A semi-brief history of D&D and some other RPGs: 1967-1979

Now substantially revised. Thanks to everyone for their input.


Braunstein is developed and refereed by David Wesely. A war game scenario of an assault on a European town in which each player would play a single charecter and some players would not command troops but have other roles; this would inadvertently become what some consider the first RPG. Dave Arneson would participate, including in a Latin America version of the game.


Gary Gygax and the Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association host the first “Gen Con”, a war-gaming convention, in Lake Geneva Wisconsin.

Gygax launches the Doomesday Book newsletter for the Castle and Crusaders Society, a division of the International Federation of Wargaming, to discuss medieval miniature wargames. Arneson would be an early subscriber.


Dave Arneson creates the first fantasy role playing campaign: Blackmoor.


Chainmail Rules for Medieval Miniatures by Gygax and Perren published by Guidon Games. Includes rules for man to man combat and a fantasy supplement that would be expanded in a 1972 second edition. The fantasy supplement allows monsters, magic use, and heroic and Tolkienesque characters to be added to the battle. Previewed in the Doomsday Book, Arneson would use these rules for his fantasy campaign.


Arneson and Gygax meet at Gen Con and collaborate on the “Fantasy Game”.


With the help of youngest daughter Cindy, Gygax names the Fantasy Game “Dungeons and Dragons”. He fails to find a publisher.


Gygax quits his job as an insurance salesmen to focus on game design, and repairs shoes in his basement to supplement his income. He continues to try to find publishers for the Fantasy Game.

Tactical Studies Rules founded by Gygax and Don Kaye.


Brian Blume becomes a partner in Tactical Studies Rules.

Dungeons & Dragons by Gygax and Arneson published by Tactical Studies Rules. This game, the first RPG, is nominally meant to be used with Chainmail. It includes six abilities, classes (fighting man, magic-user, and cleric), races (human, elf, dwarf, and halfling), levels, hit points, (daily fire and forget) spells, AC (Defense as damage avoidance), saving throws, alignment, monsters, treasure and dungeon and wilderness based adventure. In addition to Tolkien and wargamming—spells as artillery—the game and its supplements would draw on decades of fantasy fiction, ancient and medieval history, mythology and even movies and television. The work of Robert E Howard, Jack Vance, Poul Anderson, Fritz Lieber, and Edgar Rice Burroughs would be particularly influential.



Don Kaye, 37, suffers a fatal heart attack and his widow dissolves Tactical Studies Rules. Gygax and Blume found TSR Hobbies inc.

Dungeon! by Megarry et al. published by TSR. Megarry was one of Arneson’s players and had already started work on this board game before D&D was published. In it the elf, wizard, hero, and superhero would move about the dungeon fighting monsters and finding treasure. It would remain in print for many years.

En Garde! by Hanny and Chadwick published by Games Designer Workshop. Rules for dueling with score tracked through social rank and some non-combat content that could be construed as making it the second RPG. However, this honor is sometimes reserved for…

Tunnels and Trolls by St. Andre is published by Flying Buffalo. The other second RPG, it had many common elements with D&D, but adds opposed rolls and armor as damage reduction. Was notable for a significantly lighter tone and would eventually allow for solo play and play by mail.

Empire of the Petal Throne by Barker published by TSR. Based on D&D, but with a distinctive and unique sci-fi fantasy setting, the first in an RPG.

Greyhawk, D&D Supplement I, by Gygax and Kuntz published by TSR. Its adds variable damage by weapon type, the paladin and thief classes, and the first percentile die based skill system in an RPG. A number of iconic spells and monsters also included.

Blackmoor, D&D Supplement II, by Arneson, published by TSR. Includes the monk and assassin classes, rules for underwater play, the first published adventure (Temple of the Frog) but also some additions that would not last in D&D, including an elaborate hit location system.

Boothill by Blume and Gygax published by TSR games. Focused on gun fighting, the game did have rules for advancement and can be considered the first non-fantasy RPG. It would also be one of the first to use primarily d10s and percentile based skills. The 1979 2nd edition would include counters and an early battle mat.


The Strategic Review, which covers both D&D and other games, is launched by TSR.

Alarums and Excursions is started by Gold. The first fanzine (or technically collection of zines) and first periodical focused exclusively on RPG. It would reflect a “West Coast” sensibility and freely deviate from D&D rules and conventions, with articles from Hargrave, Perrin, Simbalist's, and Backhaus developing into new games in the coming years. A&E--still in print by Lee Gold--would be followed by the Dungeoneer in 76 a multitude of other semi-amateur publications.


Bunnies and Burrows by Sustare and Robinson produced by Fantasy Games Unlimited. Players play intelligent rabbits. Inspired by Watership Down, B&B Included rules for a number of non-combat activities. Considered innovative and playable, it was still looked down on by many gamers. FGU would go on to produce a number of RPGs, and eventually have over a dozen in print at one time. Most were notably more complex and serious in tone then B&B.


