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"To those who played Chainmail with G.Gygax please!" Topic

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Albus Malum28 Dec 2020 6:03 p.m. PST

So Sgt Slag asked the question, but then diverted back to miniature sizes, So to broaden the question, to if you played Chainmail with Gygax, please fill us in with everything you care to share, about any aspect of it. There is a lot of info out there about Gygax and RPG on the internet, but Very little about the game that started it all.


I havent played it yet! but hope to someday. As a kid, in the late 70's I was always intrigued.

So if you played with Gygax, or even were a very early player of the game, please enlighted our community! :)

HMS Exeter28 Dec 2020 6:38 p.m. PST

I was introduced to Chainmail in the mid 80s. A group of gamers had chosen it as their goto 25mm fantasy rules set. From time to time they still play it.

The group was formed by ex navy buddies, led by an ex Dayton game group alum. They mostly used old Heritage figs. They still collect them.

The group had heavily adapted the rules with all manner of house rules designed to avert perversions. One fellow insisted that they play a straight out of the books event. He fielded a dragon and a giant, among many other things. It was pointed out that the rules absolutely required that dragons attack giants before doing anything else. So his dragon spends several turns taking out his giant. Then, his opponents flew a roc within 48" of the dragon. The rules stipulated that dragons next had to eradicate rocs. Rocs move 48". Dragons move 36". The roc dragged the dragon out of play. Hobbits cost no points but are effective missile troops. So his opponents were hip deep in them. The purist got the message (good) but quit gaming (not so good).

There is a very elegant jousting module in the back.

DisasterWargamer Supporting Member of TMP28 Dec 2020 6:51 p.m. PST


An interesting article on the early days

Attalus I28 Dec 2020 7:08 p.m. PST

The article fails to mention the co-author of Chainmail, Jeff Perren.

DyeHard28 Dec 2020 8:03 p.m. PST

Found my copy:

It is 3rd edition looks like from 1975.
The main rules are 16 pages.
These are pretty straight forward medieval rules, no fantasy yet.

The Fantasy supplement is another 11 pages.
This part starts out with the size of figures with relative sizes based off of 30mm and 40mm Humans. Giants are listed as 54mm and 70mm respectively.

One of my favorite parts of this is the army building point system as Halflings are Zero points! Even a Peasant is 1/2 point.
It has the law/Neutral/Chaos division spelled out.

But the best part IMHO is the Jousting rules, as no dice are needed. One just matches the aim point vs. Defensive Position.

Albus Malum28 Dec 2020 8:55 p.m. PST

Long time ago, I read a article stating that there was someone else who was very instrumental in the creation of Chainmail, other then Perren ( who I don't know much about), Cant remember the others guy name off the tope of my head. If I recall, Gygax, and Perren took some of his ideas in the creation of Chainmail. But such is how everything is created, everyone gets ideas from other people.

To those who played or play Chainmail, how smooth of a operational game is it in your opinion? Is it better as a historical game or a fantasy game?

DisasterWargamer Supporting Member of TMP28 Dec 2020 9:09 p.m. PST


Information on Len Pratt and how he might have been the precursor to Chainmail as a Fantasy system – Called Rules for Middle Earth

Dennis28 Dec 2020 9:19 p.m. PST

My 2nd Ed. copy of Chainmail (1972) lists Don Lowry as the illustrator and copyright holder. That edition also thanks Len Lakofka, Ken Bourne, Stu Trembly and Ernie the Barbarian for contributing helpful "suggestions." One of them might have provided more than suggestions.

I played some games of Chainmail in the early 1970s with some gamers from Chicago who had played Chainmail and D&D with the Lake Geneva guys. We used Chainmail as the preferred rules for both historical games and also fantasy games rather than the (IMHO) very bad combat rules from original D&D. It's been nearly 50 years ago so I don't remember specifics, but as I recall they were good for the time but nothing more than a curiosity today.

Personal logo Inari7 Supporting Member of TMP28 Dec 2020 9:24 p.m. PST

Well you can still get a copy at Drive Thru RPG.


Personal logo Inari7 Supporting Member of TMP28 Dec 2020 9:31 p.m. PST

If your interested in the very begining of DnD and the games that led up to it. Watch the documentary "Secrets of Blackmoor" YouTube link There is a good Gary story in there.

