The original Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) boxed set by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson was published by TSR, Inc. in 1974. It included the rulebooks of the original edition of Dungeons & Dragons. It is often known as the White Box because later printings (after 1976) came in an all-white box.


The original Dungeons & Dragons boxed set was the first modern tabletop role-playing game, a fantasy system with a medieval European flavor.[1] This set introduced concepts which would become standard, including abilities (such as strength, intelligence, and dexterity); character classes (fighting-man, magic-user, cleric) and levels; races (human, dwarf, elf, halfling); armor class; monsters and treasure; subterranean dungeons of halls, rooms, and doors replete with tricks and traps; and magic items, such as intelligent swords.[1] The set also includes rules for wilderness travel by land and sea, hiring specialists and men-at-arms, building fortifications and setting up baronies.[1] Movement rates and areas are given in inches, like that of the miniatures rules of from which the system descended.[1]

The set also included brief guidelines on using monsters as player characters.[2]

This set features only a handful of the elements for which the game is known today: just three character classes (fighting-man, magic-user, and cleric); four races (human, dwarf, elf, hobbit); and only three alignments (lawful, neutral, and chaotic). The rules assume that players have owned and have played the miniatures wargame Chainmail and that they have used its measurement and combat systems. An optional combat system is included within the rules that later developed into the sole combat system of later versions of the game. In addition, the rules presumed ownership of Outdoor Survival, an Avalon Hill board game for outdoor exploration and adventure.

The "Men & Magic" booklet recommends using miniatures only "if the players have them available and so desire", although they were not required and cardboard counters were given as an alternative.[3]

The "Monsters & Treasure" booklet contains some of the first depictions of the game's most iconic monsters, many of which were adapted from mythology and various literary works.

The set initially referred to some of the creatures in the game as "hobbits" and "ents" after J.R.R. Tolkien-universe creatures, although after legal hassles they were changed to "halflings" and "treants", respectively.[1]


The booklet "Monsters & Treasure" from this box contained some of the first descriptions of the game's most iconic monsters.

This booklet contained an index on pages 3-4 featuring stats only for how many creatures of each type appeared per encounter, armor class, how many inches the creature could move on its turn, hit dice, % in lair, and treasure. Pages 5-20 followed with descriptions of each of the monsters, typically consisting of one or more paragraphs. Most of the monsters on this book did not feature an illustration. Also featured are descriptions of humans (bandits, brigands, berserkers, dervishes, nomads, buccaneers, cavemen, and mermen), horses, insects, and other small and large animals.

Creature Page Other Appearances Description
Goblins 7 Small monsters first described in the fantasy appendix of the original Chainmail set
Kobold 7 Similar to goblins but weaker
Orcs 7-8 Tribal creatures that live in caves or villages
Hobgoblins 8 Large and fearless goblins
Gnolls 8 A cross between gnomes and trolls, otherwise similar to hobgoblins
Ogres 8 Large and fearsome monsters
Trolls 8 Thin and rubbery, loathsome creatures able to regenerate
Giants 8-9 Includes hill, stone, frost, fire, and cloud giants
Skeletons 9 Acts under the instructions of their motivator, be it Magic-User or Cleric (Chaos)
Zombies 9 Acts under the instructions of their motivator, be it Magic-User or Cleric (Chaos)
Ghouls 9 Paralyze anyone they touch
Wights 9 Drain away energy levels on a hit
Wraiths 9 High-class wights with more mobility
Mummies 9 Touch causes a rotting disease
Spectres 9 Have no corporeal body and drain life energy levels
Vampires 9-10 Powerful undead
Cockatrices 10 A less powerful but more mobile basilisk, turns opponents to stone by touch
Basilisks 10 Has the power of turning to stone by touch and glance
Medusae 10 Human-type monster with the lower body of a snake, turns those who look at it to stone
Gorgons 10 Bull-like monsters with a breath capable of turning creatures to stone
Manticoras 10 Huge, lion-bodied monstrosities with a tail full of spikes that can be fired
Hydras 10 Large dinosaurs with multiple heads
Chimeras 11 Can gore with goat's head, tear with lion fangs, and dragon's head can bite or breathe fire
Wyverns 11 Smaller relatives of dragons with poisonous sting in tail
Dragons 11-14 White, black, green, blue, red, and golden dragons are described (Golden dragons are Lawful in alignment)
Gargoyles 14 Reptilian bipedal beast, Chaotic in alignment
Lycanthropes 14-15 Four types described: Werewolf, wereboar, weretiger (all Neutral/Chaos), and werebear (Law/Neutral)
Purple Worms 15 Huge and hungry monsters lurk beneath the surface
Minotaurs 15 Bull-headed men, who are man-eaters
Centaurs 15 Can attack twice, once as a man and once as a horse
Unicorns 15 Can be ridden by maiden-warriors and will obey them
Nixies 15-16 Water sprites are Neutral in nature but will enslave humans for one year
Pixies 16 Air sprites originally described in the "Chainmail" set, naturally invisible to human eyes
Dryads 16 Beautiful tree sprites, each a part of their own respective tree
Gnomes 16 Slightly smaller than dwarves, with longer beards, inhabits hills and lowland burrows
Dwarves 16 Described in the "Chainmail" set; clumsy monsters like ogres and giants have a hard time hitting them
Elves 16 Elves make their homes in woodlands and remote meadowlands
Treants 16 Tree-like creatures able to command trees, Lawful in nature
Pegasi 17 Winged horses that will serve only Lawful characters
Hippogriffs 17 Fierce fighters that attack with both hooves and sharp beaks
Rocs 17 Large and fierce birds that nest in mountains; hostile to creatures of Chaos and Neutrality
Griffons 18 The most prized of steeds, fond of horse flesh
Invisible Stalkers 18 Monsters created by spells, faultless trackers
Elementals 18-19 Four types described: Air, earth, fire, and water
Djinn 19 Aerial creatures with magical powers
Efreet 19 Similar to djinn, but creatures of fire that tend to be Chaotic
Ochre Jelly 19 Giant amoeba which can be killed by fire or cold, but divides when hit by weapons
Black Pudding 19 Black (or Gray) puddings dissolve wood, and corrode metal
Green Slime 20 Non-mobile hazard that turns flesh into more green slime
Gray Ooze 20 Seeping horror that resembles wet stone and corrodes metal like a black pudding
Yellow Mold 20 Deadly underground fungus that attacks wood and flesh

