Most tabletop RPG players are familiar with the origin story of Dungeons & Dragons and its two co-creators Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, even if only in loose terms. A new historical book documenting the first six years of D&D’s history claims to dive deep into that period, including previously unpublished letters between Gygax and Arneson.
The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons: 1970-1976 was revealed during a PAX Unplugged panel hosted by game design architects, Jeremy Crawford and Chris Perkins, along with senior designers Amanda Hammon and James Wyatt. Amongst new D&D 2024 core book details and several upcoming adventure supplements, this 500-page tome stands out - it's not a playable module or rulebook but instead an annotated collection of artefacts, correspondence and design work that would eventually create the most popular and successful tabletop RPG in the industry.
Hammon described The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons: 1970-1976 as a “retrospective, historical account of the original D&D” that contains original illustration and notations from the original RPG manuscript. Perkins called it a replica of the original D&D manual, complete with footnotes, edit lines and original scans wherever possible.
Publisher Wizards of the Coast hired game historian Jon Peterson to help research and collate all of the information, though the panel didn’t share how or where they collected the material. Peterson has published several books on the history and design of D&D, including Playing at the World, The Elusive Shift: How Role-Playing Games Forged Their Identity, Heroes Feast and Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana.
The biggest draw of this “historical perspective” and “chronicle about the origins of this game”, as Perkins characterised it, will be the inclusion of letters shared between Gygax and Arneson while both of them were playtesting the system that would eventually become Dungeons & Dragons’ first incarnation. The panellists claimed these correspondences have never been seen by the public, so it remains a mystery what insights they might provide. The designers famously collaborated by combining Arneson’s homebrewed Blackmoor setting with Gygax’s Greyhawk, talking by mail and phone to synthesise the rules and worldbuilding into something they could pitch to publishers.
Alongside the annotations and historical context, The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons: 1970-1976 will essentially reproduce a replica of the original D&D manuscript - random tables, illustrations, type font, layout and all. No release date was provided at the panel beyond a general 2024 expectation (and some accidentally published dates on social media that might be wrong). Wizards of the Coast is still working on an untitled D&D documentary with Joe Manganiello in the director’s chair.