1973 Pre-publication Edition of D&D
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Post Posted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 8:03 pm 
 

It's with no small surprise that I report that there survives a 1973 pre-publication edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

I first had the opportunity to inspect this manuscript briefly at GenCon this year, as did stratochamp, ExTSR, kaskoid and a few other folks. I have spent more than three weeks working with the manuscript since then, and I am satisfied that this is the genuine article. As far as I can tell, it seems to be a playtesting copy.

It consists of two booklets, one of which is mostly tables and reference material (such as spell, monster and magic-item descriptions), the other of which explains character creation, dungeon exploration and wilderness adventures. I've built a preliminary mapping that shows how the sections of this manuscript became OD&D; it reveals that at this time in the development, the sections of the first two OD&D books were structurally intact, while the third book was still very much in development.

The real treasures within are its original, provisional rules. We see many traces of Chainmail that would be excised from OD&D, to be replaced with a reference to the Chainmail books. We see major differences in the magic system and the experience system. Hit points are tuned very differently (Clerics are weaker than Magic-users), and monsters have a worse chance of hitting you than they do in OD&D. Spells like Fireball and Lightning Bolt do not deal points of damage - they either kill you or miss you. There are a handful of spells that never made it into OD&D. Mostly however we see a provisional state of development, with fewer spells, monsters, magic items and so on, but a clear path to get to the finished product.

Bluntly, I think this document represents a holy grail of D&D collecting, at least in the realm of published and distributed works. It also probably marks a watershed moment in our understanding of the early history of the game. I could only be happier to relay this news if, well, I had seen this two years ago and had been able to work it into my book... Still, this is a pretty amazing discovery.

I'm going to be posting a number of articles about it on my blog. Anyone familiar with my book will know that I would not advance this claim without being able to back it up; this first post starts rolling out the evidence that indicates this is the real thing. Read it here.


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Post Posted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 8:35 pm 
 

Amazing!! Thank you for this.

Hector.


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Post Posted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 10:42 pm 
 

More cool stuff to read!  Thanks for your research and work.

  

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Post Posted: Mon Sep 10, 2012 11:06 pm 
 

Just to throw some kerosene on the fire -- I'm the one who sent scans of BTPTBD to Gary, some eleven years ago.  I also forwarded it to Skip Williams.  This was the response I got back, paraphrased:

Gary stated, "took a look, seems to be a rip-off of the D&D game that I've never seen before."  Skip was a bit more verbose (relayed from a staff member at TSR):

"I've never seen the original playtest version of The Fantasy Game, but I showed a page of what you sent me to Skip Williams, who thought it did not sound like Gygax.  Specifically, he pointed out some differences in wording of similar sentences that appeared in the 1st edition 3-bk version and said that the published line sounded like Gary but the similar line in the document you sent did not sound to him like something that Gary would have changed to the published reading.  Sorry if I've expressed it poorly, but there it is for what it worth: the reaction of someone who was in the Lake Geneva gaming group at the time D&D was percolating supports Gygax's story that this, whatever it was, probably was written based on the published books.  Whatever it is, it must be very early.  I can well believe that a fan would go to these lengths: I once created my own Risk board, cards, and counters because I couldn't afford a store-bought set.  For years I preferred my variant to the original, even after I owed one.  There are also numerous accounts of folks trying to tinker with and "fix" 1st edition D&D, some of which attempts resulted in whole new (if derivative) games, like T&T.  Sorry not to be able to provide anything more definite."

(I don't believe the above quote is news to anyone involved -- I sent it to Keith).

I briefly read over some of the discussion you cited, and while I think everybody's made some great points, I think what's clearest is that this was neither a product of Arneson's, nor of Gygax's?  I'd also argue against it being anything pre-1974.  From what I've seen, it's way too professionally put-together, compared to the similar stuff floating around at the time (aside from the artwork and typeset fonts -- as have been mentioned -- how about the right-justified text, with the word breaks?  Somebody put it in a heck of a lot of time -- and if 1973/1974, then probably more time than the 1st print LBB's took!).

Just my two cents.  For the record, I have absolutely no dog in this fight -- I'll be happy however this turns out.  I also have absolutely no source knowledge, as I was proudly still in diapers in 1973.  :)

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Post Posted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 12:27 am 
 

Any chance we can see scans (even if watermarked or otherwise obfuscated in some way)?


