How did RPG publishing actually work in 1975?

While I was at two conferences during the past couple of days I seriously started to wonder about the technical aspect of RPG publishing in 1975. Did anyone ever research on how our RPG forefathers specifically handled publishing in the early TSR days? It's a time so far before I was interested in such stuff that I have difficulties imagining how this might have worked.

Did small publishing companies like the early TSR send hand-written or typed material to a publisher with intricate instructions of how to layout the stuff? As I am a child of the DTP era this is something quite beyond me and I am wondering for several reasons:
  • How much experience did the early TSR guys have at publishing a real boxed game. I know that Gary worked for Guidon games and they had boxed games (as far as I know - anyone care to confirm?) but D&D might have been a more serious attempt. How do you approach becoming a publisher in an age without computers, DTP, etc. If anyone knows about this I would love to know more.
  • I imagine that the publishing process might have been quite involved - and thus probably costly. This might explain why many of the original rules are in such a bad state... if each revision is very time consuming and the printer or publisher (or whoever) makes you pay for it, a "good enough" or even a "decent enough" attitude towards the state of your product might quickly evolve. So I am wondering how strongly the original shape of the rules was influenced by technical limitations of the publishing and printing process.
  • Additionally I would love to know how Gary and Dave felt about the original D&D rules. Were they still fanboy enough that they simply ignored the various (and nowadays obvious) shortcomings of the rather confused rules? Or were the forced to live with editorial problems due to financial limitations?
If anyone knows more about this I would love to see that knowledge being added to the growing pool of revelations about the ancient times of our RPG hobby.

1 comment:

  1. I don't know a lot of what you are asking either, but you could get some of that info fromfolks like Jeff Berry or even a publisher.

    My understanding is that you created a cut and paste master that the publisher used to layout a typesheet.

    It was and is expensive. You pay the publisher up front and get your books. Then you must sell them.

    The first three D&D print runs have a different layout than the later printings. Less pictures, a few differen't ilios, and some Tolkienisms that were deleted later.

    Arneson was not happy with the booklets. He was working on a revision of Gygax draft when Gygax published.

    Gygax seemed to be happier with what he poublished but did claim that they were rushed to print without a proper final edit.