Dungeons & Dragons

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The original Dungeons & Dragons set
The original Dungeons & Dragons set

Dungeons & Dragons (abbreviated as D&D or DnD) is a fantasy role-playing game (RPG) published by Gary Gygax and David Arneson in January 1974. It was first published by Gygax's company, Tactical Studies Rules (TSR), and subsequently spawned the RPG industry. D&D is by far the best-known and best selling RPG, with an estimated 20 million players, many translations and over US$1 billion in book and equipment sales (as of 2004).

After TSR foundered in 1996, Wizards of the Coast acquired the company in 1997, including all rights to D&D. Two years later, Wizards was purchased by Hasbro. Owing partially to heavy marketing, products branded Dungeons & Dragons made up over fifty percent of the RPG products sold in 2002.


Overview and history

Missing image
The cover to the game Chainmail, a Dungeons & Dragons predecessor.

The fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons, designed by Gary Gygax and Arneson, evolved in the early 1970s from the Chainmail system of wargaming rules by Gary Gygax and Jeff Perren. The game was influenced by popular Greek and Norse mythology, the pulp fiction stories of Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and many of the more contemporary fantasy authors of the 1960s and 1970s, such as Jack Vance, Fritz Leiber, L. Sprague de Camp and Michael Moorcock.

The presence of halflings (called hobbits in J. R. R. Tolkien's works), elves, dwarves, half-elves, orcs, dragons and the like give it a character far closer to Tolkien than to Howard or Burroughs. However, Gygax claims he was influenced very little by J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, stating that he included these elements as a marketing move to draw on the then-popularity of the work. Nevertheless, Tolkien, Vance (whose Dying Earth stories were a major influence on the magic system) and perhaps Leiber should probably be regarded as the major influences.

The game developed the RPG concept of a referee, the Dungeon Master (the same role often being called Game Master in other similar games) who creates the fictional setting of the game, plays antagonists and supporting characters, and moderates the action of the adventures. Dungeons & Dragons departed from traditional wargaming by giving each player the part of one figure, or character. The players embarked upon imaginary adventures in which they would battle many kinds of fictional monsters from goblins to ten foot gelatinous cubes, while gathering treasure and experience points as the game progressed.

The original D&D game allowed players to play characters in three classes: fighters, magic-users (wizards), and clerics (priests). Players could choose to have their characters be Halflings, Dwarves, or Elves; later versions termed these three "races" as "demi-humans". Players could then have a class (fighter, wizard, etc.) or choose one of the demi-humans, which came with their own sets of abilities that resembled either a fighter (dwarf), a fighter/magic-user (elves) or a fighter/thief (halflings).

The cover of the D&D Basic Set, 2nd printing, showcases some of the rather amateurish artwork the game featured in its early years.
The cover of the D&D Basic Set, 2nd printing, showcases some of the rather amateurish artwork the game featured in its early years.

D&D took the world of wargaming by storm, creating its own niche and giving birth to a multitude of role-playing games, based on every genre imaginable. Science fiction, horror, superheroes, cartoons, westerns, spies and espionage, and many other fictional settings were adapted to role-playing games, with several of these games also being published by TSR. However, "fantasy role-playing" loosely based on the world of D&D continues to dominate the field of role-playing games as of 2005.

Edition history

Main article: Differences between editions of Dungeons & Dragons.

D&D has gone through several revisions. The first edition (1974) featured just a few character classes and monsters. Supplements published in the next two years (Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry and Gods, Demi-Gods and Heroes) greatly expanded the character classes, monsters and spells. This was replaced in 1977-1980 with Basic, Expert, Companion, Master and Immortals D&D, which was mostly summarized in the late 1980s in the D&D Rules Cyclopedia. Simultaneously, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) was published between 1977 and 1979, collecting rules from the original version and the supplements into three volumes, and extensively revising the system. The Dungeons & Dragons name was used for the simplified version of the game that followed from the Basic D&D rules and was incompatible with the more mainstream AD&D.

The D&D Expert Set was designed to take characters past 3rd level, and included more spells and monsters.
The D&D Expert Set was designed to take characters past 3rd level, and included more spells and monsters.
The D&D Basic Set features cover artwork by , showcasing his distinctive style.  The painting features many elements of the  game, including a magic-user, a fighter, a -like  and a  underground expanding into the gloom.
The D&D Basic Set features cover artwork by Erol Otus, showcasing his distinctive style. The painting features many elements of the fantasy game, including a magic-user, a fighter, a dragon-like monster and a dungeon underground expanding into the gloom.

In 1989, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition was published, which streamlined the original rules. By the end of its first decade, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons had expanded to several rulebooks, including three monster manuals, and two books governing character skills in wilderness and underground settings. Initially, the second edition would consolidate the game, with three essential books to govern Dungeon Masters and players alike. Periodically, TSR published optional rulebooks for character classes and races to enhance game play.

