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Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons (commonly known as D&D and sometimes abbreviated as DND or DnD) is a fantasy role-playing game (RPG) first designed by Gary Gygax and David Arneson in the early 1970s. It was published by Gygax's company, Tactical Studies Rules (TSR).

Table of contents
1 Overview and history
2 Versions
3 Other Media
4 Other settings
5 External links

Overview and history

Dungeons & Dragons evolved from the Chainmail system of wargaming rules. D&D was the first commercially-produced role-playing game and it is by far the most well-known and best selling. D&D has exerted a massive influence over its imitators and successors, in many ways defining what an RPG was — to some extent, the game continues to define the RPG genre.

Gygax and Arneson designed Dungeons & Dragons to take place in a fantasy fiction setting based upon popular fiction and mythology. It was influenced by The Lord of the Rings, popular Greek and Norse mythology, the pulp fiction stories of Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and many of the more contemporary fantasy authors of the 1960s and 1970s, such as Jack Vance and Fritz Leiber. The game invented the RPG concept of a referee (the "Dungeon Master" or DM) who creates the fictional world of the game and moderates the action of the adventures.

The original D&D game allowed players to assume the roles of fighterss, wizards(magic-users), clerics (priests), Hobbits (called by that specific name in the original rules), Dwarves, or Elves. (Later versions turned these last three into "races" and called them Demi-Humans, able to take professions independent of species) The players would embark upon imaginary adventures, where they would battle all kinds of fictional monsters from goblins to dragons to ten foot gelatinous cubes, while gathering treasure and experience points as the game progressed. These character classes, monsters, and fantasy world settings were greatly expanded and improved with further editions of the game.

D&D took the world of wargaming by storm, creating its own niche and giving birth to a multitude of role-playing games, based on every genre imaginable. Science fiction, horror, superheroes, cartoons, westerns, spies and espionage, and many other fictional settings were adapted to role-playing games, with several of these games also being published by TSR. However, "fantasy role-playing," loosely based on the world of D&D, continued to dominate the field of role-playing games, and this state of affairs still holds as of 2003.


D&D has gone through several revisions. The first edition featured just a few character classes and monsters. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) was published between 1977 and 1979, and greatly expanded the character classes, monsters and spells. In 1980, the Dungeons & Dragons name was used for a simplified version of the game that was incompatible with the more mainstream AD&D. During the late 1980s, AD&D Second Edition was published, which revised the rules again, consolidating some character classes, disposing of some fan favorites, and revising the combat system slightly. It was during this time that the current owners of TSR (Gygax and Arneson had earlier left) angered many fans with several extreme practices intended to make up for declining sales, such as inflating prices, excessive split pricing of individual game products, and relentless copyright infringement lawsuits. A long decline in popularity followed into the 1990s.

In 2000, a third revision, called Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition or 3E, was published by the game company Wizards of the Coast, which had purchased TSR two years earlier. It is the basis of a broader role-playing system designed around 20-sided dice, called the d20 system. This edition rationalized movement and combat, according to its proponents. Others are of the opinion that it needlessly complicated matters by adding tortuous rules regarding "attacks of opportunity" and putting all movement on a square grid. The edition did remove old arbitrary restrictions on class and race combinations, and incorporates skills and feats to allow players to customize their characters. The d20 system is an open source version of the D&D core rules that makes it easier to market D&D-compatible content under a broadly recognizable commercial license.

In July of 2003, errata and some significant rule changes were incorporated into a new set of core rulebooks as edition "3.5".

Other Media

A movie, Dungeons & Dragons, very loosely based on the gaming conventions, was released in 2000. This was preceded in the 1980s by an animated cartooon series of the same name.

A number of computer role-playing games such as Pool of Radiance (1988), DragonStrike (1990), Forgotten Realms Unlimited Adventures (1993), Baldur's Gate (1998) and its sequels, Planescape: Torment (1999), Icewind Dale (2000) and its sequels, and Neverwinter Nights (2002) use Dungeons & Dragons-based rules. Forty-nine computer RPGs have been released and sold under the D&D license as of October 2002. Some use licensed Second Edition AD&D rules, while others use the more recent open-source d20 system for game mechanics as well as trademarks licensed from Wizards of the Coast. In these computer games, the rules are usually modified to enhance PC-based game play. Some players go so far as to say that computerized versions are so different from PnP (pen-and-paper) games that they really are different experiences, and shouldn't be lumped together.

A number of video game console and arcade games such as Warriors of the Eternal Sun (1992, Sega Genesis), Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom (1993, arcade), and Slayer (1995, 3DO) were created with the D&D theme in mind, all of which barely touched on the dynamic role-playing nature of the D&D system, but all of which were designed and marketed under the D&D license. Seven console and two arcade games have been released and sold under the D&D license as of October 2002. While the game is not officially credited, the popular 1980s arcade game Gauntlet is also seen as being influenced by the D&D game.

Seven board games were also sold under the D&D license. One of them, Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game in 1980 was the original board game which was a computer/board game hybrid and the first D&D licensed game that contained digital electronics.

Other settings

TSR created many imaginary worlds in which D&D games can be based, although Wizards of the Coast has ceased product development for some of them. These fantasy worlds include: Several competitors to TSR and D&D became successful in their own right. A number of alternate role-playing systems include Call of Cthulhu by Chaosium, Champions by Hero Games, and GURPS by Steve Jackson Games. But D&D was the first and most successful role-playing game, and all of the RPGs of today can be traced back to the original creation of Gygax and Arneson. (Interestingly, Call of Cthulhu d20 was released in early 2002, using the core rules of the D&D game.)

Many criticize Dungeons & Dragons, claiming that it fosters unhealthy obsessions with the occult and suicide. Often this connection is pointed out when young people are indicted for crimes, such as a 2001 murder of Robert M. Schwartz, a prominent scientist in Loudoun County, Virginia. Nevertheless, studies conducted by Michael Stackpole show that the suicide rate is lower among gamers than non-gamers.

Magazines devoted to supporting Dungeons & Dragons include Dungeon magazine and Dragon magazine.

External links