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Dungeons and Dragons

Dungeons & Dragons (abbreviated as D&D or DnD) is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game (RPG) originally designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. It was first published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. (TSR). The game has been published by Wizards of the Coast (now a subsidiary of Hasbro) since 1997. It was derived from miniature wargames with a variation of Chainmail serving as the initial rule system. D&D's publication is commonly recognized as the beginning of modern role-playing games and the role-playing game industry.

D&D departs from traditional wargaming and assigns each player a specific character to play instead of a military formation. These characters embark upon imaginary adventures within a fantasy setting. A Dungeon Master serves as the game's referee and storyteller while maintaining the setting in which the adventures occur, and playing the role of the inhabitants. 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 in order to rise in levels, and become increasingly powerful over a series of sessions.

The early success of Dungeons & Dragons led to a proliferation of similar game systems. Despite the competition, D&D has remained as the market leader in the role-playing game industry. In 1977, the game was split into two branches: the relatively rules-light game system of basic Dungeons & Dragons and the more structured, rules-heavy game system of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (abbreviated as AD&D). AD&D 2nd Edition was published in 1989. In 2000, a new system was released as Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition. These rules formed the basis of the d20 System which is available under the Open Game License (OGL) for use by other publishers. Dungeons & Dragons version 3.5 was released in June 2003, with a (non-OGL) 4th edition in June 2008. A 5th edition was released during the second half of 2014.

As of 2004, Dungeons & Dragons remained 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. The game has been supplemented by many pre-made adventures as well as commercial campaign settings suitable for use by regular gaming groups. 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. The game has won multiple awards and has been translated into many languages beyond the original English.

Play Overview

Dungeons & Dragons is a structured yet open-ended role-playing game. It is normally played indoors with the participants seated around a tabletop. Typically, each player controls only a single character, which represents an individual in a fictional setting. When working together as a group, these player characters (PCs) are often described as a "party" of adventurers, with each member often having their own area of specialty which contributes to the success of the whole. During the course of play, each player directs the actions of their character and their interactions with other characters in the game. This activity is performed through the verbal impersonation of the characters by the players, while employing a variety of social and other useful cognitive skills, such as logic, basic mathematics and imagination. 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) that 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, aberrant beings, 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 DM may choose to deviate from the published rules or make up new ones if they feel it is necessary.
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.

The only items required to play the game are the rulebooks, a character sheet for each player, and a number of polyhedral dice. Many players also use miniature figures on a grid map as a visual aid, particularly during combat. Some editions of the game presume such usage. Many optional accessories are available to enhance the game, such as expansion rulebooks, pre-designed adventures and various campaign settings.

Game Mechanics

Before the game begins, each player creates their player character and records the details (described below) on a character sheet. First, a player determines their 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. 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), and other features to round out the character's abilities and backstory, which have varied in nature through differing editions.

During the game, players describe their PC's intended actions, such as punching an opponent or picking a lock, and converse with the DM, 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 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 gain additional character classes. The key way characters progress is by earning experience points (XP), 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 be lost in some circumstances, such as encounters with creatures that drain life energy, or by use of certain magical powers that come with 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.

Adventures, campaigns, and modules

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 their own, or follow one of the many pre-made adventures (also 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 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 referred to as "campaign settings" or "world". D&D settings are based in various fantasy genres and feature different levels and types 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.

Game history

Sources and influences

An 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. When Dave Wesely entered the Army in 1970, his friend and fellow Napoleonics wargamer Dave Arneson began a medieval variation of Wesely's Braunstein games, where players control individuals instead of armies. Arneson used Chainmail to resolve combat. As play progressed, Arneson added such innovations as character classes, experience points, level advancement, armor class, and others. Having partnered previously with Gygax on Don't Give Up the Ship!, Arneson introduced Gygax to his Blackmoor game and the two then collaborated on developing "The Fantasy Game", the role-playing game (RPG) that became Dungeons & Dragons, with the final writing and preparation of the text being done by Gygax. The name was chosen by Gygax's two-year-old daughter Cindy — upon being presented with a number of choices of possible names, she exclaimed, "Oh Daddy, I like Dungeons and Dragons best!", although less prevalent versions of the story gave credit to his wife Mary Jo

Many Dungeons & Dragons elements appear in hobbies of the mid-to-late 20th century. For example, character-based role playing can be seen in improvisational theatre. Game-world simulations were well developed in wargaming. Fantasy milieux 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 world of D&D was influenced by world mythology, history, pulp fiction, and contemporary fantasy novels. The importance of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit as an influence on D&D is controversial. The presence in the game of halflings, elves, half-elves, dwarves, orcs, rangers, and the like, draw comparisons to these works. The resemblance was even closer before the threat of copyright action from Tolkien Enterprises prompted the name changes of hobbit to 'halfling', ent to 'treant', and balrog to 'balor'. For many years, Gygax played down the influence of Tolkien on the development of the game. However, in an interview in 2000, he acknowledged that Tolkien's work had a "strong impact".

The D&D 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 characters 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 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 such as A. E. van Vogt's "Black Destroyer", Coeurl (the Displacer Beast), Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky" (vorpal sword) and the Book of Genesis (the clerical spell 'Blade Barrier' was inspired by the "flaming sword which turned every way" at the gates of Eden).