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The Forgotten Smugglers' Cave: Index of Posts

An index of posts describing the Forgotten Smugglers' Cave, an adventure for Holmes Basic characters levels 2-4.                    ...

Monday, May 20, 2024

The Making of OD&D Book: What Might the D&D "Precursors" Be?


The Making of OD&D comes out in less than a month, and the approximately 600-page tome was revealed "in the flesh" last week on the official D&D account on Twitter, with the above photo of an advance copy captioned: "The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons... it's BIG!" 

If you haven't ordered the book yet, it can be found on Amazon for $99, and with a price-drop guarantee:

The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons: 1970-1977

Based on the Table of Contents that I re-posted at the beginning of this month, let's take a closer at what might be in the interesting section "Part 1: Precursors", which covers the ancient era before the first draft of D&D (1973). I don't have any particular insider knowledge, so these are simply my best educated guesses based on titles alone:

   Grayte Wourmes (page 10) 

   Fittingly for a game that includes "Dragons" in the title, the Precursor section starts with material that is clearly from a series of articles about Dragons that Gary Gygax wrote in 1969-1970 for the Diplomacy zine Thangorodrim (named after the mountains home to Morgorth's fortress Angband), describing White, Black, Green, Blue and Mottled (aka Purple Worm) Dragons.

   Maps of the Great Kingdom (page 18)

    The use of plural "Maps" suggests this will include at least two maps. One may be the original Great Kingdom map from Domesday Book #9 (1970/1971), which was previously reprinted on page 32 of Playing at the World (2012) by Jon Peterson. 

    Another may be a later one showing the territories of the Great Kingdom; one version of this map was uncovered by Dave Megarry in 2017; see my post from that year titled "Megarry's Copy of the Great Kingdom Map".

    Medieval Weaponry in the Encyclopedia Britannica (page 20)

    In 2014, Jon Peterson wrote in a post on his Playing at the World blog that, "Gygax did indeed rely heavily on the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica for medieval information in the early 1970s for certain particulars, though that would be a story for another time". So it seems we are getting that story now. 

    I also note that on EnWorld in 2002, Gygax mentioned his "set of Eleventh Edition ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA that my most honored maternal grandfather bequeathed to me". The Eleventh Edition of EB has its own Wikipedia page.

   Chainmail's Fantasy Supplement (page 26)

    This is, obviously, the fantasy section that makes up about a quarter of the Chainmail miniatures rules. From the preview page that has been shown, the book will reprint the version from the 2nd Edition, published by Guidon Games in 1972.

    Gygax on Armor (page 46)
    This may be an article that Gygax wrote for Panzerfaust #43, April 1971, which Jon Peterson discussed on his blog in 2014.

    The Battle of the Brown Hills (page 50)

    This is a relatively well-known Chainmail scenario between the forces of Law and Chaos that Gygax wrote up for Wargamer's Newsletter #116, published in November 1971. These days you can play in it on a sand table as part of the Legends of Wargaming series run annually at Gary Con thanks to Paul Stormberg. This year it was run in the basement of 330 Center Street, where Gygax lived when he worked on the initial D&D rules.
    Arneson's "Medieval Braunstein" (page 54)

    In a 2014 post on the Playing at the World blog, Jon Peterson described a document with this same name "A surviving set of instructions for a 1970 medieval multiplayer game".
    Blackmoor Gazette and Rumermonger 2 (page 58)

    This is an issue of a campaign newsletter put out by Dave Arneson. The first issue can be seen here on the Playing at the World blog.
    "Points of Interest in Black Moor" (page 60)
    An article by Dave Arneson that originally ran in Domesday Book #13 (July 1972), and was later reprinted in the First Fantasy Campaign supplement published by Judges Guild.

    The Wizard Gaylord (page 64)
    Likely the same "surviving character sheet from the Blackmoor Campaign, that of Pete Gaylord's character the Wizard of the Wood (best known from the brief biography in First Fantasy Campaign)" that previously appeared on page 367 of the Playing at the World book (2012).

    Loch Gloomen (page 68)
    Blackmoor historian Dan Boggs described, in a 2014 post on his blog Hidden in Shadows, how in the spring of 1972, play in the Blackmoor campaign moved to an area known Loch Gloomen, or Lake Gloomy. Material from this era appears in a section titled "Loch Gloomen" in the First Fantasy Campaign. So this is likely some of the surviving original material from this era written by Arneson.

    Outdoor Survival (page 72)
    Excerpts from the rules of the board game Outdoor Survival, published by Avalon Hill, which was in the list of recommended Equipment in OD&D Vol 1 (Men & Magic) and heavily influenced the rules for Wilderness Exploration in Vol 3 (The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures).

    Gygax/Arneson Blackmoor Correspondence (page 76)

    Personal letters between Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson prior to the development of the first draft of D&D.

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