You read that correctly, it’s been four decades since Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson created what is arguably the greatest of all role-playing games, Dungeons & Dragons. Originally produced by TSR (Tactical Studies Rules, Inc.), the franchise was acquired by Wizards of the Coast in 1997. Both companies produced a wide variety of materials to supplement the game system, including pre-made modules, novels, trading card games, and much, much more. There are many different editions and the standard rules have changed much over the years, but throughout it all there is one common theme: fun. Because seriously, if it wasn’t fun, then why would we still be playing it 40 years later?
Personally, I’ve been playing for slightly more than 30 years and while I am not able to game as much as I would like, I still enjoy it as much now as I did in the ’80s, and I have my friend Keith to thank for introducing it to me. I still vividly remember my first game: there were eight or ten of us hanging out in a living room with our books and dice on a Saturday afternoon. Little did I know that I would find myself so enamored with the game that I would one day create a gaming room in my house in which my friends and I would eat pizza, drink 7-11 Big Gulps, and play games until the wee hours of the morning. I won’t bore you with the details of my nerdiness, but suffice to say, that even now, at the age of 43, I have some fuzzy d20s hanging from the rearview mirror of my Ford Explorer (see photo here at right).
I’m most familiar with TSR’s Basic D&D and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (called AD&D), which were the first two incarnations of the game and ones from which I can still randomly reference data at the drop of a hat. Shortly after I graduated high school, the Second Edition AD&D books were released with some distinct changes that were brought about by both the producers of the game and a lot of fan input via TSR’s Dragon Magazine (I loved that publication). Roughly a decade later there was a rebranding of the game with the release of the Third Edition, using the simplified moniker of Dungeons & Dragons.
This was the first of many changes that Wizards of the Coast was to bring to the beloved game. Having only recently purchased the franchise, they were looking to revitalize the game through new marketing and cross merchandising. Not only did the new rules and books breathe new life into the aging game, they also created a spin-off system. The aptly named d20 System has an open license that allows other game systems or individuals to create and expand upon their games. To this day, it’s still extraordinarily popular. My friend Craig even has his hat in the ring with modules he and friends created to market to other gamers. Wizards of the Coast has released other versions of the game, too. Edition 3.5 came out in 2003. The Fourth Edition was published five years later and there is even a new one coming out this summer!
Special note must be made of the sheer massiveness of the franchise. Even people who’ve never played the game are familiar with many of the novels that the game has spawned over the decades. Whether they read the Greyhawk Adventures, the Forgotten Realms books, the Ravenloft series, or any of the many others, there are millions of books being read every year that are affiliated with Dungeons & Dragons. There are even a few movies that were filmed (they’re fun in a campy way), not to mention the awesomeness that is the Dungeons & Dragons animated series! Video games, tee shirts, toys, soundtracks…D&D has done it all. There is no stone left unturned when it comes to reaching their fans. And you haven’t witnessed role-playing games until you’ve attended a gaming convention such as Gen Con (originally started by D&D co-creator Gary Gygax).
I could go on and on, but if you have played D&D, then you most likely already know all this. If you haven’t, then why not? It’s still going strong after all this time. Perhaps you should look into it. Undoubtedly there is a gaming group in your area (probably more than one). And while I remain partial to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, I can tell you the new one coming out this year is pretty awesome, too! And while I was going through my game books and whatnot, I ran across old character sheets from the ’80s and ’90s. These are some great memories, folks. For those of you who have been there from the start, I envy you. I look forward to many more years of D&D and I hope you do, too. Try to take the time to celebrate the 40th birthday of Dungeons & Dragons in whatever way you want. I think mine will be by trying to organize a game with some old friends, preferably first edition AD&D! And don’t forget to check out the new version releasing this summer, it will definitely surprise you!
See the photo gallery below of some of my D&D photos.