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Chainmail: Rules for Medieval Miniatures (0e)

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"Get the fantasy miniatures game that started it all!

Chainmail is a fully fleshed out fantasy miniatures game that puts YOU in charge of your very own army. Whether you want to fight historical battles based in the trenches of reality or fantasy battles rife with magic and fantastic beasts, Chainmail gives you the rules to fight the wars you want to fight!

The Chainmail Medieval Miniatures section features rules for terrain, movement, formations, fatigue, and more. The Fantasy Supplement provides information for Dwarves, Goblins, Elves, magic, fantastic monsters, and other rules necessary for combat in a magical setting.

Note: This is a classic product, and not for use with the D&D Chainmail Miniatures skirmish game released October, 2001. "

Product History

"Chainmail" (1971), by Gary Gygax and Jeff Perren, is the medieval miniatures system that was the progenitor of D&D. It was published in March 1971.

About the Cover. Jon Peterson has traced the origins of the illustration on the cover of "Chainmail" (1971), which was penned by Don Lowry: it's a swipe of an interior picture from Jack Coggins' The Fighting Man (1966), an illustrated history of fighting forces. Gary Gygax drew his own version, which appeared in Domesday Book #5 (July 1970) and was marked "After Coggins", but that credit doesn't appear on Lowry's "Chainmail" cover.

Origins (I): A LGTSA of His Own. Gary Gygax's strong interest in wargaming began in 1967, when he helped to reform the International Federation of Wargamers (IFW). This wargaming organization was at the center of a vibrant fandom that communicated through numerous fanzines.

However the story of "Chainmail" truly begins when Gygax became intrigued by medieval miniatures wargames at Gen Con I (1968), thanks to a demo of Henry Bodenstedt’s “Siege of Bodenberg” (1967). He formed the Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association (LGTSA) in 1969 to support his new miniatures wargaming interest, where he was joined by Donald Kaye, Jeff Perren, Rob Kuntz, and others. It would in turn become the core of the Castle & Crusade Society, a medieval special interest group in the larger IFW.

Origins (II): The Perren Conventions. LGTSA member Jeff Perren had been involved with the wargaming scene even longer than Gygax and had an extensive collection of ancient and medieval miniatures — including some of the Elastolin 40mm miniatures preferred for use in “Siege of Bodenberg” (1967)! He was probably the biggest proponent of the middle ages among the LGTSA players, which led him to write a few pages of rules for medieval miniatures wargaming. Gygax developed Perren's rules and published the "Geneva Medieval Miniatures" in the Panzerfaust fanzine (April 1970), before expanding them for the Castle & Crusade Society's Domesday Book #5 (July 1970).

Origins (III): The Lowry Hobbies. Enter Don Lowry, another IFWer and owner of the mail-order store Lowrys Hobbies. Lowry's mail-order store mainly focused on selling miniatures; in order to improve the sales of those miniatures, he decided to start selling miniatures rules as well. He began with his own semi-professional variant of The Battle of the Bulge (1965) called "Operation: Greif" (1970) and followed that up by distributing the LGTSA's own Fast Rules (1970) for tanks.

Origins (IV): The Guiding Games. For Perren and Gygax's medieval miniatures rules to become "Chainmail" required a big change in Gary Gygax's life. In October 1970, he lost his job at the Fireman's Fund Insurance. Meanwhile, he'd met Lowry just a few months earlier at Gen Con III (1970). Put these factors together, and soon Gygax had become the editor of a new line of "Wargaming with Miniatures" games for Don Lowry's new gaming imprint, Guidon Games.

The line led off with a further expansion of the LGTSA Medieval Miniatures rules: a rulebook called "Chainmail" (1971). One of those expansions was a 14-page "fantasy supplement", which would prove pivotal to the future D&D game. That fantasy supplement may also explain why Gygax's first collaborator, Jeff Perren, didn't continue on. Gygax says that Perren was "not captivated by giants hurling boulders and dragons breathing fire and lightning bolts, [nor] did wizards with spells, heroes and superheroes with magic armor and swords prove compelling". So, Perren would not be part of the roleplaying games to come.

(Much of this early history of "Chainmail" is draw from Playing at the World, by Jon Peterson, a superb look at the industry's wargaming roots.)

Origins (V): Many Printings. Guidon published a second, more professional run of "Chainmail" (1972) around the same time it relocated to Maine. Unfortunately, this relocation caused Gygax's departure as editor and may have been a factor in the slow-down and eventual end of the Guidon Games line. By 1974, Gary Gygax was interested in reclaiming "Chainmail" because of its relation to D&D. He did so and a third edition (1975) would be published by TSR. It would stay in print throughout the '70s and into the '80s as D&D's precursor — and a crucial component of the OD&D (1975) rules.

Foreshadowing the D&D Rules: The Basics. The first twenty-some pages of "Chainmail" are what you would have expected to see in the amateur wargaming miniatures community of the '60s. They're "rules for medieval miniatures". Miniatures move and fight using a ratio of either 1:20 (one miniature representing 20 troops) or 1:10 (one miniature representing 10 troops), depending on the scale of the miniatures used. There are rules for melee, missiles, catapults, gunpowder, morale, and more. Some of the more advanced rules systems cover weather and sieges.

Foreshadowing the D&D Rules: Man to Man. The first of the innovations of "Chainmail" comes in its second major section, which covers "man-to-man combat". Here, "a single figure represents a single man". It was intended for use for "small battles and castle sieges" as well of jousting. This change from miniatures representing units to miniatures representing singular persons was the most important innovation for supporting roleplaying games rather than wargames.

