MalcolmLittle in "HardlyLand"

The three little books

Posted on: 2020-07-07

The original three books of Dungeons & Dragons are quite peculiar in how they were organized and published. Sure, the three main books are succinctly named and divided.

Men & Magic

1) Men & Magic: The “men” portion contains descriptions and rules breakdowns concerning characters in the game (both player and non-player), plus an “alternative” combat system to use when playing. The “magic” portion of the title is the list and descriptions of all the magical spells of the game.

Monsters & Treasure

2) Monsters & Treasure: The first part of the booklet is concerned with the many beasts, magical peoples and monsters the referee can utilize. They are all briefly described, with rules for populating them in the game world. The second part contains rules concerning how to generate treasure, and how the players can then use them.

U&W Adventures

3) The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures: This volume is dedicated to helping the game’s referee with creating both the dungeons below and the overland above.

The books contain lots of rules and short examples of play. The rules that Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson created are packed into every page. Illustrations are sparse and there are few examples of the writer repeating himself. This was also the first time anyone had really created a role-playing game before, and many of the explanations for rules can be found in entirely other sections, even other booklets.

The thing is, a large portion of the game is not even present in the booklets. They can be found in another game entirely, namely Chainmail. Here is where much of the combat terminology and rules originate from, and you would probably do well to read Chainmail first in order to get a better grasp of the original version of Dungeons & Dragons. Most players didn’t have a copy of the war game. They played the game regardless, struggling with the rules and in turn making their own interpretations and house rules, later spawning all the games that would broaden what RPGs would later become in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

A lot of what we think of as modern gaming is largely built upon a foundation that was Gygax and Arneson’s original creation, the original boxed set. And their chaotic and impenetrable attempt at information design is at least partly responsible for all that creativity.


2 Responses to "The three little books"

Where did you get the cleaned original covers? I’m thinking of printing some copies for myself.

Sorry for the late response! You can get ahold of them, they are out there. 😉

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  • MalcolmLittle: Sorry for the late response! You can get ahold of them, they are out there. ;-)
  • Griffiana: Where did you get the cleaned original covers? I'm thinking of printing some copies for myself.
  • Blog 'em up-Jimmy: Haha! In the year 2000 the most famous sport is Space Rainbow Tennis!
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