Thursday, November 9, 2017

Vintage Ad: Slain Any Wicked Dragons Lately?


This D&D advertisement dates from the first half of 1977, a stopping point when TSR would release no new material for the original Dungeons & Dragons game and hadn't yet put anything out to replace it. The body text is familiar from other contemporary advertisements, but the form given shown here let you order a white box, all the supplements, a Swords & Spells, and a subscription to bi-monthly The Dragon magazine. The cover of that magazine's first issue supplied the slayable fellow shown at the top.

The ad could be seen in the wild in science-fiction magazines of the day, for example on the inside cover of the July 1977 issue of Galaxy. Published versions of it all admit of one very slight variation: the department listed in TSR's mailing address. The one shown above directs your mail to "Room 8," while the July 1977 issue of Galaxy version of advertisement requests you appeal to "Dept. G." and the one appearing in the August Fantasy & Science Fiction sends you to "Dept. FF." Sorting incoming mail by this discriminator was the easiest way TSR could measure the effectiveness of their various ad-buys at the time.

This ad was not the first to reuse Bill Hannan's image from the cover of the first issue of The Dragon. It had earlier appeared in more modest spots like the one below from the year before, which listed the range of fantasy offerings currently available from TSR, including titles developed outside the company like the Battle of the Five Armies. Even this tiny ad came in multiple versions with different mailing addresses; I've seen one that directs you to "Dept. 2."



"Slain Any Wicked Dragons Lately?" appeared at the tail end of OD&D product marketing, but the slogan transitioned into the initial public push for the Holmes Basic Set. With the Basic Set, slaying dragons is of course easier than ever. We see the Holmes version in the December 1977 issue of Fantastic Stories, say, directing you to "Dept. F", and even as late as Amazing Stories in May 1978: please send your order to "Dept. AM."


8 comments:

  1. "God's [sic], Demi-Gods and Heroes"

    Priceless!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Who were the “literary authors” touted as being published in The Dragon?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They had fiction stories in the magazine right from the start. Fritz Leiber was in the first issue with an article 'Fafhrd & The Mouser Say Their Say'. Gardner F. Fox was in the second issue.

      Delete
  3. Nice find! I've never seen that particular Basic Set ad. The photo is the same one appearing in other ads, including in color in a TSR catalog which can be see here

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll have to check, I may have a few others you haven't seen...

      Delete
    2. That'd be great, I'd like to make a gallery on the ZA site. I have a few other ads for the 1st print, but most are bad photos/scans from Ebay auctions or elsewhere

      Delete
  4. Does Dept WC for "Walworth County"? I wonder if use of these type of arcane codes gave rise to the module codes.

    ReplyDelete