Dungeons & Dragons (abbreviated as D&D or DnD) is a fantasy role-playing game (RPG) originally designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, and first published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. (TSR). The game is currently published by Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of Hasbro. It was derived from miniature wargames with a variation of the Chainmail game serving as the initial rule system. D&D's publication is widely regarded as the beginning of modern role-playing games and, by extension, the entire role-playing game industry.
Players of D&D create characters that embark upon imaginary adventures within a fantasy setting. A Dungeon Master (abbreviated as DM, also known as a Game Master or GM) serves as the game's referee and storyteller, while also maintaining the setting in which the adventures occur. During each game session, the players listen to descriptions of their characters' surroundings, as well as additional information and potential choices from the DM, then describe their actions in response. The characters form a party that interacts with the setting's inhabitants (and each other). Together they solve dilemmas, engage in battles and gather treasure and knowledge. In the process the characters earn experience points to become increasingly powerful over a series of sessions. D&D departs from traditional wargaming and assigns each player a specific character to play instead of a military formation. Miniature figures or markers, placed on a grid, are sometimes used to represent these characters.
The early success of Dungeons & Dragons led to a proliferation of similar game systems, such as Tunnels and Trolls, Traveller and RuneQuest. Despite this competition, D&D dominates the role-playing game industry, enjoying a nearly unassailable market position. In 1977, the game was split into two versions: the simpler Dungeons & Dragons and the more complex Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (abbreviated as AD&D or ADnD). AD&D 2nd Edition was published in 1989. In 2000, the simpler version of the game was discontinued and the complex version was renamed simply Dungeons & Dragons with the release of its 3rd edition. Dungeons & Dragons version 3.5 was released in June 2003, with a 4th edition in June 2008.
As of 2006, Dungeons & Dragons remains the best-known and best-selling role-playing game, with an estimated 20 million people having played the game and more than US$1 billion in book and equipment sales. Dungeons & Dragons is known beyond the game for other D&D-branded products, references in popular culture and some of the controversies that have surrounded it, particularly a moral panic in the 1980s falsely linking it to Satanism and suicide.
Dungeons & Dragons is a structured yet open-ended role-playing game. It is normally played indoors with the participants seated around a table-top. Typically, each player controls only a single character, which represents an individual in a fictional setting. As a group, these player characters (PCs) are often described as a ‘party’ of adventurers, with each member often having his or her own areas of specialty. During the course of play, each player directs the actions of his or her character and its interactions with the other characters in the game. A game often continues over a series of meetings to complete a single adventure, and longer into a series of related gaming adventures, called a ‘campaign’.
The results of the party's choices and the overall storyline for the game are determined by the Dungeon Master (DM) according to the rules of the game and the DM's interpretation of those rules. The DM selects and describes the various non-player characters (NPCs) the party encounters, the settings in which these interactions occur, and the outcomes of those encounters based on the players' choices and actions. Encounters often take the form of battles with 'monsters' – a generic term used in D&D to describe potentially hostile beings such as animals or mythical creatures. The game's extensive rules – which cover diverse subjects such as social interactions, magic use, combat, and the effect of the environment on PCs – help the DM to make these decisions. The Dungeon Master may choose to deviate from the published rules or make up new ones as he or she feels necessary.
Release 3.5 of the three core rulebooks
The most recent versions of the game's rules are detailed in three core rulebooks: The Player's Handbook, the Dungeon Master's Guide and the Monster Manual. A Basic Game boxed set contains abbreviated rules to help beginners learn the game.
The only items required to play the game are the rulebooks, a character sheet for each player and a number of polyhedral dice. The current editions also assume, but do not require, the use of miniature figures or markers on a gridded surface. Earlier editions did not make this assumption. Many optional accessories are available to enhance the game, such as expansion rulebooks, pre-designed adventures and various campaign settings.
D&D uses polyhedral dice to resolve random events. These are abbreviated as a 'd' followed by the number of sides. From left, d4, d6, d8, d12, d20 and two d10, the last of which are used together as a d100, d%, or percentile die.
Before the game begins, each player creates his or her player character and records the details (described below) on a character sheet. First, a player determines his or her character's ability scores, which consist of Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. Each edition of the game has offered differing methods of determining these statistics; as of 4th Edition, players generally assign their ability scores from a list or use points to "buy" them. The player then chooses a race (species) such as Human or Elf, a character class (occupation) such as Fighter or Wizard, an alignment (a moral and ethical outlook which may have a Good or Evil component, a Lawful or Chaotic component, or something in between), and a number of powers, skills and feats to enhance the character's basic abilities. Additional background history, not covered by specific rules, is often also used to further develop the character.