Overall, the combat system was simplified to a mathematical formula, known as THAC0, with actions based around real-life distances (feet) rather than miniatures-board distances (inches). Demi-human races were given higher level maximums to increase their long-term playability, though they were still restricted in terms of character class flexibility. Critical hit rules were made optional for players less concerned with combat details. Moreover, the game editors made an effort to remove some objectional aspects of the game, which had begun to attract some negative publicity, due (in part) to a small segment of players obsessed with the game's darker, more violent aspects. Shedding the moral ambiguity of First Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, the TSR staff eliminated character classes like the murderous assassin, while stressing the importance of heroic roleplaying and player teamwork. For the first few years, Second Edition Dungeons & Dragons proved every bit as popular as its predecessor.

After this auspicious start, the owners of TSR (Gygax and Arneson had left earlier) angered many fans with several extreme practices intended to make up for declining sales, such as inflating prices, excessive split pricing of individual game products, and relentless copyright infringement lawsuits. They also repeated the same mistake of publishing sourcebooks and handbooks to the point of making the game too cumbersome. Fantasy had begun its decline in popularity during the late 1980s, replaced by science fiction and horror themes. Furthermore, collectible card games, like Magic: The Gathering, offered a simpler means of wargaming. Coupled with the rise in popularity of White Wolf, Inc.'s Vampire and Werewolf systems, this led to a gradual decline in popularity into the 1990s, resulting in TSR filing for bankruptcy in 1998; TSR never emerged from bankruptcy, and was in the end purchased by former competitor Wizards of the Coast, creators of Magic: The Gathering.

In 2000, a third revision, called Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition (or 3E for short), was published by Wizards of the Coast. It is the basis of a broader role-playing system designed around 20-sided dice, called the d20 system. The edition removed previous editions' arbitrary restrictions on class and race combinations and on the level advancement of non-human characters. Skills and the new system of "feats" were introduced into the core rules to encourage players to further customize their characters. The d20 system is far more internally consistent than previous editions of Dungeons and Dragons, although it must be said that D&D has been a late adopter when it comes to a "unified play mechanic". The new rules also rationalized movement and combat, though some thought these latter changes complicated matters by adding rigorous rules regarding "attacks of opportunity" and standardizing all movement onto a square grid. Magic-using classes were split from "Wizards" to Wizards, Sorcerers, and in later books such as the Complete Arcane to further classes such as Warmage. "Thieves" were renamed Rogues, although Second Edition had already classified Thieves under this broad category. Third Edition also introduced the concepts of "Prestige Classes", high-level classes which characters can only enter upon meeting certain character-design prerequisites or fulfilling certain in-game goals, and expanded the idea of high-level campaigns with the "Epic Level" campaign options included in the core rules set. In July 2003, a revised version of the 3rd edition D&D rules (termed version 3.5) was released that incorporated numerous minor rule changes, as well as expanding the Dungeon Master's Guide and Monster Manual.

The introduction of the d20 system made it possible for authors to write new games and game supplements without the need to develop a unique rules system and, more importantly, without the need for approval from Wizards of the Coast. The d20 system is an open source version of the D&D core rules that was made available under the Open Gaming License. This makes it easier to market D&D-compatible content under a broadly recognizable commercial license. Many other companies have produced content for the d20 system, such as White Wolf (under the Sword & Sorcery Studios label), AEG, and Malhavoc Press.

Many purist fans of the previous editions of the game did not like changes made to the game by Wizards of the Coast in these major revisions of the game. Some have subsequently engaged in boycotts of any attempt to play the game using these rules. Some fans object to the excessively violent critical system, while others deplore a return to the darker aspects and themes of First Edition. However, many fans of 1st edition AD&D who never adopted 2nd edition have migrated to 3rd edition, and (in the absence of any concrete sales or market research data from the 1980s) it seems to be the case that more people are playing some form of D&D now than at any point in its history.

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.


The publication of the first Dungeons & Dragons game in 1974 marked the dawn of modern role-playing games, and was the first dice-based system, establishing many of the conventions that have dominated the genre: character record sheets, progressive character development, combat-centred game mechanics, and game-master-centered story development. While many of the ingredients of D&D were in the air at that time (character-based role-play (historical reenactment and improvisational theatre), game world simulations (wargaming), and for-gaming fantasy milieus (Glorantha's board games, and to a lesser extent Tekumel)), the subsequent development of dice-based roleplaying underlines the debt owed to the original creation of Gygax and Arneson. Other game developers expanded on and improved aspects of the Dungeons & Dragons game. A staggering number of mainstream and independent RPGs offer alternatives to D&D.

Through the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, new RPG writers and publishers released new role-playing games. The first arrivals to achieve lasting influence were the Gloranthan RuneQuest, released by Chaosium in 1976, and the science fiction role-playing game Traveller, released by Game Designers Workshop in 1978. Some of the later systems include Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu, Champions by Hero Games, GURPS by Steve Jackson Games and Vampire: The Masquerade by White Wolf Game Studio. These games also fed back into the genre's origin, miniatures wargames, with combat strategy games like Battletech and Warhammer 40,000. On some level, collectible card games (CCGs) like Magic: The Gathering owe a respectful nod to the original D&D.