Publication historyEdit

The original Dungeons & Dragons set was written by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, and was published by TSR in 1974 as a digest-sized boxed set in a brown wood-grain box.[1] The set included three digest-sized books: the 36-page "Volume 1: Men & Magic", the 40-page "Volume 2: Monsters & Treasure", and the 36-page "Volume 3: The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures".[3] The set also included six reference sheets of tables and charts.[1]

With a production budget of only $2000 to produce a thousand copies, the result was decidedly amateurish.[4]:26 Only $100 was budgeted for artwork, and Gygax pressed into service just about anyone who could hold a pencil, including local artist Cookie Corey; Greg Bell, a member of Jeff Perren's gaming group; D&D co-creator Dave Arneson; Gygax's wife's half-sister Keenan Powell; and fellow TSR co-founder Don Kaye.[4]:20–26 Each artist was paid $2 for a small piece or $3 for a larger piece, with an identical amount paid as a royalty every time another thousand copies were printed.[4]:20–26

Several of Greg Bell's illustrations were based on comic book art, often from Strange Tales. The illustration of a sorceror before a blazing cauldron in the second book is based on a panel from a Doctor Strange]] story in Strange Tales No. 167.[4]:24 The cover art showing a sword-wielding Viking warrior on a rearing horse was also copied from Strange Tales #167.[4]:24

This first set went through many printings[5] and was supplemented with several official additions, including Greyhawk and Blackmoor in 1975, and Eldritch Wizardry, Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes, and Swords & Spells in 1976. Later printings, beginning in 1976, came in an all-white box,[1] and added the label "Original Collector's Edition".[6] The initial printing of the "Men & Magic" booklet had a drawing of a mounted warrior on the cover, while the 1976 printing featured a fighter with a sword.[1]

The original Dungeons & Dragons was re-released in 2013, as part of a deluxe, premium collectors set which includes reprints of the original boxed set booklets and the four supplement booklets in a wooden box. Each booklet features new cover art but is otherwise a faithful reproduction of the original, including original interior art.[7]


Tim Waddell reviewed the original Dungeons & Dragons in The Space Gamer #2.[8] Waddell commented that "The most stimulating part of the game is the fact that anything can happen. Nothing is impossible."[8] Andy Pudewa also reviewed the original Dungeons & Dragons in The Space Gamer #2.[9] Pudewa said that "As a game, D&D is a fantastical outlet for the imagination. It has the quality of being infinitely flexible, and with it comes the reality of impossibility. [...] There are drawbacks to the game however; as there are in any game. D&D cannot even begin to get interesting in less than 20 hours playing time. Hundreds of hours of work must be done ahead of time by the referee, and it takes a fairly long time to prepare on the part of the players."[9]

Gary Gygax won the Strategists Club's "Outstanding Designer & Writer" for the creation of Dungeons & Dragons.[10] The set is also an H.G. Wells award-winner.[1]

On December 9, 2016, a first printing of the boxed set was sold on an eBay auction for over $20,000.[4]:424


  • Origins Awards (All-Time Best Role-Playing Rules, 1977)
  • Origins Awards (Greatest Contribution to the Hobby 1967-77, 1977)
  • Origins Awards (Adventure Gaming Hall of Fame, 1977)
  • Strategists' Club Award (Best New Game, 1974)
  • Pen & Paper (RPG Hall of Fame, 2002)
  • Scrye Player's Choice (All-Time Favorite Role-Playing Game, 2006)
  • Games Magazine (Hall of Fame, 1984).


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Lawrence Schick (1991). Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role-Playing Games, page 130. Prometheus Books. ISBN 0-87975-653-5.
  2. Jim Bambra (August 1989). "Role-playing Reviews". Dragon #148, pages 63–65. TSR.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Michael J. Tresca (2010). The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games, page 62 (Google Books link). McFarland. ISBN 078645895X.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, and Sam Witwer (2018). Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History. Ten Speed Press. ISBN 9780399580949.
  5. "Original D&D Set". The Acaeum. Retrieved on January 17, 2009.
  6. "D&D White Box Review". Retrieved on February 2, 2014.
  7. "Original Dungeons & Dragons RPG". Wizards of the Coast. Retrieved on March 30, 2015.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Waddell, Tim (1975). "Reviews of Dungeons & Dragons". The Space Gamer (2): 9. Metagaming. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Pudewa, Andy (1975). "Reviews of Dungeons & Dragons". The Space Gamer (2): 9. Metagaming. 
  10. "Dungeons & Dragons 3-volume set". RPGnet. Retrieved on October 20, 2008.

External linksEdit

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