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.

The Making of Original D&D_Front Cover (2) resized.jpg

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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Layout​

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

agrayday

Explorer
i was impressed with the weight of the paper. When it was delivered, i thought it was the batteries i ordered... its heavy.

I did find it interesting that there were a lot of documents with Kuntz name on them but he has been stating for a long time no one ever reached out to him from wizards, about the original founders or for documents. Is Rob Kuntz & Terry Kuntz different people or related?
 
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MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Supporter
i was impressed with the weight of the paper. When it was delivered, i thought it was the batteries i ordered... its heavy.

I did find it interesting that there were a lot of documents with Kuntz name on them but he has been stating for a long time no one ever reached out to him wizards. Is Rob Kuntz & Terry Kuntz different people or related?
Brothers.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
I do hope they create an ebook version.

I recently finished 42: The Wildly Improbable Ideas of Douglas Adams, which is a similar mega-tome full of archival stuff from high school through right before his death. Having it in ebook form was a lot easier to read than having a four-pound book on my lap to read. (And just like with this book, some of those old pages are really difficult to read now.)
I guess it could work, but I would only want to do it with a larger tablet computer with a high-res color display.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
You could apply book jacket covers like libraries use, though it may be overkill. (Vendor chosen by the simple means of they were the one that came to mind first, and is not an endorsement or anti-endorsement. No idea if they're even the one $PLACE_OF_ORK uses.)
But then I can feel the cool velvety coating. :). Also, I'm loath to get rid of the original jacket. I'll do what I always do. Keep the jacket until it wears away, rips, or gets lost.
 

Parmandur

Book-Friend
Got mine today, read a bit of the first section.

Turns out this Gary Gygax fellow was something of a nerd.

I like his using S. Maug as a pen name to write fictional accounts of Chromatic Dragons in a newsletter for the Middle Earth Diplomacy game he was part of (Gygax played Gondor).

A lot of Tolkien stuff in his early fantasy gaming stuff, actually.
 
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OB1

Jedi Master
Got my copy last night and am 100 or so pages in. Just incredible. I'd never red the Chainmail or ODD rules before, so a lot of the book is brand new to me and just absolutely fascinating in the way it captures the evolution of the game, the time period and the brilliant nerds who created it.
 


Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Got my copy last night and am 100 or so pages in. Just incredible. I'd never read the Chainmail or ODD rules before, so a lot of the book is brand new to me and just absolutely fascinating in the way it captures the evolution of the game, the time period and the brilliant nerds who created it.
Now that you've gotten a peek at Chainmail, have you seen this?

 

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