As I found myself wrapped up in the depths of Bioware's Dragon Age: Inquisition, a certain curiosity began to surface surrounding the history of RPG games. Where did their inspiration come from and who can we claim is responsible for shaping the modern day RPG? The one name that I was continually confronted with on this journey, was Dungeons and Dragons.
This fantasy tabletop role-playing game was originally designed by Gary Gyax and Dave Arneson in 1974. It was the first commercially available RPG, and with a title like that, one can't help but realise the impact it had upon the world of gaming as the two essentially grew up together. Of course, Dungeons and Dragons had its inspirations too, but let's see the effects that it had upon video games.
Dungeons and Dragons in RPG History
First, we must acknowledge that Dungeons and Dragons didn't just create the RPG genre, it naturally existed years before it. Their inspiration was derived from miniature wargames, which actually originate from the 19th century, and the main concepts and rules stemmed from the creators own work Chainmail: Rules for Medieval Miniatures.
Dungeons and Dragons took the formulas that these put forward and created a game that has since generated over 1 billion dollars in revenue. A game of such a large magnitude naturally had quite an impact upon the world of gaming and of course it had video games created around its name too (and an appalling film).
With the majority of Dungeons and Dragons players being students, who were also the leading demographic in terms of gaming, naturally we began to see their concepts implemented into the virtual world. Take Akalabeth for example.
Akalabeth players explored maze-like dungeons, managed consumables, measured character endurance in numeric hit points, and battled monsters using simulated dice rolls - tropes instantly familiar to D&D fans. This game was created by Richard Garriott, who was essentially combining two of his hobbies in one. His framework was continually developed upon.
The inspirations that come from Dungeons and Dragons are numerous to say the least. The next time that you level up in Call of Duty or Dragon Age, you are exercising a concept that D&D created. Likewise, your health bar originates from this game, as well as selecting a character, class and customising your loadout. Insane to think about really. Even player choice stems from D&D, something which is so fundamental to my enjoyment of RPGs.
Of course, to take a quote from The Social Network, "A guy who makes a nice chair doesn't owe money to everyone who has ever built a chair." Innovations certainly took place on the side of the gamers, who don't necessarily owe anything to Dungeons and Dragons, but their systems were most certainly inspired by their concepts.
Take a look at a list of games whose creators maintain that Dungeons and Dragons inspired their work: Doom, Quake, Deus Ex, The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, World of Warcraft and Diablo!
Know any other ways that this game revolutionised the modern RPG? Let us know in the comments!