MalcolmLittle in "HardlyLand"

Posts Tagged ‘OD&D

If you read the original box set in 70’s, you could be excused for coming up with all kinds of applications for the player characters’ Ability scores.

For example, if you had to lift an opponent, in what way would Strength help?


We got some areas of use in the book already. Strength would help opening traps. Dexterity dictates generally how fast the character is, and can help in the attempt of getting off a missile or spell first. Charisma could influence how enemy characters treat you if imprisoned (transformed into swine or kept as ensorcelled lover?). Constitution indicates your general health. Intelligence and Wisdom are to help guide “whether or not certain action would be taken”.

I personally believe that Gygax meant for these scores to help the referee gage whether or not certain outcomes were possible.

  • Oh, you are not strong enough to open the sealed wooden barrel.
  • The witch turns your character’s bones into gummy worms and will not try to recruit her as a henchman, due to her low charisma.
  • The PC is not intelligent enough to attempt to run this futuristic and highly technological device.

Many players thought however, that the Ability scores could be used as difficulty threshold.

You can imagine any reasonable referee say, Roll under your Strength score to see if you succeed.

There is nothing in the rules to support that per se, but it is an easy way to resolve situations when the referee wishes a simple chance to decide, rather than having to rule what scores would demand a roll of a d6 or d100, and then decide the probability.

It is, with hindsight, kinda funny how Charisma is the most utilized Ability in OD&D, while Strength gets ZERO mechanical use in the box set outside of being a Prime requisite for Fighters (further usage comes later with the first suppliment for OD&D, Greyhawk). Strength: the true dump stat of OD&D. Oh, that and Wisdom.


We get an explanation of how Dexterity would affect initiative rolls in the FAQ in the second issue of TSR’s house magazine The Strategic Review. Gygax wrote there that a high Dexterity would give a +1 on initiative rolls (each side throws a d6).

I assume that the stated missile fire bonus/penalty could be used for initiative as well, but nothing is explicitely stated. Gygax wrote in an explanation in the article that orcs could get a penalty to their initiative roll, as they are slow, but that was deemed optional. So, +1 if high DEX, -1 with low (optional).

We also have the missing rule about how Constitution should affect being able to “withstand being paralyzed, turned to stone, etc.”

The question is, could Constitution work the same way for Saving throws as Dexterity should affect iniatitive? You could assume Saving throws is what Gygax means by withstanding paralyzation or being turned to stone, having no other context in the box set. Could a high CON give a +1 to your roll?

The “etc.” does beg the question further; would this bonus affect all saving throws?

How high would the Constituion score need to be to get this bonus? Perhaps the bonus offered to Hit points could be of use here? CON 15 or higher: +1? And CON 6 or lower: -1?

There is sadly no uniformity to these bonuses and penalties, so it’s all up to the ref.

DEX 12 and above: +1
DEX 8 and below: -1
CON 15 and above: +1
CON 6 and below: -1
[with Greyhawk: STR 13 (To hit): +1
STR 6 and below (To hit): -1
STR 16 and above (damage): +1
STR 4 and below (damage): -1]

[Edit: The following supplement Greyhawk does add another function to Constitution, “Probability of Surviving Spells”, that affects the chance of surviving spells such as Stone To Flesh. Could this be what Gygax meant? Perhaps, but in the context of the original three booklets you are left wondering, as lethality was not expressed in the description. And was Paralyzation meant to be lethal?]

The next post will be on the classes’ Prime requisites.


The Abilities in the original box set for Dungeons & Dragons are also very lightly defined, so much so that it is leaves players and referees wondering what their true scope can be.


Roll for Abilities

Let’s begin with how scores in these Abilities are determined: roll 3d6.

Low score: 3–8
Average score: 9–12
High score:13–18

Descriptions of Abilities

The descriptions for the Abilities are found in the first book, Men & Magic.

Strength is only described as the Prime requisite for Fighters and “will also aid in opening traps and so on.”

Intelligence can “affect referees’ decisions as to whether or not certain
action would be taken” and is the Prime requisite for Magic users.

Wisdom is the Cleric’s Prime requisite. The Ability score “will act much as does that for intelligence”.

