Saturday, August 4, 2018

Gygax's D&D Revision Plans 1977

Here's a very early description by Gygax of the plans for Basic and AD&D that I've never come across before. It's from Alarums & Excursion #21, April 1977, but is copied from an earlier source. The A&E contributor is Martin Easterbrook of Surrey, UK, who writes that the above is "a short extract I've 'pirated'" from "Walter Luc Haas' gameszine EUROPA". Martin doesn't mention the issue or date of the EUROPA zine, and I haven't been able to locate a copy of the original to confirm. The only issue of EUROPA that is widely available is #6-8 from 1975, which contains the now well-known Gygax article "How To Set Up Your Dungeons & Dragons Campaign". Edit: See update below.

-Gygax indicates that the revision is to include all of the material from the D&D booklets as well as magazine articles, which at that point included the seven issues of the Strategic Review and the first few issues of Dragon. Elsewhere Martin mentions that he has not yet obtained Dragon #5.

-"[A] beginner's guide" --- Gygax credited Holmes with this idea, so presumably he was already working on "D&D for Beginners", as he titled the manuscript for what became the Basic rulebook. And we actually know that Holmes had finished his manuscript by February of '77, which is before this issue of A&E. But as I noted above, we don't know when exactly Gygax's statements appeared in EUROPA. Note also that there is not yet any mention of the specific terms Basic or Advanced.

-They were considering putting not only the Basic rulebook and dice in a boxed set, but also all of the revised D&D books: "[t]he entire package will be available boxed, with dice included". The planned size was already that of the eventual Basic Set, 8.5 x 11. This is given an exclamation point because all previous D&D booklets were digest-sized. No mention of hardcovers, so the idea of having all of the rulebooks in one box (as in OD&D) seems reasonable.

-No mention of the Monster Manual, presumably at this point it was going to be included in the "large referee's manual". The revised and expanded GD&H eventually became Deities & Demigods.

-The reference to "only one combat system" indicates that the Chainmail combat system would no longer be referenced, as is the case with AD&D.

-"There will be no additional formal material" --- it's not clear if Gygax means that the books will be limited mainly to a revision & clarification of existing material, without adding new material, or if he means that there will be no additional supplements once these books are published (imagine that).

-Overly optimistic timeline. The Basic Set came out in July of 1977, so not too far off from "near spring", and while the Monster Manual came out in very late December, the other books were delayed by years --- PHB - 1978, DMG - 1979, and D&DG - 1980.

I've also added a transcription of Gygax's statements to the "Gygax on Holmes" page.

Update: Thanks to Allan Grohe (grodog) for tracking down the original publication in Europa issue #15-17, January 1977. The text is same as given in A&E. That places this plan prior to Holmes finishing the Basic manuscript.


  1. I'll take a look at my Europa issues, Zach, since Gary wrote for several issues before the zine folded.


  2. More good work. Thanks to everyone involved.