During the game, players describe their PC's intended actions, such as punching an opponent or picking a lock, and converse with the DM in character – who then describes the result or response. Trivial actions, such as picking up a letter or opening an unlocked door, are usually automatically successful. The outcomes of more complex or risky actions are determined by rolling dice. Factors contributing to the outcome include the character's ability scores, skills and the difficulty of the task. In circumstances where a character does not have control of an event, such as when a trap or magical effect is triggered or a spell is cast, a saving throw can be used to determine whether the resulting damage is reduced or avoided. In this case the odds of success are influenced by the character's class, levels and (with the 3rd edition) ability scores.
As the game is played, each PC changes over time and generally increases in capability. Characters gain (or sometimes lose) experience, skills and wealth, and may even alter their alignment or add additional character classes. The key way characters progress is by earning experience points (XP/EXP), which happens when they defeat an enemy or accomplish a difficult task. Acquiring enough XP allows a PC to advance a level, which grants the character improved class features, abilities and skills. XP can also be lost in some circumstances, such as encounters with creatures that drain life energy, or by use of certain magical powers that require payment of an XP cost.
Hit points (HP) are a measure of a character's vitality and health and are determined by the class, level and constitution of each character. They can be temporarily lost when a character sustains wounds in combat or otherwise comes to harm, and loss of HP is the most common way for a character to die in the game. Death can also result from the loss of key ability scores or character levels. When a PC dies, it is often possible for the dead character to be resurrected through magic, although some penalties may be imposed as a result. If resurrection is not possible or not desired, the player may instead create a new PC to resume playing the game.
A typical Dungeons & Dragons game consists of an 'adventure', which is roughly equivalent to a single story. The DM can either design an adventure on his or her own, or follow one of the many additional pre-made adventures (previously known as "modules") that have been published throughout the history of Dungeons & Dragons. Published adventures typically include a background story, illustrations, maps and goals for PCs to achieve. Some also include location descriptions and handouts. Although a small adventure entitled 'Temple of the Frog' was included in the Blackmoor rules supplement in 1975, the first stand-alone D&D module published by TSR was 1978’s Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, written by Gygax.
A linked series of adventures is commonly referred to as a 'campaign'. The locations where these adventures occur, such as a city, country, planet or an entire fictional universe, are also sometimes called 'campaigns' but are more correctly referred to as 'worlds' or 'campaign settings'. D&D settings are based in various fantasy subgenres and feature varying levels of magic and technology. Popular commercially published campaign settings for Dungeons & Dragons include Greyhawk, Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Mystara, Spelljammer, Ravenloft, Dark Sun, Planescape, Birthright and Eberron. Alternatively, DMs may develop their own fictional worlds to use as campaign settings.
The wargames from which Dungeons & Dragons evolved used miniature figures to represent combatants. D&D initially continued the use of miniatures in a fashion similar to its direct precursors. The original D&D set of 1974 required the use of the Chainmail miniatures game for combat resolution. By the publication of the 1977 game editions, combat was mostly resolved verbally. Thus miniatures were no longer required for game play, although some players continued to use them as a visual reference.
In the 1970s, numerous companies began to sell miniature figures specifically for Dungeons & Dragons and similar games. Licensed miniature manufacturers who produced official figures include Grenadier Miniatures (1980–1983), Citadel Miniatures (1984–1986), Ral Partha, and TSR itself. Most of these miniatures used the 25 mm scale, with the exception of Ral Partha’s 15 mm scale miniatures for the 1st edition Battlesystem.
Periodically, Dungeons & Dragons has returned to its wargaming roots with supplementary rules systems for miniatures-based wargaming. Supplements such as Battlesystem (1985 & 1989) and a new edition of Chainmail (2001) provided rule systems to handle battles between armies by using miniatures.
Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition (2000) assumes the use of miniatures to represent combat situations in play, an aspect of the game that was further emphasized in the v3.5 revision. The Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Game (2003) is sold as sets of plastic, randomly assorted, pre-painted miniatures, and can be used as either part of a standard Dungeons & Dragons game or as a stand-alone collectible miniatures game.
