. Aug 18, 2018.
- Let's Read the Original D&D From 1974!, Apr 13, 2022. The Alexandrian, YouTube. 39m 13s.
- "For about six months the typical number of players in an adventure session in my basement was 18-22 persons packed in. That was when I asked Rob Kuntz to serve as my co-DM. [...] I DMed a con tournament with 100 entrants, and i managed 20 in each group." Q&A with Gary Gygax, page 124. ENWorld, Feb 14, 2005.
- The Curmudgeon in the Cellar #211, Apr 16, 2022. Tim Kask, YouTube. 32m 20s.
- Original D&D Set at The Acaeum
- Errata Orig at The Acaeum
- Q&A with Gary Gygax, page 40. ENWorld, Jan 31, 2003.
- The LGTSA Medieval Miniatures Rules. Playing at the World blog, Aug 5, 2012.
- Q&A with Gary Gygax, page 286. ENWorld, Jul 2, 2006.
- A Precursor to the Chainmail Fantasy Supplement. Playing at the World blog, Jan 20, 2016.
- Q&A with Gary Gygax, page 57. ENWorld, Apr 6, 2003.
- Q&A with Gary Gygax, page 241. ENWorld, Oct 16, 2005.
- Q&A with Gary Gygax, page 47. ENWorld, Mar 11, 2003.
- Q&A with Gary Gygax, page 193. ENWorld, Jul 3, 2005.
- "Credit Dave Arneson and Dave Megary (designer of the Dungeon! boardgame) with my concentrating on subterranean settings for the D&D game. The contained adventuring environment was perfect for establishing fixed encounters before a game session, and for developing progressively more hazardous ones as the PCs grew in their capacity to manage them." Q&A with Gary Gygax, page 283. ENWorld, Jun 27, 2006.
- The Dalluhn Manuscript: A Pre-Publication Edition of Dungeons & Dragons
- Q&A with Gary Gygax, page 46. ENWorld, Mar 10, 2003.
- The Dalluhn Manuscript: In Detail and On Display. Playing at the World blog, April 12, 2013.
- Q&A with Gary Gygax, page 7. ENWorld, Sep 5, 2002.
- Gygax variously refers to the number of original recipients as one or two dozen (12-24), or a score (20), and to the 150-page playtest group as consisting of all the original playtest group plus a dozen more, or twice as many as the original group.
- Gary Gygax's 1973 D&D Working Draft. Playing at the World blog, December 31, 2013. Updated December 28, 2015.
- Art & Arcana, p.23-26.
- Q&A with Gary Gygax, page 22. ENWorld, Sep 29, 2002.
- Art & Arcana, p.26.
- Playing at the World, by Jon Peterson. Chapter 1.11: The Fantasy Game.
- Playing at the World, by Jon Peterson. Note #149.
- Profiles: Gary Gygax, Dragon #103 (Nov 1985), p.56.
- A letter from Gygax to Arneson in March 1974 says: "Seeing as how you and I each make a buck on a retail sale by TSR we have to be dreaming up ways to promote same! Get to work!" Playing at the World, Jon Peterson. Chapter 5.1: Finding an Audience.
- Playing at the World, Jon Peterson. Chapter 5.5: The Seeds of Success.
- Curmudgeon in the Cellar #81, 17m0s. Tim Kask, YouTube. Jun 1, 2019.
- View From the Telescope Wondering Which End is Which, Dragon #11 (Dec 1977), p.5.
- Dungeons & Dragons: What it is and Where it is Going, Dragon #2 (Aug 1976), p.29.
- Playing at the World, Jon Peterson. Note #874. Peterson cites a letter dated December 17, 1975, written by Gygax to George Phillies.
- "That's when some of the serious collectors found out that we produced "frankensteins". We sent out boxes with the three books in it that weren't all necessarily from the same printing." The Centenary Curmudgeon in the Cellar, 21m 50s. Tim Kask, YouTube. November 17, 2019.
- "Poor Jim Ward had the duty, after I last at TSR, at several conventions, to be the dick who went around and took away photocopied copies of stuff from people. TSR was the dick, and they made him do it." Curmudgeon in the Cellar #94, 2m40s. Tim Kask, YouTube. Sept 7, 2019.
- Original Dungeons & Dragons RPG, Wizards.com.
- Design Icons: The Birth of the Japanese RPG. Game Maker's Toolkit, Jul 8, 2020.
|Original Dungeons & Dragons|
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|Greyhawk • Blackmoor • Eldritch Wizardry • Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes • Swords & Spells|