From the Science Fiction Book Club’s Altiverse newsletter:
Historians can’t be certain, but Dungeons & Dragons likely began in a dungeon . . . make that a basement. In the early 1970s, Dave Arneson and E. Gary Gygax were two pals who’d cultivated a novel hobby: using homemade miniature figures to stage historical battles. As they honed their pocket-sized epic vision, the pair began to develop specific characters in their landscape, each individual personality determining the outcome of fictive battles and other scenarios. This dynamic “roleplaying” concept–plus an ever-expanding fantasy-medieval universe tinged with magic–shaped the bare bones pen-and-paper games Arneson and Gygax began selling in 1974. Thirty years later, that modestly packaged yet imaginatively supercharged game has evolved into a worldwide pop culture phenomenon. Always growing in complexity and sophistication, Dungeons & Dragons became its own industry, yielding board games, video games, die-cast figures, comics, books subdivided into dozens of specialized series (Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, and many others) and several TV/movie projects. Just as importantly, it birthed the entire roleplaying game category, and inspired generations of game designers–not to mention artists, writers and enthusiasts.
After some forays into the world of tabletop wargames, I was introduced to role-playing games in junior high when I discovered Traveller. I floundered around a bit, trying to get my mind around the limitless possibilities of the format, when a friend returned from college during Christmas break with an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook and a set of weird-shaped dice.
Twenty years later, here I am.
To say that wargames and role-playing games had a major impact on my life would be an understatement. When approached in a good, healthy way, these sorts of diversions can be not only harmless entertainment, but a sort of training ground for fertile minds and active imaginations.
In high school, in fact, I gave a speech in debate class about the good that role-playing games can bring. I didn’t convince my teacher, although she did give me a note saying that she would consider what I said. I did get an ‘A’, though.
Also from the newsletter:
- Back to basics: Players can revisit or introduce themselves to D & D’s roots with the new “Basics Set,” a retro-friendly box set modeled after the game’s earliest years, featuring revamped rulebooks, mapboards, dice, and 16 miniatures, to be released in September.
- Read all about it: 30 Years of Adventure, a coffee-table-worthy oversized book, will feature sumptuous illustrations and essays from big names in gaming and entertainment about the incomparable effect of D&D in their creative lives, with publication scheduled for October.
- Mini D & D: Last year’s successful launch of D & D Miniatures (the Harbinger and Dragoneye sets) set the stage for over 100 additional miniature gaming figures to be released throughout the year: the monstrous Archfiends set and the Giants of Lore set, all based on the legendary characters and creatures of D & D.
- Pros and “Cons”: At this year’s Gen Con in Indianapolis, Indiana August 19-22, Wizards of the Coast will host the “gamer gala” to end them all, with special appearances by artists, authors and game designers, a special D & D timeline and a blowout party.
- I’d like to teach the world to D & D . . . : This October, hobby and toy stores all over the world will be united in a special day sponsored by Wizards of the Coast, one devoted to bringing newcomers into the fold of D & D game play (date to be announced).
I quote so much here because it is only available via email, and I can’t link to it. Pictured is the cover of the Player’s Handbook as it was when I started playing, nearly ten years after the very first Dungeons & Dragons material was available but before the game took off and dominated the game market for years.