Dungeons and Dragons

D&D, the game that lets you save the maiden, slay a dragon and become a hero; all without leaving your kitchen table.

Just The Facts

  1. Dungeons and Dragons was created by the team of Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, and first published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. (TSR).
  2. Is credited with being the first modern role playing game, and spawning an entire multibillion dollar industry. If you play WoW, your addiction started in a box in 1974.
  3. Has been the source material for some of the best and worst novels, movies, video games, comic books and cartoons ever produced.
  4. Has a higher nerd to norm ratio of enthusiasts that can be found anywhere outside a Comic Book Convention or high school chess club.

Cracked on Dungeons and Dragons

Impressively curvy warrior babe in chainmail bikini


The world of Dungeons and Dragons is not actually one world at all, but a nearly infinite number of realms and universes, all with spell casters, valiant warriors, and women with the most revealing chain mail bikinis ever imagined by the sordid minds of fourteen year old boys.

The official website describes D&D as "an imaginative, social experience that engages players in a rich fantasy world filled with larger-than-life heroes, deadly monsters, and diverse settings. As a hobby game, D&D is an ongoing activity to which players might devote hours of their time much like a weekly poker game, getting together with friends on a regular basis for weeks, months, or even years."

Another buxum warrior babe in a chainmail bikini

The above description demonstrates the level of imagination and story telling that goes into the game, because it certainly sounds much more interesting than "A group of people with nothing better to do on a Friday evening than to pretend to be heroes fighting mythical beasts with nothing but their wits, weapons and great many oddly shaped dice and tiny figures made of lead in order to rescue the elven princess with a Charisma score of 20."





  There is no way that is helping her Armour Class. Seriously. 

The History of D&D

In the last 25 years,  Dungeons and Dragons has gone through a number of changes, each one met with a mixture of eager anticipation and the fear of change that is the hallmark of all things beloved of geeks and nerds the world over.

 Sadly, the greatest change of all has claimed both of the games creators. Gary Gygax failed his final saving throw in March of 2008, and Dave Arneson recently followed him to that big Con in the Sky in April of 2009. Their contributions to the gaming world affected the lives of millions of gamers and left behind one hell of a legacy.

In the Beginning:    

Orginal D&D Box set    


This box appeared at GenCon in 1974, in a thousand-copy print run, as Dungeons & Dragons, 1974, by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. It consisted of three roughly digest-sized brown pamphlets in a brown box with white labels. 

And so a legend was born.




The Basic Set and Expert Set

D&D Basic Set  Red box

D&D Expert Set Blue Box The "Basic Set" was reportedly "Developed chiefly because of disagreements with Gary Gygax over the direction D&D should take; Gygax favored a far more structured and complicated system (AD&D)."

The Expert set was released in 1981 as the obvious sequel to the D&D Basic Set, which left characters hanging at level 3. For characters levels 4 - 14. The Basic and Expert sets are sometimes referred to as "red-box" and "blue-box" D&D.



Advanced D&D  First Edition – The changes begin.

Edition 1 Players handbook


In 1977, the game was split into two versions: the simpler Dungeons & Dragons and the more complex Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (abbreviated as AD&D or ADnD).

The AD&D books were first published between 1977 and 1979.

(Note that is was not named "1st Edition" until after the 2nd Edition came out in the late 1980s.)




AD&D 2nd Edition

2nd Edition Players Handbook

In an attempt to ditch the accusations of satanic worship and the glorification of chain mail bikinis, the second edition stepped away from the concept of demons and devils, pantheon style gods and other elements that worried parents and church pastors across the country.  Published in 1989, It also took the rough concepts of the first edition and made them more uniform, removing conflicts and clarifying the rules of play.  It also heralded the start of Player Characters (often called PC’s) being more complex as proficiencies beyond “stab, bash, crush and bare fisted fighting” were added.




D&D 3rd Edition

3rd Edition Players Handbook


In 2000, the simpler version of the game was discontinued and the complex version was renamed simply Dungeons & Dragons with the release of its 3rd edition. This is about the time that the screams of the gamers grew in protest, as rules became far more complex, skills and abilities required a degree in advanced calculus, and character sheets became as complex and incomprehensible as your high school algebra notes.





 D&D 3.5 Edition

3.5 Edition Players handbook


Released in June 2003, this was the book that brought gamers everywhere to a new level of outrage.  Only three years after the release of version three, an entirely new set of books and rules came out. Much like Microsoft, the distributors of D&D had figured out that if you make new versions faster, improving on “flaws” in the prior version, you force everyone to upgrade. This of course equaled more gp (gold pieces for you non-nerds) for Wizards of the Coast, the corporation that now owns D&D.




D&D 4th Edition


4th Edition Players HandbookIn 2008, Version 4 hit the market after months of online frothing and foaming and conjecture by the rabid gaming community.  And when it actually arrived, there was a collective shriek of pain louder than that of the first Star Wars fans to meet Jar Jar Binks.  Even Cracked columnist Michael Swaim was moved to write on the topic in D&D 4th Edition: Scourge of the Insufferable Prick.

Nearly a year later the gaming community has been divided into two camps. The first are those who believe that 4E was written by the anti-christ himself, catering to the younger generations whose attention spans and desire for carnage have been honed by years of playing video games.  Rejected by the proud and true geeks who’s love affair with the game has lasted longer than their marriages or careers, they declare they will not buy the books and cling tightly to their beloved 3.5 players handbooks. They also point out that Gary Gygax passed away just prior to this editions release, coincidence? No such thing.

The other camp is those whose attention spans and desire for carnage has been honed by years of playing video games.  They don’t want to spend days developing characters, and hours rolling dice while swilling back cola and cold pizza in a fetid basement. They wish to kill something and gain experience points, and they wish to kill it NOW. 

