Dungeons & Dragons Was Originally Known By What Name?
Answer: The Fantasy Game
In the early 1970s Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson collaborated on what would go onto to become the most enduring and iconic role playing game of all time: Dungeons & Dragons. The iconic game didn’t always have such an iconic name, however. The earliest version of Dungeons & Dragons bore the spectacularly dull name The Fantasy Game. To dig all the way back to the original game with the unimaginative name, we need to travel back half a century.
In the 1960s both Gygax and Arneson were avid war gamers–as a hobby and passion they both played extensive table top simulations of historical and imagined battles. In 1966, Gygax founded the International Federation of War Gamers and then went on, three years later, to pursue his interest in medieval battle simulations by co-creating the game Chainmail.
Chainmail foreshadowed Dungeons and Dragons on many levels–monsters, spells, combat rules, hero class-types, and more, all appeared partially or entirely in the early editions of Dungeons and Dragons. Still, Chainmail wasn’t the one-character-per-person role playing game we now take for granted. It was, at heart, a war game shifted in time to the medieval era wherein players controlled large groups of medieval soldiers. As the game grew in popularity more and more fantasy elements were introduced, shifting it away from being a simple medieval battle simulator.
In 1970, Dave Arneson created a battle scenario, essentially a module, for Chainmail that had individual fighters exploring a castle sewer that included monsters, magic, and a focus on individual attributes and abilities. The home brewed variation on Chainmail took off and Gygax and Arneson began a collaborative relationship focused on building a game around a more personalized Chainmail experience. Between 1971 and 1974 the two of them hashed out the rules and play tested The Fantasy Game. In 1974 they were joined by Brian Blume, who provided the much needed funding to get the game published and distributed to game stores across America.
Somewhere along the line between play testing, financing, and preparing the game for publication, they decided that The Fantasy Game wasn’t the kind of title that would inspire anyone to pull a box off a shelf–or cough up $10 ($45 when adjusted for inflation)–and the name was changed to Dungeons & Dragons.
The entire print run of 1,000 games sold out within the year. From that early start with a limited print run the game went on to undergo many revisions and expansions. Current estimates peg the number of people who have played the game at over 20 million and the total Dungeons & Dragons merchandise sales at one billion dollars–not a bad showing for a paper-based table top game created by two fantasy-obsessed war gamers.