HMS Exeter28 Dec 2020 9:35 p.m. PST

Chainmail, at its' heart, is an historical game. Fantasy is an optional overlay. I have played very few fantasy games other than CM, so I cannot speak to its' relative "smoothness."

All troop types have 3 basic combat classifications. Are they armed for projectile combat, including info on weapon type? What manner of protective armor are they wearing? What is their melee class.

Archery, including slings and firearms, are resolved first. The projectile weapon is compared to the defender armor class. The number of figures firing is compared to a table. Normally, there are 1 or 2 automatic casualties and a die roll for 1 more.

Melee is resolved by comparing melee types. If a 12 figure unit of Light Foot was meleeing another identical unit, each side would roll 12 dice, 6s kill. If a Medium foot faced Light Foot, the MF would roll 12 dice, 5s and 6s kill. The LF would roll 1 die for each 2 figs, 6s kill.

There are various modifiers, of course, but its' pretty straightforward. 12 LF vs 12 Medium Cav would be something like 24 dice for the cav, 5s and 6s kill, 1 die for each 6 figs for the LF, 6s kill.

Fantasy figs could be fought in 1 of 2 ways. Versus grunty foot, men or orcs, the fantasy would have a normal combat rating. A troll might fight as 6 Armored Foot. Against 12 LF the troll would get 6 dice, 4,5 and 6 kill. The LF would get 1 die for 4 figs, a 6 "hits". 6 hits to kill.

There was an alternative fantasy combat table. Each fantasy figure would get an attack rolling 2d6. Trolls fighting one another would each roll, 8+ being a kill.

Dn Jackson Supporting Member of TMP28 Dec 2020 10:10 p.m. PST

I played a lot in the late 70s early 80s with a friend from school. I remember very little from the rules. We played with the individual figure rules. My one clear memory was that I had three Minifigs Turks, or Arabs. They were very effective because they had maces! We played the figure was armed as cast.

My friend had a unit of knights painted in his school colors. Painted and unpainted figures on the table together, figures had to stand on their cast bases because the concept of basing troops was foreign to us.

Good times!

Martin Rapier28 Dec 2020 11:46 p.m. PST

We acquired a copy of Chain mail back in the 1970s when we first got into D&D, but never played it much. My copy has long since disappeared sadly.

emckinney29 Dec 2020 2:16 a.m. PST

"Long time ago, I read a article stating that there was someone else who was very instrumental in the creation of Chainmail …"

Is it possible that you're thinking about Dave Arneson and the origins of Dungeons & Dragons?

Marcus Brutus29 Dec 2020 6:33 a.m. PST

Groundbreaking rules for the times but I can't see why anyone would play it today.

Personal logo Mserafin Supporting Member of TMP29 Dec 2020 8:49 a.m. PST

I played Chainmail at Gencon once back in the 1970s, when it was still held at the Horticultural Hall in Lake Geneva. I'm not sure the guys I played with were Gygax and his crowd, but the timing is right. I ran some archers over on the flank and generally made myself a nuisance to the other side.

Sgt Slag29 Dec 2020 9:18 a.m. PST

I collected PDF copies of Chainmail and Swords & Spells, its successor. I bought hard copies of 1e BattleSystem (red boxed set), 2e BattleSystem (softcover book), and 2e BattleSystem Skirmish (softcover book; RPG-lite, mini's game which simplifies/speeds up RPG combat, drastically).

I've read all of them, played many, many 2e BS games, and several 2e BS Skirmish games. I never played the earlier games as they seemed too clunky, too complex: tracking "exhaustion" for every figure?…

2e BS is the most streamlined. Heck, I didn't even realize that Chainmail was only played with d6's, until I asked on this forum! I thought all of the earlier games used polyhedral dice. I missed the fact that polyhedral dice only came later, during the development of OD&D.

If I remember correctly, casualties in Swords & Spells, were calculated, without rolling any dice! You tallied the value of each attacking force, looked that up on a table, and then removed/marked as dead, the specified number of casualties… It was not that interesting to me, to even try to play a game of it.

