A History of Dungeons & Dragons
Part 6: 1979
The rift between Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson reached its widest point in 1979 with a lawsuit filed by Arneson over Advanced Dungeons & Dragons royalties. The suit ultimately did not turn out in Arneson’s favor and effectively closed the D&D book for Dave Arneson for two decades.
1979 saw the publication of the final volume of the AD&D core rules, the Dungeon Master’s Guide. A number of now classic adventures appeared in 1979 as well including T1: The Village of Hommlet and B2: Keep on the Borderlands. One of the first instances of the D&D brand appearing on a non-gaming item debuted in 1979, the Official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Coloring Album. In addition to illustrations to color, the book included an introduction to some of the core concepts of the D&D game. The illustrations were done by Greg Irons, who also worked on the Beatles film “Yellow Submarine.”
Dungeons & Dragons was hit with controversy in 1979 when a Lansing Michigan college student disappeared into the steam tunnels beneath Michigan State University. The investigation into his disappearance linked the student to D&D. This proved to be a first step down a dark road that would continue throughout the 1980s.
1979 D&D Products
March – Permanent Character Folder & Adventure Records. Another character sheet style resource, though more elaborate and detailed than previous offerings.
June – Lost Tamoachan. This adventure appeared at Origins 1979 but was later reissued under a different name, C1: Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan. The “C” series of modules were designated as competition modules, designed to be played at conventions. The adventure had a distinct Central American feel, invoking Mayan and Aztec atmosphere.
June – Non-Player Character Record Sheets.
June – Player Character Record Sheets.
July – Dungeon Master’s Screen. The first of its kind, the DM screen served to hide the DM’s adventure notes and die rolls from the players. It also included a number of quick-reference charts and tables on the DM’s side of the screens (there were two in this version of the product).
July – T1: The Village of Hommlet. A classic in its own right, The Village of Hommlet also served as a sort of prequel to the legendary Temple of Elemental Evil, which would appear a few years later. In The Village of Hommlet, player characters explore the village and the nearby moathouse, where they confront Lareth, The Beautiful.
August – Dungeon Master’s Guide. The final core rulebook for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game, the Dungeon Master’s Guide was about twice the size of the previous two volumes and contained a wealth of rules, tables, advice, and appendices. The majority of the game’s rules were contained within the DMG, including combat rules and player character ability score generation. The DMG received a new cover in later printings and was reprinted in a special commemorative edition, along with the Player’s Handbook and Monster Manual, in July 2012.
August – S2: White Plume Mountain. Another classic, White Plume Mountain involved a variety of strange, sometimes whimsical puzzles as player characters searched for three powerful artifact-weapons.
December – C2: The Ghost Tower of Inverness. Originally available at Wintercon VIII in Detroit, C2 was another “competition” module, this one involving a search for the fabled Soul Gem within the tower.
December – B2: Keep on the Borderlands. The Keep on the Borderlands served as an introduction to the “basic” version of the Dungeons & Dragons game for a generation of gamers as it was included in the 6th through 11th printings of the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set. The player characters are able to explore the keep itself and its host of interesting NPCs, the wilderness around the keep, and the infamous Caves of Chaos. Keep on the Borderlands received a sequel in 1999, Return to the Keep on the Borderlands (written for AD&D 2nd Edition), and a complete overhaul and update for 4th Edition where it was used for the D&D Encounters program. The Caves of Chaos provide the proving grounds for the playtest of D&D Next, the very latest iteration of the Dungeons & Dragons game.