Chainmail                                                     Home Up
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The progenitor of Dungeons & Dragons. Ostensibly a straight-wargaming rulebook for miniatures, its "Fantasy Supplement" sparked a phenomenon.

Chainmail (Guidon Games) by Gary Gygax and Jeff Perren
Chainmail (TSR) by Gary Gygax and Jeff Perren

Originally published in rough form in Domesday Book issue #5 (in July 1970), the first two stand-alone editions were published by Guidon Games.  Soon thereafter, Gygax and Kaye formed Tactical Studies Rules, and future printings of Chainmail fell under that auspice.

Whether the "Fantasy Supplement" to Chainmail formed the basis of D&D is a matter of some disagreement between D&D's co-creators, Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax.

Arneson claims in Heroic Worlds that the influence of Chainmail in the development of the Original D&D rules was in the Combat Matrix only (i.e., giving RPG characters and monsters "hard statistics").  According to Arneson, Chainmail bears little resemblance to D&D whatsoever; "not a hit point, character class, level, or armor class" anywhere.  Furthermore, Arneson states that a series of naval combat scenarios, "The Braunsteins", were the critical foundation of his Blackmoor campaign, and later, D&D.

Gygax disagrees.  In Best of Dragon Volume 1, he notes: "...when the whole appeared in Chainmail, Dave (Arneson) began using the fantasy rules for his campaign and he reported a number of these actions to the C&C Society by way of articles.  I thought that this usage was quite interesting and a few months later when Dave came to visit me we played a game of his amended Chainmail fantasy campaign.  A few weeks after his visit, I received 18 or so handwritten pages of rules and notes pertaining to his campaign and I immediately began work on a brand new manuscript.  About three weeks later, I had some 100 typewritten pages, and we began serious play testing... Dungeons & Dragons had been born."  Gygax quickly goes on to say that Arneson was only given co-authorship of D&D for his "valuable idea kernels", and that D&D bears little resemblance to the Blackmoor campaign.

Further, as contributor Bruce Robertson notes, "I don't see how you can argue that D&D doesn't draw heavily on Chainmail... 'fireball', 'lightning bolt', 'conjure elemental', 'phantasmal force', and all the core monsters are in the 1971 edition -- along with an armor sequence that exactly matches the one in D&D." 

The argument between Gygax and Arneson, we believe, stems from a lawsuit Arneson brought against TSR in 1979, demanding royalties from the AD&D line of products.  Arneson was listed as the co-author of the Original D&D rules, and as such, he believed he was owed a portion of the proceeds from all things derived from that work.  It was certainly not advantageous for Arneson to claim inspiration from Chainmail, a product authored by Gygax!  The outcome of that lawsuit was never made public, but rumor has it that Arneson received a lump sum in exchange for ceasing legal action.

Regardless to the degree Chainmail guided Arneson in his campaign, the influence of this little yellow booklet on the eventual development of D&D is undeniable.


Printing Information  Logos

1st Edition

  • First (1971)
    • Published by Guidon Games -- no company address listed
    • 62 total pages (47 numbered pages)
    • Binding is stapled
    • Cover is yellow-orange
    • Contrary to rumor, the 15-page Fantasy Supplement is indeed present
    • While this version has 12 more pages than later prints, this is almost entirely due to the font size and formatting used.  In fact, this version contains only six spells, which were expanded to 20 in later prints
    • Thanks to Bruce Robertson for this info, and the scan

2nd Edition

  • First (1972)
    • Published by Guidon Games -- address of the company is Evansville, Indiana (on the copyright page)
    • 48 total pages (35 numbered pages); font size is now smaller and easier to read
    • Binding is stapled
    • Cover is yellow-orange, but compared to the Second print of the 2nd Edition, is a heavier, parchment-like stock
    • Inside cover is white
    • Incorporated rule changes first published in the Domesday newsletter (unknown issue, but the corrections appear on page 16 of that issue)
       
  • Second (1972?)
    • Published by Guidon Games -- address of the company is Belfast, Maine (on the copyright page)
    • 48 total pages (35 numbered pages)
    • Binding is stapled
    • Cover is yellow-orange, but compared to the First print of the 2nd Edition, is rather flimsy
    • Inside cover is the same color as the exterior (yellow-orange)

3rd Edition

  • First (1975)
    • Published by Tactical Studies Rules
    • 44 total pages (all numbered)
    • Binding is stapled
    • Cover is yellow-orange, and has now reverted back to heavy parchment-like paper
    • Cover has the GK (Gygax/Kaye) logo
    • Cover states 3rd Edition, and says "Tactical Studies Rules"
    • Cover lists the price ($5.00)
    • No Product Code on the front cover bottom left
    • Inside indicates First printing 
    • Contains references to Hobbits and Ents (quick check: table on bottom of page 28)
       
