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 current version of my paper on the Dalluhn Manuscript, incorporating the findings resulting from the Mornard Fragments, is available for download here (and the exhibits are here) [updated December 2015].

Sunday, December 15, 2013

When Dungeons & Dragons Turns 40

Many sources, including Playing at the World, assign to Dungeons & Dragons an initial release in January 1974. Our best evidence comes from contemporary notices like the one above, a letter written by Gary Gygax late in 1973 that foretells the imminent release of the game. Now, with the fortieth anniversary nearly upon us, a burning question arises: when exactly should we celebrate? While there is no shortage of anecdotal accounts describing when, and to whom, the first copy of the game was sold, there is little concrete evidence to indicate any particular birthday. This author, however, will be lifting a die to toast the anniversary on Sunday, January 26th, 2014, on the basis of the following chronology surrounding the release of Dungeons & Dragons.

[Update: do see the more detailed D&D development timeline here.]