In fact, the founder and president of Wizards of the Coast (the publishers of Magic: the Gathering) was such a fan of D&D that he bought the company. Through corporate mismanagement, TSR had fallen on hard times, and by the end of 1996 had ceased publishing new products. In 1997, Wizards of the Coast acquired TSR and gained ownership of Dungeons & Dragons. Most of the creative and professional staff of TSR relocated from Wisconsin to the Renton, Washington area, and Wizards re-hired many game designers who had been laid off during the troubled last years of TSR. D&D products continued to carry the TSR logo until 2000, after Hasbro's acquisition of the company.

With the launch of D&D's Third Edition, Wizards made available the d20 System under the Open Gaming License (OGL). Under this license, authors are free to use the d20 System when writing their own games and game supplements. A strong fanbase loyal to the d20 System has encouraged the growth and rejuvenation of the pencil and paper role-playing game industry. The OGL is also responsible for creating new versions of games like Call of Cthulhu using the new system.

Play overview

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A 3.5 Edition character sheet

Dungeons and Dragons can be thought of as a "make-believe" game, but where the player's options and the consequences of their choices are rigidly controlled and measured according to rules. There are quite a lot of rules, governing everything from combat to social interaction; at least three distinct volumes are needed to play the game properly. Thus, beginners face a steep learning curve.

The game is presented by a Dungeon Master (DM) to a group of (typically) three to five players. The DM acts as narrator, and arbitrates the actions of the players. Most games are built around adventures narrated by the DM. The plots can be very diverse, from hunting dragons in remote dungeons to solving mysteries in urban settings. The DM chooses the setting, controls events that occur outside the players' control and the actions of the many non-player characters involved in the story. The DM may describe a crisis that requires the attention of the heroes ("An evil dragon has kidnapped the princess!"), and suggest some possible goals ("Slay the dragon and rescue the princess!"), but because the players can freely choose their own course of action ("Let's ally with the dragon and take over the kingdom instead!"), there are no true criteria for "winning", aside from what the players set for themselves. A single "game" typically spans multiple sessions and "adventures", and may run for months or even years.

At the start of a game, each player (other than the DM) creates his or her character. The player chooses his character's gender, race (elf, dwarf, gnome, half-elf, human, halfling, half-orc, and many others), his class (paladin, cleric, druid, rogue, barbarian, bard, ranger, fighter, monk, wizard or sorcerer, and many others) and generates basic qualities (strength, dexterity, constitution, wisdom, intelligence, and charisma, referred to in the game as "ability scores"). These choices determine what the character can do, how well, and how his character will evolve with experience. An example character: "A brilliant but absent-minded gnome wizard who adventures in order to seek out esoteric magical lore."

Perhaps as important as race and profession, a D&D character's alignment determines whether they are heroic, villainous, or merely mercenary. Players choose between good, neutrality, or evil, with ethical bents toward lawful or chaotic behaviour.

Many actions that a character can perform are determined by a dice roll. These dice, coupled with the character's various skills, determine whether or not he succeeds at a particular action (e.g. hitting an opponent with a weapon or picking a lock), and/or how well he has done it (e.g. how severe an injury he inflicted). Most binary success/failure actions are determined with the roll of a twenty-sided die (d20): the player rolls the die and adds certain "modifiers" to the result; these modifiers are determined by, among other things, his skill in that type of action, the quality of his tools or whatever magical enchantments he is blessed or cursed with. If the sum is higher or equal than the given Difficulty Class value of the action (e.g. how tough the opponent's armor is, or how complex the lock is), then he has successfully performed the action. By carefully choosing what class to play, what skills to develop and what tools to carry, a player can significantly improve his chances of success in particular areas of expertise, cementing his role in the group. The system encourages a well-balanced group of specialised characters.

When a character defeats an enemy or accomplishes a difficult task, an appropriate number of experience points (xp) are awarded to him by the DM. When a character accumulates enough experience points, he is considered to have advanced to the next level of proficiency, and so his abilities increase. Some of these improvements are predetermined according to the class he has chosen (e.g. all fighters will see a significant improvement in their general weapon skills), while others can be chosen by the player, allowing a certain degree of customization (such as developing particular skill with a longbow). The modification of the player's character sheet due to a change in level are referred to as "levelling up".

Game manuals

Main article: Dungeons & Dragons manuals

Several manuals are required for D&D. The first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons required three core rulebooks: the Players Handbook, the Dungeon Masters Guide, and the Monster Manual. The popularity of these first three rulebooks encouraged TSR to publish more and more books; by the time the second edition of the game was released, there were over a dozen hardbound sourcebooks.

The second edition expanded the number of books, most notably with the "Complete Handbook" or "Complete Book of" series, which featured handbooks for almost every race and class; gnomes and halflings shared one handbook, and the only specialist wizard to receive his own handbook was the necromancer. Several other archetypes, such as the barbarian, and campaign-specific concepts, such as the gladiator of Dark Sun, were also given their own handbooks.

The handbooks introduced the concept of "kits", which were essentially specialized versions of character classes. Many of these, such as the Bladesinger (an elven fighter/wizard who could fight and cast spells at the same time), were considered to be grossly unbalanced, both in comparison to other kits and in particular to characters who did not use kits.

