Unearthed History of TSR
and the (A)D&D Game
1966 to 1976   -   1977 to 1985   -   1986 to 1996   -   1997 until today

From D&D to AD&D (1966-1976)

It all began, when E. Gary Gygax (pronounced: Guy-gax) and other wargamers founded the Lake Geneva International Federation of Wargamers in 1966. Len Lakofka remembers the sunday after GenCon I (1968): "On the following Sunday, we took the morning to clean up the hall. Afterward, we were invited to play a set of medievil miniature rules that Gary was working on. He had quite a large collection of 40mm Elastolin figures and we used them to playtest the rules. Believe it or not, this was the inception of the Dungeons & Dragons® game. Those hand-written rules, with changes, additions, and deletions became a tighter set over the next year." (Foreword to L3 Deep Dwarven Delve). From this background originated Chainmail™, a set of rules for individual and mass combat with additional fantasy elements. The game was released by Don Lowry's Guideon Games in 1969. Its authors, Gary Gygax and Jeff Perren, introduced the concept of one miniature representing one individual. "This set of rules allowing one figure to represent one 'man' was the breakthrough that led to the creation of the first role-playing game." (Gary Gygax in: Role-Playing Mastery) It was not role-playing yet, but the first step in its creation.

The Gygax - Arneson connection

In 1970, Dave Arneson developed a wargaming battle scenario, in which a group of adventurers had to infiltrate a besieged keep through the dungeons to open the door from the inside. Instead of enemy soldiers, they encountered a dragon and other fantastic creatures. A year later, at GEN CON 4, Arneson and Gygax met and Gygax played in Arneson's campaign. Gygax had already included additional material covering fantasy elements in his own set of rules, which was reprinted in updated form in 1972. Gygax suggested the collaboration, and Arneson agreed. The result of this collaboration was a manuscript, which had been sent by Gygax to a few fellow wargamers in the Lake Geneva area in 1972. A year later, Gygax estimated "some 200 people had heard of the new game" (Silver Anniversary Collectors Box, 1999).

It was Gygax who came up with a name for the new rules. After Gygax had founded the Castle & Crusade society for the International Federation of Wargaming, he decided the name of the new game should also consist of a combination of two nouns. He made a list of words and asked his family for advice, the result being Dungeons & Dragons. A few of the rejected combinations became titles for the supplements. (Gygax in: Silver Anniversary Collectors Box, 1999).

TSR starts printing

Gygax and his playing group debuted at the GEN CON® 6 in August 1973. Don Kaye noticed the interest Gygax' campaign at the convention generated. After being turned down by all major game manufacturers of the time, Gary Gygax and Don Kaye formed a partnership, which operated out of Kaye's dining room in Lake Geneva. It was named Tactical Studies Rules after their local wargaming club called Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association. Kaye covered the $1,000 they needed to publish Cavaliers and Roundheads, a miniature game of the English Civil War. Brian Blume joined the company as an owner and brought with him the financing of the first 1,000 sets of Dungeons & Dragons, released in January 1974.

In January 1975, Don Kaye died of a heart attack and the partnership was dissolved. In July 1975, Tactical Studies Research was relaunched as TSR Hobbies Inc. with Brian Blume as the owner of the majority of shares. The same year they started publishing the periodical Strategic Review, predecessor of the DRAGON Magazine. Several D&D products were released, among them the Greyhawk supplement, and the Blackmoor supplement, the first campaign description (Blackmoor was Arneson's campaign). The company operated out of Gygax' basement and dining room with Gygax, Rob Kuntz and Tim Kask as paid employees. That same year, TSR released Professor Barker's Empire of the Petal Throne, Boot Hill (a game from the Wild West), and the DUNGEON board game. In 1976, TSR hobbies hosted the first GEN CON fair and held the first official open D&D tournament. This year saw two more offical releases, the Eldritch Wizardry and Gods, Demigods and Heroes supplements, plus the first science-ficiton rpg, Jim Ward's Metamorphiosis Alpha.The company moved into the Dungeon Hobby Shop and continued to operate from the back rooms of the shop.

The birth of AD&D

In 1976 it was also decided to release a new edition of the game: Not only had Gygax drawn lots of new campaign materials and rules from his own campaign which he wanted to integrate into the official rules. More so, the D&D rules material was spread throughout several rulebooks and articles in The Dragon, TSR's house magazine and successor to the Strategic Review newsletter. So there was demand for a new and revised release of the core rules. Gygax planned the release of three hardcover rulebooks under the name Advanced Dungeons & Dragons - AD&D. At the same time, a basic version of the rules (for beginners) should continue to be produced.
1966 to 1976   -   1977 to 1985   -   1986 to 1996   -   1997 until today

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