Constitution actually gets a definition: “a combination of health and endurance”. It can affect the amount of Hit Points a Player character gets, and apparently also help “how well the character can withstand being paralyzed, turned to stone, etc.” (a perk that is NEVER mentioned again in the rules).

Dexterity gets an application: “both manual speed and conjuration”. It is supposed to help with missile fire and to “indicate” the speed of actions, like being able to fire missiles or cast spells “first”.


Charisma is amusingly enough the Ability that has the highest number of game mechanics in OD&D. It, like Constitution, also gets a definition: “a combination of appearance, personality, and so forth”.

Mechanically, the Ability determines the amount of classed hirelings they can have employed (Magic users, Fighters and Clerics). Charisma also affects how loyal all the character’s hirelings will be and how easily the character can recruit monsters into their service. The Ability score is also to come into consideration when the referee is to determine if adversaries are to turn the Player character “into a swine or keep him enchanted as a lover” when captured.

So, the above paragraphs are essentially what you get in the Ability section. Further on in the books the Abilities becomes developed further, and other new mechanics are introduced. Let’s look at that.

Prime requisites

First up is the Prime requisites.

What does it mean that certain Abilities are the “prime requisite” of a Class? The rules seem to imply that the score of that specific Ability can affect the amount of Experience points a player character can gain.

If the Prime requisite is high, the PC may get a bonus (10% or 5%), or if it is low, there will be a penalty (10% or 20%).

It seems that other Ability scores can double as Prime requisites (or be exchanged?), so that the Prime requisites can be raised. It is all very nebulous. I’ll write more about this in an upcoming post.

Bonuses and penalties

Constitution gets its now classic bonus/penalty to Hit Dice, and has its peculiar worded “chance of survival” for the scores 7 through 12. The logic seems to be that 13 and above get 100%, and every rating below 13 has its chance reduced by 10%. A score of 3 would therefor have 0%. But what would use this percentile chance? The answer is likely found in the second booklet, Monsters & Treasure (see below).


High or low Dexterity gets a bonus or penalty for missile fire.

Abilities throughout the three booklets

The six Abilities do not come up often after their initial rendition in Men & Magic.

Strength comes up a few times. Once, when discussing how the Ability can affect the amount of Movement it would take (or cost) to knock down a door. Nothing definite is said so it is up to the referee to adjudicate. Otherwise, a few magical items offer an increase in strength (often to “giant strength”).

Intelligence is mentioned with the magical item Helm of Telepathy (the INT scores of the wielder and their victim are compared in an attempt at controlling the victim’s mind).

Constitution has bearing on the Raise Dead spell, which presumably utilizes the “chance of survival” I discussed earlier.

Wisdom and Dexterity are never brought up outside the Abilities section in the first book.

Charisma does make a return with “Command centers”, in the section on naval combat in the third booklet. If a leader is commanding a ship, their Charisma score indicates how many “inches” their commands can be heard by their subordinates on the ship. If a captain is hollering orders, they can only be heard a certain distance (this range can be expanded further by lieutenants within range).

In the next post I will write a little on what Abilities could actually do in a OD&D game.

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Here are some final thoughts on alignment (here are my previous posts), as it pertains to its original inception in the three little books.

Alignment is so vaguely explained, it borders on unfathomable. There are things we do know however, with greater context.

There is Law and Chaos, and those who do not take a side. Some (most?) fantastical creatures have a bent, one way or another. The inclusion of Tolkien’s interpretation of classic magical and fantastical beings into Dungeons & Dragons (including his own creations such as Ents and orcs) changes the dichotomy of Law and Chaos. We move from Poul Anderson’s ‘humankind vs the supernatural’ into a concept similar to Michael Moorcock’s ‘logic vs passion’. Gary Gygax seems to simplify it further to something akin to ‘order vs violence’. Elves and Balrogs cannot be on the same side in this game and we get the foundation of what Law, Neutrality and Chaos will become in the coming editions.


Something for players of later editions of D&D to observe is the orc. They can be Neutral or side with Chaos in the original edition, which is interesting. It is somewhat of a through line throughout their inclusion in the games moving forward.

The inherent evilness of orcs has become controversial lately, but their alignment has moved around over the editions.

