Rare Dungeons & Dragons Manuscript

National Museum of Play News Release
One Manhattan Square Rochester, NY 14607 • 585-263-2700 • museumofplay.org

April 10, 2013

For Immediate Release

Contact: Susan Trien, 585-410-6359, strien@thestrong.org
Shane Rhinewald, 585-410-6365, srhinewald@thestrong.org

Rare Dungeons & Dragons Manuscript on
View at the National Museum of Play

ROCHESTER, New York—A rare manuscript believed by some experts to be the earliest existing version of Dungeons & Dragons will be prominently displayed at the National Museum of Play at The Strong® beginning April 13 as part of Game Time!, a major exhibit exploring 300 years of games, puzzles, and public amusements.

Students of the history of the game debate whether the Dalluhn Manuscript (1973), two hand-typed volumes, was used for play testing Dungeons & Dragons or as an early prototype for it, serving as a model for the more finished product released the next year. However, many believe that one or both of the game developers, Gary Gygax and David Arneson, wrote the piece. The manuscript takes its name from Keith Dalluhn, its previous owner. (Pictured here: View of dungeon map from Dalluhn manuscript next to map from later, published edition of Dungeons & Dragons.)

The rare manuscript was loaned to The Strong by Jon Peterson, an avid game collector and author of Playing at the World, a landmark book that chronicles the creation of Dungeons & Dragons and its influence on the world of fantasy role-playing games.

Says Peterson, “The Dalluhn Manuscript preserves a transitional set of rules developed during the creation of the game Dungeons & Dragons. It captures the system at around the midpoint of development, with the core concepts of dungeon exploration and fantastic combat in place, but it lacks some features of the mature game and exhibits a few intriguing variations. While many questions remain about the exact circumstances under which it was produced, the Dalluhn Manuscript provides the most important window into the invention of role-playing games since the 1977 publication of Dave Arneson’s First Fantasy Campaign.”

Gygax and Arneson modified a war game and developed their role-playing game system, marketed under the name Dungeons & Dragons, beginning in 1974. The game helped pave the way to later electronic games and gaming systems. Still a best-selling fantasy game, Dungeons & Dragons is regarded in the industry as the pivotal force behind the invention of modern massively multiplayer online role playing games.

Game Time!, an original permanent exhibit at the National Museum of Play, features rare historic treasures from The Strong’s world-renowned collections. A major timeline showcases artifacts, photographs, and multimedia to trace the history of board-, card-, and role-playing games from 1840 to the present day. Among the highlights are classic 19th-century board games such as The Mansion of Happiness (1843) and The Checkered Game of Life (1860), which carried serious moral messages and rewarded virtues like punctuality and sobriety while punishing less acceptable social behaviors. The Game of the District Messenger Boy (1886) showed how a humble letter-carrier could climb the corporate ladder if he avoided temptation, and Tutoom (1923) made the best of public fascination with mummies. 

Game Time! is phase two of a five-phase project to transform the museum’s second floor into America at Play, a highly interactive exhibit on the history of play in America. The first phase, eGameRevolution, explores electronic games. This project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services. The Strong acknowledges the support of Greater Hudson Heritage Network for artifact preservation.