Wednesday, April 17, 2024

#AtoZChallenge2024: O is for Original Dungeons & Dragons

 I can't properly celebrate 50 years of Dungeons & Dragons and not talk about where the game started. So let's go back to 1974 and the Original edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

Original D&D

This is the original 3-Volume set of Dungeons & Dragons, plus the Chainmail rules for fantasy minatures.

The rules...are arcane to say the least. These rules assumed that the player and the Referee (what would later be named Dungeon Master) already had a background in wargames or had access to those who did. Some have even gone as far as call the rules indecipherable, but I think that is obviously not the case. These rules say several reprints into the 1980s, with the 6th reprint being the most common. Mine is a mix of 3rd and 4th printings. You can still buy copies of it on DriveThruRPG if you are curious (it sells for the same price as it did back then), OR if you are super serious about it, score one of the collectible editions Wizards of the Coast did 10 years back

I will warn you, they are going for a lot of money now. But they are still cheaper than the OD&D rules from the 1970s.  Even the relatively common 6th printing goes for thousands of dollars now. I hate to think what 3rd printing would sell for.

Original D&D Reprint from 2013

Original D&D Reprint from 2013

Original D&D Reprint from 2013

There were only three character classes back then: Fighting Men, Magic Users, and Clerics. Races were humans, dwarves, hobbits/halflings, and elves, who had to decide whether to begin their day as Fighting Men or Magic Users.

Even the rolling of a d20 (twenty-sided die) was the "optional" rule for combat.

I did not start with this one. However, in 1987, I played a summer session with these rules. It was an educational experience, and I am certainly happy I did. I don't know if I will repeat it like that; I would add in more of the later supplements that made it into the game I know now. But it is something every gamer, especially every D&D player, needs to try at least once. 

These rules, though, were the absolute standard for gaming from 1974 to 1977, when TSR launched the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons line. Even other game companies mimicked TSR's approach.

A prime example is Traveller, the premier science fiction RPG, which began as a same-sized box with three books. If the D&D game books were called "The Three Little Brown Books, " the Traveller books were  "The Three Little Black Books." 

OD&D and Original Traveller

OD&D 3LBB and Original Traveller 3LBB

These little books are a very humble start to what would become a worldwide phenomenon. As the game grew and progressed, so did its players. We are now at a point where there is truly a game out there for everyone's needs and wants. And if the game you are playing doesn't do that, well there are thousands of choices. 

I still love reading these little books. They never get old to me. 

Tomorrow is P Day, and I'll talk about Pathfinder, the divergence of Dungeons & Dragons.

The A to Z of Dungeons & Dragons: Celebrating 50 years of D&D.


PT Dilloway said...

"Fighting Men" seems a bit sexist.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

It is a hold over from stories like "John Carter of Mars" and "Conan" where they were called Fighting Men and not Fighters.
But is a bit short-sighted, to say the least.

Srivalli Rekha said...

Seems like a treasure to me! Are some of these collector pieces now?

Lily Leung said...

This certainly is a challenge for me, Timothy since I'm not a gamer. I have heard people talk alot of Dungeons and Dragons though. My friend's husband is a gamer. I think they need very high speed internet connections to do that. I might ask him about D&G the next time we get together. I might get curious enough to research - if I have time.

Kebba Buckley Button said...

Timothy, who invented D&D, and when did you discover it? Do you still play it? A lot of people in Mensa have been avid players. Do you belong to Mensa? I'm glad you have something that inspires such passion for you.

Martha said...

Gosh 1974? I didn't realize D&D had been around that long! I'm like Lily, it's a challenge for me as well be so interesting!

debi o'neille said...

I love even looking at old books. I still have some of my childhood books that I believe are still worth reading today. Nothing like the dungeon and dragons series, but still good reads through the current decade. :-)

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

Love the photos and history.

Ronel visiting for O: My Languishing TBR: O
Treacherous Obayifo