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Post Posted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 12:40 am 
 

I am of the opinion, although without any factual cause, that this is not a play test variety... I have more questions than answers regarding it, most of which could find resolution through one of many known people who should (and that is should, not can) be able to provide a response like Ernest Gygax, RJK (presumably), or Tim Kask. I've rarely seen play tests include art, especially "superior" work to the finished product, so to me that is a major red flag... though I do hope this to be a real deal, I cannot say it is. Neat though; not my "holy grail."


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Post Posted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 12:58 am 
 

FoulFoot wrote:Just to throw some kerosene on the fire -- I'm the one who sent scans of BTPTBD to Gary, some eleven years ago.  I also forwarded it to Skip Williams.  This was the response I got back, paraphrased:

Gary stated, "took a look, seems to be a rip-off of the D&D game that I've never seen before."  Skip was a bit more verbose (relayed from a staff member at TSR):

"I've never seen the original playtest version of The Fantasy Game, but I showed a page of what you sent me to Skip Williams, who thought it did not sound like Gygax.  Specifically, he pointed out some differences in wording of similar sentences that appeared in the 1st edition 3-bk version and said that the published line sounded like Gary but the similar line in the document you sent did not sound to him like something that Gary would have changed to the published reading.  Sorry if I've expressed it poorly, but there it is for what it worth: the reaction of someone who was in the Lake Geneva gaming group at the time D&D was percolating supports Gygax's story that this, whatever it was, probably was written based on the published books.  Whatever it is, it must be very early.  I can well believe that a fan would go to these lengths: I once created my own Risk board, cards, and counters because I couldn't afford a store-bought set.  For years I preferred my variant to the original, even after I owed one.  There are also numerous accounts of folks trying to tinker with and "fix" 1st edition D&D, some of which attempts resulted in whole new (if derivative) games, like T&T.  Sorry not to be able to provide anything more definite."

(I don't believe the above quote is news to anyone involved -- I sent it to Keith).

I briefly read over some of the discussion you cited, and while I think everybody's made some great points, I think what's clearest is that this was neither a product of Arneson's, nor of Gygax's?  I'd also argue against it being anything pre-1974.  From what I've seen, it's way too professionally put-together, compared to the similar stuff floating around at the time (aside from the artwork and typeset fonts -- as have been mentioned -- how about the right-justified text, with the word breaks?  Somebody put it in a heck of a lot of time -- and if 1973/1974, then probably more time than the 1st print LBB's took!).

Just my two cents.  For the record, I have absolutely no dog in this fight -- I'll be happy however this turns out.  I also have absolutely no source knowledge, as I was proudly still in diapers in 1973.  :)

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No, it's not news me, I'm aware that Gygax dismissed this out of hand. As I'm sure you know, Dave Arneson's reaction was quite different: he said "It might be 'MY DRAFT.' The one that I sent Gary way back when. OR his first draft back. Either way it is VERY COOL!" So we have two data points that couldn't be more different from the two guys in the best position to evaluate it. That's why I'm not hopeful about reaching out for more opinions. The method I've used throughout my work (in my book and in analyzing this manuscript) is blind to late testimony precisely because it yields these kinds of discrepancies. My analysis is based on the contents of the manuscript and how they hang together with the other sources we know.

Assigning this a date after 1974 faces the challenges I raise in my blog post. If you don't find the argument I make about "alignment" and "division" persuasive, I'd be interested to hear an alternative explanation. On what grounds would a post-1974 compiler rename "alignment" to "division," coincidentally synchronizing with that languages section? Would they coincidentally revert the names of the abilities to ones that were used in circa-1972 Blackmoor (Health and Cunning)? Would they revert experience to the Blackmoor model coincidentally as well? Why would they remove the higher-tier spells and levels, along with some monsters and some equipment? I've seen a lot of post-1974 variants, and I can tell you that you won't find people taking much away - they add and embellish. Would they remove the concept that spells deal points of damage (would you, if you were redoing OD&D)? Why would they reintegrate Chainmail jousting tables, and then edit the Chainmail man-to-man rules into a melee combat section? If they had the third booklet of OD&D to work from, why would they leave out Outdoor Survival, and so many other things? There are a huge parade of system elements here that are just more rudimentary than OD&D, or provably closer to Blackmoor elements that were very obscure outside of the Twin Cities. I provided three examples in my first blog post. There are more.