Several sourcebooks, such as the Book of Artifacts, Legends and Lore, and the Planescape Monstrous Compendium, provided new versions of rules, items, spells, or creatures that had been present in previous editions of the game but had been removed, for whatever reason, from the second edition of the game. While some of these conversions were direct adaptations of existing statistics into the slightly modified second edition rules, others, like the optional psionics system, were completely reinvented from the ground up and had little in common with their previous incarnations.

The Player's Option series of rulebooks in the mid-1990s were interpreted by many players as an intended "third edition" of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. The Player's Option rulebooks introduced many optional rules into the game: combat and warfare rules in Player's Option: Combat & Tactics; a controversial and, according to many, highly unbalanced character customization system in Player's Option: Skills & Powers; new spells and spellcasting rules in Player's Option: Spells and Magic; and rules for advancement to epic character levels in Dungeon Master's Option: High Level Campaigns.

The third edition of Dungeons & Dragons greatly clarified and streamlined the rules, and clearly labeled the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide and Monster Manual as the three core rulebooks. These editions provided constant and consistent rules for different monster types, effects such as invisibility and fatigue, and spells whose effects have always been the subject of lively debate amongst players. More significant was the release of most of these rules as open source, in the form of a System Reference Document that could be used by third party game companies to create their own products compatible with Dungeons & Dragons.

The revisions made by the game's 3.5 edition made a number of previous rulebooks obsolete, several of which, beginning with the Expanded Psionics Handbook, were replaced by slightly different rulebooks. For example, the third edition had five softcover rulebooks focusing on character classes: Sword and Fist (fighter and monk), Tome and Blood (sorcerer and wizard), Defenders of the Faith (cleric and paladin), Masters of the Wild (barbarian, druid, and ranger), and Song and Silence (bard and rogue). These books were updated into four revised and expanded hardcover rulebooks for 3.5 edition: Complete Warrior (barbarian, fighter, ranger), Complete Divine (cleric, druid, paladin), Complete Arcane (sorcerer, wizard), and Complete Adventurer (bard, rogue).

The first and second editions of the books, though no longer official, are highly prized by collectors. Examples in good condition (which is rare since these books got a lot of use from players) can fetch prices many times their cover value.

The pen-and-ink illustrations within these volumes, especially the Monster Manual, is uneven — some artwork is amateurish (as was all D&D art in the early days), while some show skillful use of lines and media. Despite their uneven quality, some fans regard these illustrations as the best in the series.

Expansion modules

S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks was one of the few adventures released by  to include  elements, such as  and .
S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks was one of the few adventures released by TSR to include science-fiction elements, such as ray guns and robots.
See List of Dungeons & Dragons modules

Throughout the early history of Dungeons & Dragons, TSR released numerous "modules" for users to play. These modules were pre-made adventures for users to play and use. They contained a backstory, maps and one or more objectives for the players to achieve. Some included numerous illustrations, a Dungeon Master could purchase these pre-made adventures and use it or parts of it for a gaming session.

These modules allowed players to experience adventures without the effort of creating and testing adventure content. Most of these modules were denoted with a code consisting of a letter and a number. Modules within a letter set were usually somehow related. For example, Z1 may be a prologue to Z2. Z1, Z2 and Z3 may have the adventurers fighting a similar enemy such as beholders. Though related, most modules were stand-alone and could be played without playing any of the other related modules.

These adventure modules had a suggested character level indicated on the cover. For example, module S3 is for characters 8 - 12 and module B2 was for beginning characters level 1 - 3. Typically as the number of the module increased so did the difficulty level.

Many modules were play-tested at gaming conventions such as Gen Con prior to publishing, so were fairly refined and balanced. Many of the modules went through several printings, and are now out of print. As such, most fetch a high price at auctions for D&D paraphernalia.

"Official" modules were also released by "The Judges Guild" and in White Dwarf (UK) and Dragon (UK and US) magazines. Unoffical modules were released in many hundreds of "fanzines" such as "the Beholder", however additional unofficial modules were generally not coded.

Campaign settings

The flexibility of the Dungeons and Dragons rules means that Dungeon Masters are free to create their own fantasy settings in which the adventures of the player characters can take place. However, TSR, and more recently Wizards of the Coast, have created many fantasy realms called campaign settings in which D&D games can be based and for which supplement rulebooks and material were released. Product development has now ceased for most of them. These worlds range from magic-rich to magic-poor, from old-fashioned sword and sorcery to the wildly exotic, some incorporating psychic ('psionic') powers or taking on certain flavours, including Oriental and swashbuckling themes. These official campaign settings include:

