Warriors of Mars released the same year as the original Dungeons and Dragons. In 1974, TSR – back when it was known as Tactical Studies Rules – published this set of miniatures rules set on Barsoom, the setting of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter pulp fiction series.
Gary Gygax noted in his foreward to Warriors of Mars:
The essence of Barsoom — the fearless warriors, the men, the monstrous animals, the geography of Burroughs’ Mars, the social customs, the weaponry — has been formalized into rules which permit the creation of whole new sagas.
The tale can be as simple as a minor skirmish between two swordsmen, or it can be as complex as the interactions which arise between several of the Barsoomian city-empires. It can be the lone adventures of a hero pitted against the harsh realities of Martian wilderness, or it can be the epic tale of a voyage of discovery aboard a small flier.
All this was not to be, however.
The book was published without permission from the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate, and a cease-and-desist order meant there would be no further print runs of Warriors of Mars. It’s quite rare today.
I created this post because I have just put a beautiful condition Warriors of Mars up for auction!
Update (20 April 2021)
I have permission from the owner to post the history of this particular Warriors of Mars game book, Scott Bizar of Fantasy Games Unlimited (FGU). I’ll repeat what he told me:
Hi Wayne, It is fine to attach my name and you can say that I purchased it at the annual miniatures show/convention in Chester, PA back in 1975. Another member of my gaming club purchased D&D, which we were unable to decipher or figure out without guidance and never did play. The “bend” in the book is due to being in a box with other rulebooks and magazines for over thirty years where some of the books might have varied in size. It is okay to say that I saw other copies up for obscene prices that I did not believe were fair or accurate so I asked you about it and we decided together to put it up for auction. It should be clear to people who know you from the forum know that you buy FGU games from me, so it should not be a surprise that I would ask you about pricing of Warriors of Mars. As I wrote the miniatures rules for Barsoom for Heritage back in the 70s and the background book for SPI’s Barsoom boardgame, it should also not be a surprise that I am a big Burroughs fan and collector and that I would purchase this book when it first came out.
Scott Bizar has provided a signed note briefly going over the history mentioned above, and it’ll accompany WoM to the auction winner.
WARRIORS OF MARS: The Warfare of Barsoom in Miniature
1974 … Gary Gygax & Brian Blume & Greg Bell (art) … Tactical Studies Rules
“RULES FOR INDIVIDUAL AND LARGE-SCALE LAND AND AERIAL CONFLICT”
WARRIORS OF MARS: Photos
Artist Greg Bell also inked many of the illustrations in the OD&D books, which is why the style is so familiar.
Gygax’s love for ERB’s Barsoom would be referenced again in D&D and later in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, in the fantastic list of inspirational pulp authors in Appendix N of the Dungeon Master Guide.
Warriors of Mars is not explicitly a roleplaying game; it’s a miniatures wargame. However, it wouldn’t be difficult to use it as the basis for an RPG, since there are rules for “personalities,” like John Carter or Tars Tarkas. Likewise, the rules cover several scales, including 1:1, along with things like experience points, levels, and advice on how to design “personal adventures.”Grognardia Retrospective: Warriors of Mars
The rules for this game are fascinating. They provide not only a window into the sort of gaming that would have been more common at the time D&D’s release, but they also show how Gary Gygax did things at this stage of the game when he could wield creative effort free of the constraints of a dungeon premise and medieval themed fantasy.Castalia House Retrospective: Warriors of Mars
For an excellent (and far more affordable) OSR version, check out the excellent Warriors of the Red Planet RPG, available in PDF and print at DTRPG.