The original Dungeons and Dragons game (OD&D), written by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, was published by TSR in 1974. The boxed set included three booklets: Men & Magic, Monsters & Treasure, and Underworld & Wilderness Adventures. The rules assume that the group also has a copy of Chainmail, a medieval miniatures wargame written by Gary Gygax and Jeff Perrin.
This was the first fantasy role-playing system. It introduced most of the core concepts still in use in all later editions as well as a great many other games: abilities, races, classes, hit points and armor class, alignments, etc. Many of these concepts were implemented a bit differently than in later versions but it is always clear that the relationship is there.
As many of the monsters were adapted from literary works, there were some legal issues early on. As a result “hobbits” became “halflings” and “ents” became “treants”.
Although the game had rules for overland movement and exploration, a number of references were made to an unrelated Avalon Hill board game named Outdoor Survival, which groups were urged to use for outdoor adventures.
There were five supplements to OD&D:
- Eldritch Wizardry
- Gods, Demi-Gods, and Heroes
- Swords & Spells
The Greyhawk supplement, published by TSR in 1975, was named after Gary Gygax’s campaign world. It introduced new combat rules taken from that campaign, removing the game’s dependency on the chainmail combat system. These rules included weapon damage that varied by weapon. Various character classes (illusionist, paladin, ranger, thief) and iconic monsters (beholders, blink dogs, carrion crawlers, displacer beasts, lizardmen) were added as well as an expanded spell system (7th, 8th, and 9th level spells).
Published by TSR in 1975, the Blackmoor supplement was named after Dave Arneson’s campaign world. It introduced the assassin and monk character classes, underwater adventuring rules, specific hit location rules and many new monsters.
This supplement, published in 1976, introduced the druid character class, psionics, many new monsters that use psionics (most notably demons and mind flayers), and magical artifacts (such as the Axe of the Dwarvish Lords and the Rod of Seven Parts).
Gods, Demi-Gods, and Heroes
Published in 1976, this predecessor to Deities and Demi-Gods provides information on various pantheons, both historical (Aztec, Celtic, Chinese, Egyptian, Finnish, Greek, Indian, Japanese, Mayan, Norse) and fantasy-based (Michael Moorcock’s Melnibonean and Robert E. Howard’s Hyborea).
Swords & Spells
This fifth and final supplement, published in 1976, claims to be “the grandson of Chainmail”. It was intended to provide a diceless combat system for handling large-scale battles, something that was cumbersome under the existing system. It proved unpopular and was discarded in later editions.