Chainmail: Chaos
OD&D: Neutral or Chaos
The first D&D Basic set (Holmes): Chaotic Evil
AD&D 1st: Lawful Evil
The second D&D Basic set (Moldvay): Chaos

Bear in mind, the list of aligned monsters and creatures in Men & Magic seem to have some inconsistencies. Dragons are for example stated as being both Neutral and Chaotic, but their presentation text later in Monsters & Treasure tell that they are all Chaotic, except for the Lawful Golden dragon. Perhaps the same “error” could have happened to orcs (who can otherwise only be recruited as hirelings by Chaotic player characters).


One of the great attractions of playing earlier editions of D&D is both the sparser rule sets (well, excluding AD&D perhaps) and the willingness to let the players decide what they want to do. With the original edition’s three volumes, referees and players can do whatever they want. What does Law and Chaos represent at your table? Does it even matter? Can wise and powerful Patriarchs be cruel or oppressive? Similarly, spells like Detect Evil might just be defined as simply “detect adversarial magic and monsters”. Or, it could touch on some larger cosmological truth in your shared game world. That is the beauty of role-playing games, and a core feature of OD&D; decide what you think is best.

Alignment is, as I said previously, not directly explained in the original booklets. You get what little that does exist through osmosis while exploring the game, as with a lot in the original edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

Let’s begin with “divisional languages”, as it is the first instance of alignment you get in box set after the list of which creatures are sided with what.

Every alignment has its own language, and creatures of the same alignment can converse with one another while using it. Even Neutral characters have one (how odd!). Creatures will not understand other alignment languages, though they will recognize them and attack if it is “hostile” (I presume, a Lawful person hearing someone speak “Chaotic”, etc.).

This might be one of the more ignored features of the game, something Gary Gygax himself regretted, but he likened them to religious languages, such as Hebrew or Latin, that can be used for more secretive communication during play.

Moving onto the Cleric class, they are required to declare their allegiance to either Law or Chaos when reaching 7th Level (a peculiar quirk in OD&D), meaning they can have another, even neutral, alignment before reaching that level.

In the lists of alignment, non-player characters called “Patriarchs”, equivalent of an 8th Level Cleric, are grouped with the creature types that are Lawful. “Evil High Priests” are sided with Chaos. When encountering these non-player characters, the third booklet in the box set, The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures, also says: “Patriarchs are always Lawful, and Evil High Priests are always Chaotic.”

The presence of “evil priests” immediately raises the question of what “good” and “evil” might mean in the context of alignments in OD&D.

Well first, the Law and Chaos dichotomy was decided as a better fit than good and evil in Chainmail; Gygax wrote, “It is impossible to draw a distinct line between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ fantastic figures.”


Then you have the Anti-clerics, who are mentioned in Men & Magic (together with the Cleric spells that have a “reverse effect”). They have their own equivalent named Levels, including the Evil Acolyte, Evil Adept, Shaman(!?), Evil Priest, etc.

Any encountered Evil High Priest inhabiting a castle would generally “slay Lawful or Neutral passersby who fail to pay their tithes”, while Lawful and Chaotic Clerics would enchant the player characters and send them on a Quest.


An Evil High Priest is undoubtedly evil but that begs the question; is the Patriarch good (especially with the aforementioned mind control spell)? And are all Chaotic Clerics evil/Anti-clerics? Nothing definite is said (though Men & Magic does state that Clerics must choose between Law or Chaos at 7th Level), so it is up the players to decide at their table.

There are magic spells, for both Clerics and Magic users, that clearly focus on evil, such as “Detect Evil” and “Protection From Evil”. Their opposites for Anti-clerics, with reverse effects, are mentioned but never specified (could they be “Hide Evil” or “Detect Good”, “Vulnerability To Evil” or “Protection From Good”?).

If we move onto magical weapons, namely swords, alignment is a core feature.

Magical swords have both intelligence and alignment (with a clear inclination towards Lawful in their randomization).

(As a total aside, magical swords were listed in the Lawful army list in Chainmail. This is perhaps a way of restoring some sort of game balance, since Chaos had very powerful creatures in their ranks.)

Magical swords with a distinct Lawful purpose can paralyze their Chaotic opponents, while swords with a Chaotic origin could disintegrate opponents who follow Law.

