Welcome to my Ted Talk. Over the next hour and a half, I will prove to you that Dungeons and Dragons is the greatest game ever made.
Or at least give you a brief history of it. You know what, let’s just start with the history and see where it goes.
Our story begins deep in the heart of Wisconsin in 1971. A nerd named Gary Gygax is super into wargaming with his friends. Gary sees that his friends are getting bored with the traditional medieval ruleset. Honestly, I get it. Sometimes you just need to ruin your GM’s day with an overpowered fireball that will never ever be nerfed. In response to his player’s demands, Gary starts adding fantasy rules to his own conventional wargame, Chainmail.
Miles away in Minneapolis, a nerd named Dave Arneson is working on a game with a similar concept called Blackmoor. He also happens to be Gary’s pen pal.
In 1972, Dave drives to Wisconsin to see Gary and while he’s there, they play Dave’s game Blackmoor. Gary LOVES the game. They combine their two games into one messy ruleset and name that mess, Dungeons & Dragons.
It’s 1974 now and everything is terrible.
Watergate. The Cold War. Oil crisis. Energy crisis. A literal super tornado wiped out like 319 people. Stephen King published Carrie… so everyone’s probably freaked out about that.
My point is people are looking to escape reality.
Gary is out there pitching his dungeon game to publishers who are NOT interested. After many rejections, Gary took his toys and went home to start his own club. He calls it Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. (TSR) and officially publishes Dungeons & Dragons.
The original Dungeons & Dragons game (OD&D) was three booklets, Men & Magic, Monsters & Treasure, and Underworld & Wilderness Adventures. It’s not the easiest game to play, but they have some pretty awesome drawings. This fairy one to the right is my favorite.
Dave and Gary sold out of their first 1,000 copies in a year. After that, they were selling out left and right, evolving the game and fleshing out the spirit of D&D as we know it.
In 1977, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons is published and later that same year, The Monster Manual came out. In my opinion, The Monster Manual is easily one of the best additions to the fantasy genre. Over the next two years, two more amazing books are released, the Player’s Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
I hate to break it to you guys, but at this point, Dave and Gary aren’t BFFs anymore. You know how it goes. Dave wants royalties on the Advanced D&D books. Gary doesn’t want to give it. They go to court over it. Typical BFF stuff.
Hey, welcome to the ’80s.
D&D is grossing millions a year and it hit mainstream media like the wall of BO in a Magic the Gathering competition. In response, the mainstream market satanically panicked.
These games are the most effective, most magnificently packaged, most profitably marketed, most thoroughly researched introduction to the occult in man’s recorded history.
– Christian Response to Dungeons and Dragons
In my opinion, satanic panic made D&D sound really cool and in the end, might have even made it bigger because of all the press.
In 1986, a lady named Lorianne Williams buys up TSR shares, becomes the majority shareholder, pushes Gary out of the company, and makes herself the president and CEO. Way to go, Lorianne.
Over the next 10 years, TSR did a bunch of questionable business moves.
Now, here we are in the Christmas of 1996. I have just been born. My parents are pretty stoked. Oh also, TSR is in enormous debt with their printer. They just fired 30 people. Distributors don’t want their products anymore. All hope is lost.
But LOOK. IT’S WIZARDS OF THE COAST!
A man named Peter Adkison, CEO of Wizards of the Coast, buys D&D and wow, he did it so good. He kept a lot of the old staff, he was open about everything, and he even went back to make things right with Gary. The Wizards singlehandedly saved D&D and I am eternally grateful.
It’s now the 2000s and D&D 3rd Edition is OUT!
Wizards of the Coast did something very interesting with D&D 3E called the Open Gaming License. This allows other people to use D&D 3E rules to create their own campaigns. In my opinion, it’s a brilliant move for the growth of the community. Was it an overall good move for their profits? I don’t know, I write articles about games.
Pathfinder and Starfinder are the two most famous games I know of that came from the OGL. They both stink. I don’t really think that, please don’t come for me.
In 2008, D&D 4E is released. It’s a fine edition. You know… it happened. We can say that definitively and without controversy. It definitely did happen.
As for me and my house, we will serve Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. D&D 3.5E is an acceptable stand-in if needed.
Regardless of what edition you prefer, most people agree that the true magic of D&D lies in the storytelling power of your DM. As far as I’m concerned, the rules are just there to guide the story. The game comes to life when people like Matt Mercer, Griffin McElroy, Chris Perkins, and so many other amazing DMs show what its potential is.
It’s completely on you to make this game fun.
Huge thanks to the Wizards of the Coast website and Geek and Sundry for their information.
Thanks for reading. And I’m gonna go, bye.