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Dragon Reflections #7 – Who Invented D&D?

The Dragon Issue 7 was published in June 1977. It is 32 pages long, with a cover price of $1.50. In this issue, Gary Gygax gives a controversial account of the origins of D&D.




Editor Tim Kask is pleased to mark up another milestone, saying:

It’s an extraordinary experience to be writing this, on the start of our second year of publication. THE DRAGON has come a long way from Vol. I, No. 1, and-the-less than excellent cover that “adorned” it. (The trouble with that first cover was not the original black and white rendering of our logo, but rather with the wretched lithes cut by our old printer.) The overall average on our artwork has improved dramatically. The increased circulation is elequent testimony to the improvement of the material presented herein. What editor can be displeased by 300% growth in a year’s span? Not yours truly, certainly.

The comment about the artwork is timely. In my view, issue #7 features the first genuinely good cover in the magazine's short history. Titled "The Dragon's Birthday Party", it is by artist Kenneth Rahman (using the nom de plume Elrohir), who later designed several boardgames for TSR.

There are two pieces of fiction in this issue. Bradley W. Schenck, writing as "Morno", returns with "The Journey Most Alone", a rather heavy-handed story. And Gary Gygax, writing as "Garrison Keller", gives us another chapter of "Search for the Gnome Cache". Thankfully, Gygax abandoned the novel after this instalment. To give him his due, his fiction skills had improved greatly by the time he published "Saga of Old City", eight years later.

Lynn Harphold follows up her issue #2 essay on the Feathered Serpent with another historical piece, called "Mystery Hill - America's Stonehenge?" Such articles might feel a little out of place, but Kask's intention was to provide resources to stimulate gamer imaginations.

Kask himself contributed an article, under the pseudonym of "Omar Kwalish". Titled "What to Do When the Dog Eats Your Dice", it gives alternate methods of generating random numbers. This was a live issue back in the 70s when polyhedral dice were sometimes hard to acquire. M.A.R Barker gives us another detailed article on Tekumel, "Military Formations of the Nations of the Universe". There are also statistics for a new and somewhat uninspiring creature called the "Prowler".

By far the most interesting article, in my view, is "Gary Gygax on Dungeons & Dragons - Origins of the Game". In this short piece, Gygax gives his version of how the D&D game came into existence.

Gygax tells how he and Jeff Perren devised a set of rules for medieval miniature wargaming called "Chainmail". Gygax added a "Fantasy Supplement" to these rules which enabled gamers to include such things as dragons, elves, and wizards in their battle simulations.

Dave Arneson, a fellow wargamer who Gygax knew, took these rules and made several unique modifications. He showed his game (called "Blackmoor") to Gygax, who states:

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.

Arneson's game was no longer about simulating mass battles. Rather, players became an individual character, who persisted between games and who could progress over time.

Gygax was impressed and asked Arneson for the rules and received about twenty pages of handwritten notes. Gygax took these ideas and created the 300-page manuscript of the original Dungeons & Dragons set. Once published, the new game met with instant enthusiasm.

Gygax states that "DUNGEONS & DRAGONS differed considerably from Dave’s ‘Blackmoor’ campaign, just as the latter differed from CHAINMAIL." He also claims that "Although D&D was not Dave’s game system by any form or measure, he was given co-billing as author for his valuable idea kernels."

The question of how much Arneson contributed to D&D has been hotly debated by gamers and game historians ever since and was ultimately scrutinized in several court cases. Even those close to the events disagree. Most modern commentators, though, are happy to see them credited as co-creators.

The next issue of the Dragon would see Gary Gygax greatly expand the Dungeons & Dragons universe with just a few strokes of his pen.

This article was contributed by M.T. Black as part of ENWorld's User-Generated Content (UGC) program. M.T. Black is a game designer and DMs Guild Adept. Please follow him on Twitter @mtblack2567 and sign up to his mailing list. We are always on the lookout for freelance columnists! If you have a pitch, please contact us!
 
M.T. Black

Comments

Connorsrpg

Adventurer
I really like these look backs... but going to be waiting a long time for my fav issues. Doing them in random order would mean more likely to hit readers' favourites :)
Chronological makes sense for a building the scene ideal I guess, but can always look back at them in this order anyway.

In any case, I really like your style when writing these. Concise. Informative. Thanks.
 

Lanefan

Hero
I really like these look backs... but going to be waiting a long time for my fav issues. Doing them in random order would mean more likely to hit readers' favourites :)
Chronological makes sense for a building the scene ideal I guess, but can always look back at them in this order anyway.
Except the 'favourites' for any given person are ones that person is already familiar with. I'd rather look at the ones I'm not as familiar with; and doing them in order will hit them all eventually.

In any case, I really like your style when writing these. Concise. Informative. Thanks.
Seconded!
 

Morrus

Administrator
Staff member
I really like these look backs... but going to be waiting a long time for my fav issues. Doing them in random order would mean more likely to hit readers' favourites :)
You said that in the last thread! :)

I'm not convinced that works, though. Like lottery numbers, any given favourite numbers over a range of people is equally likely no matter what order you present them in.
 
Last edited by a moderator:

M.T. Black

Registered User
I really like these look backs... but going to be waiting a long time for my fav issues. Doing them in random order would mean more likely to hit readers' favourites :)
Chronological makes sense for a building the scene ideal I guess, but can always look back at them in this order anyway.

