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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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Retired game store owner
If you're going to mention 'Partha, I think you should also put in a notation for Grenadier Models, which did the first official D&D minis back in '79.
Although there was a line of Greyhawk minis from Minifiigs that predates the Grenadier official line. I believe the Grenadier line was the first official AD&D line.

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Retired game store owner
And 69 is mentioned a few places on the net, but does not quite fit with other dates.

The acaeum says 71, and says there was a partial fantasy supplement, so I may have to go with that.

I am looking at the second page of the 2nd Edition Chainmail. It lists
1st Edition, Copyright 1971, Donald S. Lowry
2nd Edition, Copyright 1972, Donald S. Lowry
And it does, indeed, include the Fantasy Supplement. Sorry, I don't own a 1st ed.

edit Title page credits Gygax & Perrin, illustrated by Don Lowry


First Post
Your list goes beyond what I have seen recounted elsewhere, but you feel confident on it?
Extremely confident on:

social level, titles, influence (including influence of mistress)
clubs, gambling, toadying
status points
regiments, campaign, battles
(death, mention in dispatches, promotion, plunder)
military and government appointments
embezzlement and civil unrest

The dueling rules (basically an elaboration on "Scissors, Paper, Rock") are mostly right in the tables, and those take up about 1/8 the total space devoted to tables in a handout for a later (UK) edition that I think has just the same scope as the original.

If you have the first The Best of The Dragon, "Monkish Combat in The Arena of Promotion" is a kung fu adaptation of the EG dueling system.

I think what really trips up people is a tendency to think of RPGs as treating darned near everything at the scale at which EG treats only dueling. It's easy to forget that even in combat, OD&D was at a higher level (one-minute rounds) than the blow-by-blow. The next step up was the 10-minute turn (dungeon moves), then the day (wilderness moves). Weeks were the usual unit of campaign play. (Per Vol. 3, a week's dungeon adventure "considers only preparations and a typical, one day descent into the pits.")

Most popular RPGs are primarily tactical games, concerned with combat and booby-traps and the like. What they are "about" beyond that is more nebulous, so rules for other things tend to one of:
(A) Rules? We don't need no stinking rules!
(B) Our rules include a list of skills that reads like a college course catalog.
(C) Ha! Our rules are all that and a physics textbook.
(D) We have a universal resolution mechanic for anything and everything conceivable.

In En Garde, careers of social climbing rakes in 17th century Paris are what the game is about, and it has pretty tight rules for central issues in that. It is not about the % chance of climbing a garden wall, or such fine points of athletics. That's basically the opposite of the ranking of priorities in the most influential early reaction to D&D, which sought to do much the same tactical stuff with more "realism".

So, I think part of its significance lies in its having blazed a trail that, a couple of decades later, might be recognized as heading in at least one of the "new" directions of the "indy RPG" scene.


In En Garde, careers of social climbing rakes in 17th century Paris are what the game is about, and it has pretty tight rules for central issues in that. It is not about the % chance of climbing a garden wall, or such fine points of athletics. That's basically the opposite of the ranking of priorities in the most influential early reaction to D&D, which sought to do much the same tactical stuff with more "realism".

So, I think part of its significance lies in its having blazed a trail that, a couple of decades later, might be recognized as heading in at least one of the "new" directions of the "indy RPG" scene.
This is a very interesting point about En Garde.


All, thanks again for all this.

I am on the verge of a big revision were I will add things I said I would, some things I said I wouldn't, and some other exciting bits.


First Post
Heroic Worlds by Lawrence Shick--also mentioned by Grodog--is probably the one go to book out there. It even covers Braunstein in some detail. My edition was from 91, so it does sort of stop in the middle.
Hmmm, now that you mentioned it, I *did* use some parts from that book. Note that my perspective was on RPGs as library material, so the history part only concentrated on major developments and RPG titles (hence I did not even mention Braunstein). :)

Doug McCrae

You might find this interesting. It's an excerpt from an article by Gary Gygax, Origins of the Game, in Dragon #7

When the International Federation of Wargaming was at its peak,
it contained many special interest groups. I founded one of these, the
“Castle & Crusade Society”. All members of this sub-group were
interested in things medieval and I began publishing a magazine for
them entitled Domesday Book. In an early issue, I drew up a map of the
“Great Kingdom”. Members of the society could then establish their
holdings on the map, and we planned to sponsor campaign-type gaming
at some point. Dave Arneson was a member of the C&C Society,
and he established a barony, Blackmoor, to the northeast of the map,
just above the Great Kingdom. He began a local medieval campaign for
the Twin Cities gamers and used this area.

