A History of Dungeons & Dragons
Part 3: 1976
By 1976, Dungeons & Dragons popularity began to outpace its creators’ ability to produce new supplements. Several other small companies took up the slack, among them Wee Warriors, Games Workshop, and Judges Guild. Judges Guild would produce some of the best known third-party products of the era, including City-State of the Invincible Overlord.
TSR debuted a new magazine to replace The Strategic Review in June, called “The Dragon.” The Dragon was originally designed to be a general gaming magazine, covering a broad scope of games, though it ended up being focused on providing supplemental content for D&D.
Among TSR’s non-D&D offerings of note in 1976 were Lankhmar, a hex-based war game adapted from the tales of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser by Fritz Leiber (Leiber also contributed to the design of the game) and Metamorphosis: Alpha, a science-fiction roleplaying game. The world of Lankhmar becomes significant to D&D a few years down the road. Metamorphosis: Alpha would, itself, metamorphose into Gamma World later on, which would eventually be adapted for D&D.
By the end of 1976, creative differences between D&D’s creators caused Dave Arneson to leave TSR.
1976 D&D Products
April – Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardy. This supplement by Gary Gygax and Brian Blume introduced several now iconic elements to D&D including the Druid class, demons and demon lords (specifically Orcus and Demogorgon), mind flayers, and artifacts (specifically the Rod of Seven Parts and the Axe of the Dwarvish Lords). It also introduced psionics to D&D for the first time. This supplement also created the first bit of controversy for D&D, due to its cover.
July – Supplement IV: Gods, Demigods & Heroes. This supplement by Rob Kuntz and James Ward detailed several real world pantheons for inclusion in D&D, as well as the “mythologies” of Robert E. Howard’s Hyborea novels and Michael Moorcock’s Elric novels.
August – Swords & Spells. Written by Gary Gygax, this was effectively “Supplement V” though the product didn’t bear this designation on the cover. The book attempted to provide a diceless approach to mass combat with D&D creatures. The rules proved to be unpopular and were not carried over in later incarnations of D&D.
Unknown Month – Dungeon Geomorphs, Set One: Basic Dungeon. A spiritual precursor to Dungeon Tiles, the Dungeon Geomorph products were printed dungeon map sections that could be cut apart and rearranged to suit the needs of the dungeon master’s map.