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What is Dungeon & Dragons?

Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax created the Dungeons & Dragons game in 1974 and thereby introduced the world to the revolutionary concept of the roleplaying game. The Dungeons & Dragons (D&D for short) game allowed players to establish and assume the persona of fantasy characters in a unique and magical world. Over the past three decades, D&D has inspired numerous bestselling novels, a highly rated animated television series, several popular computer roleplaying games, and a major motion picture.

The Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game brings together all types of people in one room to mutually create an adventure story. This story has a beginning but does not always have an end – game campaigns are as limitless as the player’s imaginations. Throughout the characters’ journeys, players most often confront and solve problems together using strategic thinking and teamwork.

Players begin by creating their own unique characters, whose abilities are determined by rolling dice. Players then choose a class (such as a fighter or a wizard) and a race (such as elf or dwarf) for their characters. A Dungeon Master leads each group of players through the development of the game and story line in each session. As characters journey through various lands, they search for hidden treasures while battling menacing monsters with their own brains and brawn.

The Dungeon & Dragons experience continues to appeal to an ever-increasing population of fans because the focus is not on competition, but instead on imagination and storytelling. Over the years, the D&D game has experienced plenty of growth and development, but along the way it has stayed true to these core concepts. There have been a couple of facelifts of the rules and game mechanics of the roleplaying game, and the D&D brand has expanded to stimulate and embrace the billion-dollar electronic gaming industry, but the essence of D&D has stayed the same. As the Dungeons & Dragons game continues to expand with the times, it will continue to provide the definitive roleplaying experience for an entirely new generation of players.

Dungeons & Dragons: 30 Years of Milestones in Gaming History

1974-1984: The D&D Revolution

1974—After being invented by wargamers Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax, the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game is introduced by partners Gary Gygax, Don Kaye and Brian Blume. In one year, the entire hand-assembled print run of 1,000 games sells out.

1975—TSR Hobbies Inc. publishes the D&D campaigns Greyhawk and Blackmoor. The following year, TSR Hobbies hosts the first Gen Con Game Fair, where they introduce the first Dungeons & Dragons open tournament.

1977—The first D&D Basic Set is introduced, to make the game easier to learn and play. Sales double as a result. TSR Hobbies publishes the illustrated Monster Manual, the first hardbound book ever published by a game company.

1978—TSR releases Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. The comprehensive and detailed AD&D rules are contained in two books, one for players and one for Dungeon Masters.

1980—To meet growing international demand, a branch company, TSR Ltd., is formed in England. TSR Hobbies forms the Roleplaying Gamers’ Association (RPGA) to promote quality roleplaying and unite gamers across the nation.

1981—Climbing sales result in TSR being listed in Inc. magazine as one of the hundred fastest-growing privately held companies in the United States.

1982—Sales break the $20 million mark. Exclusive distributors for D&D are established in 22 countries. D&D is translated into French, Danish, Finnish, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Swedish and more. Eventually, TSR products are translated into more than 16 languages in 30 countries.

1983—The Dungeons & Dragons cartoon series premiers on September 17. This series spawns more than 100 different licenses and leads its time slot for two years before going into syndication.

1984-1994: The D&D Evolution

1984—TSR releases the Dragonlance saga. This property grows into an enormous line of novels, games, calendars, computer games, and art books. The Dragonlance saga makes TSR the number one publisher of fantasy and science fiction novels in the nation.

1987—The immense Forgotten Realms campaign setting is released. Work begins on a second edition of the AD&D game.

1988—TSR publishes one of the best-selling war games of all time—The Hunt for Red October game, based on the hit novel by Tom Clancy. The Gen Con and Origins Gaming conventions join forces to host the largest U.S. gaming event of the decade. The RPGA Network becomes an international organization with branches in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the U.K., Israel and Australia.

1991—The Dark Sun campaign setting and a new version of the D&D game aimed specifically at beginners are introduced.

1992—The first-ever hardcover game-related novel, Legacy, by R.A. Salvatore, leaps up the New York Times bestseller list within weeks of its release. The Gen Con Game Fair breaks all previous attendance records for any U.S. gaming convention; over 18,000 people attend.

1994-2004: A New Direction

1995/1996—TSR releases new versions of the Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide. But sales of roleplaying games drop in competition with the new trading card game market. In December 1996, the company lays off substantial numbers of employees.

1997—TSR ceases publication in January. In June, TSR is acquired by the Renton, Washington-based Wizards of the Coast, Inc., a privately held company best known for the Magic: the Gathering trading card game.

1999—Wizards of the Coast celebrates TSR’s 25th anniversary by introducing a starter D&D game. The online roleplaying game, Dragon Fist, is released in November.

2000—Wizards of the Coast produces the third edition of the D&D core rules set, reflecting more than a decade of game design advances. The new edition of the Player's Handbook lands in the top three on Amazon.com’s Not-Yet Released List. Wizards of the Coast establishes the Open Gaming License, which is an open license to use certain of the D&D gaming rules.

2001—D&D fantasy games and novels see a surge in sales and popularity after the release of major blockbuster fantasy movies like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter.

2002— A flood of d20 product builds new interest in roleplaying in general and D&D in particular. R.A. Salvatore's D&D-inspired novel The Thousand Orcs hits the New York Times best-seller list and remains there for ten weeks.

2003—Wizards of the Coast releases an update of the Third Edition, based on player feedback, plus its first-ever pre-painted line of iconic D&D Miniatures, drawn from the core books and supplemental materials. R. A. Salvatore's book The Lone Drow debuts at #7 on the New York Times best-seller list.

2004—Wizards of the Coast celebrates D&D’s 30th anniversary with releases of a new introductory Basic Game with miniature figures, a new young adult fantasy imprint called Mirrorstone, a book with essays on D&D by celebrity players, more expansions to the miniature line and festivities throughout the year, including World Wide “Learn to Play D&D” Day!

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