I've spent quite a bit of time on the production quality of the document, but I don't think it's out of keeping with contemporary documents of the era.  I think it roughly keeps par with the high-end fanzines, actually. The print shop font used on the section divider pages (Old English) was a block font commonly used in the production of IFW fanzines, including the monthly - it's also the block typeface used for the title font of the Chainmail booklet, for example. I also wouldn't call this document right-justified - this is what typographers call a ragged right. Yes, there is limited hyphenation. Again, I could show you this in contemporary fanzines with full right justification. The IFW's monthly, for example, used that Old English font constantly, employed several different typewriters, and did exact right justification across two columns, assembling on a monthly basis at chunks of 24 pages (only about half the size of this document). This document is not out of keeping with the capability of the community where Gygax participated. The fact that somebody went to the trouble to make this legible, well-laid out and attractive suggests to me that this was intended for some scale of distribution, rather than as a personal artifact.

Now that much said, I still do have a lot of questions about this document. I do doubt it was physically typed by either Gygax or Arneson (I have some theories about this, but nothing I'm confident enough to put forward yet). The artwork as well is a real mystery. But the state of the system is the main thing that I'm interested in. It's the state of the system that provides the evidence I think authenticates it. I can't find any other explanation for the state of the system than that this preserves material that formed the basis for OD&D. How it got there into this form, I admit is hard to explain.

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Post Posted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 1:23 am 
 

GamesGuy wrote:Any chance we can see scans (even if watermarked or otherwise obfuscated in some way)?


I did provide some snippets in my blog post, and I'll be providing more. I'll try to put up a few more posts this week that illustrate why I believe no post-1974 variant designer would choose this as a system based on a reading of OD&D.

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Post Posted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 2:11 am 
 

GamesGuy wrote:Any chance we can see scans (even if watermarked or otherwise obfuscated in some way)?

This has been put up by one of the folks on one of the discussion threads:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/53171413@N ... 632283163/

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Post Posted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 2:45 am 
 

increment wrote:I'm aware that Gygax dismissed this out of hand. As I'm sure you know, Dave Arneson's reaction was quite different: he said "It might be 'MY DRAFT.' The one that I sent Gary way back when. OR his first draft back. Either way it is VERY COOL!" So we have two data points that couldn't be more different from the two guys in the best position to evaluate it.

I think these two "red flags" are the most damning to the whole "playtest version" theory:

  • Gygax dismissed it immediately.  Only two possibilities here: he either didn't write it, or he DID write it -- and either doesn't remember doing so, or was lying about it.  I find it hard to believe that you wouldn't remember doing something like that.  Naming it like that.  Getting someone to do the artwork and bundle it with it.  Getting it typeset.  This would all have had to be done by Gary himself, or with his direct approval -- the company in 1972/1973 was basically two guys in the basement of Gary's house, if I'm not mistaken.  No chance that this was something delegated to a staffer to put together and distribute; there weren't any staffers.  I also can't fathom why he would lie about it; what's the point?

  • Arneson said "It might be my draft"?  Might be?  Uh, you don't remember either?  Really?  I understand if the thing was a bunch of typewritten pages of rules; yeah, might be my stuff, I don't really remember.  But this manuscript is way past that.  So we're again facing two possibilities:  Arneson wrote and maybe illustrated it, had it typed up and typeset by some third party (it's fairly well documented that he was incapable of doing that sort of thing himself) -- even though he wasn't CEO of some large company either, so not sure where that third party would have come from.  OR, he didn't write it.  Why say "might be my draft"?  Perhaps because the existence of such a manuscript would be a huge benefit to his claim of co-authorship of D&D.  Whether or not there ever was such a manuscript, it certainly wasn't available during the lawsuit days.  So now this thing pops up, nobody can say for sure who the author is, and he figures it can't hurt to claim a "maybe" authorship.  He can always fall back on "foggy memory" if the real author shows up.

