You know all about wizards, elves, dwarves and dungeons, but how much do you know about the history of Dungeons & Dragons and the man who helped create it?
1. Dungeons & Dragons Began A Really Long Time Ago
Not only is Dungeons & Dragons (abbreviated D&D) credited with being the first role-playing game, but its origins date back to 1969 when Gary Gygax met Dave Anderson at the second Gen Con and the two expressed interest in working together to design game rules. Two years later Gygax would pen Chainmail and Anderson would use those rules to take players on their first adventures in his Blackmoor fantasy campaign. This adventure would include the first forays into a dungeon filled with monsters in search of treasure. More recently, Dungeons & Dragons celebrated it’s 40th Anniversary with a series of events in 2014.
2. Over Those Four Decades, D&D Has Been Owned Four Times
The roots took shape in the Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association (a small local wargames club) but Tactical Studies Rules was where it all began for Dungeons & Dragons. That first D&D set emerged in 1974 and featured three booklets shipped in a woodgrain-colored cardboard box. Comprised of Men & Magic, Monsters & Treasure, and Underworld & Wilderness Adventures, this first, hand assembled set sold out its 1000 copy production run in just 11 months. From that initial publishing partnership TSR Hobbies, Inc. took shape in 1975. TSR would later be purchased by Wizards of the Coast (best known at the time for Magic The Gathering) in June of 1997. The most recent and fourth owner became Hasbro in 1999 when Wizards of the Coast became a subsidiary of that company.
3. Forget Chess Club, Make Mine D&D!
In the game’s early cultural heyday of the 1980s, it was not out of the question to see a “Dungeons & Dragons Club” complete with club photos in select high school yearbooks across the country.
Clubs still take shape across high school and college campuses today.
4. The First Book-Length Biography Of Gary Gygax Wasn’t Published Until 2015
Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons by Michael Witwer hit stores shelves on October 6th, 2015 and represents the first book-length biography detailing the life of this much loved and legendary co-founder of D&D.
5. Time And Studies Soften Critics’ Concerns Despite That Tom Hanks Film
As D&D found mass appeal (roughly 3 million players by 1981 and over 750,000 copies sold per year by 1984), the game also found its critics and criticism from a mix of political and religious figures who found the imagery and references concerning. Now, 40 years later over 20 million people have generated more than $1 billion in sales and the case can be made that the world hasn’t suffered but rather has seen its imagination grow following the game’s creation. In fact, many credit the concepts first introduced here as playing a major influence in fiction, film and video games that are still felt today. Additionally, investigations since that time have demonstrated that gamers have a lower suicide rate than non-gamers (Michael A. Stackpole, 1982) and countless studies have shown the positive effects of gaming despite what Tom Hanks’ character in Mazes and Monsters would have you believe.
6. Gary Gygax Was A Church-Going Jehovah’s Witness
As Michael Witwer points out in that book we mentioned above, it is quite ironic that Gygax himself, while being decried by many in the media for creating a supposedly “satanic” game, was in actuality a fairly religious individual and, at times, a door-to-door representative of the church.
7. Gary Gygax Left The Company He Helped Create Early In Its History
After becoming entangled in a prolonged dispute over control of TSR, things made their way to the courts which ultimately led to Gygax selling his ownership interest in the company and walking away in 1985, just 11 years into the long history of this game.
8. You Know All About D&D But How About T&T?
Tunnels & Trolls (abbreviated T&T) was a direct and very early competitor to D&D which utilized many similar concepts to the Gygax/Anderson creation. It was a fantasy role-playing game designed by Ken St. Andre which was first published in 1975 (one year after D&D began) by Flying Buffalo. It holds the title of being the second modern role-playing game published. Interestingly enough, it hasn’t faded away over the years. In fact, in August of 2015, Flying Buffalo published Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls, a 386-page new edition of the rules.
9. The List Of The Game’s Fans In Popular Culture Runs Deep
Individuals such as Stephen Colbert, Vin Diesel, Jon Favreau, Matt Groening, Chris Hardwick, Moby, Mike Myers, Patton Oswalt, Karl Urban, Nathan Fillion, Gerard Way, Wil Wheaton and Robin Williams (to name just a few) have spoken out over the years in support of the game and self identified themselves as players.
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