30d6 fireball: AD&D turns 30 this Week

Dungeons and Dragons turned 30 this week. I listened to the NPR story with some excitement - it also mentioned the GenCon kickoff, also this week. The story asserted that AD&D was "hugely influential" in defining how computer games, and MMOGs, look-and-feel today. There were a number of aspects to this claim: 1.) the "geek overlap" (programmers and AD&Ders); 2.) AD&D made palatable numeric models of behavior (percentile dice thing); 3.) cooperative (multi-)play; ... How much influence do you think AD&D really had?

Or is this event just a nostalgic throwback to circa Aerosmith staged for the Yu-Gi-Oh! era?


Also:

See Dungeons & Dreamers: The Rise of Computer Gaming Culture From Geek to Chic. Here is the BBC story. Here is BoingBoing's post (Gamespy citation). See also SlashDot's take here and here.


Comments on 30d6 fireball: AD&D turns 30 this Week:

Kirk Job-Sluder says:

I think that point three is a more important point than the other two. At the heart of D&D is a notion of gameplay as collaborative storytelling. Even though the mechanical game system has long been bettered by other game systems, the concept of a shared constructed fictional reality would become the basis for dozens of other games, MUDs and MOOs, and their current incarnations as virtual worlds.

Posted Aug 21, 2004 12:29:56 PM | link

Brian Whitener says:

A Dicebag of Dungeons and Dragons Documentaries
http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=04/08/20/1840252

Posted Aug 21, 2004 12:32:17 PM | link

Nathan Combs says:

Hmmm, I wonder if the actual date was earlier in the year (see D&D@30: How r u celebrating?)... Which then begs the question: is recent press keying off of another baseline event (vs. publication date) or is it some current stimulus (e.g. GenCon)? Or in the best traditions of AD&D storytelling, are we witnessing a cultural mutation of history to correlate with the warmer weather in the northern hemisphere?

Posted Aug 22, 2004 11:12:30 AM | link

Tobold says:

I think the big influence of D&D is that it taught us to think of our "characters" as having "levels" and "stats". The idea of playing to make your character stronger still has a strong pull on many people, even if the "playing" itself has already become boring.

Posted Aug 23, 2004 1:06:36 AM | link

ren says:

Nate > Hmmm, I wonder if the actual date was earlier in the year (see D&D@30: How r u celebrating?)... Which then begs the question: is recent press keying off of another baseline event (vs. publication date) or is it some current stimulus (e.g. GenCon)?

Well pinning down ‘the anniversary’ is difficult as there are a few notable dates. According to the net based research I have done: the first version of D&D was the ‘pre-production’ version that was ‘released’ at the 1973 Eastercon. The first published edition was at GenCon but in January 1974 – so I guess they are using the GenCon event rather than date.

Though I wonder if all the hoopla is more to do with the UK parliament in recess, between the two conventions in the US might have something to do with it - especially as October is the official Worldwide D&D Game Day.


Oh BBC4 did a nice documentary called Dicing with Dragons, but I can’t find a stream of it.

Posted Aug 23, 2004 3:15:30 AM | link

ashultz says:

Well, given that almost every fantasy mmorpg out there has fighter/cleric/rogue/wizard/ranger, elf/dwarf/gnome/halfling/half-orc,
fireball/lightning bolt/magic missile

I could go on, but even aside from the general concepts already listed the number of somewhat more specific D&D organization elements that are now canonical is huge.

Posted Aug 23, 2004 11:21:28 AM | link

Flatfingers says:

The same three things occurred to me as well:

1. Roleplaying as improvisational storytelling: you assume the persona of a character in a story told on the fly by multiple actors.

2. Roleplaying as numerically-defined abilities, in particular skill levels and personal attributes (STR, DEX, INT, etc.).

3. Fantasy milieu.

Each of these features is apparently so fundamental that they will be with us forever.

Posted Aug 23, 2004 12:56:50 PM | link

CherryBomb says:

Hee-hee, I think I still have the original manual for D & D, complete with miserable artwork, up in my attic somewhere. Maybe I should try to flog it on ebay as memorabilia.

I was a geek college freshman in 1974, and I can testify that the group of kids playing D & D were almost identical to the one playing "Star Trek" on TTY's around campus at night. The basic structure of Dungeons and Dragons (levels, skills and character types) was stamped into the brains of the people who designed the first MOG's. Lots of bells and whistles have been added since then, but most of the games still have that same basic framework.

The dice-rolling thing, though, was around before D & D. People were already using it as a randomizer in various board war-games.

Posted Aug 25, 2004 2:53:46 PM | link

CherryBomb says:

Hee-hee, I think I still have the original manual for D & D, complete with miserable artwork, up in my attic somewhere. Maybe I should try to flog it on ebay as memorabilia.

I was a geek college freshman in 1974, and I can testify that the group of kids playing D & D were almost identical to the one playing "Star Trek" on TTY's around campus at night. The basic structure of Dungeons and Dragons (levels, skills and character types) was stamped into the brains of the people who designed the first MOG's. Lots of bells and whistles have been added since then, but most of the games still have that same basic framework.

The dice-rolling thing, though, was around before D & D. People were already using it as a randomizer in various board war-games.

Posted Aug 25, 2004 2:55:54 PM | link

Roger says:

D&D's originality is often overestimated; it was derived directly from an already quite active tabletop wargaming scene and initially wasn't all that different from those Chainmail-type games. Still, its influence on video games' ideas of character has been enormous.

Even if the idea that character traits can be expressed on a set of numeric scales ultimately reaches back to the nineteenth-century human sciences (reaching the present through those tightly-coupled twins eugenics and testing), the immediate source of this idea in gaming was certainly D&D. And D&D introduced the logical extension of this quantification of character: rather than simply assigning the numbers, it commodified them within a codified game economy (of "experience"). In D&D there is a complete coupling of the acquisitive urge (not to say commodity fetishism!) with the mechanics of an explanation of human character. This idea has since become enormously pervasive in games, and even if it was present beforehand in a submerged way in the culture as a whole, it took the D&D fad to make it explicit.

Posted Sep 2, 2004 10:52:22 AM | link