From the introduction:
1974 saw the release of the first ever roleplaying game – Dungeons & Dragons - three little brown booklets in a box. And so started a gaming revolution. That it became so popular so quickly, from the original hand-assembled 1,000 box sets to a few short years later selling millions of units globally, is something of a miracle. Those 3LBBs (Three Little Brown Booklets) are infamous for amateur production values and poor organisation, with many rules scattered higgledy-piggledy throughout the booklets and some rules not explained at all – such as the two combat systems. For Dungeons & Dragons was a game written by wargamers, for wargamers, who, it was assumed, would have an intuitive grasp of the rules and mechanics of the game.
It was also assumed that most readers would have a copy of Chainmail, the wargame rules for medieval miniatures with its “Fantasy Supplement”, the foundation and inspiration for D&D. References to Chainmail combat are sprinkled throughout, but recognizing that some would not own that rulebook, an alternative combat system was provided that went on to become the official combat system of D&D.
Given the above factors, it is no wonder Original D&D has a reputation for being difficult, if not impossible to understand, and is believed by many to be an incomplete game. Another common belief is that the 3LBBs are more a toolkit than a complete game, that on their own the D&D rules are not enough to fully play the game, requiring the use of its various supplements or the referee’s imagination to flesh it out.
It is my strong belief that this reputation is both unfounded and untrue, but I knew the only way to prove this was to reorganize the 3LBBs into a single document. In doing so it quickly became apparent to me that Original D&D could be played without possessing Chainmail, and so I removed references to that game. I also removed references to the Outdoor Survival board game, which as far as the rules are concerned provided only a diagram to indicate in which direction a lost party was headed. A small amount of information was imported from The Strategic Review (page 3 & 4 of Vol. 1, No. 2), being Gygax’s official answers to the most frequently asked questions concerning the Dungeons & Dragons rules. Although some light editing was necessary in reformatting the 3LBBs into one volume, I kept it to an absolute minimum.
A huge thank you to Il Male™ who has taken my document and edited it to produce a greatly improved, easier to read version. I can’t help but think of the quote from the movie Men in Black: “You know the difference between you and me? I make this look GOOD.” And so he has. He has chosen to remove some elements, such as the example of play and sample dungeon, as most who read this book will be experienced gamers with no need of such things.
We live in a different world from that of the mid-70s. Most new gamers don’t come from a background of wargaming. It is my sincere hope this work will give people a better understanding and appreciation of the game that started it all – Gygax and Arneson’s Original D&D. Given that after having read my reformatted 3LBBs some old hands have commented that they saw rules they’d never noticed before, I believe my goal of shedding light on the Original game has been a success.