Eldritch Wizardry (1976)

If there was a precise moment that Dungeons & Dragons sealed its early fate as target for religious hysteria, it was in 1976, with the release of Eldritch Wizardry. It was the third supplement for the original White Box D&D, after Greyhawk and Blackmoor. Written by Gary Gygax and Brian Blume, it included a number of key expansions like psionics, artifacts and the druid character class. It also featured a lurid cover and a lengthy discussion of demons. Oops!

With a low print run circulating mostly among hardcore RPG enthusiasts of the time, it didn’t generate much controversy at publication. But when tragic events later fueled an uproar around the game, zealous opponents likely saw all their fears confirmed when they discovered Eldritch Wizardry. More on that the rest of the week.

The book itself is an essential rules expansion, forming up much of the foundation of what Advanced Dungeons & Dragons would become. It tickles the nostalgia bone with its crude art, particularly the early depictions of demon lords like Orcus and Demogorgon (it is hard to believe, though, that a contemporary reviewer called the art “superb”). Finally, even though it would cause future headaches, it also contributes to the air of the forbidden that D&D books from the 70s have. In a way, the anti-D&D crusaders were right: books like Eldritch Wizardry had a tantalizing whiff of black magic for kids of the era.

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