Powerful swords could change the alignment of weaker non-player characters, and Neutral ones could have them then deceive everyone present concerning the sword’s capabilities. Chaotic swords would have the non-player character attack.

Chaotic and Lawful versions of swords that target fantastical monsters often affect different creatures, for example the Flaming Sword +3 affects either Undead or, if Chaotic, Treants.

Finally, when hiring men-at-arms Chaotic players can recruit orcs. Fun!

If we make a summary of what alignment is in the three booklets:

  • Clerics need to eventually declare an alignment.
  • Most fantastical creatures lean towards Law, Neutrality or Chaos.
  • There are divisional languages for each alignment, a kind of secret yet universal language.
  • Magical swords also have alignments, and Chaotic versions often work differently, and more violently.
  • Evil exists within the game, and it seems to have some relation to Chaos, but evil is only mentioned in connection to “Evil Priests” or “Anti-clerics”, never to “Chaotic Clerics”.

Good is only ever mentioned in that poison is “neither good nor evil” (and cannot be found via Detect Evil). I am not sure that good exists…?

(Last fact: The lists of creatures-per-alignment doubles as a random table for the Reincarnation spell. Fun utility!)

It is somewhat odd how little alignment is commented upon in both the original D&D box set and in Chainmail. Like most everything in the game, what is said is spread out throughout the books.


Originally in Chainmail, three “categories” were presented: Law, Neutral and Chaos. They were meant to signify the two (or possibly three?) army types the different fantasy beings would be aligned to. Neutral types could be recruited to players representing either Law or Chaos, by rolling a die for them. A tie would result in the creature remaining neutral and staying out of the fight.

It has been assumed that the concept of Law and Chaos is taken from the pulp fiction writer Poul Anderson and his book Three Hearts and Three Lions. Michael Moorcock had also cribbed the concept of cosmic forces aligned to Law and Chaos into several of his books, so that is also an obvious additional inspiration (both Three Hearts and Three Lions and Moorcock’s Stormbringer stories were later offered in the recommended reading section ‘Appendix N’ in Gary Gygax’ Dungeon Masters Guide).

Law is connected to mankind, ordered civilization and peace in Anderson’s original conception and Chaos is in turn associated with the supernatural, primal paganism and war.

You can find Anderson’s two descriptions of Law and Chaos from Three Hearts and Three Lions on Dan Collins’ blog Delta’s D&D Hotspot.

Michael Moorcock’s adaption of the concept for his own fantasy books, most notably those about the Elric of Melniboné, is one of both personal and cosmic balance within a dualism. Law brings about order, rationality and society and Chaos is the source of creativity, passion and individuality. The concept of Law and Chaos is not one of good and evil for Moorcock. Both are needed and a balance should be struck but Law and Chaos can become harmful if gone to extremes, bringing about stasis or violence respectively.

Neither Anderson or Moorcock are referenced in the original three booklets (Anderson and his book are mentioned in passing in Chainmail, when discussing “true trolls”).

The words Law and Chaos get a new connotation with Gary Gygax, chiefly to incorporate Tolkien’s fantastical beings into this order. Elves can for example be both Neutral and Lawful in D&D and Chainmail, but are considered beings of Chaos in Anderson’s book, as would most faerie and supernatural beings.

The famous fantastical creatures from Tolkien’s works are divided up. Nazgul, Balrogs, goblins and dragons are sided with Chaos, while Ents and Hobbits are Lawful.

In the upcoming post I will discus how the Alignments are described in the small snippets found in the booklets.


What lessons could be learned from using the turn sequences from Chainmail for your OD&D game?

Well, war games are played on a table with game pieces. If you are playing D&D without that kind of tactical overview, are things like “half moves” or “facing” important?

There are certainly situations where those rules have a place and are fun to play with, but the turn sequence could at the very least be the backbone for a structure of combat, even with “theatre of the mind” style of play.

