Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Gary Gygax's 1973 D&D Working Draft


Just in time for the fortieth anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons, some spectacular new historical evidence has come to light: a partial copy of a pre-publication working draft of Dungeons & Dragons, typed and hand-edited Gary Gygax. Credit for discovering this goes to Michael Mornard, one of the original D&D playtesters, who unearthed this material in an old storage box a few weeks ago. Gygax photocopied these selections from his working draft back in 1973, and gave them to Mornard for his personal use. In these “Mornard Fragments,” we can see examples (like the one shown above) of pre-D&D text like that preserved by the Dalluhn Manuscript – in fact, decisively similar to Dalluhn, and unarguably created by Gygax. These Fragments have a good deal to teach us about the development of D&D, and handily they also establish that Dalluhn was in fact a polished version of such a working draft, incorporating the authors’ edits of the time for wider distribution, probably for playtesting.

The Fragments provide us another window into the complex editorial process that created Dungeons & Dragons. There are sixteen surviving pre-D&D pages in the Mornard Fragments; extrapolating somewhat recklessly from the material shown, we might guess the entire thing was around a hundred pages. The typewriter used to create the Fragments is the personal typewriter used by Gary Gygax for his work in the early to mid-1970s. The handwritten addition shown above to the asterisked entry for Pirates is recognizably Gygax’s block capital hand.

The Fragment’s pages are numbered 24-31, then 41-47, and finally page 61. Much of the surviving material shows charts, notably the monster and treasure charts, but also saving throws, dragon types and outdoor encounters. A substantial passage of descriptive text about adventuring in the Upper World (Wilderness) is also included. A preliminary analysis suggests that some of the typed material in the Fragments slightly predates Dalluhn (as above), though in other places incremental additions show material not present in Dalluhn but which would appear in the published Dungeons & Dragons.

The Fragments must have been created fairly close in time to the Dalluhn Manuscript, as there is comparatively little textual difference between the two versions: look to Monsters & Treasure pg22 for Treasure Type A, the final form of the “Prize Matrix” text shown here, to see just how changed this passage would be by the time Dungeons & Dragons hit the printers. The category of “Prisoners” has been replaced by copper pieces (prisoners are relegated to a footnote), the order of the categories of land, desert and water has been shuffled, and of course the term “Prize” has been replaced by “Treasure” throughout.

Because the Mornard Fragments show material so similar to the Dalluhn Manuscript, they are an excellent source for establishing that the Dalluhn Manuscript contains a system that Gary worked on; the other side of that coin, however, is that because they are so similar, the Fragments can only illuminate so much about the development of the system that Dalluhn hasn’t already shown us. We can review minor variations, as in the example above, but only in a few places (for example, in the dragon text) do we see substantial material that is not in Dalluhn.

In light of this new evidence, I will be revising my previous assessment of the Dalluhn Manuscript, and replacing it with a new essay that treats both the Mornard Fragments and the Dalluhn Manuscript jointly. Together, these will give us still more insight into the 1973, pre-publication state of D&D. Stay tuned for more information here about this extremely interesting find.

17 comments:

  1. Wonderful news indeed Jon, I look forward to reading the essay.

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  2. Michael is a straight player. He enjoyed some early game play in Lake Geneva, but never restricted himself to our style. That his material reinforced something I knew as fact but as a wee one as it was compiled my "data" was noncomfirmed.

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    1. Glad I could help reinforce your memory, Ernie!

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  3. I had a copy at the time, but threw it away when the little brown box was published. Greg Svenson

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  4. Hmm. I don't have the two manuscripts in hand, but look at the two fragments. MIGHT Dalluhn have been typed on Gary's typewriter after all?

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    1. Nah. I've looked at it very closely, Gary's typewriter is not a match for either of the two typewriters that typed Dalluhn.

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  5. I read this while I was playing a game of Dungeon! with my kids. My first edition copy of Dungeon! (horizontal layout, purple walls, Patch Press printing) uses the same terminology, Prizes instead of Treasure. Perhaps Prize was Twin Cities terminology that was edited to Treasure by Gygax?

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    1. Yes, both the 1975 Dungeon! and its 1973 prototype (the "Dungeons of Pasha Cada") use "prize" instead of "treasure." It does seem likely that this terminology originated in the Twin Cities, as it was used throughout Arneson's Napoleonic campaign - taking an enemy vessel as a "prize." At this point, it's unclear who introduced "treasure" as an alternative.

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  6. Very interesting! Looking forward to reading more.

    Perhaps Gygax dismissed the Dalluhn manuscript simply on illustrations he had never seen before, without looking at the text?

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    1. Possible. But although there are no illustrations in the Mornard Fragments, there may be more to say about those Dalluhn illustrations based on this new evidence as well.

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  7. tHIS AM ARE HOACKS AND YEWS IS BUTTSTED!!1

    YEW SEZ GYGAX PUT A SCAN IN 1973 BUT THAIR WHIR NO SCANNRES WAY BAK IN TEHM OLDIN DAZE!

    PEEPLE WERE A LUCHKY FOR RUNNING WATER BAK TEHN WHILE THAY HID FROM THE NAZI'S INVAYDING FROM JAPANLAND!

    DON'T BE FUELED AGIN OSR BROTHRES!!1

    -NUNYA

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  8. Awesome news Jon! Looking forward to what nuances you may discover.

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