Before 'D&D,' There Was 'Chainmail.' But Before 'Chainmail'…

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It’s widely known that Dungeons & Dragons, created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, was the successor of Gygax and Jeff Perren’s earlier work titled Chainmail. The Chainmail booklet provided rules for running table wargames using miniatures to represent battles between armies, but it also included an additional Fantasy Game supplemental section that provided rules for mixing in wizards and dragons and other fantastical creatures and effects. Chainmail is regarded as the tipping point for the development of the fantasy roleplaying game industry, and Gary Gygax is given most of the credit as the creator of this gaming genre.

Chainmail Rulebook

But this week an interesting find was shared by wargame historian Jon Peterson over on his blog, Playing at the World, and it’s definitely a bit of disruptive news–rather than lay out the evidence again, I’ll simply point you to Jon’s article titled “A Precursor to the Chainmail Fantasy Supplement” and let you decide for yourself.

Short version: there exists a document that has pre-Chainmail rules for the management of wizards, heroes (and antiheroes), and orcs in a scenario based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and there is strong evidence that Perren or Gygax (or both) were well aware of the rules prior to the creation of Chainmail.

Book Cover

The rules are an amazing find, and those familiar with Peterson’s entertaining style of writing will certainly enjoy his take on this little bit of history that includes an image of the original rules as well as a great photo of the “best of show” miniature layout for playing the scenario. Of course, if you’re not familiar with Peterson’s incredibly detailed history of wargaming (with much of it focusing on Gygax, TSR, and Dungeons & Dragons and coming in at over 700 pages), this article might convince you to grab a copy of Playing at the World and dive in.

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