Monday, January 29, 2024

Greg Stafford & the First Copy of D&D

(Young Greg painted for King of Dragon Pass by Stefano Gaudiano)

Before you read my story, read the story in Greg's words from the Chaosium blog, February of last year.

It's a great story and I was extremely amused to read it. But my amusement may not have been the same as your amusement, because I was comparing it to the story as Greg had told it to me, back when I worked at Chaosium!

Greg was a storyteller supreme. The best. I can see why he might have been more circumspect in the codex than he was with me. I'm not certain which version shades more towards truth. That doesn't really matter to the story . . .

When Greg told the tale, we weren't talking about Dungeons & Dragons. We were talking about White Bear & Red Moon, specifically about how Greg had tried to work out a publishing deal with various companies, shopping it around. I think it was after the first printing had sold out, he wondered if there was a way to publish the boardgame with a bigger company.

And he went to see Gary Gygax at TSR. As Greg told the story, Gygax was doing well at that time, he received Greg in a nice office. But it did not go well for Greg and WB&RM. Early in the conversation, Greg told Gygax that he thought he had owned one of the earliest copies of D&D . . . and here we diverge!

The way Greg told it, most of the copies of D&D had been stuck at the printer because the bill hadn't been paid yet. They weren't releasing the games to Gygax. And Greg's brother-in-law worked at the printer, or had business there, and saw the game, and thought it looked like something that Greg would like. One way or another he got a copy and sent it to Greg at a time when Gygax was being prevented from getting copies out to anyone else.

Maybe Gygax was amused later, but according to this telling, he wasn't happy with Greg at that moment. The attempt to publish WB&RM through the resurgent TSR went nowhere, and in this telling, Greg turned the story into a sort of fable about waiting until after the deal is done to tell funny stories that will only be funny to you.

(Greg the storyteller, again painted by Stefano Gaudiano for King of Dragon Pass)

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