It was fun to read through the rules sets, though, to see how game mechanics developed, and how they were refined, over the decades. Cheers!

Perris070729 Dec 2020 9:49 a.m. PST

You can still get 1st edition copies on Ebay at "bargain" prices.

Albus Malum30 Dec 2020 9:29 p.m. PST


Yes, That is the guy I had read about. Reading the couple articles, really adds a different twist to the whole Gygax-Arneson debate. The facts are, when history is involved, there is always going to be stuff we don't know. For all anybody knows, Arneson read the NEWA magazine The Courier also.

The way I see it, who cares if Gygax stole ideas from Arneson, If we were waiting on Arneson, we would never have had Dnd, as Gygax, made it available to everyone, Arneson DID NOT!

Its kind of like Zerox. The amount of stuff Zerox invented and did nothing with is staggering. Zerox should own the world. Don't want to turn this into another stupid Arneson/Gygax debate though.

Sgt Slag,
Yes, Ive read the Swords and Spell, found a pdf on the web before, its quite interesting also, Ive considered wanting to give it a try (going to have to do a game of BattleValor's 15mm rules first as my boy wants to try them, ( just finished a game of Battlesystem with him 2 days ago, I will try to write that up soon though). I kind of like the idea aspect of casualties being calculated, at least trying it. ( could put of Bell Curve modifier if you wanted some slight variation (like from the 2nd page from the AD&D DMG)). I have played so many games in my life, where those @#$% dice are cursed for me. I tire of the cursed dice. Maybe I need to buy a set of loaded dice like everyone else uses, but just straight up calculated results, I can live with that!!!!!! I really need to write up my ideas sometime, but as per the arugument that AD&D and Basic are different games, I think Gygax was truely stating his view, and the reason so many people complain about Ad&d, is because they dont understand what it really is. It IS a WARGAME, the game which would have logically continued out of a fully developed CHAINMAIL set of rules, with the Addition of the RPG on top of it.

A couple years ago a youtuber, Matt Colville did a Million dollar Kickstarter ( need to buy his book sometime) named STRONGHOLDS and FOLLOWERS, IE the essence of what Ad&d is about, and the Wargames that should have flowed out of it, only people (teens like myself) bought the books, and only did the RPG part. But man, as I teen, I really wanted to try the Chainmail part mentioned in that Basic box set, and I Kept reading the 1st Edition AD@D DMG and keep saying to my self, but his has everything we need to run the wargame, only have to convert the hitpoints back to HitDice and its the Wargame again ( if Gary had included this one Sentence, just use Hit Dice instead of Hit Points for mass Battle, everyone would have fully understood what it(the DMG) was about. Of coarse as a young teen in the mid-late 1970's, I didnt have the money for miniatures if I wanted them anyways, so it was a moot point. But I sure did want to acquire a copy of Chainmail and see what it was about back then.

Note: as a campaign system that 1st edition DMG is quite complete, its got everything you need for running a long term Wargame as well as RPG Campaign.

Sgt Slag03 Jan 2021 11:20 a.m. PST

I have heard this view posited before. It is possible this is true. From what I have read, though, Gary seems like he, too, got caught up in the RPG aspect, as well.

I find it interesting that most RPG'ers are not interested in wargaming! The RPG leapt forward without ever looking back.

Me, I love both hobbies, mixing the two, when possible. I planned to play out a civil war from my RPG game. Still need to finish playing this out. I will take another look at the 1e DMG from your perspective. Cheers!

Albus Malum03 Jan 2021 9:24 p.m. PST

Sgt Slag,
Look at the 1st ed Monster Manual also, Kolbolds 40-400, Orcs: 30-300, Gnolls: 20-200, Goblins: 40-400. The first time I heard about Dungeons and Dragons, a freind of mine in jr.high was talking to another freind of his (he was a very avid Wargamer) and he was talking about how he had a castle and was going to war against one of the other player in his group, ( he would have been playing white box at the time), a couple years later my brother and myself chips our money together and he convinced me to help him buy the Basic Dnd keep on the4 borderlands, in 1978 I believe.

