Thursday 22 November 2012

My Visual Map of D&D History

I had a chargen session last night with two players, one of whom has never played an RPG before. (Though he has played computer RPGs, which I found to be of great help, as he was already familiar with concepts such as class, level, hit points, and so on -- not something I'd ever considered before!)

I explained to the new player which game we're playing (Labyrinth Lord), and why it's a clone of another, older game. The conversation developed into a mini history of D&D and its various versions.

Afterwards I had the urge to make a diagram to show the game's history in a nicely understandable visual form. Here's what I came up with.

It's not completely comprehensive, no doubt lacking quite a few clones and sub-versions. Basically I just included stuff I know of. I think it's a fun diagram though :)


  1. I think Holmes is more a precursor to AD&D, though. It separates class and race, has a more complicated alignment system than just C-L-N.

    And 3e bears more resemblance to D&D than 4e. It borrowed a lot from both AD&D and BECMI (virtually the skill list) with some from Rolemaster, I would say. 4e is almost an unrecognizable game.

  2. Good point about Holmes. I added a line to indicate its "shared genetics" with AD&D.

    Also added a line connecting 2e and 3e. Maybe I was trying to make too much of a point by separating them so much originally ;)

  3. I think Holmes is more a precursor to AD&D

    It's not though.

    Holmes edited the original 3 booklets and the Greyhawk supplement to produce his rulebook. It was released before either the PHB or DMG was even published, and before the MM was released. Gygax admitted that the (8) AD&D references in Holmes were added to the manuscript for marketing purposes, to encourage customers to purchase the upcoming Advanced products.

  4. That should read "...before either the PHB or DMG were even written..."

  5. Thanks for the insight Dave... this shows where my being one year old at the point when Holmes and AD&D were published is not in my favour! ;)

    Not sure if my "shared genetics" line on the graph is very accurate now.

  6. The picture is great Gavin, but I agree about the doubt you have over the Holmes/AD&D shared genetics line. They both shared OD&D as inspiration, but I don't believe the evidence suggests that Gygax was inspired by Holmes while writing AD&D (and obviously not vice versa).

  7. What, no Pathfinder?

    Pathfinder has the same relationship to 3.5 as the retroclones do to the various earlier editions.


    1. Yeah, the map is far from complete. I left Pathfinder off because the main reason I wanted to make the map was to demonstrate to some new players what all the retro-clones are. Pathfinder's too far off my radar to have been included.


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