Foreshadowing the D&D Rules: The Fantasy. However, D&D is really foreshadowed in the third major section of "Chainmail", the "fantasy supplement", which is meant to allow players to "refight the epic struggles related by J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, and other fantasy writers" (or to create their own battles).

Many proto-D&D ideas show up in this fantasy supplement:

  • Races like dwarves, elves, and hobbits (halflings).
  • Proto-fighters: heroes and their betters, super-heroes.
  • Proto-magic-users: wizards, including seers, magicians, warlocks, and sorcerers.
  • Different levels for their different sorts of characters, which Gygax says was the basis for D&D's character advancement.
    Spells like cloudkill, fire ball, haste, lightning bolt, phantasmal force, and polymorph.
    Monsters like basilisks, dragons, ents (treants), trolls, wights, and wraiths.
  • A division of monsters into the categories of law, neutral, and chaos.

Future History. "Chainmail" would be crucial to the development of D&D, even acting as the default combat system for OD&D (1975). It would later be replaced by a new man-to-man combat system in "Supplement I: Greyhawk" (1975) and a new mass-combat system in "Swords & Spells" (1976).

Many years later, Wizards of the Coast would reuse the name for their Chainmail Miniatures Game (2001), a d20-based skirmish combat system.

About the Creators. Gygax would, of course, go on to co-create D&D. Together he and Perren would also coauthor Cavaliers and Roundheads (1973), which would be the first product from a small new company called Tactical Studies Rules (TSR).

About the Product Historian

The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to

We (Wizards) recognize that some of the legacy content available on this website does not reflect the values of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise today. Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. These depictions were wrong then and are wrong today. This content is presented as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming these prejudices never existed. Dungeons & Dragons teaches that diversity is a strength, and we strive to make our D&D products as welcoming and inclusive as possible. This part of our work will never end.

 Customers Who Bought this Title also Purchased
Reviews (7)
Discussions (8)
Customer avatar
Henry P November 20, 2021 8:54 pm UTC
Is the POD for this digest sized?
Customer avatar
Robert P May 21, 2022 12:46 pm UTC
Customer avatar
Edward A July 25, 2021 9:08 pm UTC
Yay POD!!
Customer avatar
Adam J February 18, 2021 9:38 pm UTC
POD please.
Customer avatar
Dave R June 14, 2021 11:19 pm UTC
second, POD please
Customer avatar
Casey C July 02, 2021 6:18 pm UTC
I printed mine off and had it bound at a local print shop. Using silver metallic cardstock for the cover, you can make a decent replica of the original copies.
Customer avatar
Adam J July 03, 2021 1:45 pm UTC
The only problem is the watermark containing order number and name on each page.
Customer avatar
Casey C July 03, 2021 4:34 pm UTC
PDF-XChange Editor is what I use to edit PDFs. It's ~$50 for a lifetime license, and very much worth it for situations like this. The only other thing you might come across is a PDF that is locked to prevent editing, but a little googling will take care of that for you too ;)
Customer avatar
Puck C August 25, 2019 7:10 pm UTC
I bought the rules for Chainmail (the precursor to original D&D) for $5 from DriveThruRpg. Ironically, getting it printed and spiral bound cost me almost $6.

Last night I got to try a test battle with my wife. She had a wizard, a cannon, and lots of guns. I got wrecked.

The mass combat system is pretty fun even while the rules have gaps you need to fill at play time. The man-to-man rules are what developed into D&D and the first set of rules assumes you can go back and forth seamlessly between individual characters and larger battles. In that sense, early D&D has two crown jewels rather than just the one (RPG-style play) that it has today.

After action report...

It was 264 points per side. (Don't count on the point system to create balance.)

Human League
* 16 man Landsknecht pikes
* 16 man Landsknecht gunners
* 4 man Landsknecht heavy cannon
* 8 man armored foot
* 8 dwarves
* 1...See more
Customer avatar
Andrew G January 17, 2017 5:29 pm UTC
Quick question for those who purchased this - What is the quality of the scan?
Customer avatar
Ronald B February 01, 2017 5:43 am UTC
Dear Andrew,
The scan quality is great. It has that original "wavy" words quality the original document had. Nothing was changed... GG's typos are still in the text!
Customer avatar
Zach H January 10, 2017 7:51 pm UTC
Nice history, Shannon, but one correction. The LBBs presented both the use of Chainmail and the alternate man-to-man system. The tables for the "Alternative Combat System" (an alternative to combat using Chainmail), first appeared in Men & Magic (Vol 1 of OD&D) rather than in Greyhawk. This is in regard to your mention that "a new man-to-man combat system in "Supplement I: Greyhawk" (1975)". Greyhawk expanded this system with variable weapon damage, but the alternative combat tables themselves were present in the original game.
Customer avatar
Shannon A January 10, 2017 10:19 pm UTC
Yep, you're right, my description is sloppy there. Thanks!
Customer avatar
Nathan G Jennings J January 10, 2017 7:36 pm UTC
Another good thing to add would be PDFs of the Outdoor Survival board game. Then all the OD&D material would be pretty well complete.
Customer avatar
Jeffrey W January 25, 2017 7:22 pm UTC
THIS. I just scored a copy of Outdoor Survival for this purpose. Since Avalon Hill is now a Hasbro brand, this should be do-able, should it not?
Customer avatar
Stephen R Brandon B April 26, 2017 5:11 pm UTC
Great idea! I also purchased a copy of Outdoor Survival from Ebay a while back, and have made my own version in hexographer, but a really high quality PDF of the board would be great for OD&D fans!
Customer avatar
George F January 10, 2017 1:48 pm UTC
Awesome! I'll be snagging this one.
It would be great to see some others released like 'Don't Give Up The Ship' and 'Cavaliers & Roundheads'.
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