History Of Dungeons & Dragons: RPGs Roll +2 Popularity In The '70s

By | August 28, 2018

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Cover art from the first edition of the Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook, published 1978. Source: forgottenrealms.fandom.com

In 1974, the board game industry was turned upside down with the introduction of Dungeons and Dragons, the first fantasy role-playing game (or RPG) that was created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson of Wisconsin. Although the original D&D game was less complex than subsequent ones, it nonetheless captures the attention of the American public with its unique blend of fantasy, storytelling, medieval life and war play that gave players the flexibility to create and develop their own characters. Dungeons and Dragons, the best-known role-playing game, spawned a burst of copycat games and garnered some negative publicity in the 1970s, but has persevered to lead cosplay and role-playing conventions and helped to create a subculture of role-playing gamers. 

D&D In The Beginning

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In the beginning, there were miniature war games. These were model-based board games in which players manipulated entire armies that were represented by game pieces, such as canons or horses. Jeff Perren created, from this, a medieval-based miniature war game called Chainmail. From this foundation, Arneson tweaked the game so that players controlled individuals rather than entire armies. He showed his variation to his friend, Gygax. Gygax added in an element of fantasy to the game, with wizards and mystics, and an assortment of mythical beasts. The game evolved from a miniature war game to a true role-playing game after undergoing numerous transitions.