Here is how it can look at its most basic:

  1. Ask everyone to declare what they’re going to do this round.
  2. Roll d6 for initiative (98% you will want to go first)
  3. Decide what movement will be made.
  4. Shoot missiles
  5. Resolve combat
  6. Check for morale

Things to ponder:

Just getting into the proximity of combat (meaning, being right up there in the first row, next to enemies) will break casting. So, when do you want spells to be in the combat sequence? It is really up to you, since that it was never actually stated in either the original box set or in Chainmail. Should it be at the same time as missile fire, as written in the previous posts? Or do you want it with melee combat, as in the OD&D inspired clone Swords & Wizardry Complete?

I also topped the sequence above with having every player declare their intended actions. That way, you get a touch of the craziness of battle, with the possibility of plans being dashed by unfolding events, which you would otherwise get using simultaneous movement. You can be remove it, if you wish.

Third consideration: The DEX adjustment “clarification” from The Strategic Review no. 2 can make things difficult if you are using group initiative. Would they apply to the whole group? What happens if one person has a bonus while another has a penalty; would they cancel each other out? Or worse, two PCs with penalties?

My suggestion is to keep what everyone’s declared actions in mind and see if the DEX bonus or penalty would help or hinder that individual character. So, the baddies go first (rolled a 5), but the Magic user gets to fire their Sleep spell at the same time as the enemy shoot their arrows (the players rolled a 4).

Even including Chainmail and the Q&A article from The Strategic Review, there is a LOT of room for referee interpretation and decision making: the hallmark of original box set.


The second type of turn sequence suggested in Chainmail is simultaneous movement. No one seems to remember anyone ever actually using it for the war game, but it is intriguing none the less.

It begins with both sides writing down their orders for movement (including instructions of which direction they’re facing). Any charges are also noted (plus orders of “charge if charged”).

  1. Write down orders for character movement, including facing and eventual charges.

Both sides then determine the movement of the characters according to their orders, starting with half of the move, in order to make any possible split-moves (see the previous post) but also to see if any unintended encounters of opposing forces has happened (meaning that their movement has now been blocked by hostile opponents and the rest of their movement is ignored). The remainder of the move is then concluded (if possible).

  1. Enact written orders for both sides, noting any split-moves, pass-through fire and opponents encountering each other.

Magic users will then check if any of their spells can be cast (were they encountered by moving enemies, or were they fired upon by a split-move?).

  1. Magic users cast their spells (and any eventual artillery is fired).

The outcome of missiles fire is then determined.

  1. Determine missile fire.

After missile fire, any intentional and unintentional melee combat is resolved.

  1. Resolve melee combat.

And finally, make any needed Morale checks (remember, there are several different morale systems in Chainmail and some morale checks can be made during other phases in the combat sequence).

  1. Check for morale.

That’s it!

So, let’s summarize.

  1. Write down orders for character movement, including eventual charges.
  2. Enact written orders for both sides, noting any missile fire (pass-trough or split-move) and encounters for melee combat.
  3. Cast any available spells (and fire any eventual artillery).
  4. Determine (regular) missile fire.
  5. Resolve melee combat.
  6. Check for morale.

The rules state “exact orders for each unit […] must be given”, and the question can be raised if spells, missile fire and normal combat should also be included in such written orders. If you are using the 1:20 combat rules found in Chainmail their addition wouldn’t make much of a difference (distance isn’t a factor for arrow fire in that rule set, for example)  but since D&D is not a war game there might be reasons to ask the players to add even those actions to their orders.

The thing about simultaneous movement that attracts me is the unknown quality of the battle, with all the guesswork. “Will the enemy move to close in the gap between the characters, or will they stay put and send another volley of arrows? Will they charge soon? Oh shit, what happens if my characters meet a hidden force and we fight out here, opening us up to coming flank attacks?” That sort of stuff.

I wouldn’t say that the order in which combat takes place is sparingly described in the original box set of Dungeons & Dragons; it’s goddamn non-existent. All you get is the Alternate combat system and texts such as how the ability Dexterity affects the “speed with actions such as firing first, getting off a spell, etc.”. Monsters get one attack per Hit Die when attacking “‘normal’ men”. The surprise rules explain a little more about when fighting can begin, if any of the parties are surprised. That’s pretty much all you get.

How was this supposed to work?

Well, if you have a copy of Chainmail, you will find two possible sequences for how combat can commence. The “Move/counter move” and the “Simultaneous movement” systems.

