Friday 28 January 2022

A Complete Timeline of Early D&D Scenarios II: 1976

We now enter 1976 and there are almost as many entries in this single year than in the whole of 1971-1975. As usual there is so much to say about each of these, but my main thrust is to show how they develop and to show connections between them - and to do that I need to complete this list first!

At this point I'll just give you a room entry from Gen Con IX which shows old-school play at its finest: 

Getting dates for all these scenarios was a lot more work than tracking them all down - I had a lot of them to start with anyway and there are a lot of resources online and blog entries which point you to the more obscure or newly discovered or (finally) published items - but mostly people date items to the year which is insufficient for any "what influenced what" comparison. Most magazines/fanzines include their publication date inside or on the cover (but not all) and some publications helpfully include the month in their copyright notice (all of which requires images of the original not later reprints) - but for a lot of items I had to resort to finding the earliest advert / review or other mention of the product - so there's been a lot of detective work going back and forth trying to pin things down. As usual, please let me know about any errors/omissions.

Monday 24 January 2022

A Complete Timeline of Early D&D Scenarios I: 1971-1975

Following on in theme from my last posts on B2 The Keep on the Borderlands I've been researching the evolution of dungeon design in D&D from the birth of D&D up until B2 was published. Specifically I've been looking from 1971 up until the end of 1979 - which is when many sources claim B2 was published - it was actually published a few months later but the end of the 70s is a good cut-off point.

That has expanded into many other aspects of early scenario design (as a catch-all term for adventures of all types). To see how they influence each other, and to see how things develop, I found I needed a reliable timeline of all the scenarios - and I found many sources are either too vague (they only list the year) or in some cases completely wrong.

So here's the first part of my timeline. In addition to all scenarios published at the time I've included some early personal dungeons which weren't published at the time but might shed light on the evolution of scenarios, or which may have influenced other designs. That's been expanded to also include sample dungeons, boardgames, solo-dungeon creation methods, dungeons in adverts, and even dungeons in colouring books. It's been interesting to see how these peripheral items cross-influence the core items.

I've limited myself to D&D - there is an obvious cross-influence going on with Runequest, Tunnels & Trolls, and Metamorphosis Alpha in particular, but at this stage that was a bit too amibitious.

Afterwards I'll follow up with posts on the evolution of dungeons highlighting some connections I wasn't previously aware of and some new ones that I spotted during this process. I think this helps make sense of some aspects of early scenarios, which while far from perfect suffer from misunderstandings and invalid criticisms based upon our inevitably imperfect sight of the past. 

This first selection takes us from 1971 to 1975. I plan to give a separate post for each year from 76-79, and a final post covering scenarios in fanzines at the end.

This list is intended to be comprehensive and have accurate dates - to that end I have cited references for all the dates given. If you know of any items I have missed or any dates which are incorrect please let me know - but the main purpose is a reasonably accurate order. For personal dungeons and tournaments I list two dates - the date they were designed or first played (i.e. from when it could have influenced other scenarios), and then secondly the date it was published. 

Name: Blackmoor (JG37 First Fantasy Campaign)
Date: 1971.5 / 1977
Author: Dave Arneson
Publisher: Judges Guild
Type: Personal Megadungeon
Notes on date: See Hidden In Shadows for thoughts on when the first dungeon expedition was.
Notes: The start of it all. The first published version is a reasonably faithful portrayal of the original - though Hidden In Shadows show there are minor mapping errors. The key for most of the levels is not the original key but a restocking with official D&D rules for tournaments (likely Origins III in 1977). The surviving bits of the original key is fascinating - showing its wargaming roots.