How To Play

stack of D&D manuals







Manuals or food, the age old dilemma faced by every nerd



.Player Character Creation: or Inventing the newer, cooler you.

In the early days of D&D dice were rolled, races were chosen, and within a few hours everyone was ready to go. Later on the rules of character development became so complex that it would take days to get a character rolled up, stats and skills chosen and  the whole thing DM approved.  In this modern computer age Dungeons and Dragons offers a character generator. You are still responsible for coming up with a plausible back story to explain why your level one paladin has the looks of Adonis, the muscles of Hercules, the fighting skills of Achilles and yet no one has ever heard of him before.


chain mail bag of dice

 The Chainmail dice bag is optional but oh so sexy. ((See chainmail bikini)

Gaming:  or The Actual Dungeon and Dragons part

So you got yourself all the needed tools of the trade, did up your character sheet and are ready to go.  Great!  Now the Dungeon Master can begin the campaign and you can prepare to do battle against mighty dragons, vile wizards, and likely several more disapointing creatures, like these listed in Tyler Linn's article on 15 Retarded Dungeons and Dragons Monsters.

You will need a table,  some minatures (or checkers, or anything but cheetos, these will be eaten) Lay in good supply of drinks and food, and let the fun begin!


The Dungeon Master, or DM

When electing a DM, it is important to consider a few key points.  Are they organized? Do they have the extra time that running a campaign takes?  Are they easily angered or still nursing a grudge for that incident in the second grade involving that wedgie that went terribly, terribly wrong? 

For all intents and purposes you might as well just call them “god” and get it over with. They hold the lives of your beloved characters in the palm of their pizza scented hand, and they can as cruel and fickle as any ancient and omniscient creature you have ever imagined.

It is the DM’s role to narrate the story, bring to life any of the monsters or personalities your  PCs. (player characters) may meet and roll the dice to determine the fates of you and your party members. Many a player has been reduced to tearfully chugging their Mountain Dew while listening to the sound of dice being thrown as their DM asks “Just how many hit points did you have before you entered the room?”

They are the score keeper, the referee and sometimes a living Deus ex machina. Keep them well fed, do not question them without reason, and never, ever take their last slice of pizza.  Your PC will pay a terrible price.


Play by Email:  The PBEM

In these modern times, another form of D&D has evolved.  The Play by Post or Play by Email game. The concept is the same, only now you and your gaming buddies are linked by the internet, removing that annoying need to leave the house. All dice rolls are done by the DM, because no matter how honest you promise to be, no one is going to believe you rolled five critical 20’s in a row when no one is there to witness it. The players submit their reactions to the story either via email, on a forum, or a combination of both. This slows down the speed of the game, but allowing time for other activities, such as WoW raids, reading the Cracked.com forums,  and fantasizing about the day you finally lose your virginity.

The Dice

metallic RPG DiceDungeons and Dragons has also been credited with bringing polyhedral dice into society’s awareness. There are a number of dice used for D&D, instead of just the six sided die most people were familiar with. The game uses a four sided, six sided, eight sided, ten sided, twelve sided and twenty sided die to determine the success or failure of any action, from avoiding a dragon’s breath weapon to making that critical charisma check and being able to seduce that hot elf chick you just rescued.  For some people they are more than just a way of determining random chance, as can be seen in Luke McKinney's 7 Most Impressive (And Depressing) Geek Collections.

A dice notation is commonly used, which means a six-sided die is referred to as a d6, while two such dice rolled with the results totalled would be called 2D6. Thus the dice are better known as d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and d20.  

Though this rule has been phased out now, in previous editions rolling a “1” on a D20 was considered a “critical miss or fumble.”  It quickly became part of gaming jargon for “total fuck up” and may well have been the precursor to today’s “epic fail.”


Popular Culture

D&D has had a wide and varied impact on the world since its introduction back in 1974.  Movies, cartoons, comics and of course accusations of being a training ground for Satanists. You can read about the demonic recruitment panic in Geoff Shakespeare's article,The 6 most insane moral panics in American History.

Dungeons and Dragons: The Movies:

Truly one of the low points in the history of Dungeons and Dragons was the release of this movie in 2000.  From the acting to the amazingly bad special effects, geeks and nerds everywhere cringed when their beloved hobby was stripped of all that was good and plastered onto the big screen to confuse and horrify yet another generation who will now never believe that D&D can actually be fun, or cool.


Dungeons and Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God is a 2005  made-for-TV sequel of sorts to the 2000 D&D movie.


Dungeons and Dragons: The Cartoon

Dungeons & Dragons was based on the Role Playing Game and ran for three seasons starting in 1983.

It was popular in the United States and also ran in the UK and Europe. In the great tradition of D&D, it was considered to be the most violent show on network TV by the National Coalition on Television Violence in 1985, proving that not even G.I. Joe is as manly or vicious as a unicorn, a kid with a club and a wizard.

Dungeons and Dragons: The novels

Over the last thirty-five years several hundred novels have been published based upon the Dungeons & Dragons game. Taking place in different worlds that are actually different campaign settings, Fantasy writer Andre Norton's novel Quag Keep, published in 1979, was set in Greyhawk, making it the first novel to use a D&D campaign setting. Some other settings for books include The Forgotten Realms and Birthright.


Dungeons and Dragons: Comic Books

During the 1980s and 1990s, DC Comics published several licensed D&D comics, including Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, and Spellljammer.

If you found yourself reading these ramblings and it brought back fond memories of dice, character sheets or the time your paladin slew a demon, then you should read Cracked's article on 2008: The Year the Geeks Took Over.