  • Blackmoor: Dave Arneson's original campaign, expanded into an official game supplement and further detailed in several adventures. It was later made part of Mystara.
  • Greyhawk: Gary Gygax's original campaign, expanded into an official game supplement and greatly expanded upon; along with Dave Arneson's Blackmoor, it is probably the oldest D&D setting. Greyhawk is the "default" setting for the 3rd Edition ruleset (that is, the rulebooks are written assuming the players are campaigning in the Greyhawk setting.)
  • Forgotten Realms: created by author and game designer Ed Greenwood as his own personal campaign and detailed in a long series of articles in Dragon, this campaign became the setting most popular with D&D gamers in the 1990s. It is also the setting of a large number of novels, featuring among others the popular character Drizzt Do'Urden.
  • Dragonlance: the first fictional world to be intentionally produced and marketed as an RPG supplement, with product tie-ins (novels, role-playing modules, figurines, etc.) prepared and manufactured when it was first released. The success of the Dragonlance series encouraged role-playing game producers to invent and market additional fictional game worlds. Often attributed to Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis, the writers of the original novels, but actually created by Tracy Hickman and his wife.
  • Dark Sun: a setting based on the harsh desert world of Athas, which was once a life-teeming ocean blue planet, but which has since been stripped of its fertility by uncontrolled use of defiling magic, although a small offshoot of magicians called preservers tends to maintain life and ultimately restore the primeval lushness. The world is dominated by psionic powers rather than magic, giving it a unique flavour among campaign settings.
  • Al-Qadim: A fantasy Arabian setting, with genies, elemental wizards, holy assassins, and a land unified by belief in the power of Fate. The land, named Zakhara, is located bordering the Forgotten Realms.
  • Ravenloft: A gothic horror setting originally created for an adventure module, Ravenloft, then expanded into an entire series and full campaign setting. This campaign world is currently being developed by White Wolf Game Studio under its Sword & Sorcery label.
  • Birthright: A setting in which the players took on the powers of the divinely-empowered rulers of nations, with emphasis on tactical gameplay.
  • Council of Wyrms allowed players to play dragons as characters.
  • Mystara: A campaign setting that evolved from the B and X series modules. Unlike other settings, "The Known World" had ascended immortal beings instead of gods. The Blackmoor setting existed in Mystara's distant past. Mystara was the "default" setting for the 1st and 2nd Edition rulesets.
  • Red Steel/Savage Coast: A swashbuckling-themed spinoff of the Mystara setting that revolved around a magical curse that afflicted all characters. Red Steel was originally released in a boxed set, but was later revised and released online for free as the Savage Coast. The setting was not played on a large scale, and the products that were printed sold poorly.
  • Lankhmar: TSR released a setting based on the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories by Fritz Leiber. The corrupt city of Lankhmar on the planet Nehwon, is supposed to be the starting place of grand adventures filled with mystery and deceit.
  • Planescape: A setting that crosses the numerous "planes of existence", as originally developed in the Manual of the Planes. The setting crossed Victorian era trappings with a pseudo-steampunk design and attitude.
  • Spelljammer: A setting based in "wildspace", a fantasy version of outer space in which special sailing ships fly through a space based on classical notions of the universe.
  • Kara-Tur: An oriental setting based loosely on mythical and medieval Japan and China, introduced in the original Oriental Adventures rulebook. The setting was eventually placed on Toril, the world of the Forgotten Realms.
  • Kingdoms of Kalamar: A campaign setting designed and produced by Kenzer & Company through the only license given to produce actual D&D material since the creation of the Open Gaming License and the D20 System. The Kalamar setting is heavily-researched and is intended for long campaign play instead of a series of one-shot games or other non-continuous roleplaying.
  • Eberron: The newest official D&D setting. Wizards of the Coast decided that they needed a new setting to set novels in and issue game products for, much like Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms in the past. A massive contest was held to reward the most creative entry with its own campaign setting. Eberron was the winner, created largely by Keith Baker. The setting introduces new races such as the warforged and the new class of artificer, and takes place in a world where the inhabitants can make use of magic as technology.

Dark Sun is often cited as having directly borrowed many thematic elements from Frank Herbert's Dune. Ravenloft is sometimes erroneously claimed to have been an attempt by TSR to cash in on the success of White Wolf's World of Darkness line of horror games despite the fact that the Ravenloft campaign setting predates Vampire: The Masquerade by over a year.

As of 2005, only Forgotten Realms and Eberron are being supported by new products from Wizards of the Coast. New Dragonlance and Ravenloft material is being produced by other companies via outsourcing.

Living Campaigns are campaigns that involve thousands of role-players from around the world, sharing a single campaign setting. Dungeon Masters can obtain adventures in a vibrant, active campaign setting. Players can build characters, advance them in experience and forge relationships with fellow gamers from around the world.

The RPGA Network (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=rpga/welcome) sponsors numerous living campaigns. The RPGA runs living campaign games at conventions, game days and other gatherings around the world.

As of 2005, the largest of the Living Campaigns (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=rpga/play/campaigns) is Living Greyhawk (http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=lg/welcome).

Polyhedral dice

The use of , like this set of dice (in order d4, d6, d8, d12, d20), is an integral part of the D&D experience
The use of polyhedral dice, like this set of dice (in order d4, d6, d8, d12, d20), is an integral part of the D&D experience

Dungeons & Dragons is noted for introducing the use of polyhedral dice to resolve in-game events and character actions. While the game uses traditional six-sided dice from time to time, many other types of dice are used more frequently. D&D's popularity prompted its competitors to adopt the use of many-sided dice, though this trend has been reversed with the introduction of "third generation" role playing games.

Missing image
The 10-sided die is the only one of the basic dice that is not a regular polyhedron.
This 20-sided die is an important part of the new .
This 20-sided die is an important part of the new d20 system.

