The History and Movement of Dungeons and Dragons

Dungeons and Dragons. These three words bring many thoughts to many different people. People think about nerds, geeks, dorks. Others think of fun, adventurous, stimulating. Some people think of live action role playing (LARPing). The bottom line is that Dungeons and Dragons has been around for quite some time, and has entertained millions of people around the world due to its open world, open imagination based game. Dungeons and Dragons has expanded into a multi-billion dollar idea that has spawned many copies of the D20 system.

Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) was first published in 1974. The game quickly grew in popularity and the demand for the basic book sky-rocketed. D&D is a D20 system. D20 systems are role-playing games where each player has a character sheet with statistics, equipment, spells, race, age, class, and other abilities. Players play on either a mat or some other form of board with which the Dungeon Master (DM) molds his story for the players enjoyment. It is called a D20 system because most actions require the player to roll a 20 sided die. D stands for die, 20 the number of sides on the die. In D&D the D20 is used to attack, make saving throws to avoid spell damage, or to use an ability such as stealth or intimidation. Damage rolls on successful attack rolls usually use D6, D8, D10, or D12s. The main focus players have in their characters are the abilities and attacks they can perform. Abilities and attacks depend greatly upon the class of the character.

Dungeons and Dragons has a plethora of classes for players to choose from. They can choose from a basic fighter, barbarian, sorcerer, wizard, bard, cleric, monk, paladin, to even a druid. There are well over 40 different classes for players to choose from and even more prestige (expansion) classes. Each class has different abilities and play a different role in the party. Players can choose from being a melee damage (rogue), ranged damage (archer, wizard), support character (bard), healer (cleric), or a tank type of character (barbarian). Dungeons and Dragons was set up to be a team game that required every player to take his role seriously. Like the common phrase says, “You only as strong as your weakest link”. If a groups healer is fooling around in combat, the entire team can suffer. The use of roles ensures everyone has an equal playing field in terms of their importance to the party.

Perhaps the greatest part of D&D is the length games can go on for. One game of D&D consists of sessions. Each session can last anywhere from one hour to an entire day depending on how dedicated and free the players and DM are. Games consist of these sessions and certain games can last several years, even up to 10+ years of gaming. I’ve personally played in games that have been going on for 3 years now and have grown attached to my character. Dungeons and Dragons is perhaps the only game that people become attached to their characters on a normal basis. Although it may take several gaming sessions, many people begin to envelope themselves in their character and each decision they make.

Many people believe D&D sessions are always a Dungeon adventure that ends with killing dragons or saving the princess. However, luckily for most gamers, the man behind D&D, Gary Gygax, added alignments to each characters. You character may be lawful, neutral, or chaotic. Several DMs make their adventures chaotic only, which leads to many characters doing whatever they want, when they want. Several of my sessions have been focused on internal issues with our party instead of external issues such as what has red eyes and is looking at us while we set up camp at night.

In my experience, the easiest characters to begin playing Dungeons and Dragons are fighters. Fighters must know their Armor Class (AC), Health Points (HP), and what attacks they can perform. Fighters have the least amount of material that needs to be memorized in order to play effectively. Although they are a simple class to play, they can play a great role in any party. Upon learning the basics of the game, experiences players may explore into the Arcane or Diving classes such as the cleric, druid, or wizard. These classes must know the same information as fighters, but must also pay attention to their spells. A good wizard knows what spells to use and when. Casting classes are limited in their spell casting capabilities and if they run out of spells, they must resort to hand to hand combat. A Wizard fighting in hand to hand combat is much like a quarterback attempting to tackle a linebacker in football.

Dungeons and Dragons is a game meant to be played by anyone. The game is only limited by your imagination. I’ve played D&D with a wide range of characters. From 16 year old punks to 65 year old grandfathers and everything in-between. It takes an open mind to try Dungeon and Dragons out for the first time, but it doesn’t take a nerd or geek to enjoy playing it. I consider Dungeons and Dragons to be the equivalent of a video game, except it was first created when video games were barely even known about. Today, everyone knows what video games are and the majority of citizens enjoy playing them. If people were to try D&D just once, I’m sure they would an enjoyable experience. Dungeons and Dragons games can be found in many places. You’re able to find groups that play online or you can even walk into a comic shop and ask if they host games. D&D is more popular than most people expect. Through the use of imagination and the collective thoughts of many willing participants, Dungeons and Dragons has grown from a home-made basement gathering to a world-wide game enjoyed by millions.

Amelia J. Bell

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