D&D turns 40!
40 years ago the world was introduced to something so revolutionary that it would forever change the face of games, and create an entirely new genre. Before, all was bleak. Endless seas of historical miniatures and not a dungeon nor a dragon in sight.
Of course I'm referring to Dungeons & Dragons, the perennial godfather to fantasy role-playing as we know it today. This year marks 40 years since the team of Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax brought forth a new type of game so original that it has pervaded pop-culture in a way very few games have a chance to do. If there was an imaginary time-line where points were picked out for monumental events in the history of gaming the creation of D&D gets not just a dot but a gigantic red-dragon sized star.
As with pioneers in every field, Gygax, Arneson and a group of dedicated individuals were literally inventing the rules as they went along.
There are countless places to go learn an in-depth history of how D&D came to be, so I'll leave that to them. Wizards of the Coast has a history of TSR timeline with a lot of cool facts. In short, it was a passion project, created by a small group of dedicated people who wanted to share something they loved with a world that could use a little bit more fantasy in it's life. The original run of "The Fantasy Game" (D&D's original name) consisted of 1,000 hand-assembled booklets that quickly sold out. The early days of D&D had more in common with the DIY ethos of the punk rock Zine community of the 70's and 80's than it does to the glossy-covered tomes it's known as today. It's a lot easier to explain what you're trying to accomplish when you want to make a new Role-playing game these days because previous to D&D the words themselves hadn't entered the lexicon yet. As with pioneers in every field, Gygax, Arneson and a group of dedicated individuals were literally inventing the rules as they went along.
I know this is a serious article but this photo still makes me laugh.
I am personally biased, in that a vast majority of my favorite memories spanning childhood to adulthood were somehow connected to playing RPG's with friends. I even went into detail about it in an older post on my original blog. That being said, I think that with the right group of people to play with, and a supportive environment RPG's can be a great experience for just about anyone. I love video games, but there is an itch deep down that nothing can scratch quite like busting out the dice bag and getting some adventuring done. Growing up I was also the de-facto dungeon master, and that was honestly one of my first experiences with creative writing. Dreaming up worlds and quests for my friends to traipse around in, and usually destroy, was an immersive experience from a very young age with exercising the imagination toward a goal. Everyone is capable of using the imagination they were equipped with, but often it seems like there are few outlets that not only encourage, but demand that you engage your mind fully for anything interesting to happen. A roleplaying group is often nothing more than a collection of people who have an agreement to encourage one-another to be creative without fear of being laughed at or ostracized.
Now more than ever any opportunity to create your own adventure is the kind of thing it is so difficult to find. Video games have come so far from the early text-based days of Zork, but even an immerse experience like Skyrim is ultimately a sandbox that has limits, even if the boundary lines seem hazy. There is something exhilarating about a world that exists only in the mind of it's creators and the players, who help to expand the world through their choices and actions. Minecraft seems to have also been the sort of largely unrestrictive experience for a new generation of gamers, and likely helped create the next generation of gamers. Much like D&D spawned a wave of gamers, today's games will also have their own ripple effect.
There is a lot more to say about the interplay between D&D and gaming as we know it today, and luckily there's another blog post going up Friday. Today I'll leave you with the trailer that was passing around the email threads at the office. This documentary about the history of D&D looks awesome enough to have a movie night for when it releases.
Part two of of this blog is Right here.
The Great Kingdom (Trailer) from The Great Kingdom on Vimeo.
See you soon,