Excerpts Archive | 10/22/2013
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OD&D Excerpts
Book III: The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures

T he original Dungeons & Dragons game, published in 1974 and aimed at wargamers and medieval fantasy enthusiasts, created an entire industry of roleplaying games, as well as legions of D&D fans worldwide. It included three small rules booklets in a white box.

On November 19th, the deluxe reprint version of Original Dungeons & Dragons releases, which includes seven booklets (the first three rules booklets and four supplements) and dice within an engraved and illustrated wooden storage case.

First Three Booklets

Essentially, these were OD&D's precursors to the Player's Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Masters Guide. As described within Men & Magic:

Men & Magic (Book I) details what characters can be played, potentials, limitations, and various magical spells. Monsters & Treasure (Book II) describes the beasts and creatures which will be encountered, as well as the kind and amount of treasure they are likely to guard, including magical items. Finally, The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures (Book III) tells how to set up and actually play the campaign. It is presented last in order to allow the reader to gain the perspective necessary—the understanding of the two preceding booklets.

In today's preview, we consider just a few of the details that stood out within Book III: The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures, as well as look at the new cover art. However, let's first look at the foreword to the book, as beautifully written by Gary Gygax. It starts, as good stories so often do, with "Once upon a time…"

OD&D Foreword (60 Kbs PDF)

Book III: The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures

"Before it is possible to conduct a campaign of adventures in the mazey dungeons, it is necessary for the referee to sit down with pencil in hand and draw these labyrinths on graph paper. Unquestionably this will require a great deal of time and effort and imagination."

So began Book III, which goes on to provide information on running adventures, including the construction of castles and strongholds, managing combat by land, air and sea—and of course, designing all those "mazey dungeons." As the book continues:

"There is no real limit to the number of levels, nor is there any restriction on their size (other than the size of graph paper available). "Greyhawk Castle," for example, has over a dozen levels in succession downwards, more than that number branching from these, and not less than two new levels under construction at any given time. These levels contain such things as a museum from another age, an underground lake, a series of caverns filled with giant fungi, a bowling alley for 20' high Giants, an arena of evil, crypts, and so on."

As further notes of miscellany, the book describes such notable locations as Blackmoor to be a village of small size (a one-horse town), and Greyhawk as a large city. "Both have maps with streets and buildings indicated, and players can have town adventures roaming around the bazaars, inns, taverns, shops, temples, and so on. Venture into the Thieves’ Quarter only at your own risk!"

In addition, the unintended consequences for certain magic spells were already under consideration:

"While some referees allow Fire Balls and Lightning Bolts to be hurled in confined spaces, blasting sections of the stone equal to the remainder of their normal shape, it is suggested that the confined space cause these missiles to rebound toward the sender… and this will mean the sender is struck by his own missile."

For today, let's end with a look at the original cover art for the booklet, and how it's been translated for the reprint.

Click below for a larger view of the new cover:

Bart Carroll
Bart Carroll has been a part of Wizards of the Coast since 2004, and a D&D player since 1980 (and has fond memories of coloring the illustrations in his 1st Edition Monster Manual). He currently works as producer for the D&D website. You can find him on Twitter (@bart_carroll) and at bartjcarroll.com.