Anyway, 400 goblins encountered, that is a wargame, 1st Ed. AD&D, you have your henchmen, you have your men at arms with cost to maintain, you have costs for building your castles, garrisons, costs for blacksmiths to keep your army going, why do you need the cost to hire a engineer- artillerist, or a engineer sapper if it wasn't a wargame. You can hire a captain, and it gives stats for how many men he can command. You need a sergeant for every 10 regular soldiers, and on and on.

You went on adventures, so you could finance your army, that was my initial understanding how the early game was played by many, your PC needed cash so he could hire all those troops, you went in to those dangerous dungeons ( without your army) and risked your life so you could keep the paycheck going. (and the RPG grew out of that).

I think eventually Gary most likely went the RPG route also, It was his cash cow, and it is quite fun. but anyways, that DMG has so much of the wargame in it, and its well suited for running much of a campaign wargame also.

Sgt Slag04 Jan 2021 8:42 a.m. PST

Agreed. I was stuck in the RPG mode. I saw the numbers encountered in the hundreds, in the Monster Manual -- I scratched my head, thinking, "That is ridiculous! My players would be overrun, killed, and, Game Over!…" I never made the connection, even though it was right in front of me.

I did not get into large battle wargaming, until around 1992; started playing AD&D in 1980. There was a huge disconnect for me.

I thought all of the costs for building/maintaining a castle were over-the-top, and an RPG facet which was overly complex, with minimal "fun" return on the time investment. It was bookkeeping-heavy, and of no real interest to me, or my players. We wanted to explore dungeons, kill the monsters, and grab their treasures.

Since you have placed it in proper context, I see your point. Finally. After 40 years. LOL! Thank you, Albus Malum! Cheers!

Sgt Slag04 Jan 2021 10:14 a.m. PST

Just did a review of the monster entries in the 1977 1e AD&D Monster Manual… It appears to make a lot of sense that Gygax meant for AD&D to be a wargame, just based on the Number Appearing entries!

Dwarves: 40-400
Elves: 20-200
Gnolls: 20-200
Gnomes: 40-400
Goblins: 40-400
Halflings: 30-300
Hobgoblins: 20-200
Kobolds: 40-400
Locathah: 20-200
Men, Bandits: 20-200
Men, Berserkers: 10-100
Men, Buccaneers: 50-300
Cavemen: 10-100
Dervish: 30-300
Mermen: 20-200
Nixies: 20-80
Orcs: 30-300
Sahuagin: 20-80
Tritons: 10-60
Troglodytes: 10-100

Those numbers are not necessary to be delineated in the statistical block. They could just be mentioned in the description text, regarding how many congregate in cities/villages/etc. We really do not need to know this much detail, in an RPG context. The DM can just make up the numbers according to their desire. I do, and have, made up the numbers, regardless of what the book specifies, for what I need in my campaigns, for the past 40 years.

Very interesting, when you combine this with your views on the details, listed in the 1e AD&D DMG, for castle costs, troop types and costs, etc.

It appears as though that was Gary's idea in how he wrote the DMG. It seems to have been completely abandoned shortly after it was written! I do not remember Gary addressing this idea of using 1e AD&D rules to run a wargame, in his Dragon Magazine articles, especially, "Up on a Soapbox."

Wow. I never made the connection before. Thank you. Cheers!

Albus Malum07 Jan 2021 8:34 p.m. PST

Couple of other things to look at as for being usable as a wargame from the Players Handbook. Lets start off with the Paladin, and then give him a Paladins Warhorse, Kind of a useless thing to give to a paladin, if he was only meant to go into dungeons, but put him out infront of an army.

Next look at the druid, most all of his spells are mostly only useful on a battlefield, in a dungeon, useless. The assassin, another class not useable in a dungeon, but very useful in a wargame, especially before the battle begins.

Another thing to look at is the weapon vs AC adjustments, this are absolutely un-useable in a dungeon type setting, but take a small handful of units which would be armored the same and armed the same, it would be totally useable. I think this table if not used in the Swords and Spells was developed specifically for wargaming. The Swords and Spells rules were kind of the Wargame rules in between Chainmail and the Battlesystem rules and you could say, that the DMG kind of cleaned up the Sword and Spell rules, and would have wargaming more doable. ( if hitpoints were reconverted back to HD). Of coarse as a full wargame, the formation movement rules never made it into the DMG, pretty much
everything else you need is, including moral, which is useable in both RPG and Wargaming.