  • If neither Gygax nor Arneson wrote it -- and I can't see a plausible scenario that either did -- then by definition it's not a D&D manuscript.  Case, unfortunately, closed.

Regarding the arguments about linguistic styles / differences -- they're only helpful if we can say for certain that one of the two wrote it.  We could maybe then pin down which one wrote it.  Trying to determine why a third party did such-and-such forty years ago -- who knows.  My vote?  It was a fanatic fan who did it on his own, probably based on the playtest version of D&D that he had sitting on his desk.  He did it shortly after the LBBs were released, maybe because he was incensed that the LBBs deviated as they did from the playtest version.  That would explain a majority of the language issues you bring up.

Four more of my largely unsolicited cents.  :)

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Post Posted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 3:49 am 
 

Your cents are not unsolicited; again, I don't pretend to have all the answers. I present this as a playtesting edition because that seems least unlikely to me among a host of unlikely options, and I don't say that without due consideration of forgeries, variants, rebuttals and discarded drafts.

I think there is another possibility in Gygax's dismissal, namely, that he scanned some of the document and didn't review enough to recognize what it was. It is a historical fact that fans reorganized the tables of OD&D and reprinted them in the late 1970s. If Gygax scanned only the tables (the first 17 pages of the document), he could easily have walked away with the impression that this was yet another one of those. Again, Gygax didn't say he didn't write it - he said it was copied from OD&D. Many of the tables are so close to OD&D that it requires careful scrutiny to see the distinctions. I'm certainly not suggesting that Gygax actively lied about the document, seeing it three decades after the fact and wanting to conceal it from the world, or something. I do however think it's a reasonable scenario that he looked at this superficially and quickly gave a superficial impression. When I first saw the scans you pointed to on Flickr, I dismissed this out of hand as well. It wasn't until I looked at the entirety of the document under intense scrutiny that I saw the elements that convince me this shows a pre-1974 state of D&D.

Ultimately, late testimony is, in my opinion, of little consequence. Gygax and Arneson are both mistaken in a tremendous amount of their late testimony. Even if Gygax and Arneson both had insisted this was authentic, that alone wouldn't convince me. I'm surprised you react so incredulously to Arneson's honest uncertainty; over many decades I think many certainties can fade. The sort of evidence I find persuasive can only be found in a close reading of the document itself against OD&D and related sources.

To be clear, none of my arguments are about language or style (though some of Dan Boggs's argument are). My arguments are about the state of the system. Your conjecture that a fan (let's say a member of the Twin Cities inner circle) was incensed by the changes in OD&D and created this in March of 1974 as a rebuttal by cribbing from a playtesting copy is of course difficult to discredit because it assumes a resource (the hypothetical playtesting copy) that we don't have access to. But then the question becomes, how much did the fan change, from the playtesting edition? 10%? 0.1%? At what point does a fan bother to retype and personally illustrate the "revised" document at the local print shop? At what point does the agency of this fanatic seem less plausible than, say, Gygax giving some manuscripts to a typist he knew from the fanzine community, who produced this version, which was then distributed as playtesting copies to places like the Twin Cities, perhaps while Gygax and Kuntz and others continued playing from Gygax's own notes? There was no company, at the time this document was produced (as I would date it), and I agree there were no staffers. There were however plenty of typewriters, typists, sketchers and printing blocks circulating in the fan community. Why is this really any less likely than your fanatic?

And if ultimately the fanatic just reverts the text to its original state from his playtesting copy - reverts alignment to division, reverts the stats to an intermediate state between original Blackmoor and OD&D, re-inserts a hybrid Chainmail combat system that OD&D omitted - isn't this document still reflecting the original system, and shouldn't we still be falling all over ourselves to study it?


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Post Posted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 7:20 am 
 

FoulFoot wrote:
GamesGuy wrote:Any chance we can see scans (even if watermarked or otherwise obfuscated in some way)?

This has been put up by one of the folks on one of the discussion threads:

D&D8 | tillek63 | Flickr



http://img805.imageshack.us/img805/5323 ... 1at706.png

One interesting detail in the 6th picture is the sign reading "LORD ARN". This made me think someone other than Arneson drew this picture in tribute to him. Jon, are there any instances of a Lord Arn appearing in Blackmoor or Arneson's other writing?

