IMS 211: a History of Dungeons & Dragons
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IMS 211: a History of Dungeons & Dragons IMS 211: a History of Dungeons & Dragons Presentation Transcript

  • In many ways the grand-daddy of Real Time Strategy, console RPGs, MMORPGs, MUDs, LARPing, Cosplay and teenage alienation, Dungeons & Dragons, one of the proverbial dice games of a generation and the inspiration for much of the video game library we each enjoy, was the brainchild of a gentleman named Gary Gygax, conceived as a way to keep his beloved war-gaming from fading away.
  • "Our initial rule sets were entirely based on what the figure looked like…If a soldier was carrying a mace but had no armor, then he fought under a particular rule set; if the figure had armor and a crossbow, his attack and defense ratings were totally different." Initially, the rules were set up in traditional wargaming fashion: 1 plastic soldier representing 20 men. To break up the monotony a bit, they occasionally played using rules for 1-to-1 combat, where each figure represented one man in small, squad-level skirmishes.” From: http://pc.gamespy.com/articles/538/538262p2.html -Gary Gygax
  • In that system, Red Sonja (pictured here), would have low armor (look at all that skin showing) but high damage (look at the AXE on her!)
  • But Gary Gygax had a problem. As much as he loved castles and sieges and war games and rolling dice and strategy… People were leaving his gaming club. It was getting a little boring.
  • "I figured why not add a few fantasy elements to the game -- instead of a catapult. Why not have one figure represent a wizard who could cast a fireball whose rules, not coincidentally, were exactly the same as the catapult?" From: http://pc.gamespy.com/articles/538/538262p2.html -Gary Gygax
  • Goodness, gracious! GREAT BALLS OF FIRE! Doing two die four +3 of damage on hit.
  • The thing Gygax created? You read about it for today. It was a gaming supplement called Chainmail: Rules for Medieval Miniatures. Clocking in at just over 40 pages (44, but there are ads), Chainmail presented a sophisticated way to engage in dice-based miniature combat.
  • Chainmail hit the scene in 1970, with widespread availability in 1971. But for as cool as Chainmail was, it was just rules for combat. It wasn’t until GenCon in 1971 that Dave Arneson, a friend of Gygax and avid gamer, ceated a “stealth” one-on-one combat mission that gamers raved forced them to really play out the role of the attacker or defender. Role, you say? Play, you say?
  • Gygax and Arneson started to pool resources to make the game more robust. They called it “The Fantasy Game,” and they started trying to market it, even as people commented on the similarities to The Lord of the Rings and other fantasy novels. In 1974, Gygax and Arneson started a company with friends Dan Kaye and Kevin Blume, Tactical Studies Rules (TSR). They finally found the money to publish the game Gygax’s wife had renamed from The Fantasy Game to Dungeons & Dragons.
  • Dungeons & Dragons led a game superstar’s life for quite some time. It sold in numbers unheard of for a strategy game. Almost everyone involved– including Gygax– has personal problems as TSR lurched through reformation and financial problems. But soon the game was on the shelves of every bookstore in the country. And then… things got a little rocky in the PR world.
  • Dungeons & Dragons was byand-large an outsider’s game. Now we hear stories of Vin Diesel playing it on set with stars like the Rock and Dame Judy Dench, but in the early days, most considered D&Ders “nerds.” Or worse… Satanists. Then James Dallas Egbert III went into the tunnels underneath Michigan State University on a “quest” as some would claim.
  • The blowback from that and other incidents, wherein a media convinced that games were bad for kids took every chance to attack D&D (imagine if every videogame you know were just a single game– that’s what D&D was at that point) would last into the 1990s. Over a decade was devoted to decrying a game as a tool of the devil. Yet more and more kids bought books and dice.
  • Gary Gygax left TSR in 1985. He went on the make many other games, though none ever touched the juggernaut of his beloved D&D. TSR continued to produce Dungeons & Dragons in its many forms until it ended up in financial ruin in 1996 and sold out to Wizards of the Coast, makers of Magic the Gathering. Wizards of the Coast, consequently, sold to Hasbro, Inc. in 1999. Hasbro, using the Wizards of the Coast imprint, still produces Dungeons & Dragons to this day.
  • Interesting tidbits:
  • There was a Dungeons & Dragons cartoon and set of toys in 1983-1985. The show was about kids who got sucked into the game and had to face bad guys. It was forgettable, but this one character design was AWESOME.
  • During TSR’s rise in the 1990s, there was a great diversification with the Forgotten Realms and Ravenloft campaign settings appearing (among others). These became a boon for he company because of popular novels about characters like Strahd Van Zarovich (the D&D Dracula) and Drizzt Do’Urden, a reformed Drow (dark elf) with a huge series of books by R.A. Salvatore. Ravenloft was one of the original D&D modules. I made a PDF of it available to you.
  • Discussion: Characters If we have time, I’d like to make characters, but before we go that far, I’d like us to look at an NPC villain created for D&D.
  • For Wednesday There are four readings linked from the schedule. Read them, and come in ready to throw down in a “What is an RPG?” super-fight (ight…ight…ight…)