Snapshot from the earliest days of Dungeons and Dragons

Steve Jackson (the UK, tea-swilling and crumpet munching GW pioneer Steve Jackson, not Munchkin Pimpin’ Steve Jackson) wrote a small snippet about this odd new hobby game that had come across from the other side of the pond.  It was a bold new experiment in gaming that had grown out of miniatures games.. called Dungeons and Dragons. The snippet appeared in Games and Puzzles magazine (1).  In 1976.  I always had believed that D&D came about in 1974. From the text of Jackson’s article, the game had only been around for less than a year and had already achieved a trans-oceanic following.  That’s refreshing. Even in these days of the Internet, it’s hard to develop a buzz that quickly.  And D&D came around in an era that had no Twitter, no Facebook, and there really weren’t any trades around (yet) to promote new games with.  So D&D got all that momentum going for itself… in roughly ONE YEAR, by word of mouth.  Not bad at all!

Games Puzzles
Games and Puzzles Magazine, ca. 1975

Here’s some of the text of that article from 1976.  The Dungeons of the Ground Goblins was a sample dungeon written by Steve Jackson for the article.

by Steve Jackson

Dungeons of the Ground Goblins
Dungeons of the Ground Goblins map

(partial: only one level described)

Partial Transcription (from page 4 of the flier)
1: Entrance – base of hollow trunk
2: Well with bucket and rope. No special significance
3: Fountain guarded by two giant spiders. 100 silver pieces in fountain
4: Stairs down to level 2
5: Five Berserkers, each carrying 25 gold pieces. Leader carries ‘+1’ sword
6: Ten Gnolls guarding chest 100 gold pieces. Secret bottom contains Ring of Protection
7: Empty room
8: Stair down to level 2
9: Gorgon guards chest containing 1500 gold pieces, Boots of Levitation, Crystal Ball, Bag of Holding and Curse Scroll
10: Dungeon caretaker – will answer questions for fee
11: Endless passage
12: Ten Goblins – one carries Staff of Commanding
13: Secret door leads into space warp – transports to level 4
14: Goblin’s lair: 30 Goblins each carrying 5 gold pieces will answer questions if cornered
15: Four Zombies. No treasure
16: Six giant rats guarding chest containing 400 gold pieces and 200 silver pieces
17: Pit – sheer drop to level 5
18: Ghoul: 300 gold pieces scattered round room with ‘+2’ War Hammer and ‘+2’ Shield in one corner
19: Sloping passage leading to level 3
20: 15 Orcs guard chest containing 250 pieces and Potion of Speed

After applying all sorts of tests to the stick, the Magic-User gives up, but puts it in his backpack anyway, expecting to be a wand of some sort.
Venturing further down the passage, the Elf checks for secret doors and discovers one after 50 ft or so. The party enters but immediately feel themselves ‘lost in space’ unable to see or feel anything clearly. They eventually come to rest in a large square chamber. On each of the four walls are three doors. Which do they choose?
MAGIC-USER: ‘I pull out the stick and wish we were back at the crossroads with the old man!’
GM: ‘Nothing happens.’
ELF: ‘I check for secret doors and traps.’
GM: ‘You find none.’
FIGHTING MAN: ‘I charge the door in the south-east corner.’
GM: ‘The door bursts open. The room inside is 30ft square. There is a large chest in the far corner and standing over it is a green dragon.’
FIGHTING MAN: ‘I slam the door!’
GM: (Rolls the dice) ‘It does not close.’
MAGIC-USER: ‘I command the dragon to stay put.’
GM: (Noting that the Magic-User is still holding the stick). ‘The dragon becomes still and silent.’
(Jubilation in the party!)
FIGHTING MAN: ‘I approach the dragon – very slowly! Does it move?’
GM: ‘No.’
FIGHTING MAN: ‘I plunge my sword into its neck.’
GM: ‘It bleeds dragon blood but does not move.’
GM: ‘It eventually drops down dead. You have 450 Experience Points.’
The party rush into the room and open the chest to find 1500 Gold Pieces, 1000 Silver Pieces, a Potion and a Scroll. They are rich beyond their wildest dreams!
But they are also lost in the Dungeons of the Ground Goblins.

This is an interesting piece of nostalgia which I thought might be fun to share.  If you want to read the rest of the Snippet, it is shared out here.

I got a chuckle at the very end of the article, where Jackson wrote something like: “One hears that TSR is contemplating putting out a monthly magazine called THE DRAGON dedicated to this D&D hobby.  I think we’ll be hearing more of them in the months to come”

(1) After reading about Games and Puzzles magazine’s colorful history and wonderful depth and breadth of articles, I am saddened that this periodical has not survived to the present day.  GAMES is the only publication like it, and that should really be called “Puzzles with Games Reviews”.