Dungeons & Dragons (1974)

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Dungeons & Dragons
D&d Box1st.jpg
The original Dungeons & Dragons set
AuthorsGary Gygax
Dave Arneson
GenreRole-playing game
PublisherTSR, Inc.
Publication date
Media typeBoxed set

The original Dungeons & Dragons (commonly abbreviated D&D) boxed set by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson was published by TSR, Inc. in 1974. It included the original edition of the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy role-playing game. Its product designation was TSR 2002.


The original Dungeons & Dragons boxed set was the first role-playing game, a fantasy system with a medieval European flavor.[1] This set introduced concepts which would become standard in later editions, including abilities (such as strength, intelligence, and dexterity); character classes (fighting-man, magic-user, cleric) and levels; races (human, dwarf, elf, halfling); armor class; monsters and treasure; subterranean dungeons of halls, rooms, and doors replete with tricks and traps; and magic items, such as intelligent swords.[1] The set also includes rules for wilderness travel by land and sea, hiring specialists and men-at-arms, building fortifications and setting up baronies.[1] Movement rates and areas are given in inches, like that of the miniatures rules from which the system descended.[1]

The set also included brief guidelines on using monsters as player characters.

This set features only a handful of the elements for which the game is known today: just three character classes (fighting-man, magic-user, and cleric); four races (human, dwarf, elf, hobbit); and only three alignments (lawful, neutral, and chaotic). The rules assume that players have owned and have played the miniatures wargame Chainmail and that they have used its measurement and combat systems. An optional combat system is included within the rules that later developed into the sole combat system of later versions of the game. In addition, the rules presumed ownership of Outdoor Survival, an Avalon Hill board game for outdoor exploration and adventure.

The Men & Magic booklet recommends using miniatures only "if the players have them available and so desire", although they were not required and cardboard counters were given as an alternative.[2]

The Monsters & Treasure booklet contains some of the first depictions of the game's most iconic monsters, many of which were adapted from mythology and various literary works.

The initial printing of the set referred to some of the creatures in the game as "hobbits" and "ents" after J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth creatures, although after legal difficulties they were changed to "halflings" and "treants", respectively.[1]

Publication history[edit]

The original Dungeons & Dragons set, subtitled Rules for Fantastic Medieval Wargames Campaigns Playable with Paper and Pencil and Miniature Figures, was written by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, and was published by TSR in 1974 as a digest-sized boxed set in a brown wood-grain box.[1] The set included three digest-sized books: the 36-page "Volume 1: Men & Magic", the 40-page "Volume 2: Monsters & Treasure", and the 36-page "Volume 3: The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures".[2] The set also included six reference sheets of tables and charts.[1]

With a production budget of only $2000 to produce a thousand copies, the result was amateurish.[3]: 26  Only $100 was budgeted for artwork, and Gygax pressed into service just about anyone who could hold a pencil, including local artist Cookie Corey; Greg Bell, a member of Jeff Perren's gaming group; D&D co-creator Dave Arneson; Gygax's wife's half-sister Keenan Powell; and fellow TSR co-founder Don Kaye.[3]: 20–26  Each artist was paid $2 for a small piece or $3 for a larger piece, with an identical amount paid as a royalty every time another thousand copies were printed.[3]: 20–26 

Several of Greg Bell's illustrations were based on comic book art, often from Strange Tales. The illustration of a sorcerer before a blazing cauldron in the second book is based on a panel from a Dr. Strange story in Strange Tales No. 167.[3]: 24  The cover art showing a sword-wielding Viking warrior on a rearing horse was also copied from Strange Tales #167.[3]: 24 

This first set went through many printings[4] and was supplemented with several official additions, including Greyhawk and Blackmoor in 1975, and Eldritch Wizardry, Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes, and Swords & Spells in 1976. Later printings, beginning in 1976, came in an all-white box,[1] and added the label "Original Collector's Edition".[5] The initial printing of the "Men & Magic" booklet had a drawing of a mounted warrior on the cover, while the 1976 printing featured a fighter with a sword.[1]

The original Dungeons & Dragons was re-released in 2013, as part of a deluxe, premium collectors set which includes reprints of the original boxed set booklets and the four supplement booklets in a wooden box. Each booklet features new cover art but is otherwise a faithful reproduction of the original, including original interior art.[6]


Tim Waddell reviewed the original Dungeons & Dragons in The Space Gamer #2.[7] Waddell commented that "The most stimulating part of the game is the fact that anything can happen. Nothing is impossible."[7] Andy Pudewa also reviewed the original Dungeons & Dragons in The Space Gamer #2.[8] Pudewa said that "As a game, D&D is a fantastical outlet for the imagination. It has the quality of being infinitely flexible, and with it comes the reality of impossibility. [...] There are drawbacks to the game however; as there are in any game. D&D cannot even begin to get interesting in less than 20 hours playing time. Hundreds of hours of work must be done ahead of time by the referee, and it takes a fairly long time to prepare on the part of the players."[8]

Gary Gygax won the Strategists Club's "Outstanding Designer & Writer" for the creation of Dungeons & Dragons.[9] The set is also an H.G. Wells award-winner.[1]

On December 9, 2016, a first printing of the boxed set was sold on an eBay auction for over $20,000.[3]: 424 


  • Origins Awards (All-Time Best Role-Playing Rules, 1977)
  • Origins Awards (Greatest Contribution to the Hobby 1967–77, 1977)
  • Origins Awards (Adventure Gaming Hall of Fame, 1977)
  • Strategists' Club Award (Best New Game, 1974)
  • Pen & Paper (RPG Hall of Fame, 2002)
  • Scrye Player's Choice (All-Time Favorite Role-Playing Game, 2006)
  • Games Magazine (Hall of Fame, 1984).


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Schick, Lawrence (1991). Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games. Prometheus Books. p. 130. ISBN 0-87975-653-5.
  2. ^ a b Tresca, Michael J. (2010), The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, McFarland, p. 62, ISBN 978-0786458950
  3. ^ a b c d e f Witwer, Michael; Newman, Kyle; Witwer, Sam (2018). Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History. Ten Speed Press. ISBN 9780399580949.
  4. ^ "Original D&D Set". The Acaeum. Retrieved January 17, 2009.
  5. ^ "D&D White Box Review". The Museum of Role Playing Games. Archived from the original on March 6, 2012. Retrieved February 2, 2014.
  6. ^ "Original Dungeons & Dragons RPG". Wizards of the Coast. Archived from the original on August 11, 2014. Retrieved March 30, 2015.
  7. ^ a b Waddell, Tim (1975). "Reviews of Dungeons & Dragons". The Space Gamer. Metagaming (2): 9.
  8. ^ a b Pudewa, Andy (1975). "Reviews of Dungeons & Dragons". The Space Gamer. Metagaming (2): 9.
  9. ^ "Dungeons & Dragons 3-volume set". RPGnet. Retrieved October 20, 2008.

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