Friday, January 26, 2024

Fifty Years Ago Today

I'm very interested in the history of Dungeons & Dragons, but I'm not a historian – especially when compared to someone like Jon Peterson. Consequently, if Jon opines that January 26, 1974 is the day on which D&D was released – and, therefore, the game's birthday – I'm inclined to trust his judgment. So, happy birthday Dungeons & Dragons! For the last half-century, you've entertained untold millions of people across the globe, providing them with a delightful means to exercise their imaginations together with their friends. 

Dungeons & Dragons played an outsize role in popularizing fantasy literature, ideas, and themes, as well as inspiring many of its devotees to create their own. Roleplaying, as a formal activity, owes nearly its entire existence to the phenomenal success of D&D. Even more remarkable is the extent to which the computer and video game industry, which is bigger and more profitable than the music and movie industries combined, owes a huge debt to the example set by D&D. If you play any game with classes or levels or experience or hit points today, that's because of Dungeons & Dragons.

It's slightly crazy if you think about it. Two wargamers from the American Midwest created an entirely new type of entertainment, one that, over the course of five decades, changed the world forever. That's no small accomplishment – and it's certainly worth celebrating. 

18 comments:

  1. Actually, according to Jon, it's the last Sunday of Jan, not the 26th of Jan as such (it was so in 2014).
    "For all the reasons listed above, it's probably impossible to narrow in on one date and say with any certainty that this is when the game was released. But if we need to celebrate somewhere in the neighborhood of late January, then the last Sunday of the month (this year, the 26th) seems like the best candidate."

    But anyway, happy birthday, D&D! :)

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    1. In that case, it'd be the 27th, I think, so close enough :)

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  2. HIP HIP....HOOORAYYYY... (or Huzzah if you are a super nerd, right?)

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  3. Pshaw, nothing on the Wizards of the Coast D&D website about this being the 50th anniversary of the game. I wonder if the top folks there decided the age of the game is a liability...?

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    1. As Seji noted, Jon Peterson actually suggested celebrating on the last Sunday of every January, just as many other holidays fall on a specific day of a month rather than a fixed date. It just happened to be the 26th when he wrote that piece. WotC's got another two days before they've missed it. Should be interesting to see if they do something Sunday. It's not as though they're unaware of Peterson's work, but of course Hasbro is a soulless greed machine and might not care if they can't see a profit to be made exploiting it.

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    2. Actually, as a 'celebration' of the fact that this year is the 50th birthday, WotC is releasing revised D&D core rulebooks this year (PHB,DM,MM), and a new book about the creation of original D&D by Gygax/Arneson.

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    3. @Anon - which goes to Dick's point- they found a, "profit to made exploiting it."

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    4. @Norwegian Blue @Dick McGee

      Hrm. I'm not sure. If a commercial entity (which is obviously there to make profit, no doubt) produces products that I actually want to buy because I like them, does that still count as 'exploiting' ?

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  4. Ha, Happy Birthday D&D for sure! Thank you James for posting.

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  5. Happy birthday, D&D! Here's to (at least) 50 more!

    Jon Peterson's work suggests that the "two wargamers" should really be three, as Dave Wesley's Braunstein games form a significant part of the creation process. Chainmail + Braunstein => Blackmoor => The Fantasy Game => Dungeons & Dragons.

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    1. Fair point, although it's hard enough even getting poor Dave credit where credit is due. Gygax tends to dominate the conversation in much the same way Stan Lee shoves Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko out of the panel frame.

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  6. So, I first encountered D&D just five years later in 1979. Crazy. I was in 6th grade going into 7th and someone at summer camp had the Monster Manual. But my friend and I didn't start playing until 2 years later with Moldvay in 1981.

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    1. My experience was the same, but flipped. I first encountered the game at school in 1979, watching older kids play during recess, presumably Holmes/Basic D&D. (All I noticed was the blue dice, lead figures, and talk of fighters, wizards, dragons, and treasure.) Two years later, after pleading with my parents, I received the DMG, PHB, and MM for Christmas. To this day, it is the only Christmas that I can remember.

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  7. As a rite in celebration of D&D's birth, this makes my trip today to the local comics store with the used RPG section very apropos...

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  8. I started gaming in early 78, and learned from folks who got into the hobby on the ground floor with the '74 boxed set but were transitioning to all the second-wave stuff that came out in 77-8 (1E AD&D's slow roll out; RQ; Melee; Traveller; En Garde!; C&S; T&T; City State stuff; the Perrin conventions; etc.). There have been so many games published over the last 50 years that it's easy to forget all the wildly creative and well-made stuff that was made in those few years in the second half of the 70's, ALL of it a direct reaction to '74 D&D.

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  9. Started in '76 with the White Box and quickly acquired Greyhawk and Blackmoor (Christmas present that cost $5). The White Box was only $10, but that was a lot to a 16 year old back then. That was the golden age of RPGs with Traveler, Runequest, Tunnels & Trolls and even Empire of the Petal Throne. So much enjoyment over the many years.

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  10. The birthday of D&D is the first day you played the game.

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