The dice used, and what they are typically used for, are:

d2 – generally a coin flipped for small amounts of damage (e.g. shuriken). Alternatively a regular die may be rolled, as the resulting number will be even or odd with a 50% probability.

d3 – generally printed on a cube with two sets of numbers (two 1s, two 2s, two 3s), its results can also be generated by rolling a d6 and dividing the result by two (rounding up) or by counting 4-6 as 1-3 respectively. Used for small amounts of damage (e.g. daggers, unarmed damage and very small creatures’ natural weapons).

d4 – The tetrahedron is 4-sided. Used for weapon damage and the hit points of a weak creature, this is the average health of a level 1 Wizard or Sorcerer with average constitution, or the damage caused by a medium-sized dagger, dart or hand crossbow.

d6 – The hexahedron or cube is 6-sided. A d6 is a standard die found in many board games, and is what most non-roleplaying gamers think of when they think of dice. Used like a d4, this is the average health of a level 1 Rogue or Bard with average constitution, or the damage caused by a short sword, quarterstaff or short bow. Spell damage is often measured in d6, e.g. a level 10 fireball is 10d6.

d8 – The octahedron is 8-sided. Used like a d4, this is the average health of a level 1 Cleric, Druid, Monk or Ranger with average constitution, and the damage caused by a long-sword, lance or longbow.

d10 – is 10-sided, with a unique top-like shape. Used like a d4, this is the average health of a level 1 Fighter or Paladin with average constitution, and the damage caused by a halberd, dwarven waraxe or heavy crossbow.

d12 – The dodecahedron is 12-sided. Used rarely as a hit or damage die in newer rule sets, but used as the health die for the Barbarian class and associated Prestige Classes.

d20 – The icosahedron is 20-sided. The most-used die, is used for most checks of ability, (e.g. trying to open a stuck door, attack rolls, or attempting to barter for a low price). These are the most common rolls in the d20 System, hence its name.

d100 – is 100-sided or two 10-sided (one d10 for tens and another for units). Usually referred to as a "Percentile die", 00 is generally read as 100% but in some cases is 0%. Primarily used for random generation from large charts and to check percentage chances (e.g. wearing light armour gives a 5% chance of failure when casting a spell).

In addition to the above dice, certain companies produce d5, d7, d16, d24, d30, and d50 dice, but they are so rarely used that their presence in a collection is often merely for the sake of completeness. Many campaigns have created tables that use both d24 and d30 dice. Ebay occasionally features booklets of tables for use with d30 dice. While d24 and d30 dice were rarely used in the past due to their unavailablity, they are now coming into more common usage.

The new d20 System bases most rolls around a 20-sided die, which allows for more nuances than a six-sided die, though some systems (notably, the White Wolf d10 system, and the Shadowrun d6 system) find ways to generate rich results with other dice. Roleplayers often debate which system is "best", as different systems have varying degrees of simplicity, realism, game balance, and randomness.

Some role-playing gamers also use tops to augment dice in generating randomized results. Other random generation systems are used, for variety, but for effectiveness either dice or electronic solutions are standard.

Another easy substitute: Deck of cards without Jack, Queen or King, reds low, blacks high, is an instant d20.

Miniature figures

Dungeons & Dragons continued the use of miniature figures in much the same way they were used in its direct precursor, Chainmail, and other miniature-based wargame systems. These miniature figures represent characters—fighters, mages, dwarves, and so on—and monsters, adding to the immersiveness of the game.

In the 1980s, numerous companies sprung up offering miniature figures for D&D and related role-playing games. Some of the most respected were Ral Partha and Citadel, noted for their high-quality and attention to detail. TSR even partnered itself with one miniature manufacturer, Grenadier, and released their figures under the D&D brand. Despite this clever marketing partnership, Grenadier figures were usually derided for poor quality and unrealistic proportions.

Miniatures were used in a variety of ways. Often they were placed on acetate-covered graph paper with walls and other entities drawn with grease pencils. As the adventurers advanced, the grease pencil markings could be wiped off and a new area drawn. Some players would build entire floor tiles and walls sets from wood or cardboard and would invest in large inventories of trees and other location objects to make the gaming even more immersive.

As with dice, many players became attached to certain figures in their collection. Many players spent hours carefully painting their figures with exacting detail. This attachment still exists today and, even though pre-painted figures are now readily available, the hobby of miniature figure painting is still very popular.

Over time, Dungeons & Dragons (and other role-playing games) evolved beyond the need for miniatures as an aid to line-of-sight resolution and combat. Challenges within the game began to require interaction, association, and problem solving. Gameplay became rather more portable as players and referees discovered that miniatures weren't essential, though they are still heavily used and heavily promoted even in the 3.5 edition.

Eventually, Dungeons & Dragons returned to its wargaming roots with the development of rules systems for miniatures-based wargaming. Supplements such as Swords and Spells and Battle System provided rules systems to depict battles between armies of men, goblins, elves, perhaps one or more dragons and giants, etc. Individual figures would (once again) represent 10 or 20 man-sized combatants, though one dragon miniature would represent one dragon.

