Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Old TSR Ad

Tim Hutchings recently sent along a scan of an old TSR advertisement from the pages of Asimov's Science Fiction. Some of you have no doubt seen it before, but, even if you have, it's worth looking at again.
What's fascinating to me is that TSR advertised Dungeon! side by side with Dungeons & Dragons, as if they considered the former game to be a lead-in to the latter. That's not an unreasonable idea, especially since that's how I entered the hobby, but I don't know how common my experience was. Back in 1979, the idea of a roleplaying game was a pretty alien one and I doubt my friends and I would have understood it without the intermediary of Dungeon! Seeing this ad again makes me wonder if perhaps TSR was aware of just how unlike previous games D&D was and published Dungeon! in part to be a quasi-intro product to Dungeons & Dragons.


  1. If not for the fact that my parents introduced me to D&D in the 80s, I would have just figured that the ad was for some lame medieval version of Candyland, or a fantasy-themed activity book (although in retrospect, the D&D Coloring Book kicks ass).

  2. I am not surprised at all. Dungeon! was what got me interested in the basic set as well. I suppose, since I am still quite interested, it was quite effective.

  3. There's another 1978 ad with Warlocks & Warriors and the Basic Set side-by-side (the one with Heidi Gygax). Also interesting they were advertising DUNGEON! as a solo game. Never saw that anywhere else.

    This ad was posted on the Acaeum a few years back - it was found in the first issue of Asimov's SF Adventure Magazine (Fall 1978). At the time, I looked through Dragon magazines from 77 and 78 and didn't see this ad.

    The awesome art looks like Trampier to me. Somebody stat that dungeon!

  4. I got my first copy of Dungeon (which I'm fairly sure I still have somewhere in the garage) in the mid-80's, long after I started D&D. It was always a fun and easy alternative when game night would have a poor turn out. I also had a girlfriend back then who had no interest in sitting at a table playing D&D for hours, but actually loved Dungeon (which as I recall took less than a couple hours even with several people). I'm gonna have to dig it out and maybe have ready as a game night alternative...

    Yeah, that Manticore does evoke Tramp.

  5. I'm not sure if Dungeon! came before D&D in my house (I think it might have), but I know that my brother and I played the heck out of it.

  6. My first exposure to a role-playing game was my younger brother's copy of the 1st edition Monster Manual, which he bought solely for the pictures. My first role-playing game was Moldvay's Basic Set. Sometime between the two, however, my parents bought me a copy of Dungeon! (with the Roslof illustration on the box), and I think my fascination with its concept and frustration with its limitations was partially responsible for my desire to play Dungeons & Dragons.

    Side note: They purchased Dungeon! at a store called Morey's Newsstand, which sold magazines, newspapers, greeting cards, books, pipes, cigars, and board games. It was a heck of a place.

  7. I played D&D when I was 9 or so, and played Dungeon! after that. I read the Holmes rulebook, but it was playing Dungeon! that made my D&D rule readings 'click'.

  8. I never played the Dungeon board game. But for some of us Talisman was a lead-in to D&D.

    It just occurred to me how this has coloured my early gaming. Our adventures didn't start right at the dungeon entrance. We played lots of overland travel (on square, not hex, maps) with lots of wacky random encounters.

    A dungeon was just another kind of random encounter.
    "You see a cairn on the horizon."
    "You see a half-opened, not-so-secret-anymore door in the back wall of the way shrine."
    "There is a slender tower on yonder hill, so slender in fact that there can hardly be more than a spiral staircase inside."

    Exploration of those sites took a rather short time and we usually covered two or three "dungeons" in a combined afternoon/evening session. Plus travel encounters in between.

    Good times.

  9. Very fond memories of Dungeon! We used to integrate it into our D&D game by making it some kind of side mini-game... same thing with the Gateway to Apshai video game on my buddy's Atarti computer.

    I think we were inspired by Deathtrap Dungeon as I remember that being the typical scenario for using those games.

  10. My gateway drug was melee and wizard :)

  11. @Greyhawk Knight:

    Those sound like awesome games...like a separate inspiration of what I suspect some Wilderlands of High Fantasy campaigns were like.


    For me, Dungeon was less the intro to D&D than what I could get my family to play when they weren't interested in D&D.

  12. @Herb: Thanks.
    Maybe one day I'll start to blog about it.