It’s been three years now since I wrote The Future of Designers & Dragons and revealed that Designers & Dragons was not done, and in fact four or five books were in very preliminary stages.

Since then, as I’ve hinted at in other articles, I’ve moved Designers & Dragons up to being a half-time or so job. That means that those books I previously talked about are finally getting written. In fact, I’ve got two books basically done (as second drafts) and another book and a third worth of additional content written. But, those four or five books that I’d been considering have turned into eight, with more in the future if these are well received.

The TSR Codices

As I wrote back in 2018, my most immediate opportunity came thanks to five years of work for my friends at DTRPG, where I wrote over 700 product histories for what was then the DnDClassics website. It was grueling work that impacted my every weekend for years: Friday night I’d review interviews, read design notes, and otherwise collect information on the week’s products; Saturday I’d often first draft product histories while out at a nice park or on a train; and Sunday, I’d finish everything up and upload them. The reason I kept at it for years was because DTRPG had agreed to leave the rights to the histories with me, so that I could collect them into books when I was done.

That finally started last year when I incorporated Designers & Dragons LLC and turned it into a regular job. I began to expand, revise, update, and normalize those product histories, en route to turning them into a book. I had four books in my original outline: one for OD&D, AD&D 1e, and BD&D; two for AD&D 2e; and one for the WotC years starting with D&D 3e. I wondered if that would actually be sufficient, because I actually had a million words of content, but I figured there was a lot of redundancy, as I said the same things to introduce many different histories.

And, there was, but there were lots more empty spaces and new information revealed by recent interviews and other research. So that count has being growing, not shrinking. In fact, what had originally been intended as the first book is looking like it’s going to lay out as four books (possibly with some additional content on TSR’s other games to fill out the last). So that means a lot more than four books total.

The TSR Codices have been my back-burner project for the last year and a half. I try and put together one chapter a month, at minimum, with the books to date running 12-13 chapters. I’ve slightly exceed those goals, and as a result basically have the first two books done (I’m actually still working on the short, last chapter of the last book). Here’s what they look like:

The TSR Codex I: Descent into the Depths of the Game
Covering OD&D, AD&D 1e (1971-1983)