I'm not sure what the top sign says: "EMWOOD"? Could be "Elf WOOD", but if so the "l" and "f" are the only letters not capitalized. But if so could it refer to the Elf Forest east of Blackmoor?

The second sign appears to say "VILLEGE". Arnesonian misspelling?


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Post Posted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 10:07 am 
 

Great thread!

Not to go one way or another, but from my personal experience, Gary did forget some stuff. When I forwarded the "Black Reservoir" short story/game play description from the early 70s to him in the late 90s (Grodog might remember the exact year; 1998?) he had completely forgotten writing it at all (although after being shown the story and told where it came from, Gary then did remember the circumstances under which he had written the tale).  It is interesting that Gary dismissed this manuscript so quickly and completely, however.

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Post Posted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 10:55 am 
 

Where did the manuscript come from, is this the one from M.A.R. Barker's garage?  I was looking at War of Wizards and early Tekumel stuff for some of Barker's sketches but it doesn't look like any match, and I'm assuming spelling errors from that direction would be unheard of.
http://boardgamegeek.com/image/269577/war-of-wizards

Any Arneson sketchbooks/illustrated manuscripts found in his storage locker collection?

Any samples of early Dave Megarry artwork beyond the Dungeons of Pasha Cada game board mockups?

Any suspiciously similar illustrations in Corner of the Table and/or Napoleonics campaign battle reports?

Tentatively dating this to mid-1973, any examples of similarly formatted gaming docs from the Twin Cities groups available for textual comparison?

Has Greg Svenson seen this?

Any links to or through the OD&D illustrators - Greg Bell, C. Corey, Keenan Powell, Tom Keogh, Dave Sutherland?

Just throwing some random questions out there.  8)

  


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Post Posted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 11:31 am 
 

Considering all of the above, my own first wild guess is …

One of the participants in Dave Arneson's Twin Cities gaming group wanted a copy of the D&D/Fantasy Game playtest manuscript that Gary Gygax had just mailed to Dave (~November or December 1973).  Dave responded by copying his copy and giving it to this guy.

This guy ran off, fiddled with the rules to make them "more Chainmail-ish and more Blackmoor-ian" or something, and typed up his own manuscript working from Gygax's first manuscript prose.  He then typed up (~early 1974) a refined version (I have a hard time believing someone could come up with a right-justified typewritten manuscript on the fly), and either he or his buddy illustrated it.

The resulting manuscript was used and distributed in Minnesota as Beyond This Point Be Dragons, "the real rules," because Gary's rules were "wrong" and going in the wrong direction from a Twin Cities perspective.

Gary knew people were copying the notes for play and the manuscript basically begged to be tinkered with, but he never saw Beyond This Point Be Dragons and would regard it as a wrong-minded Chainmail/D&D first draft variant if he did.

These copies of BTPBD were distributed a bit, perhaps with copies made at Dave's house, and one ended up in M.A.R. Barker's hands, through a channel he could not recall.

Too wild?

If not too wild, my next question is:  does Mike Mornard (or someone else) recall anyone who played in both Arneson's Blackmoor campaign and Barker's Tekumel playtests?  From what I understand, Mr. Mornard became a freshman at UofM in the autumn of 1973; then started playing in Blackmoor in late 1973; Barker got back into wargames around March 1974; Mike was introduced to Barker around March-April 1974, and Barker was working on Tekumel (later Empire of the Petal Throne) ~April-May 1974.  Would our mystery guy be in that time and place?  Who besides Dave Arneson is listed as a playtester for the pre-publication version of EPT?

  

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Post Posted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 11:48 am 
 

Zenopus wrote:
[ Image ]

One interesting detail in the 6th picture is the sign reading "LORD ARN". This made me think someone other than Arneson drew this picture in tribute to him. Jon, are there any instances of a Lord Arn appearing in Blackmoor or Arneson's other writing?

I'm not sure what the top sign says: "EMWOOD"? Could be "Elf WOOD", but if so the "l" and "f" are the only letters not capitalized. But if so could it refer to the Elf Forest east of Blackmoor?

The second sign appears to say "VILLEGE". Arnesonian misspelling?