Chainmail is a war game and it kinda shows.


If we start with the one order of combat D&D players would most likely recognize, where combatants take turns to resolve their combat. Each side rolls and the one who rolls the highest score gets to choose who goes first.

  1. Roll d6 per side for initiative. Highest score decides.

The game is so far built on group initiative.

Those who go first will move their characters (every character has a Movement rating, stating how many “inches” they can move). The type of terrain can affect movement.

Some characters can also shoot missiles during the Movement phase. Stationary characters who see others come into range may fire now (a combat move called “pass-through fire”). Mounted archers, and elves on foot, can also fire missiles halfway through their move (called “split-move and fire”).

(Stationary means here that the archers will not move this turn.)

  1. The chosen side moves first (including missile fire from mounted archers and elves). Stationary bowmen on the opposing side may shoot if characters come into range.
  2. The other side can move (including missile fire from mounted archers and elves), and any stationary bowmen on their opposing side may shoot any who come into range.

Then there is the Artillery phase. Since most players and enemies will not have cannons or catapults this might seem unimportant but hear! Nowhere in the Chainmail is it stated when casting of magic spells are to take place. It has been said however that Gary Gygax meant spells to be executed during the Artillery phase.

Observe! Magic users must remain still and unmolested in order to cast spells (so they must be both stationary and stay out of melee combat this turn).


  1. Both sides execute magical spells and fire artillery.

Regular missile fire is done next, including gunpowder weapons.

Observe #2! Artillery and missile fire happen simultaneously. Normal archer fire cannot mess with Magic users’ ability to cast spells in this way of using the system.

  1. Both sides fire their missiles.

Combatants who have met in the movement phase will now have their round of combat executed. Who moved on whom, i.e. attackers and defenders, can be significant if you are not using the Alternate combat system provided in Men & Magic.

  1. Any meeting combatants on both sides will partake in a round of melee combat (often in terms of the attacking side’s attacks, and the defending side’s counter attacks).

Finally, there is the morale check phase. There are quite a few possible morale systems in D&D. One is vaguely suggested in Men & Magic.


Otherwise there are a few in Chainmail, that can even interweave with the previous phases (devastating results due to missile fire or melee combat can for example trigger immediate morale checks).

  1.  Check morale of affected combatants.

So that’s about it! A lot it seems.

I’ll abbreviate the phases further.

  1. Roll d6 per side for initiative. Highest score decides.
  2. The chosen side moves first. Stationary bowmen on the opposing side may fire.
  3. The other side can move, and any stationary bowmen on their opposing side may shoot.
  4. Both sides execute magical spells (and fire any artillery).
  5. Both sides fire their (regular) missiles.
  6. Both sides partake in a round of melee combat.
  7. Check morale.

As I wrote above the original rules state that Dexterity should affect how quickly spells could be cast, crossbow bolts can be fired, etc. In the second issue of TSR’s house magazine The Strategic Review it is stated in a Q&A article that high Dexterity could give a +1. I assume that you could use the same adjustments that are used for missile fire (DEX 3-9: -1 and DEX 12-18: +1).

The same article also gives a sense that initiative could be determined per melee. So, if there are more than one combat encounter, one Initiative could be determined per group (or perhaps even per individual?).

The upcoming post will look into simultaneous movement as an option.

Much has been made of the large groups of players that were present in the earliest days of the hobby.

The number of suggested players in the booklet Men & Magic is funny and unreal.


Players using modern table-top RPGs would struggle if they had more than two handfuls of people present, depending on the game’s complexity of course. Having 20+ players is nigh unfathomable.

The number of d6’s suggested might also seem excessive.


The dice do come in handy if you play with combat system found in Chainmail. I get a sense from the box set and from The Strategic Review no. 2 that the original version of D&D is primarily meant to use the Man-To-Man rules or the “Fantasy Combat Table” from the war game’s combat systems (both using only 2d6 being rolled per side in melee combat), but fistfuls of dice can be thrown if you wish to employ the 1:20 mass combat rules. A warrior on a heavy horse would throw four dice against one lightly armored foot soldier. A heavily mounted 3rd Level Fighter confronting (regular 1 HD) peasant militia would throw 12 dice!


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.


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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!