  1. OD&D — The Original Game: 1971-1976 [11.5k]
    1. Chainmail (March 1971)
    2. Dungeons & Dragons 3-Volume Set (January 1974)
    3. Supplement I: Greyhawk (March 1975)
    4. Supplement II: Blackmoor (November 1975)
    5. Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry (May 1976)
    6. Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-gods & Heroes (July 1976)
    7. Swords & Spells (August 1976)
  2. OD&D — The Original Accessories: 1976-1978 [4.5k]
    1. Dungeon Geomorphs, Set One: Basic Dungeon (1976)
    2. Monster and Treasure Assortment, Set One: Levels One-Three (February 1977)
    3. Monster and Treasure Assortment, Set Two: Levels Four-Six (February 1977)
    4. Character Record Sheets (April 1977)
    5. Dungeon Geomorphs, Set Two: Caves & Caverns (April 1977)
    6. Outdoor Geomorphs, Set One: Walled City (June 1977)
    7. Dungeon Geomorphs, Set Three: Lower Dungeon (September 1977)
    8. Monster and Treasure Assortment, Set Three: Levels Seven to Nine (May 1978)
  3. OD&D — The Holmes Era: 1977-1980 [8k]
    1. Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set (July 1977)
    2. B1: In Search of the Unknown (November 1978, color 1981)
    3. B2: The Keep on the Borderlands (December 1979)
    4. Player Character Record Sheets (1980)
  4. AD&D — The 1e Core: 1977-1980 [10k]
    1. Monster Manual (December 1977, revised cover October 1983)
    2. Players Handbook (June 1978, revised cover October 1983)
    3. Dungeon Masters Guide (August 1979, revised cover October 1983)
    4. Deities and Demigods Cyclopedia (August 1980; Legends & Lore in September 1984)
  5. Greyhawk — The Gygax Seven: 1978 [10.5k]
    1. G1: Steading of the Hill Giant Chief (July 1978)
    2. G2: The Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl (July 1978)
    3. G3: Hall of the Fire Giant King (July 1978)
    4. D1: Descent into the Depths of the Earth (August 1978)
    5. D2: Shrine of the Kuo-Toa (August 1978)
    6. D3: Vault of the Drow (August 1978, color 1981)
    7. S1: Tomb of Horrors (late 1978, color 1980)
  6. AD&D — More Early Accessories: 1979-1980 [6k]
    1. Permanent Character Folder & Adventure Records (March 1979)
    2. Player Character Record Sheets (June 1979)
    3. Non-Player Character Records (June 1979)
    4. Dungeon Master’s Screen (July 1979)
    5. The Rogues Gallery (January 1980)
    6. Dungeon Geomorphs, Set One to Three: Basic Dungeon, Caves & Caverns, Lower Dungeons (1980)
    7. Monster & Treasure Assortment, Sets One to Three: Levels One-Nine (May 1980)
    8. Dungeon Masters Adventure Log (December 1980)
  7. Greyhawk — Opening the World: 1979-1980 [8.5k]
    1. T1: The Village of Hommlet (July 1979, color 1981)
    2. S2: White Plume Mountain (August 1979, color December 1980)
    3. C1: The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan (January 1980, color February 1981)
    4. S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (February 1980)
    5. C2: The Ghost Tower of Inverness (June 1980)
    6. Q1: Queen of the Demonweb Pits (June 1980)
  8. Greyhawk — The World of Slave Lords: 1980-1981 [7.5k]
    1. The World of Greyhawk Fantasy World Setting (August 1980)
    2. A1: Slave Pits of the Undercity (October 1980)
    3. G1-2-3: Against the Giants (March 1981)
    4. D1-2: Descent into the Depths of the Earth (April 1981)
    5. A2: Secret of the Slavers Stockade (July 1981)
    6. A3: Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords (May 1981)
    7. A4: In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords (May 1981)
  9. AD&D — More Monsters: 1981-1983 [4k]
    1. Fiend Folio (July 1981)
    2. Monster Cards Sets (May 1982)
    3. Monster Manual II (August 1983)
  10. Greyhawk — The Last Generics: 1981-1983 [6k]
    1. L1: The Secret of Bone Hill (June 1981)
    2. U1: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh (October 1981)
    3. I1: Dwellers of the Forbidden City (November 1981)
    4. N1: Against the Cult of the Reptile God (November 1982)
    5. U2: Danger at Dunwater (November 1982)
    6. L2: The Assassin’s Knot (September 1983)
    7. U3: The Final Enemy (October 1983)
  11. AD&D — The RPGA Adventures: 1982-1983 [8.5k]
    1. R1: To the Aid of Falx (1982)
    2. R2: The Investigation of Hydell (1982)
    3. R3: The Egg of the Phoenix (1982)
    4. R4: Doc’s Island (1983)
    5. RPGA1: Rahasia (1983)
    6. RPGA2: Black Opal Eye (1983)
    7. RPGA3: The Forgotten King (1983)
    8. RPGA4: The Elixir of Life (1983)
  12. Greyhawk — The Return of Gygax: 1982-1985 [14.5k]
    1. S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth (June 1982)
    2. WG4: The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun (July 1982)
    3. EX1: Dungeonland (April 1983)
    4. EX2: The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror (April 1983)
    5. World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting (October 1983)
    6. WG5: Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure (July 1984)
    7. WG6: Isle of the Ape (January 1985)
    8. T1-4: The Temple of Elemental Evil (August 1985)

The TSR Codex II: Dispersed Arcana
Covering OD&D, AD&D 1e (1983-1988)