Fantasy Line miniatures by Mier produced by Ral Partha. Ral Partha would grow from a hobbyist to a professional operation by 1979 and produce vast numbers of fantasy miniatures. Grenadier and Minifigs (which would briefly have the license to produce D&D miniatures) would soon follow with their own lines of fantasy miniatures.

Eldritch Wizardry, D&D Supplement III, by Gygax and Blume, published by TSR. Includes the druid as a player class, demons—including Demogorgon and Orcus—artifacts, and psionics.

Gods, Demigods, and Heroes, D&D Supplement IV, by Kuntz and Ward, published by TSR. A first attempt to add divine and legendary beings to the game. Draws from Greek, Norse, Egyptian and other mythology but also Michael Moorcocks Melnibonéan Mythos.


Swords and Spells by Gygax and Sutherland published by TSR. The last “little brown book” for D&D, this set of miniature rules was not particularly successful, and would be out of print before Chainmail, now being published by TSR.

Metamorphosis Alpha by Ward published by TSR. The first science fiction RPG (albeit of a soft sort). Players are mutants or humans exploring a massive space ship many years after some distant catastrophe cut it off from civilization.

The Dragon magazine, edited by Kask, launched by TSR. Replacing the Strategic Review, The Dragon focuses mostly on D&D but also covers other games and will include fiction and game and book reviews. While it will have “official” material and regular contributors, the great majority of the content is from independent submissions.

City State of the Invincible Overlord by Bledsaw and Owen (self) published by Judges Guild. For use with D&D and first published by an informal agreement, Judges Guild would later receive a license from TSR and its massively detailed and supported (by the standards of the time) Wilderlands of High Fantasy would be the first published campaign setting for D&D.

The first free standing adventures: Palace of the Vampire Queen, published by Wee Warriors and distributed by TSR, and an early Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth by Gygax, published by Metro Detroit Games for Wintercon V.

TSR takes over management of Gen Con.

Arneson Leaves TSR.

Brian and Kevin Blume gain majority control of TSR.


Dungeons and Dragons Basic Set by Holmes published by TSR. This box set contains a single rule book, dice (except in 79, when the oil shortage led chits to be used instead) and and the Dungeon Geomorphs and Monster and Treasure Assortment (which would also be sold separately). . Later printings would instead include an adventure (first B1 then B2 as noted below). It focuses on levels 1-3 and is meant to lead into the forthcoming Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game.

Traveller by Miller published by Game Designers Workshop. A skill based game set in the far future with star ships and other sci-fi elements mixed with almost anachronistic weapons and other equipment. Notable for a character generation system that would map out the character’s career to date—if they lived that long.

Chivalry and Sorcery by Simbalist and Backhaus published by Fantasy Games Unlimited. One of the first of many games created in response to D&Ds lack of realism, C&S was more complex and more closely tied to its medieval and Arthurian source material, while still retaining elements of Tolkien’s familiar fantasy (so much so that some had to be removed in latter printings for copy right reasons).

White Dwarf magazine launched by Games Workshop. Games Workshop, founded by John Peake, Ian Livingstone, and Steve Jackson (of the UK) in 75. GW also received the license to produce D&D in the UK and for many years White Dwarf would have articles for that and other role playing game. It would open its first retail shop the following year and receive licenses for Call of Cthulhu, Runequest, and other games.

The Arduin Grimoire is self-published by Hargrave. The first of three (then 9) in the series, this was clearly a supplement to D&D, and TSR would sue to have direct references removed (which Hargrave whited-out in early editions). It would introduce new races, classes, spells, monsters, magic items, game mechanics, cross-genre elements, many, many random tables and of course its own Arduin setting.


Monster Manual by Gygax published by TSR. The first hard back RPG book and the first book for the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game. This compendium of 350 monsters would mix original D&D conventions with AD&D ones, like the 9-point alignment system (introduced in Dragon). It would remain in print for 12 years.


Runequest by Perrin and Stafford is published by Chaosium. A fantasy RPG notable for its original setting of Glorantha, the game was built around percentile based skills with a detailed combat system that included (workable) critical hits and hit locations.

Players Handbook by Gygax published by TSR. The second AD&D hardback, this would compile the classes, races, spells, armor and weapons from the original game, the supplements, and Dragon and the Strategic Review, and also included new material. while excluding some of the more unusual bits (like all the references to human sacrifice in Eldritch Wizardry). It would also be presented as more authoritative then freewheeling (original) D&D, in part to support tournament play. AD&D would also be considered a "distinct" game, created by Gygax and TSR. Appendices included the dual class only bard, psionics, and a brief descriptions of the 22 known planes of existence.