The medieval rules, CHAINMAIL (Gygax and Perren) were published
in Domesday Book prior to publication by Guidon Games. Of
course, they were in a less developed state, and were only for a 1:20 figure
scale. Between the time they appeared in Domesday Book and their
publication by Guidon Games, I revised and expanded the rules for
1:20 and added 1:1 scale games, jousting, and fantasy. Rob Kuntz and I
had acquired a large number of 40mm figures, and many of them were
so heroic looking that it seemed a good idea to play some games which
would reflect the action of the great swords and sorcery yarns. So I devised
such rules, and the Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association proceeded
to play-test them. When the whole appeared as CHAINMAIL,
Dave began using the fantasy rules for his campaign, and he reported a
number of these actions to the C&C Society by way of articles.

I thought that this usage was quite interesting, and a few months
later when Dave came down to visit me we played a game of his amended
CHAINMAIL fantasy campaign. Dave had taken the man-to-man
and fantasy rules and modified them for his campaign. Players began
as Heroes or Wizards. With sufficient success they could become Superheroes.
In a similar fashion, Wizards could become more powerful.
Additionally, he had added equipment for players to purchase and expanded
the characters descriptions considerably — even adding several
new monsters to the rather short CHAINMAIL line-up.

The idea of measured progression (experience points) and the addition
of games taking place in a dungeon maze struck me as being very
desireable. However, that did not really fit in the framework of
CHAINMAIL. I asked Dave to please send me his rules additions, for I
thought a whole new system should be developed. A few weeks after his
visit I received 18 or so handwritten pages of rules and notes pertaining
to his campaign, and I immediately began work on a brand new manuscript.
“Greyhawk” campaign started —the first D&D campaign!

About three weeks later, I had some 100 typewritten pages, and we
began serious play-testing in Lake Geneva, while copies were sent to the
Twin Cities and to several other groups for comment. DUNGEONS
& DRAGONS had been born. Its final form came over a year later and
consisted of nearly 300 manuscript pages which I wrote during the wee
hours of many a morning and on weekends.

The first D&D (as opposed to variant CHAINMAIL) dungeon adventurers
were: Ernie Gygax, Don Kaye, Rob Kuntz and Terry Kuntz.
They were soon joined by Don Arndt, Brian Blume, Tom Champeny,
Bill Corey, Bob Dale, Mary Dale, Chip Mornard, Mike Mornard, and
Tim Wilson. All of these gamers — as well as the other play-testers —
contributed to the final form of the game.


Thats a great summary.

I have read a few of these lately, including from Gygax and Arneson at various points in time, and that is one of the best.

I did try to touch on the various bits in the revised timeline. Though this makes clear the extent of cross fertilization in that key period.


Sorry Dave, I haven't forgotten you, was just working in CA last week, and the timezone difference didn't let me catch up with Paul on the Chainmail versions/dates. Or, is that a non-issue now??


From what I could tell, you were right.

The dates, or specifically 1969, in the TSR history just did not make sense given other information, so I changed it to 71 with a smaller fantasy supplement, with second edition in 72 with expanded supplement.

Erik Mona

Great thread.

I wote a lot about the early origins of D&D in an article for a book called Second Person, published by the MIT Press. It's available on Amazon [ame="http://www.amazon.com/Second-Person-Role-Playing-Story-Playable/dp/0262514184/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1301878014&sr=8-1"]HERE[/ame]. Folks interested in the topic might find some useful nuggets there, as I crawled through a lot of the period magazines and recollections and such. I seem to remember Arneson had a retrospective on his side of the Blackmoor/Greyhawk/D&D origin story in Heroic Worlds that shed a bit more light on things.

I love how this list pulls in stuff from other games at the time, too. That's very fascinating stuff.



Erik, thanks again.

Arneson's blurb in Heroic Worlds is pretty short. I think my favorite part is "contrary to rumor, the players and I were all quite in control of our mental processes when D&D was desinged". He does note that Chainmail wasn't that important...


First Post
I haven't read the whole thread, so someone might have already mentioned this, but a Dragonsfoot poster did an extensive job tracing the history of those D&D editions that came before the third one. Link.


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