Another supplement to indicate the desire for wargaming is in the Greyhawk supplement (not the Whitebox) but the one with the beautiful map, Countries and kingdoms and such
almost ready for wargaming, I think though by the time it was published, TSR focus was entirely on the RPG. I had always wanted to use Greyhawk, in the RPG, back in the day,
but always struggled with it. The world was very human centric and I could not make that mesh with what I wanted. At the time, I did not like the idea of RPGing in the Great
Kingdom, but looking back, the Great Kingdom would be where If I ever ran a Wargame campaign in Greyhawk, as where I would likely settle.

By the time that the MM, DMG and PH were actually published and starting to sell, I think that TSR put little if any thought was of using the DMG as a wargame, as the RPG was exploding in popularity and driving sales, by teens like myself, who could afford a few minis for a rpg and a module or two, but playing a Miniature wargame with the rules was just out of reach for most to purchase miniatures for. If you look at the first edition of Battlesystem, it is so close to combat using the AD&D System for the troops, just with the randomness put back in which was taken out of the Swords and Spells Rules. So much attention has been lavished on the RPG History of D&D and so little has been placed on the progression of Chainmail to Swords and Spells and then to Battlesystem 1ed to 2nd ed., then of coarse, in 1982/3 Warhammer fantasy was first released, and admittedly copied from Chainmail and influences from D&D, something probably most WH players are totally unaware of, and by the time TSR released the poorly supported Battle system, partly due to all the troubles within TSR, it never took of the ground.

It could even be that What Gary Wanted to do with the AD&D rules and what accually happens or happened differs, ( there are all kinds of things I would like to do within my wargaming mind but what I accually do some times differs) ,There is so little information that I can find about the early chainmail games, ( the battle for Brown Hill ) survives but there must have been so much that could have been written about the Greyhawk world if more of the Chainmail games which were fought in it, stories could have been told.

I don't know when Gygax quit (if he ever did) his fantasy wargaming and started purely playing the RPG took place, but I think that the DMG sure contains so much Wargaming
information, which is almost only useable in a wargame and not a RPG.

Sgt Slag08 Jan 2021 12:37 p.m. PST

I posted about this view of 1e AD&D rules over on Dragonsfoot Forum… It went over like a lead balloon. I really thought that it would be better received, but they pretty much disagreed completely.

I think your analysis has merit. Unfortunately, only Gary could really answer our questions on this matter.

After doing some recent research into the early history of OD&D, I learned that Arneson truly created the role playing, based on Wesely's Braunstein games, and Gygax primarily organized OD&D, making it publishable. Rob Kuntz has some intriguing insights into the early days. It really boils down to varying points of view, though.

I really do wonder about Gary's conversion from full wargaming to RPG'ing. It was all new, with nothing settled yet. It must have been quite a whirlwind.

I own several DM Guides, from different versions of D&D, and even Pathfinder. Out of all of them, the 1e AD&D DMG is still the best, the foundation upon which all others are built -- apart from it, they become pale ghosts, lacking a foundation, and a context. I still find it incredibly useful, even though I no longer play 1e AD&D rules. I've owned my copy for 41 years, and counting. I still gain tremendous value, and applications, within it. I needed it, last night, for work on my campaign -- the other DMG's lacked the resources I needed, and found, within this now venerable book. It really does seem to be timeless. Cheers!

Albus Malum08 Jan 2021 9:40 p.m. PST

Your right from my understanding, Gygax learned the RPG part from Arneson, but we all owe Gygax for getting it published when he did.

I am starting my kids on 1st edition AD&D, but just bought him a reprint of the Basic Rules Cyclopedia, hoping that there is enough differences between the basic and 1st ed.

Just curious, which edition are you currently playing

Sgt Slag11 Jan 2021 8:58 p.m. PST

I play 2e AD&D. Never played 3.x, nor 4e; have played 5e a few times, at a local bar running it for the public, as one-off games. It is not really my cup of tea, but it is fun to get out with my wife, enjoy excellent beers (brewpub hosting it), and meet new gamers.