Main article: Sources and influences on the development of Dungeons & Dragons
The immediate predecessor of Dungeons & Dragons was a set of medieval miniature rules written by Jeff Perren. These were expanded by Gary Gygax, whose additions included a fantasy supplement, before the game was published as Chainmail. Dave Arneson used Chainmail to run games where players controlled a single character instead of an army, an innovation that inspired D&D. Developed with Arneson's help from his modified version of Chainmail for his Blackmoor campaign, Gygax wrote "The Fantasy Game", the role-playing game (RPG) that became Dungeons & Dragons (D&D).
Many Dungeons & Dragons elements also appear in hobbies of the mid- to late twentieth century (though these elements also existed previously). Character-based role playing, for example, can be seen in improvisational theatre. Game-world simulations were well-developed in wargaming. Fantasy milieus specifically designed for gaming could be seen in Glorantha’s board games among others. Ultimately, however, Dungeons & Dragons represents a unique blending of these elements.
The theme of D&D was influenced by mythology, pulp fiction, and contemporary fantasy authors of the 1960s and 1970s. The presence of halflings, elves, dwarves, half-elves, orcs, dragons, and the like, often draw comparisons to the work of J.R.R. Tolkien. Gygax maintained that he was influenced very little by The Lord of the Rings (although the owners of that work’s copyright forced the name changes of hobbit to 'halfling', ent to 'treant', and balrog to 'Type VI demon [balor]'), stating that he included these elements as a marketing move to draw on the popularity of the work.
The magic system, in which wizards memorize spells that are used up once cast (and must be re-memorized the next day), was heavily influenced by the Dying Earth stories and novels of Jack Vance. The original alignment system (which grouped all players and creatures into ‘Law’, ‘Neutrality’ and ‘Chaos’) was derived from the novel Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul Anderson. A troll described in this work also influenced the D&D definition of that monster.
Other influences include the works of Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, A. Merritt, H. P. Lovecraft, Fritz Leiber, L. Sprague de Camp, Fletcher Pratt, Roger Zelazny, and Michael Moorcock. Monsters, spells, and magic items used in the game have been inspired by hundreds of individual works ranging from A. E. van Vogt’s “Black Destroyer”, Coeurl (the Displacer Beast), Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” (vorpal sword) to the Book of Genesis (the clerical spell ‘Blade Barrier’ was inspired by the “flaming sword which turned every way” at the gates of Eden).
The original Dungeons & Dragons set.
The original Dungeons & Dragons, now referred to as OD&D was a small box set of three booklets published in 1974. It was amateurish in production and written from a perspective that assumed the reader was familiar with wargaming. Nevertheless it exploded in popularity, first among wargamers and then expanding to a more general audience of college and high school students. This first set went through many printings and was supplemented with several official additions, such as the original Greyhawk and Blackmoor supplements (both 1975), as well as magazine articles in TSR’s official publications and countless fanzines.
in 1977, TSR created the first element of a two-pronged strategy that would divide the D&D game for over two decades. A Basic Dungeons & Dragons boxed set was introduced to clean up the presentation of the essential rules, make the system understandable to the general public, and placed in a package that could be stocked in toy stores. In 1978 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) was published, which brought together the various published rules, options and corrections, then expanded them into a definitive, unified game for hobbyist gamers. The basic set directed players who exhausted the possibilities of that game to switch to the advanced rules.
Unfortunately, almost from its inception, differences of design philosophy caused this dual marketing approach to go awry. Gygax, who wrote the advanced game, wanted an expansive game with rulings on any conceivable situation which might come up during play. J. Eric Holmes, the editor of the basic game, preferred a lighter tone with more room for personal improvisation. As a result, the basic game included many rules and concepts which contradicted comparable ones in the advanced game. Confusing matters further, the original D&D boxed set remained in publication until 1979, since it remained a healthy seller for TSR.
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was designed to create a tighter, more structured game system than the loose framework of the original game. While seen by many as a revision of D&D, AD&D was at the time declared to be "neither an expansion nor a revision of the old game, it is a new game". The AD&D game was not intended to be directly compatible with D&D and it required some conversion to play between the rule sets. The term Advanced described the more complex rules and did not imply "for higher-level gaming abilities". Between 1977 and 1979, three hardcover rulebooks, commonly referred to as the 'core rulebooks', were released: the Player’s Handbook (PHB), the Dungeon Master’s Guide (DMG), and the Monster Manual (MM). Several supplementary books were published throughout the 1980s, notably Unearthed Arcana (1985) that included a large number of new rules.
