The third of the three Dungeons and Dragons booklets Underworld & Wilderness Adventures (1974) on Other Worlds says

Some areas of land could be gates into other worlds, dimensions, times, or whatever. Mars is given in these rules, but some other fantastic world or setting could be equally as possible. This function is up to the referee, and what he wishes to do with it is necessarily limited by his other campaign work. (24)

(Emphasis mine.) And, indeed, Mars is a thing. Adventuring parties in the desert have a one-third chance per day of an encounter, and of those desert encounters, one-third are with Men, and half of those encounters with Men may be (as they're listed parenthetically) with straight-up, actual, for-reals Martians, right out of the John Carter stories. Further, the Optional Arid Pains table has encounters exclusively (and not parenthetically) with creatures from Barsoom. (Even the white apes are Barsoomian!)

With that in mind, is there any straight-from-the-source or even apocryphal record of Arneson or Gygax actually incorporating the Edgar Rice Burroughs material into his Dungeons and Dragons campaign? What were the results?

Note: In planning for an upcoming retro-themed campaign, I decided to go return to the original sources for inspiration, including attempting to update the Wilderness Wandering Monsters Tables. I was not particularly surprised to see it littered with John Carter references, but I was surprised that I'd not heard more made of it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you referring to Warriors of Mars rules published by Gygax and Blum in 1974, TSR? 1 July 1974 is the date in the Foreward by Gygax. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 30, 2017 at 20:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast Nope. Talkin' bout this one. Feel free to correct my nomenclature; I started with AD&D and don't have the Older School lingo down. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 30, 2017 at 20:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KorvinStarmast My apologies. Utterly unaware! That's unmentioned in the John Carter Wikipedia entry, only this game warranting a mention. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 30, 2017 at 21:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Redid the answer, not sure of Rob Kuntz will recall that detail or not. He did a lot of the early Greyhawk play testing. Last I heard, he was still alive and still involved in the game business. \$\endgroup\$ Mar 30, 2017 at 21:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Here's more on the TSR mars game \$\endgroup\$ Mar 31, 2017 at 0:59

1 Answer 1


Yes, in the Greyhawk campaign; unknown for Blackmoor

The Martian creatures had to have been played in Greyhawk in order to get into OD&D book 3. There is evidence that Erac's Cousin (an Ernie Gygax PC) adventured in Mars/Barsoom, when Gary Gygax and Rob Kuntz were DMing the Greyhawk campaign. Mike Mornard confirmed this. (He played in those early Lake Geneva games, and in Blackmoor).

I never went to Barsoom, but Ernie did, and Rob wanted to. There were some odd bits of science fiction (more "Sword And Planet," actually) in Greyhawk but it was a long time ago. (posted on those boards as gronanofsimmerya).

Analysis from Creator Material/notes/comments

The general answer is "yes" based on analysis of an article from Dragon Magazine, Issue number 7, page 7. For those monsters to be published in Book 3 of OD&D (and for that matter in the Greyhawk supplement a few months later) they had to have been played by the original play testers in the Greyhawk campaign.

Gary Gygax briefly describes the play testing before the games books were first published in the article entitled: On Dungeons and Dragons (Origins of the Game) That a dispute between DA and GG later arose and was settled in court is not the topic of this answer. .

{snip} I asked Dave to please send me his rules additions, for I thought a whole new system should be developed. A few weeks after his visit I received 18 or so handwritten pages of rules and notes pertaining to his campaign, and I immediately began work on a brand new manuscript. “Greyhawk” campaign started —the first D&D campaign!
About three weeks later, I had some 100 typewritten pages, and we began serious play-testing in Lake Geneva, while copies were sent to the Twin Cities and to several other groups for comment.
The first D&D (as opposed to {Arneson's} variant CHAINMAIL) dungeon adventurers were: Ernie Gygax, Don Kaye, Rob Kuntz and Terry Kuntz. They were soon joined by *Don Arndt, Brian Blume, Tom Champeny, Bill Corey, Bob Dale, Mary Dale, Chip Mornard, Mike Mornard, and Tim Wilson*. All of these gamers — as well as the other play-testers — contributed to the final form of the game. {snip} Spells were expanded. The list of monsters was broadened again, and a complete listing of magical items and treasures was given.

Given that Gary Gygax and Brian Blume published a TSR game in the summer of 1974, Warriors of Mars (soon unpublished after a cease and desist order came from the Burroughs estate), the inclination to play Burroughs' Mars adventures is not only a fair estimate to make, it had to have taken place in some for that material to get into the "final" list of monsters and encounters in Book 3.

Gary's son Ernie took one of his characters (Erac's Cousin) to Mars/Barsoom.

An analysis of the Greyhawk campaign development cites Mars as being playable:

... Greyhawk (1972)[/b] The second campaign ever, after Blackmoor, ... An even more macrocosmic view was that Oerth is a fantasy version of Earth, with Greyhawk as a fantasy version of Chicago and Dyvers as Milwaukee. A chute in Castle Greyhawk could take you to the other side of the world to a fantasy China; there were also various ways to get to Mars (Burroughs’s Barsoom). (See Falconer's post)

From Falconer's second post in that same thread

May 21, 2010 at 6:22am waysoftheearth said: and also about any forays to Borsoom that you recall... {Falconer} Erac’s Cousin adventured there. (After the character Erac died, Ernie made a new character who was Erac’s Cousin and didn’t want to reveal his name to avoid anyone having that power over him.) He was a Magic-User, but had to switch to Fighter because magic didn’t work on Mars. I don’t know any details about his adventures there.

This was confirmed by Ernie Gygax. (Gary's son).

(poster Rhuvein, same thread as above) Mar 27, 2011 at 10:41pm
Ernie confirmed this whilst a bunch of us were hanging out gaming and drinking beer at his house last Thursday evening ...

The notes for Erac's Cousin were up for for auction a while back; the sales notes contain these comments, (among others):

These note sheets are for Ernie's infamous character "Erac's Cousin", a later Greyhawk character, from 1975 to 1976, who continued to adventure in the combined, expanded version of Castle Greyhawk with Gary Gygax and Rob Kuntz as his Dungeon Masters! {snip} It is all there, how he got to be a double-classed fighter/magic-user by having to fight on Mars, the experience points, when his character was drained by a wight ... (Copyright © 1994-2010, [Paul J. Stormberg]. All rights reserved.)

As with much in the first three books, there wasn't as much detail as we now enjoy. Carniverous Apes were listed on page 64 of Greyhawk as additional material to Monsters and Treasures (Book 2). While those had not made the cut in the hurry to get the rules published in 1973/1974, other apes had. They had no stats. White apes showed up on pages 10, 15 and 19 of The Underworld and Wilderness Adventures, and regular apes on page 19, but no stats were given.

These rules are strictly fantasy. Those wargamers who lack imagination, those who don't care for Burroughs' Martian adventures where John Carter is groping through black pits, who feel no thrill upon reading Howard's Conan saga, who do not enjoy the de Camp & Pratt fantasies or Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser pitting their swords against evil sorceries will not be likely to find DUNGEONS and DRAGONS to their taste. (OD&D, Men and Magic, page 3)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Would that the owner transcribe those notes! I was unaware of Erac's Cousin's Barsoomian adventures, but I did always think the character was a little weird from his description in the Rogue's Gallery. Thanks! \$\endgroup\$ Mar 30, 2017 at 23:22
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    \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan I found confirmation from Mike Mornard on Erac's Mars adventures. It is reasonably well known that some of the ROgue's Gallery material is not quite right, as Blume seemed to have remembered a few things incorrectly ... \$\endgroup\$ Mar 31, 2017 at 0:48

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