I couldn't make much of these myself. It does say "Emwood," not "Elf Wood." I wouldn't say "villege" is necessarily a characteristic misspelling of Arneson; he misspells it as "villiage" when referring to Mike Carr as a "village priest" in CoTT. I'm not aware of any Lord Arn. I will say that the place names used as examples in the document do not refer to Greyhawk or Blackmoor. Like I said, more questions than answers.

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Post Posted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 12:10 pm 
 

darkseraphim wrote:Considering all of the above, my own first wild guess is …

One of the participants in Dave Arneson's Twin Cities gaming group wanted a copy of the D&D/Fantasy Game playtest manuscript that Gary Gygax had just mailed to Dave (~November or December 1973).  Dave responded by copying his copy and giving it to this guy.

This guy ran off, fiddled with the rules to make them "more Chainmail-ish and more Blackmoor-ian" or something, and typed up his own manuscript working from Gygax's first manuscript prose.  He then typed up (~early 1974) a refined version (I have a hard time believing someone could come up with a right-justified typewritten manuscript on the fly), and either he or his buddy illustrated it.

The resulting manuscript was used and distributed in Minnesota as Beyond This Point Be Dragons, "the real rules," because Gary's rules were "wrong" and going in the wrong direction from a Twin Cities perspective.

Gary knew people were copying the notes for play and the manuscript basically begged to be tinkered with, but he never saw Beyond This Point Be Dragons and would regard it as a wrong-minded Chainmail/D&D first draft variant if he did.

These copies of BTPBD were distributed a bit, perhaps with copies made at Dave's house, and one ended up in M.A.R. Barker's hands, through a channel he could not recall.

Too wild?

If not too wild, my next question is:  does Mike Mornard (or someone else) recall anyone who played in both Arneson's Blackmoor campaign and Barker's Tekumel playtests?  From what I understand, Mr. Mornard became a freshman at UofM in the autumn of 1973; then started playing in Blackmoor in late 1973; Barker got back into wargames around March 1974; Mike was introduced to Barker around March-April 1974, and Barker was working on Tekumel (later Empire of the Petal Throne) ~April-May 1974.  Would our mystery guy be in that time and place?  Who besides Dave Arneson is listed as a playtester for the pre-publication version of EPT?


Your wild guess is more or less the same as the conjecture that Foulfoot advances above.  I already described why I don't think that possibility is any more likely than that this constitutes an an earlier iteration of the OD&D text. It wouldn't be any easier for your "guy" to find a random illustrator and arrange for the layout in 1974 than it would be for Gygax or Arneson to do the same a few months earlier, right? Again, if your "guy" had the original playtesting rules, why would he need to fiddle with them to make them more Chainmail-like? Surely the first manuscript was already Chainmail-like. We can show that the rules in this manuscript did in fact influence the text of OD&D (my blog post gives a couple example, again), so at least -some- of what is in this document reflects rules that Gary had in fact seen, if not written. So the question then becomes what your "guy" would have changed from Gary's original manuscript and why. That's where I think this line of reasoning becomes pretty dubious. If all this is just to explain away the "pretty" pictures, again, I think there are easier explanations for why they might have gotten dropped. You'll also note that I haven't claimed that these rules actually circulated under the name "Beyond this Point be Dragons." I don't know in what form they circulated, based on what we're left in the Dalluhn Manuscript.

And once again, the Dalluhn Manuscript is NOT right justified. Its layout quality is easily within the capability of a fanzine publisher (many of whom did publish two-column pages with left and right justification).

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Post Posted: Tue Sep 11, 2012 12:17 pm 
 

I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility of being a fan-made work. The text resembles something that comes off the standard typrwriter; monospace font, left justified, right-ragged. The other fonts are easily done via press-type (basically rub-on transfers) or each letter being set by hand from a series of tabs (I don't recall the name of this); in either case, it might mean the person involved had access to publishing material like I did when I was in High School working on the school newspaper.

With regards to illustrating a fan-made work, I used to do this sometimes when making my own adventures back in the early '80s, so I don't see it as being highly unusual. Merely very absorbed in doing a project 'properly.'  :D

Someone's take on 'how-it-should-be', maybe intended to be sent to Gary/Dave for consideration, but never done?


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