In 1981 Basic Dungeons & Dragons was revised by Tom Moldvay. However, the rules for the Dungeons & Dragons game continued to diverge and it became a separate and distinct product from TSR’s flagship game, AD&D. This game was promoted as a continuation of the original D&D tone, whereas AD&D was an advancement of the mechanics. Although simpler overall than the 'Advanced' game, it included rules for some situations not covered in AD&D. There were five sets: Basic (1977, revised in 1981 and again in 1983), Expert (1981, revised in 1983), Companion (1983), Master (1985), and Immortals (1986, revised in 1991). Each set covered game play for more powerful characters than the previous. The first four sets were later compiled as a single hardcover book, the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia (1991).
First edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide.
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition, sometimes referred to as AD&D2 or 2nd Ed, was published in 1989, again as three core rulebooks; the primary designer was David "Zeb" Cook. The Monster Manual was replaced by the Monstrous Compendium, a loose-leaf binder that was replaced by the hardcover Monstrous Manual in 1993. In 1995, the core rulebooks were slightly revised, although still referred to by TSR as the 2nd Edition, and a series of Player’s Option manuals were released as optional core rulebooks.
The release of AD&D2 deliberately excluded some aspects of the game that had attracted negative publicity. References to demons and devils, sexually suggestive artwork, and playable, evil-aligned character types – such as assassins and half-orcs – were removed. The edition moved away from a theme of 1960's and 1970's "sword and sorcery" fantasy fiction to a mixture of medieval history and mythology. The rules underwent minor changes, including the addition of non-weapon proficiencies – skill-like abilities that originally appeared in 1st Edition supplements. The game's magic spells were divided into schools and spheres. A major difference was the promotion of various game settings beyond that of traditional fantasy. This included blending fantasy with other genres, such as horror (Ravenloft), science fiction (Spelljammer), and apocalyptic (Dark Sun), as well as alternative historical and non-European mythological settings.
 Wizards of the Coast
In 1997, a near-bankrupt TSR was purchased by Wizards of the Coast. Following three years of development, Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition was released in 2000. This game is referred to as D&D3 or 3E and is not to be confused with the 1983 edition of the basic D&D game. The new release folded the Basic and Advanced lines back into a single unified game. It was the largest revision of the D&D rules to date, and also served as the basis for a multi-genre role-playing system designed around 20-sided dice, called the d20 System. The 3rd Edition rules were designed to be internally consistent and less restrictive than previous editions of the game, allowing players more flexibility to create the characters they wanted to play. Skills and feats were introduced into the core rules to encourage further customization of characters. The new rules also standardized the mechanics of action resolution and combat.
In 2003, Dungeons & Dragons v.3.5, also known as Revised 3rd Edition or D&D3.5, was released as a revision of the 3rd Edition rules. This release incorporated hundreds of rule changes, mostly minor, and expanded the core rulebooks.
In early 2005 Wizards of the Coast's R&D team started to develop Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, prompted mainly by the feedback obtained from the D&D playing community and a desire to make the game faster, more intuitive and a better play experience than it was under 3rd Edition. The new game was developed through a number of design phases spanning from May 2005 until its release.
Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition was announced at Gen Con in August 2007, and the initial three core books were released June 6, 2008. 4th Edition streamlined the game into a simplified form and introduced numerous rules changes. Many character abilities were restructured into 'Powers'. These altered the spell-using classes by adding abilities that could be used at will, per encounter or per day. Likewise, non-magic-using classes were provided with parallel sets of options. Wizards of the Coast is releasing other supplementary material virtually through their website, including the capability for online play via a virtual 3-D tabletop.
 Acclaim and influence
Beginning with a French language edition in 1982, Dungeons & Dragons has been translated into many languages besides the original English. By 2004, more than US$1 billion has been spent on Dungeons & Dragons products, and the game has been played by more than 20 million people. As many as 6 million people played the game in 2007.
The various editions of Dungeons & Dragons have won many Origins Awards, including All Time Best Roleplaying Rules of 1977, Best Roleplaying Rules of 1989 and Best Roleplaying Game of 2000 for the three flagship editions of the game. Both Dungeons & Dragons and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons are Origins Hall of Fame Games inductees as they were deemed sufficiently distinct to merit separate inclusion on different occasions. The independent Games magazine placed Dungeons & Dragons on their Games 100 list from 1980 through 1983, then entered the game into the magazine’s Hall of Fame in 1984.
