The History of Dungeons and Dragons

Dungeons and Dragons (also called D&D for short) is a role-playing game designed by Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax. Dungeons and Dragons started out in 1971 as a set of supplemental rules for miniatures gaming, and has evolved over the last three and a half decades to become a worldwide phenomenon, with millions of players worldwide.

There have been several stages in the history of Dungeons and dragons. In 1971, Gary Gygax published “Chainmail” as a set of rules to be used alongside miniatures wargaming. “Chainmail” was published under the imprint of Tactical Studies Rules, later changed to TSR. While “Chainmail” was not Dungeons and Dragons as it is known today, it can be considered the historical starting point for the game.

In 1974, the history of Dungeons and Dragons took a giant leap forward. Gygax and Arneson published a series of three brown pamphlets in a brown box with a white labeling scheme. The game was first referred to at this time as Dungeons and Dragons. During the late 1970s, TSR reprinted its rules for Dungeons and Dragons several times.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, two distinct versions of Dungeons and Dragons appeared. First, there was the flagship “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons” (also known as AD&D) product. This product used more complex rules and had more products available for play. The other product, known as “Basic” Dungeons and Dragons, used a simpler rule set and was designed more for new players and/or younger players.

AD&D Second Edition was published in the late 1980s, revising many of the rules from the original Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game. The main rulebooks, consisting of the Players’ Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monster Manual were all published with new editions, with the Monster Manual now being called the Monstrous Manual. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, 2nd edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons published a variety of rule set expansions.

In 2000, Wizards of the Coast (the company that bought struggling TSR in 1998) published a new rule set for Dungeons and Dragons. This rule set was referred to as Third Edition Dungeons and Dragons, or simply 3E. The “Advanced” was dropped from the name at this time. Third Edition Dungeons and Dragons featured something called the Open Gaming License, in which other companies would be allowed to publish supplements or even other games using the core mechanics, known as the “d20 system.”

A few years later came the release of Revised Third Edition rules for Dungeons and Dragons, referred to as D&D 3.5. This rule set was compatible with Dungeons and Dragons Third Edition, the Open Gaming License, and the d20 System, and consisted largely of rules clarifications and some relatively minor changes implemented to help with game balance.

In June of 2008, Dungeons and Dragons Fourth Edition (D&D 4E) is released. This version of the game challenges many of the old tried and true elements of Dungeons and Dragons, and only time will tell if it enjoys the success that previous versions of the game have enjoyed.

Today, it is estimated that Dungeons and Dragons is played regularly by over six million people in the United States alone.