As of 2003, however, Wizards of the Coast created the Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures Game, which involved plastic, randomly assorted, prepainted figurines, which could be used with either the role-playing game or the new miniatures game. As of April 2005, six different 'sets' for the game are available (Harbinger, Dragoneye, Archfiends, Giants of Legend, Aberrations and Deathknell) with at least two more planned (Anglefire and Underdark). In the miniatures game, there is a one miniature: one character ratio.

Related products

Films and animations

A popular Dungeons & Dragons animated series was produced in 1983. CBS cancelled it after 27 episodes[1] (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085011/). The series has its share of fans, but most role-players during the 1980s did not consider it representative of the game. Produced by Toei Animation, the style bore more resemblance to anime than traditional fantasy.

The board game DragonStrike, which used a simplified form of D&D, included an instructional video tape in which costumed actors, combined with computer-generated imagery, played the characters and monsters from the board game.

A movie, Dungeons & Dragons, very loosely based on the gaming conventions, was released in 2000. It was a box office bomb. Despite this, filming was completed in 2004 for a sequel, Dungeons & Dragons 2: The Elemental Might.

In 2003, a computer animated motion picture entitled Scourge of Worlds was produced for DVD, featuring iconic characters created for the Third Edition. In keeping with the spirit of the game, this is an interactive movie that asks viewers to decide what actions the heroes should take at crucial points in the story, allowing hundreds of different story-telling combinations.

While not actually a D&D product, the anime Record of the Lodoss War is strongly influenced by the game.

In the film ET, a scene near the beginning shows boys playing D&D in the kitchen. The game is not mentioned by name, because TSR refused to allow mention of the trademark when the movie was made.

The characters of Buffy the Vampire Slayer play a game of D&D in the series finale, which also contains a reference to Trogdor the Burninator from Homestar Runner.


The best known parody of the game is called Summoner Geeks. Writer Dan Harmon and animator Tim Borrelli created the animated short using characters from the "Summoner" and "Red Faction" PC games. The audio that accompanies the animation is from the Dead Alewives, a Wisconsin-based comedy troupe. An audio sequel to the original piece exists, but has not been animated.

Another parody of the game is "8-bit D&D"[2] (http://www.flashplayer.com/animation/8bitdnd.html), a Flash animated movie loosely based off the 8-bit Theater web comic. This movie also has the aforementioned Dead Alewives audio. Numerous other web comics exist which cover D&D and role-playing in general (generally in a satirical fashion); among them are "Dork Tower", "Nodwick"[3] (http://archive.gamespy.com/comics/nodwick/) and "Order of the Stick"[4] (http://giantitp.com/cgi-bin/GiantITP/ootscript).

The Seattle-based Dead Gentleman comedy troupe produced The Gamers, a film which cut between real-life gamers at the table and their fantasy counterparts. A sequel, The Gamers: Second Edition, is in the works.

Comic singer Stephen Lynch also has a song called "D&D" on one of his albums which pokes lighthearted fun at the game.

Computer and video games

For a full list of licensed D&D computer and video games, see List of Dungeons & Dragons computer and video games.

A number of D&D and AD&D licensed computer and video games have been released. Most, but not all, are computer role-playing games that use rules derived from some version of the D&D rules. D&D-based games released for video game consoles tend to focus directly on action rather than on the development of a character's statistics or personality. Most traditional console role-playing games are based on structured, linear plots involving pre-generated protagonists, and are typically lighter on statistics than the average D&D game.

Fifty-three computer RPGs, ten console video games and two arcade games had been released and sold under the D&D license as of October 2004; almost half of these games were developed by SSI, many of which were released under the "Gold Box" product line. Most use licensed D&D rules, while a few others use the more recent open-source d20 system for game mechanics as well as trademarks which are licensed from Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro.

In D&D computer games, the rules are usually modified to enhance PC-based gameplay. Some players go so far as to say that computerized versions are so different from pen-and-paper games that they really are different experiences, and shouldn't be lumped together. Neverwinter Nights was developed such that the ruleset can be faithfully implemented, while providing computer users the convenience to convene over a network with a digitally-enhanced visualization of the exploration areas.

Recently, Turbine has secured the rights to produce a MMORPG, Dungeons & Dragons Online, based in the Eberron campaign world. It is scheduled for release in 2005.

While the game is not officially licensed, the popular 1980s arcade game Gauntlet is also seen as being influenced by the D&D game. Many other CRPGs, such as the numerous Roguelike games, are directly or indirectly based on the D&D game.

Handheld digital media, such as the Game Boy, have also seen a share of the D&D digitial games. Four games as of 2004 can be found on handheld devices. A version of Neverwinter Nights (2002) was ported to a wireless handheld communications device, or mobile phone. This ported game was affectionately named Neverwinter Nights: Mobile and was released in 2004.

Board games

Seven board games were also sold under the D&D license. One of them, Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game in 1980 was the original board game which was a computer/board game hybrid and the first D&D licensed game that contained digital electronics.


Magazines devoted to supporting Dungeons & Dragons include Dungeon Magazine and Dragon Magazine.


A great many original novels—more than a few hundred—have been published based upon the many worlds of Dungeons and Dragons and its spin-offs such as Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance. In 2002-2004 a series of novels based upon the iconic characters created for the Third Edition was published.

