Hidden Treasure from The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons

This nearly 600-page book is no mere tome, it's an artifact.

This nearly 600-page book is no mere tome, it's an artifact.

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A Historical Artifact​

While many may compare The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons: 1970-1977 to a tome – and at 576 pages that's not an inaccurate description – a more accurate assessment would be to compare it to an artifact.

Books like Slaying the Dragon: The Secret History of Dungeons & Dragons and Game Wizards: The Epic Battle for Dungeons & Dragons, the latter written by Jon Peterson, who is credited here for “curation and commentary,” have already detailed the history of the game. What TMoODnD does differently is show you documentation of the game being developed, reprinting notes, letters between Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax, character sheets, iterations of character classes through development, zine articles and so much more. In fact, pages 84-182 even reprint the very first iteration of D&D. Then pages 202-329 reprint the first boxed set.

So this isn't the normal “history of D&D” book. While there is a narrative to how it all came together that's almost secondary to showcasing page after of page rare and hard-to-find material. Basically, that means this book will be of interest to certain type of fan instead of the broader base that might be interested in the interpersonal and legal disputes documented by the other books I mentioned.

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How Reprints are Handled​

The reprints are handled with specific rules to balance accuracy with discretion. For example, the only things redacted from the documents are street addresses and phone number. Everything else is reprinted unaltered from original documents. In some cases, that includes off-color language and even insults, such as some disparaging comments about the women's liberation movement of the 1970s. None of that is changed or omitted, though historic context is provided.

Because the materials reprinted are so old, haven't been kept in pristine conditions, and weren't created with the intention to last for decades, some of the reprints are easier to read than others. It's definitely a peek at zine production before personal computers were common, let alone today's sophisticated illustration and layout software. A little cleanup was done to improve readability, but otherwise the notes, zines, etc. are presented as is.

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This humongous book, which could double as an improvised weapon in a D&D campaign, is broken into four sections. The first focuses on precursors to D&D, such as David Wesely's Braunstein campaign, which was Arneson and Gygax's first exposure to the concept of one player acting as a single character in a game, unlike typical wargames where a player controlled entire units or armies. From that concept, the role-playing game industry sprang.

As already noted, Part 2 is the 1973 draft of D&D, and Part 3 looks at how the rules were expanded, comparing the draft version versus the published Original Dungeons & Dragons, the Brown Box and White Box. The last section is about “Articles & Additions,” such as early Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry, and The Dragon, among others.

TMoODnD itself is beautifully designed. Under the red and gold dust jacket the hardcover is embossed red and black of the ampersand. Its four sections are noted by four satin ribbons sewn in, color coded to their sections. Unfortunately, because it is so big, it's also unwieldy to hold and photograph its interior pages, let alone do so without possibly hurting the spine since it's managing such weight.

TMoODnD is also only available as a hardcover. Not having an audiobook version makes some sense because the interest is in seeing the reprinted notes and documents. Maybe an ebook version will be released later, but I doubt it.

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Should You Get It?​

The book is very well put together and will be of interest to some fans. That said, ranking it is tricky for me. If you love ephemera, evidence of iterations of products, and examining handwritten notes, etc., it's probably an A because the book is thorough and as exhaustive as time and research allows. If, however, you prefer a more narrative approach to history with interviews of survivors and the historical documentation playing a supporting role to that, then it's more of a B or B+.

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Beth Rimmels

Beth Rimmels


Thanks, Beth. This is a very detailed review that helps guide the target audience. It would be a great addition to libraries, but pretty expensive still. If my budget allows for it, I will purchase a copy to keep as an historic document, since the internet is not as eternal as we once thought for niche archiving.


Golden Procrastinator
I was a .edievalkst in College, I love Ephemera, esoteric, reading handwritten drafts, and cna handle dealing with the weird biases of authors from another era. Looking forward to this!
Yeah, I think that this should be right up your alley.

It's a particular book. I don't think it is meant as mainstream (none of my players expressed any interest in it, even those who bought and loved Art & Arcana), but if you are into this type of things, I think it's great.


A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I've only removed it from the shrink wrapping and paged through it, but wow, what a wonderful book. Great coffee table book. This is a definite A or A+ for those who enjoy looking at historic artifacts. I've read a number of good histories on the game and I didn't buy this to read a history, but to look through the curated documents it presents. It certainly is not for every fan, especially given its price. I think an e-reader version would not work well, but it would be great if WotC would put up a digital museum online where the curious could browse images of some of these documents from D&D's history.

So far, the quality of the physical book seems great. At least it makes a good first impression. Not sure how well the spine of such a large and heavy book would put up with any abuse and this is a book that I'll treat with care.

First, one neat little touch is that the promo sheet, which is usually something you just throw away after removing the shrink wrapping has an early character sheet printed on the reverse side. That makes me not want to throw it away, but I don't know exactly what to do with it. Shove it in some file? Fold it in half and insert it somewhere in the middle of the book?


The book jacket is nice, but I love the actual hard cover. I always have this issue with books in that I like the look and feel of the actual covers. I even like the look of the naked covers on my bookshelf better than the jacketed spines. But I don't want to throw away the jackets and usually keep them on for "protection", removing them when I'm actually reading the book.


The soft-touch coating and the embossed D&D logo on the front and Blackmoor (?) logo on the back look and feel great.


The four sections of the book each have a different color footer that also show from the page edges and their are four colored bookmark ribbons sewn into the spine of the book with colors matching the section colors.


Overall, my first impression is that this book is well worth USD 100 and I have no buyer's remorse. I'm looking forward to paging through the artifacts to scratch the itch of my interest in the history of the game and my nostalgia. But others have done a better job summarizing the contents. I just wanted to note the quality of the physical book itself.


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