I have collected alternate DMG's based on reviews I've read. I am a dyed-in-the-wool fan of XDM X-Treme Dungeon Mastery. That book speaks my native tongue for DM'ing! The others within my collection, have some very good material in them. I also own The Lazy Dungeon Master, and, The Return of the Lazy Dungeon Master. I am always trying to learn to be a better DM. I have to say that XDM X-Treme Dungeon Mastery is the best, second only to the 1e DMG. Been playing since 1980, DM'ing since six months after I started, but still learning. Cheers!

Albus Malum12 Jan 2021 9:51 p.m. PST

I bought some of the 3x when it came out, and I could not stomach it as a DM, shortly after, my group fell apart as everyone moved, and I got involved in the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA) and such. Having looked at 5e, it still has some issues I just dont want to deal with either.

I really need to buy that XDM xtreme. I have read about it, and from my understanding a lot of it is up my alley aslo. Back in the late 80's? I got a chance to play a game with Tracy Hickman, as the reward for being a winner at a D&D contest at a fantasy festival. I was really impressed on the way he DM for the group which as quite large ( about 20 PC at the table) with another 100 or so spectators watching. Maybe I will go see if I can find a reasonably priced copy after writing this.

After the first couple gaming sessions with my kids, I realize I need to get back into the grove, get organized again (more in my mind then physically organized) but my recollection is that the more you can make up on the spot, instead of trying to do preset things, the better it is. Just need to keep good notes of all the stuff you tell them.

I alway had a hard time doing pre-written modules, I hate playing in them also ( seems so railroady) ( but I dont want to save the World for the Umpteenth time, I just want to Go get Gold because Im a Dwarf and thats what Dwarfs do type of thing,) ( but Im more of a Mage type a guy and that is just a example)

As for the other rulesets, I used to use the rule when I DMed "so you want what for your character? .. Convince ME!) Someone showing me some Rules somewhere saying such and such was the EXACT OPPOSITE of what Convince me meant. Convince me is more of a Role Playing thing. It usually drives them away, and easily solves the Powergamer problem (without actually saying NO!), done in a very tactful manner. But if someone was willing to dive into my world, create a character compatable with my world, world background, and they were willing to write up a reason why they should have some ability which came from one of the other editions, and they were not going to abuse it, I was more than willing to work with them on a way to do what they want.

I like that term "Lazy DM". Might have to borrow it. :)

Vidgrip Supporting Member of TMP21 Jan 2021 12:10 p.m. PST

Chainmail (fantasy supplement) was my introduction to miniatures wargaming back in the late 70's. We didn't own any miniatures yet and could not afford them (we were kids). We made bases from cardstock and drew circles on them to represent figures that could be "crossed-out" with a pencil when they became casualties. The living room carpet and a few pillows were the terrain. I guess it didn't occur to us that we could play on a table.

Wheldrake31 Jan 2021 5:54 a.m. PST

I started playing D&D somewhere around 1974, at the Iowa City Wargaming Federation. I was just a kid, but the "college guys" played huge miniatures battles in a room at the Armory, sometimes over several days, using the Chainmail rules. I soon became obsessed with playing D&D to the exclusion of all else, but the spectacle of those huge miniatures battles stayed with me, and got me hooked on the miniature painting and scratchbuilding hobby. Thanks to a friend who stayed in Iowa City, I was able to recover a large portion of my collection from the 70s and 80s, including some wonderful old Tom Loback Dragontooth figures, which are now prize possessions, like these dragon riders
and many more.

I never played Chainmail with Gary, but do have fond memories of attending three early GenCons, and marvelling at stands like Lou Zocchi's.

Good times.

Sgt Slag01 Feb 2021 8:56 a.m. PST

Wow! I wish I could see so many of the fantasy figures made in the 1970's… I have the Dragon Magazine Collection, on CD's, all in PDF. It is tantalizing to view the old advertisements, but the B&W photo's in the PDF's are not very clear.

Those figures have a lot of charm. I, for one, enjoy it, very much. Thanks for sharing both the photo, and the stories of Iowa City, and Lou Zocchi -- wish I could have been there. I attended Gen Con in 1982, and a couple of times, in the 1990's. Mixed bag, every time. Cheers!

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