Dungeons & Dragons was the first modern role-playing game and it established many of the conventions that have dominated the genre. Particularly notable are the use of dice as a game mechanic, character record sheets, use of numerical attributes and gamemaster-centered group dynamics. Within months of Dungeons & Dragons’s release, new role-playing game writers and publishers began releasing their own role-playing games, with most of these being in the fantasy genre. Some of the earliest other role-playing games inspired by D&D include Tunnels and Trolls (1975), Empire of the Petal Throne (1975) and Chivalry and Sorcery (1976).
The role-playing movement initiated by D&D would lead to release of the science fiction game Traveller (1977) and fantasy game RuneQuest (1978), and subsequent game systems such as Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu (1981), Champions (1982), GURPS (1986) and Vampire: The Masquerade (1992). Dungeons & Dragons and the games it influenced also fed back into the genre’s origin – miniatures wargames – with combat strategy games like Warhammer Fantasy Battles. D&D also had a large impact on modern video games.
Early in the game’s history, TSR took no action against small publishers' production of D&D compatible material. This attitude changed in the mid 1980s when TSR revoked these rights (even from publishers they had earlier officially licensed, such as Judges Guild), and took legal action to prevent others from publishing compatible material. This angered many fans and led to resentment by the other gaming companies. TSR itself also ran afoul of intellectual property law in several cases.
With the launch of Dungeons & Dragons’s 3rd Edition, Wizards of the Coast made the d20 System available under the Open Game License (OGL) and d20 Trademark License. Under these licenses, authors are free to use the d20 System when writing games and game supplements. The OGL and d20 Trademark License also made possible new games, some based on licensed products like Star Wars, and also new versions of older games, such as Call of Cthulhu.
During the 2000s, there has been a trend towards recreating older editions of D&D. Necromancer Games, with its slogan "Third Edition Rules, First Edition Feel" and Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics range are both examples of this in material for d20 System. Other companies have created complete game systems based on earlier editions of D&D. An example is HackMaster (2001) by Kenzer and Company, a licensed, non-OGL, semi-satirical follow-on to 1st and 2nd Edition. Castles & Crusades (2005), by Troll Lord Games, is a reimagining of early editions by streamlining rules from OGL that was supported by Gary Gygax prior to his death.
With the release of the fourth edition, Wizards of the Coast has introduced its Game System License, which represents a significant restriction compared with the very open policies embodied by the OGL. In part as a response to this, some publishers (such as Paizo Publishing with its Pathfinder RPG) who previously produced materials in support of the D&D product line, have made the decision to continue supporting the 3rd Edition rules, thereby competing directly with Wizards of the Coast.
At various times in its history, Dungeons & Dragons has received negative publicity, in particular from some Christian groups, for alleged promotion of such practices as devil worship, witchcraft, suicide, and murder, and for naked breasts in drawings of female humanoids in the original AD&D manuals (mainly monsters such as Harpies, Succubi, etc.). These controversies led TSR to remove many potentially controversial references and artwork when releasing the 2nd Edition of AD&D. Many of these references, including the use of the names ‘devils’ and ‘demons’, were reintroduced in the 3rd edition. The moral panic over the game also led to problems for fans of D&D who faced further social ostracism, unfair treatment and false association with the occult and Satanism, regardless of an individual fan’s actual religious affiliation and beliefs.
Dungeons & Dragons has also been the subject of rumors regarding players having difficulty separating fantasy and reality, even leading to psychotic episodes. The most notable of these was the saga of James Dallas Egbert III, which was fictionalized in the novel Mazes and Monsters and later made into a TV movie. The game was also blamed for some of the actions of Chris Pritchard, who was convicted in 1990 of murdering his stepfather. Research by various psychologists, the first being that of Armando Simon, have concluded that no harmful effects are related to the playing of D&D.
The game’s commercial success was a factor that led to lawsuits regarding distribution of royalties between original creators Gygax and Arneson. Gygax later became embroiled in a political struggle for control of TSR which culminated in a court battle and Gygax’s decision to sell his ownership interest in the company in 1985.
An elaborate example of a D&D game in progress. Among the gaming aids shown are dice, a variety of miniatures and some miniature scenery.
D&D’s commercial success has led to many other related products, including Dragon Magazine, Dungeon Magazine, an animated television series, a film series, an official role-playing soundtrack and computer games such as the MMORPG Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach. Hobby and toy stores sell dice, miniatures, adventures and other game aids related to D&D and its game offspring.