First adventures published by TSR. These include B1: In Search of the Unknown by Carr (included in the Basic Set) and 7 by Gygax: G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, G2 Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl, G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King, D1 Descent into the Depths of the Earth, D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa, D3 Vault of the Drow and S1 Tomb of Horrors. The D series would of course introduce the influential drow, evil dark skined, light haired elves living deep beneath the dearth.

Gamma World by Ward and Jaquet published by TSR. Set in the 25th century 100 years after a devastating nuclear holocaust, players would play humans and various mutants with strange powers and, if they were lucky, hi-tech weapons looking for artifacts (treasure) and fighting strange mutated races (monsters). Gamma World does not have classes, but does have six abilities, race, many matrices and tables (including for random mutations) and an XP system, albeit of less import then in D&D.

TSR’s sales grow exponentially, staff doubles, and the company moves into a much bigger headquarters in downtown Lake Geneva.


Dungeon Masters Guide by Gygax published by TSR. This mammoth third AD&D hardback would include rules and guidance on running the game supplemented with a plethora of charts and supporting material. This included the famous appendix N, listing inspirational reading, and table to determine the particular member of the oldest profession one might encounter.

B2 Keep on the Borderlands & T1 Village of Hommlet by Gygax and S2 White Plume Mountain by Schick published by TSR. B2 would be included in the D&D Basic Set.

Villains and Vigilantes by Herman and Dee published by Fantasy Games Unlimited. The first supers RPG to be—relatively—widely played, the character was to be similar to the player, but with random super powers. Jeff Dee is also an artist who would do the illustrations for this and other games, including D&D.

Bushido by Hume and Charrette (self) published by Tyr Games. Set in a semi-mythical feudal Japan, for years this would be the main game for “Oriental” adventures. Appropriately, honor and social status are key measures of success. FGU would reprint in 1981, when they would also publish the other RPG covering the same genre, Land of the Rising Sun.

Adventures in Fantasy by Arneson and Snider published by Excalibre games. A possible alternative D&D that may have been closer to Dave Arneson’s own Blackmoor game (Snider was one of his long time players), this three book set would have two classes: warriors or magic users, and a spell point based magic system. The six stats/ability scores would be percentile based and the games combat would be more complex then D&D and include hit locations—seen in the Blackmoor supplement. It would also introduce the setting of “Bleakwood”. In spite of its authors pedigree, the game would have little impact on the market place.

TSR employes over 100 people and looking yet again for new office space.

Dave Arneson files a series of lawsuits against Gygax and TSR over AD&D, which TSR claims is significantly different from D&D and for which no royalties are owed to Arneson.

James Dallas Egbert III, a 16 year old prodigy with a history of depression, attempts to commit suicide under the steam tunnels of Michigan State University. When the attempt fails, he goes into hiding and the subsequent investigation erroneously links his disappearance to D&D. Controversy, and massive publicity, follow.
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I crit!
I really dig this kind of history.

One of the interesting bits I've recently heard is that Dave Hargrave was originally going to be the designer for Runequest.

I think it was the 50th episode of 2d6 feet podcast. Can anyone else second source it?


5ever, or until 2024
Nice work! TD, could you perhaps list your sources?

Thanks. Mostly wikipedia and own knowledge, but I will try to do so some footnotes. And suggest some other sources. There is a lot of great info out there.

I believe that should be David Wesely.

Thanks also. Will fix.

I really dig this kind of history.

Glad you like it. regarding the part of your post I just accidently deleted, was he in the bay area, where I am pretty sure that Chaosium crew got started.


First Post
Really cool stuff ;)

I have a bunch of these (well, these books from that time - I have all in this pic except for the reference sheets)... somewhere around 15 (2 are duplicates) - some of my favorites to browse from time to time.

Thanks for sharing!


First Post
Yeah, Hargrave had a gameplace out in Concord, CA, I believe, but it might have been Pleasant Hill -- that area at least, inland from San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, et alia.

I had a couple of friends who gamed with him early on. They found his games to be very ... different...


5ever, or until 2024
thanks for the feedback.

Planning on adding the following:


Fantasy Line miniatures by Mier produced by Ral Partha. Ral Partha would grow from a hobbyist to a professional operation by 1979 and produce vast numbers of fantasy miniatures over the coming years.


Chivalry and Sorcery by Simbalist and Backhaus published by Fantasy Games Unlimited. One of the first of many games created in response to D&Ds lack of realism, C&S was more complex and more closely tied to its medieval and Arthurian source material, while still retaining elements of Tolkien’s familiar fantasy (so much so that some had to be removed in latter printings for copy right reasons).

EDIT: Will also mention a little company called Games Workshop.
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You might also consider mentioning Villians and Vigilantes. I understand that the first edition came about by houseruling OD&D until it got turned into a superhero game. Not sure about the year, sometime in the mid 70s I believe.

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