  1. AD&D — The True Generics: 1983-1986 [11k]
    1. I2: Tomb of the Lizard King (January 1983)
    2. I3: Pharaoh (January 1983)
    3. I4: Oasis of the White Palm (February 1983)
    4. I5: Lost Tomb of Martek (July 1983)
    5. I6: Ravenloft (October 1983)
    6. N2: The Forest Oracle (February 1984)
    7. MV1: Midnight on Dagger Alley (August 1984)
    8. C3: The Lost Island of Castanamir (December 1984)
    9. C4: To Find a King (February 1985)
    10. C5: The Bane of Llywelyn (March 1985)
    11. I7: Baltron’s Beacon (November 1985)
    12. N3: Destiny of Kings (February 1986)
  2. UK — The British Adventures: 1983-1986 [10k]
    1. UK1: Beyond the Crystal Cave (March 1983)
    2. UK2: The Sentinel (February 1984)
    3. UK3: The Gauntlet (March 1984)
    4. UK4: When a Star Falls (June 1984)
    5. UK5: Eye of the Serpent (August 1984)
    6. UK6: All that Glitters… (August 1984)
    7. UK7: Dark Clouds Gather (July 1985)
    8. I8: Ravager of Time (April 1986)
    9. ST1: Up the Garden Path (September 1986)
  3. Dragonlance — Chronicles: 1984-1986 [16k]
    1. DL1: Dragons of Despair (March 1984)
    2. DL2: Dragons of Flame (May 1984)
    3. DL3: Dragons of Hope (August 1984)
    4. DL4: Dragons of Desolation (September 1984)
    5. DL5: Dragons of Mystery (November 1984)
    6. DL6: Dragons of Ice (March 1985)
    7. DL7: Dragons of Light (May 1985)
    8. DL8: Dragons of War (July 1985)
    9. DL9: Dragons of Deceit (August 1985)
    10. DL10: Dragons of Dreams (October 1985)
    11. DL11: Dragons of Glory (January 1986)
    12. DL12: Dragons of Faith (March 1986)
    13. DL13: Dragons of Truth (July 1986)
    14. DL14: Dragons of Triumph (October 1986)
  4. Conan — A New World: 1984-1986 [3.5k]
    1. CB1: Conan: Unchained! (July 1984)
    2. CB2: Conan: Against Darkness! (November 1984)
    3. RS1: Red Sonja Unconquered (December 1986)
  5. AD&D — The 1.5e Core: 1985-1987 [11.5k]
    1. Battlesystem (March 1985)
    2. Unearthed Arcana (June 1985)
    3. Oriental Adventures (October 1985)
    4. Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide (June 1986)
    5. Dark & Hidden Ways (1990)
    6. Wilderness (October 1986)
    7. Wild Things (1990)
    8. Manual of the Planes (June 1987)
  6. Lankhmar — A New City: 1985-1986 [3.5k]
    1. Lankhmar: City of Adventure (July 1985)
    2. CA1: Swords of the Undercity (December 1985)
    3. CA2: Swords of Deceit (May 1986)
  7. The Realms — Prelude to Adventure: 1985-1987 [7k]
    1. H1: Bloodstone Pass (July 1985)
    2. OA1: Swords of the Daimyo (February 1986)
    3. OA2: Night of the Seven Swords (December 1986)
    4. H2: The Mines of Bloodstone (December 1986)
    5. N4: Treasure Hunt (December 1986)
    6. OA3: Ochimo the Spirit Warrior (January 1987)
    7. I3-5: Desert of Desolation (May 1987)
    8. H3: The Bloodstone Wars (July 1987)
    9. OA4: Blood of the Yakuza (July 1987)
  8. AD&D — 1.5e GM Aids: 1985-1988 [3.5k]
    1. REF1: Dungeon Master’s Screen (October 1985)
    2. REF2: Player Character Record Sheets (August 1986)
    3. REF3: The Book of Lairs (September 1986)
    4. REF4: The Book of Lairs II (April 1987)
    5. Dungeon Master’s Design Kit (September 1988)
  9. AD&D — More Generics: 1986-1988 [8k]
    1. I9: Day of Al’Akbar (August 1986)
    2. I10: Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill (September 1986)
    3. I11: Needle (February 1987)
    4. I12: Egg of the Phoenix (March 1987)
    5. C6: The Official RPGA Tournament Handbook (March 1987)
    6. I13: Adventure Pack I (May 1987)
    7. OP1: Tales of the Outer Planes (March 1988)
  10. Greyhawk — What’s Next?: 1986-1988 [6.5k]
    1. A1-4: Scourge of the Slavelords (May 1986)
    2. GDQ1-7: Queen of the Spiders (September 1986)
    3. S1-4: Realms of Horror (August 1987)
    4. WG7: Castle Greyhawk (January 1988)
    5. Greyhawk Adventures (August 1988)
  11. Dragonlance — What’s Next?: 1987-1988 [5k]
    1. Dragonlance Adventures (September 1987)
    2. Atlas of the Dragonlance World (October 1987)
    3. DL15: Mists of Krynn (June 1988)
    4. DL16: World of Krynn (November 1988)
  12. The Realms — A New Adventure: 1987-1988 [12.5k]
    1. Forgotten Realms Campaign Set (July 1987)
    2. N5: Under Illefarn (September 1987)
    3. DQ1: The Shattered Statue (January 1988)
    4. I14: Swords of the Iron Legion (April 1988)
    5. H4: Throne of Bloodstone (May 1988)
    6. FRC1: Ruins of Adventure (August 1988)
    7. OA5: Mad Monkey vs. the Dragon Claw (December 1988)
    8. REF5: Lords of Darkness (December 1988)
  13. The Realms — A New Setting: 1987-1988 [pending]
    1. FR1: Waterdeep and the North (October 1987)
    2. FR2: Moonshae (November 1987)
    3. FR3: Empires of the Sands (February 1988)
    4. FR4: The Magister (May 1988)
    5. City System (July 1988)
    6. FR5: The Savage Frontier (August 1988)
    7. Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (October 1988)
    8. FR6: Dreams of the Red Wizards (November 1988)

