At 40 Years Old, Dungeons & Dragons Still Matters




Today, we're proud of how sophisticated and immersive electronic games have become. But D&D beats digital hands down. Video games are limited to what the programmers can program. In D&D, the virtual game board and the place where is all takes place was always the players' collective imaginations, huddled around a table in a living room, den, or basement, fueled not by venture capital or terabytes, but Mountain Dew, Doritos, and banter.

Amen brother!


Right now pretty much the entire D&D range of books is out of stock at Amazon. But the 5th edition is not due for quite some time.

Seems like someone goofed on the production side.


The game led a DIY, subversive, anti-corporate revolution...

Except for the part where TSR consistently behave like they wanted to be a miniature Microsoft.


It's funny, but I had a similar, albeit shorter take on this same theme several years ago when I saw an ad for Dungeons & Dragons online:


I'm still looking forward to the next edition, the playtest was promising and I didn't enjoy 4e all that much.


And look what it happened!

Maybe corporations are like archwizards, if they get enough power they usually turn into evil treasure hoarding liches, ripe to get slayed by adventurous venture capital adventurers.


"10' pole? Check. Mirror? Check. Chalk? Check. 10 Iron Spikes? Check. 30' of rope (silk, knotted)? Check. Garlic? Check. Wolfsbane? Um... okay, eveyone, back down the Stuff Shop. We forgot the Wolfsbane again..."


Indeed. 4th edition was an abomination. Personally, I prefer AD&D 2nd edition in a Planescape, Dark Sun, Forgotten Realms, or Ravenloft campaign setting. D&D has really gotten too dumbed down lately.


3.5 got good once you started implementing all the fixes to it. It was like a really buggy PC game that's made good by the army of modders.


3rd Edition and 3.5 are okay, but nothing special. They completely ruined the Planes with it though (but nothing compared to what 4th edition did--it ended the Blood War and lost the Abyssal Planes!?!). The best thing I can say about 3rd Edition and 3.5 (and the d20 system, in general) are that they make it easy to program computer games. AD&D 2nd edition was pretty special in my opinion, but it did have the downside of creating rules lawyers.


My dad taught me to play D&D when I was just 7 or 8 years old. He got me hooked, but it wasn't so easy to play with other people as a young girl in the 80's. The boys wouldn't let me play at all until I was about 15 or 16, and then I had other problems.

Dad passed away last summer. He left me his original box set; the one with the artwork in the article. The dice are long gone, and one of the books is missing. Instead there's some old copies of Dragon in there, and a sheet for "Thea the Thief", my first character. Maybe I can work her into my next campaign.


The Edition Wars, they have begun.


The streamlining of combat and skill use was a great idea though, the THAC0 and arbitrary saving throws could not die fast enough.

As for the settings, it was easy enough to convert 2nd edition books that were lying around to 3.5.


Yeah, maybe, but THAC0 gives me a warm fuzzy. It brings back memories of the time when D&D books were filled with great art and detail and where you felt you were learning complex secrets from a hidden tome. 3rd edition and later became so generic it was painful. I don't know how to quantify it exactly, but a lot of the magic left the game when 3rd edition came out. It felt like all the great writers and artists had suddenly jumped ship and corporate committees were publishing it.

I know, this is "Edition Wars". So sue me.


i'm with you - THAC0 is a geek generational dog whistle if there ever was one.


You didnt play 3rd Edition Forgotten Realms, didnt you? It was the most evocative, complete and detailed campaign setting after 2nd Edition Dark Sun. Reallly cool design, cohesion, illustrations and lots looooots looooooooooooooooots of delicious fluffy.
Also, cool pseudo-leather cover.


Perhaps it's because I was never an RPG player to begin with, but even so, I can't believe it has never occurred to me that RPG games are fundamentally cooperative (rather than competitive) games. I think I always placed RPG games in a different mental category from those falling under the cooperative/competitive division; i.e. chess is competitive, and the games produced by Family Pastimes are cooperative, but RPGs are something else entirely. Okay, time to go and re-think a whole bunch of things.


Thank you for the feeble excuse to post this.


It would be nice to have some 40th anniversary reflections that didn't reek of Boys Thing Only, 'cause, you know, gender issues in D&D marketing aside, girls and women totally played and still play D&D.