The new Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons book is a vital piece of gaming history

Image from the cover of the book The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons. It is a gold dragon ampersand logo on red background.
(Image credit: Wizards of the Coast)

A new book from Dungeons & Dragons publisher Wizards of the Coast chronicles the early history of the tabletop RPG, and therefore a vital step in the evolution of RPGs as a whole. The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons: 1970-1977 will release on June 18, 2024, and compiles a slew of documents from the development and release of the first tabletop RPG.

The first chapter of the book is a doozy for people who're interested in the formation of what an RPG is, detailing and providing documents from the two inspirations that combined to become Dungeons & Dragons: Dave Arneson's Blackmoor roleplaying wargame and Gary Gygax and Jeff Perren's wargame Chainmail. It's deeply cool to see what may well be images of one of the first real RPG character sheets, with its list of simple stats to draw from, or images of correspondence between the two as they consider combining their efforts.

The rest of the book follows into the future, with the 1973 draft of Dungeons & Dragons included, as well as the actual published Brown Box and White Box rules and then continues on, with hundreds more pages of the earliest supplements. It's neat too see the idea of what characters belong in an RPG expand, contract, and evolve. For example, the appearance of now-ubiquitous character classes like the thief. These are, simply put, the kind of historical documents that are completely lost to time or locked away in inaccessible private collections for much of gaming—and it's wonderful to see a company be properly committed to making them available.

The Making of Original D&D is curated by, and includes commentary from, pre-eminent Dungeons & Dragons historian Jon Peterson. Peterson's 2012 book Playing at the World is by far the most definitive and comprehensive history of games that simulate war and adventure, starting with chess and going through first professional, and then entertaining, wargames before ending with the development of roleplaying games. It's fascinating stuff if you're into the deep history of what later brought us many of the simulation-side aspects of videogames.

The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons will go on sale later this month, on June 18, 2024, and is a hefty collector's tome with glossy pages, heavy stock paper, and four separate cloth bookmark ribbons attached. It'll retail for an equally hefty $100.

Jon Bolding is a games writer and critic with an extensive background in strategy games. When he's not on his PC, he can be found playing every tabletop game under the sun.