The next two books, starting with “Volume III: The World on the Borderlands” definitely cover Basic D&D starting with the B/X releases, and probably continue on past 1989 to the end of the BD&D line and even the Mystaran releases in AD&D. But I need to see how the page counts lay out to determine for sure, since the goal is to have a set of books all about the same size. (Right now, the size for each books looks like 100k-105k words, which would put them just slightly shorter than the original Designers & Dragons books, which ran 120k-140k).

And after that? There’s a question of how many product-history books people really want for D&D. These first four books will cover the most historic era, which I suspect generates the most interest, so there’s the question of if there’s the same interest for AD&D 2e.

The New Histories

The other thing I wrote about three years ago was the most requested Designers & Dragons book, which is “The ’10s”. At the time I said that I was unlikely to work on it for a few years past the decade, but … I’ve started working on it.

It’s actually part of a sequence of books that are my prime focus right now, which I call “The Lost Histories”. You see, a few years ago, I started thinking about going back and writing more histories for the historic periods. Every once in a while, I’d even start doing research and taking notes on a new company, before I decided that I just didn’t have enough time to write it up (originally because of the DnDClassics work, and later because we were getting closer to our big move across the Pacific, which required more than a year of prep work). So, when I began work on Designers & Dragons again last spring, I had notes for a half-dozen articles, including Rider Fantasy, First Edition Society, Goblinoid Games, and Mythmere Games.

I’ve written quite a few more and now have a plan for a three-book series that I’m hoping to publish together: The Lost Histories I, covering the ’70s and ’80s; the Lost Histories II, covering the ’90s and ’00s; and The ’10s.

I don’t have a final plan for everything that these books will include, but I do have more than 30 new histories written and am increasingly cross-referencing others, which will have a 90% or so chance of going in.

Here’s the table of contents so far:

Lost Histories I

  1. 1970s
    1. Grenadier Models (1976) — 7k words
    2. Little Soldier Games (1976) — 2.5k words
    3. Tyr Gamemakers (1977) — 2.5k words
    4. Phoenix Games (1978) — 3k words
    5. Martian Metals (1978) — 6k words
    6. Rider Fantasy Creations (1978) — 5k words
    7. Fantasy Art Enterprises (1978) — 2.5k words
    8. Ragnarok Enterprises (1979) — 10k words
  2. 1980s
    1. Timeline (1980) — planned
    2. Adventure Games (1981) — 9k words
    3. Reston Publishing (1981) — 4k words
    4. Patrick Stephens Limited (1981) — 3.5k words
    5. The Companions (1981) — 3.5k words
    6. The Armory (1982) – planned
    7. Stellar Games (1987) — planned
    8. BTRC (1987) — 6k words
    9. Reaching Moon Megacorp (1989) — 8k words

