What are Dungeons & Dragons and similar games?
D&D is a fantasy role-playing game created and originally published by Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax who
founded the Tactical Studies Rules Association (TSR) in 1973. It was an evolutionary
step from earlier war games or military simulations. The game was first marketed 1974. It
gained great popularity among teens and young adults. Random House obtained the
rights to distribute the game in 1979. In 1997, rights to the game were
obtained by Wizards of the
Coast. The D&D brand now belongs to Hasbro. Dozens of other companies have since published
hundreds of similar games under a variety of titles, such as DragonQuest.,
RuneQuest, Tunnels and Trolls, and Villains and Vigilantes. The games
fall into many genres:
- fantasy games (e.g. Dungeons and Dragons)
- horror games (e.g. Call of Cthulhu)
- science fiction games (e.g. Traveler)
- cyberpunk (e.g. Cyberpunk 2020)
- comic book (e.g. Champions)
- historical games (e.g. Boot Hill)
- Generic games (e.g. GURPS). These allow you to learn a single set of game rules and
apply them to any setting.
These games are played by groups of two or more people; 4 to 7 are typical. One player
is commonly called the Game Master (GM) who defines the imaginary environment in which the game is
played. Sometimes the GM is referred to as Dungeon Master, Storyteller, Referee, etc.
He/she creates a make-believe world through which the players will move and have their
adventures. The players each create a single imaginary character, defining their shape,
race, intellectual and physical powers, armament, protective devices, supplies and
materials. The GM decides what traps, obstacles and encounters the imaginary characters
will meet. Sometimes the GM holds the post for a long time; in other groups, the job
rotates among the membership.
Adventures may include play-acting the rescuing of people, the quest for money,
treasure, power, knowledge and sometimes even survival of the pretend character. Each
player makes ethical, philosophical, physical, and moral decisions on behalf of her/his imaginary
character as the game develops. The GM describes the environment, the events and the
actions of supporting characters (also called non-player characters or NPC's). The players
describe their pretend character's actions and reactions. The GM then tells them the
results of each event. Many games use the rolling of dice in order to resolve conflicts and to determine
the results of various actions (e.g. trying to disarm a trap or leap across a chasm,
etc.). Future sessions begin where the previous session quit. Games can continue for
A few gamers use a system called Live Action Role Play (LARP) in which the
players actually act out the roles of their characters. Sometimes, they dress up in
costumes as if in a live play. Some regular gamers do not view LARPs in a positive light.
The society in which Dungeons and Dragons is played is typically pre-scientific.
Weapons are at the spear and crossbow level. Some characters may be imagined as having
telepathic powers, others as being capable of casting magic spells. Other fantasy
role-playing games are set in the wild west, in the far future, etc.
Who plays fantasy role playing games?
Players are usually in their teens to early 30's, who may be above average in
intelligence, creativity and imagination. (Perhaps persons with these qualities are
naturally drawn to the games; perhaps playing the game develops these factors). Many
younger players will meet for a game once a week; others once or twice a month. The
session might last about 6 hours.
"Game positive" Internet references:
The following WWW pages are "game positive":
- The Greatest Mindz Project "is a project meant to
enhance, reform, and help out the RPG community online...WebMasters,
Publishers, and Writers of RPG...are welcome to browse as a guest, and
then request an invitation" to join. See: http://soulrpg.intranets.com/
- Dragons Lodge offers DM tips, player tactics, etc. See: http://dragonslodge.homestead.com/
- "Games Domain" is a clearinghouse for information on role-playing and
other games. See: http://www.gamesdomain.co.uk
- The Christian Gamers Guild (formerly the Christian Role-Playing Gamers
Association) is at: http://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/Arcade/2964/
- "Studies about fantasy role-playing games" has an impressive list of scientific studies,
descriptive overviews, pro and anti-RPG essays etc. See: http://www.rpgstudies.net/
- CAR-PGa, The Committee for the Advancement of Role-Playing Games, has an official
site at: http://members.aol.com/waltonwj/carpga.htm
- Michael A. Stackpole has written the "Pulling Report" concerning the founder
of B.A.D.D.. The full text (130k) is at: http://www.rpg.net/252/quellen/stackpole/
- "Role-playing" is at: http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Hollow/5690/index.html
- Amusing D & D satire:
- The following WWW site is a not-to-be-missed example of satire
from Finland at:
"I didn't think anyone would take it seriously...Thousands of
people...read the page, and a few percent of them apparently took it seriously.
They started to e-mail me, and I started collecting the e-mails. I have over 5
megabytes archive...I "enhanced" the page by adding the most
outrageous and ridiculous claims I could think of, I added deliberate typos,
many contradictions, and silly links, hoping that even the most ignorant person
would immediately realize that the page is a joke. It didn't help...More hate
mail kept coming no matter what."
- Niilo Paasivirta has another fascinating Web parody on RPGs: "The Game of Satan: The Two Edged
sword of Vengance [sic] agaisnt [sic] so-called 'role-players'" at
http://www.ilmatar.net/~np/gameofsatan/ He cautions strongly
against "washing machines with transparent lid." He is concerned that: "Seeing
underwear in the machine might arouse sinful thoughts!"
warns that RPG players will:
"... become satan worshippers and cultists who practice
black magic, ritual sacrifice, homosexuality,
bisexuality, transvetitism [sic], voyeurism,
semitism, communism, necrophilia, sadism, masochism, domination, marxism,
pornography...flag burning, fetishism, atheism,
jewishness, bondage, spiritism, fascism, anal sex, neo-nazism, ritual cannibalism,
occultism, pagan religions, sorcery, sin, arson...satanism,
witchcraft, shamanism, incest,
adultery and sodomy, feminism, also they drink human blood, listen to heavy metal and rock
music, promote evolution theory instead of creationism, use hard drugs and try to summon
real demons...All of these victims eventually commit suicide or live rest of their lives
in a mental hospital. Satan has taken their soul and they will burn in
HELL for eternity!"
His site has won many awards, including ones from the Church of Xaos, Lame Site Award, Irritation
Award and Cosmic Jackass Award. Apparently, some of the
award givers do not realize that the web site is a joke intended to poke
fun at conservative Christians who criticize RPGs. It is similar to the
Landover Baptist Church web site, at
Copyright© 1996 to 2008 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update: 2008-SEP-05
Author: B.A. Robinson