  • Second
    • Published by Tactical Studies Rules
    • 44 total pages
    • Binding is stapled
    • Cover is now light silver
    • Cover has the GK (Gygax/Kaye) logo
    • Cover states 3rd Edition, and says "Tactical Studies Rules"
    • Cover lists the price ($5.00)
    • No Product Code on the front cover bottom left
    • Inside does not indicate any printing number
    • Contains references to Hobbits and Ents (quick check: table on bottom of page 28)
    • Thanks to T.S. McDuffie for help with this info
       
  • Second+ (Jul 1975)
    • Published by TSR
    • 44 total pages
    • Binding is black-plastic spiraling
    • Cover is light silver
    • Cover has the GK (Gygax/Kaye) logo
    • Cover states 3rd Edition, and says "Tactical Studies Rules"
    • Cover lists the price ($5.00)
    • No Product Code on the front cover bottom left
    • Inside now indicates Second printing
    • Contains references to Hobbits and Ents (quick check: table on bottom of page 28)
    • Thanks to T.S. McDuffie for help with this info
       
  • Third (Jun 1976)
    • Published by TSR
    • 44 total pages
    • Binding is black-plastic spiraling
    • Cover is light silver
    • Cover has the Lizard logo
    • Cover states 3rd Edition, and says "TSR Rules"
    • Cover lists the price ($5.00)
    • No Product Code on the front cover bottom left
    • Inside indicates Third printing
    • Contains references to Hobbits and Ents (quick check: table on bottom of page 28)
    • Thanks to Kent Kelly for help with this info
       
  • Fourth (Mar 1977)
    • Published by TSR
    • 44 total pages
    • Binding is black-plastic spiraling
    • Cover is light silver
    • Cover has the Lizard logo
    • Cover states 3rd Edition, and says "TSR Rules"
    • Cover lists the price ($5.00)
    • No Product Code on the front cover bottom left
    • Inside indicates Fourth printing
    • Contains references to Hobbits and Ents (quick check: table on bottom of page 28)
    • Thanks to Hussain Zaman for help with this info
       
  • Fifth (Jan 1978)
    • Published by TSR
    • 44 total pages
    • Binding is black-plastic spiraling
    • Cover is light silver
    • Cover has the Lizard logo
    • Cover states 3rd Edition, and says "TSR Rules"
    • Cover lists the price ($5.00)
    • Product Code (6002) on the front cover bottom left
    • Inside indicates Fifth printing
    • References to Hobbits and Ents have now been changed to Halflings and Treants (quick check: table on bottom of page 28)
    • Thanks to Richard Humm and Ben Polson for help with this info
       
  • Sixth (Aug 1978)
    • Published by TSR
    • 44 total pages
    • Binding is black-plastic spiraling
    • Cover is light silver
    • Cover has the Lizard logo
    • Cover states 3rd Edition, and says "TSR Rules"
    • Cover lists the price ($5.00)
    • Product Code (6002) on the front cover bottom left
    • Inside indicates Sixth printing
    • Contains references to Halflings and Treants (quick check: table on bottom of page 28)
    • Thanks to Jason Lotito for help with this info
       
  • Seventh (Apr 1979)
    • Published by TSR
    • 44 total pages
    • Binding is black-plastic spiraling
    • Cover is now a noticeably darker silver
    • Cover has the Wizard logo
    • Cover states 3rd Edition, and says "TSR Rules"
    • Cover lists price ($5.00), although identical copies have been spotted with no price
    • Product Code (6002) on the front cover bottom left
    • Inside indicates Seventh printing
    • Contains references to Halflings and Treants (quick check: table on bottom of page 28)
    • This printing (and later printings) were originally shrinkwrapped; unknown if earlier ones were
    • Thanks to Carlson Davis, Adrian Newman and Alan Popow for help with this info, and to Carlson Davis for the scan
       
  • Eighth (Nov 1979)
    • Published by TSR
    • 44 total pages
    • Binding is black-plastic spiraling
    • Cover is dark silver
    • Cover has the Wizard logo
    • Cover states 3rd Edition, and says "TSR Rules"
    • Cover lists no price
    • Product Code (6002) on the front cover bottom left
    • Inside still indicates "Seventh Printing, April 1979" (though this is incorrect)
    • Contains references to Halflings and Treants (quick check: table on bottom of page 28)
    • Originally shrinkwrapped
       
  • Printings after Eighth are identical to Eighth in all respects, but have a white, photocopied-look cover (they're essentially photocopies).

Auction Commentary

1st and 2nd Edition copies of Chainmail are extremely rare.  The value of 3rd Edition copies is heavily weighted towards the front end, with First and Second prints often commanding much higher prices than later prints.


Current eBay Auctions


Chainmail (1st Ed)


Chainmail (2nd Ed)


Chainmail
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Chainmail
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Chainmail
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Chainmail
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