Criticism and controversies

The game's commercial success led to lawsuits between Arneson and Gygax starting in 1979, over issues of royalties, particularly for AD&D for which Arneson was not given credit by TSR. Those suits were settled out of court by 1981.

Beyond lawsuits, greater controversies have surrounded D&D due to allegations of its connections to devil worship, as well as claims that RPGs in general lead to suicide. These allegations were popularized in a novel called Mazes and Monsters by Rona Jaffe. The book was turned into a TV movie featuring a young Tom Hanks in the key role of a mentally unstable collegian who experiences psychotic episodes and loses himself in the game world. It should be noted that the allegations in the book and film were based on faulty interpretation of William Dear's 1979 investigation. Dear, a private investigator, searched for a wealthy college student, James Dallas Egbert III. While the search proved successful, the brilliant and depressed boy committed suicide after a quarrel with his wealthy, domineering father. Dear later wrote The Dungeon Master: The Disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III [5] (http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=1669998) written from case notes. The author described his own experiences learning D&D, as a key to understanding Egbert's withdrawal from reality. Dear also makes it implicitly clear that Egbert's suicide had more to with family troubles than with roleplaying games. [6] (http://ptgptb.org/0006/egbert.html)

One of the big names in the anti-D&D movement was Patricia Pulling. Pulling founded Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons (BADD), a one-person organization, after her son (Irving "Bink" Pulling) committed suicide which she believed was from playing the famous RPG Dungeons & Dragons. Pulling wrote Interviewing Techniques For Adolescents (1988), a primer for police officers who are dealing with crimes that involve role-playing games. Michael A. Stackpole wrote The Pulling Report [7] (http://www.rpg.net/sites/252/quellen/stackpole/pulling_report.html) in 1990 debunking Pulling's claims.

Chick Publications produced a comic book tract called "Dark Dungeons"[8] (http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0046/0046_01.asp) about a girl who got involved in witchcraft through a role-playing game, and cast a spell on her father to make him buy her books and miniatures.

Such negative portrayals of role-players, ironically, may have originated from an initial inability of some outside observers to properly differentiate between reality and the immersive role-playing aspects of game play. Misperception has been the major prejudice that role-players have had to face over the years. Some religious individuals consider roleplaying games immoral or irreligious for multiple reasons, most commonly due to game uses of magic, spells, the worship of pagan gods, the glorification of violence, and the use of supernatural powers (whose game uses are not always distinguished from reality by observers). Such accusations continued well beyond the 1980s and into the 1990s. There have been numerous studies exploring this allegation that have generally concluded that not only does D&D not seem to encourage suicide, but players of this kind of game are in fact less prone to take their own lives. For example, studies conducted by Michael Stackpole show that the suicide rate is actually lower among gamers than non-gamers.

Often this connection is pointed out when young people are indicted for crimes, such as a 2001 murder of Robert M. Schwartz, a prominent scientist in Loudoun County, Virginia. The connection was also made during the investigation of the Stephanie Crowe murder in San Diego, where Stephanie's teenage brother and two friends were accused of the killing because prosecutors said that the killing reflected a brother's hatred of his sister and the three boys' interest in role-playing fantasy games. The three youths maintain they are innocent and a transient named Richard Tuite was later arrested, charged, and convicted of manslaughter. [9] (http://www.courttv.com/trials/tuite/)

The Swedish National Board for Youth Affairs has published a report on "Roleplaying as a Hobby." The report describes roleplaying as a stimulating hobby that promotes creativity. [10] (http://www.ungdomsstyrelsen.se/art/0,2072,5423,00.html)

The controversy involving occult influences on Dungeons & Dragons led TSR to remove lengthy references to demons, devils, and other supernatural monsters commonly associated with "sorcery" in the Second Edition of the game. This included certain arcane and divine spells, such as "Cacodaemon," that pressed such fiends into service in exchange for human sacrifice. For a time, the focus returned to heroic roleplaying, but these supernatural aspects were returned to the core rules of the game with the release of the Third Edition. A few Third Edition products have gone into even further detail on the activities of demons and demon worshippers than those of previous editions, such as the Book of Vile Darkness, which bears a "For Mature Audiences Only" label.

See also

External links

Official sites


Fan sites

  • The Acaeum (http://www.acaeum.com/) – website with voluminous information on classic D&D related paraphernalia
  • Dominus Dracon Digitalis Delectare (http://home.comcast.net/~wajohnsen/dnd/) Information on Dungeons and Dragons digital media (games, movies, utilities)
  • Living City (http://www.livingcity.net/) – devoted to reaching out to gamers in the US and getting them to play more D&D.
  • Sorcerer's Place (http://www.sorcerers.net/) – extensive coverage of modern D&D CRPGs
  • Polaqu (http://dnd.wikicities.com/)Wikicity devoted to building a 3.5e campaign setting from scratch.

Television series

  • IMDB (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085011/) - credits, cast, dates
  • POV Online (http://povonline.com/cols/COL145.htm) - interview with a writer, Phil Mendez
  • Michael Reaves' site (http://www.mindspring.com/~michaelreaves/D&Dpreface.html) - regarding the 'final episode'

Related sites

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