In any case, I really like your style when writing these. Concise. Informative. Thanks.
Hi Connor - you've made the same comment on a couple of these now! The consensus seems to be that chronological is the most popular approach, and that also is my preference. So that is going to be my approach for this column.

Thanks for reading and I'd love to hear your comments about the issue under review!
 

JEB

Villager
Speaking personally, I very much prefer chronological. Mainly because I like the historical perspective, and seeing the game and its subculture evolving issue by issue. Granted, it'll be about 200 more issues before my personal nostalgia kicks in, but that's not what I'm here for in this case. So, keep up the good work!
 

R_Chance

Explorer
It was another good issue, complete with a Tekumel article :) I think every issue seemed good in part because there were few other venues for information in those days. There were some APAs (Alarums and Excursions comes to mind), minimal 3rd party material (Judges Guild, and White Dwarf) and the Dragon. At least that's all I recall. Well, and Gen Con and other conventions. Mind you, I'm not saying it wasn't good! Just saying the scarcity of D&D related material just made it more valuable. Difficult for gamers today to understand just how isolated groups were in those days... not to say that they can't be today.
 
It is interesting how many times something is created by two or more people and one ends up far more well known than the other, usually because the well-known person sticks around and guides it towards its peak, although occasionally because of more nefarious reasons.

Gygax and Arneson (and perhaps Kuntz as the third)
Jobs and Wozniak (and Wayne)
Gates and Allen
etc.

On a different note, your comment about the art got me wondering what was the first TSR product that featured high quality cover art? There was a switch-over sometime in the early 80s, from the amateurish art of the 70s (Otus, Dee, Sutherland, etc) to the professionals of the 80s that actually went to art school (Easley, Elmore, Parkinson, Caldwell, etc).

I'm pretty sure Monster Manual II in 1983 was the first hardcover, followed by the reprints of the others (as the orange spine versions), but not sure if it was the first TSR product or not.
 

M.T. Black

Registered User
On a different note, your comment about the art got me wondering what was the first TSR product that featured high quality cover art? There was a switch-over sometime in the early 80s, from the amateurish art of the 70s (Otus, Dee, Sutherland, etc) to the professionals of the 80s that actually went to art school (Easley, Elmore, Parkinson, Caldwell, etc).
I'll go on record as being a big fan of both Otus and Trampier, but I'd agree the art got a lot more pro in the 80s.
 

aramis erak

Explorer
Gygax's article was the opening salvo in a pretty public feud between the two...

I'll note that when I was corresponding with Mr. Arneson, he was careful to say nothing overtly negative about Gygax... but that was also post-2004.

The Interviews with Dave Weseley (Maj, US Army, Ret.) are enlightening on just how much was Dave Arneson. (several are on youtube.)
 

Lord Rasputin

Explorer
I think that's the right way to see it. And Chainmail drew upon earlier designs as well, of course.
Except that Blackmoor wasn't based on Chainmail. Arneson used it as a monster manual and spell book, but he usually didn't use the actual combat resolution system. He used it briefly, but his players didn't like it, culminating in the Troll under the Bridge fight, wherein Bob Meyer's Hero got his butt handed to him on the first roll by a troll.
 

M.T. Black

Registered User
Except that Blackmoor wasn't based on Chainmail. Arneson used it as a monster manual and spell book, but he usually didn't use the actual combat resolution system.
From my reading, it seems that Blackmoor took from Chainmail the monster, spell, and equipment lists, as well as the individual character titles (Hero, Superhero, Wizard, Sorcerer, etc). So Chainmail had *some* influence on Blackmoor, even if not on the combat system.
 

Connorsrpg

Adventurer
Sorry, MT, I have already mentioned that :p

No probs with chronological, I just have my fears this will stop before we get to the Dragon mags that most people would know. ;) I am sure it won't as it is a very well liked column :)

Plus, the style and approach you are using probably does suit chronological order anyway. I was just being selfish, as I know most of my favourite articles are a long way off, but you don't really make that a focus anyway. I like how you focus more on the evolution of the history of the game, track down the authors and sift through editorials. Forget my comments and keep up the great articles.

...maybe a Favourite Dragon Articles could be a different thing (including conversions.... that is something I'd love to do... and maybe I will somewhere :)).
 

AriochQ

Explorer
No probs with chronological, I just have my fears this will stop before we get to the Dragon mags that most people would know.
I actually enjoy reading about the ones before I started my subscription. Once we hit 48, I already know what was in them! lol
 

Malikai2000

Explorer
On a different note, your comment about the art got me wondering what was the first TSR product that featured high quality cover art? There was a switch-over sometime in the early 80s, from the amateurish art of the 70s (Otus, Dee, Sutherland, etc) to the professionals of the 80s that actually went to art school (Easley, Elmore, Parkinson, Caldwell, etc).

I'm pretty sure Monster Manual II in 1983 was the first hardcover, followed by the reprints of the others (as the orange spine versions), but not sure if it was the first TSR product or not.

Check out this new book by Michael Witwer. It is all about the history of the art of DnD. I went to a seminar with him at Gen Con and they did their research! I quickly ordered the book.

I splurged and got the Special Edition. It has a reproduction of the original Tomb of Horrors art book, before any of the print editions.

https://www.amazon.com/Dungeons-Dragons-Art-Arcana-History/dp/0399580948/ref=pd_sbs_14_2?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0399580948&pd_rd_r=WJY2KGJN6GDG4X8NH1DH&pd_rd_w=BbQJL&pd_rd_wg=PLxuW&psc=1&refRID=WJY2KGJN6GDG4X8NH1DH
 

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