Lost Histories II

  1. 1990s
    1. Marquee Press (1990) — 4k words
    2. Shield Games (1990) — 4k words
    3. Brittania Game Designs (1998) — 6k words
    4. Moon Design Publications (1999) — 11.5k words
    5. Obsidian Studios (1999) — 2.5k words
  2. 2000s
    1. Malhavoc Press (2001) — 6.5k words
    2. Savage Mojo (2003) — 7k words
    3. First Edition Society (2006) — 6.5k words
    4. Goblinoid Games (2006) — 5.5k words
    5. Mythmere Games (2008) — 4k words
    6. Brave Halfling Publishing (2008) — notes
    7. Black Blade Publishing (2009) — planned

The ’10s

  1. Sine Nomine Publishing (2010) — 5.5k words
  2. Necrotic Gnome (2012) — 6k words
  3. North Wind Adventures (2012?) — planned
  4. Monte Cook Games (2013) — 6.5k words
  5. Järnrïngen (2015) — 3k words
  6. Fria Ligan (2014) — 5k words
  7. Sigil Stone — planned
  8. Riotminds (2017) — 4.5k words
  9. Helmgast (2018) — 3.5k words
  10. Frog God Games — notes
  11. Grim & Perilous — planned
  12. Modiphius Entertainment — planned
  13. Nocturnal Media — planned
  14. Onyx Press — planned
  15. Osprey — planned
  16. River Horse — planned
  17. Sage Kobold — planned
  18. Schwalb Entertainment — planned
  19. Ulisses Spiele — planned
  20. 10 Things … — 3k words

These books have been full of neat stuff. I’ve loved getting to write about a lot of smaller press in the ’70s, plus my first true miniatures articles. For the ’80s, I got to cover a few small-to-medium press, plus some critical links for the future. The most exciting thing for me in the ’90s was getting to tell the full story of the first two fantasy heartbreaker companies, and for the ’00s it was about telling the story of the OSR. Obviously, the ’10s are full of all kinds of great stuff, including international publishers, more OSR, more indies, and even a bit of classic mainstream publishing.

The Chromatic Appendix

That leaves one last book to bring my count to eight, with is a new work called The Chromatic Appendix which is a polished collection of the online writings that you mainly find here.

I’m excited to collect this into a (semi-)coherent form, and I also think it nicely rounds out what I’m now considering the complete second edition of Designers & Dragons, because it includes the “recent histories” of some of the companies from the original four books.

Mind you, even with some work polishing this up, it’ll be a somewhat more chaotic collection than the previous ones, so I’m thinking it might be a good POD, to go with the print editions of the new books.

In Summary

If all goes as I currently envision it, the set of company histories that I’m working on will bring the second-edition of Designers & Dragons to seven books plus two appendices: five books of decades, two lost histories, and the Platinum and Chromatic volumes. My guess is that the new volumes will be done on my side by the end of 2022 or so, which would leave a nine-year-or-so separation between the first and last volumes, which is tricky for a history book, but at least The Chromatic Appendix would help fill the gaps. (Will there be a third edition someday? I’d like to think so. But how to organize it is a good question.)

The four-book TSR Codices will probably be done around the same time, or in early 2023, but I think that might be a better 2024 release, since that’s the 50th anniversary of D&D. (That’ll also give me the opportunity to continue working forward into the 2e era, improving cross-references in the existing books.) If those books are well received, there could be quite a few more talking about D&D from 1989 onward … but that’s a possibility for another day.

So that’s the future of Designers & Dragons, a lot more detailed and specific than it was three years ago, and also a lot more expansive, but that’s how it goes when you actually set aside time to do the work.

Right now I’m working on all of these projects in the semi-public eye at the Designers & Dragons patreon, so if you don’t want to wait to 2023 or 2024, that’s the place to go!

And of course articles will continue here, some for inclusion in the Lost Histories books, some for the Chromatic Appendix. The next should be “The Gygax Legacy” (which I hope to later put in the ’10s book).

This article was originally published as Advanced Designers & Dragons #53 on RPGnet. It followed the publication of the four-volume Designers & Dragons (2014) from Evil Hat, and was meant to complement those books.

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