Dungeons & Dragons has a complicated history, filled with various editions that have overhauled the rules, controversies that have risked shutting the game down, and multimedia products that have altered the identity of its lore. This raises the question of how it all began, as D&D was the game that birthed the tabletop RPG genre for the general public, yet most people are only familiar with its latest iteration.
There are D&D fans who were introduced to the game through different means. Some came to D&D through its video games, like Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights, while others first heard of it through its animated series, shows like Critical Role, or movies like Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves. The game’s origins predate these projects by decades, as it will soon be celebrating its 50th anniversary, with the D&D fifth edition rulebooks being revamped in 2024.
Who Created DnD & When Did They Do It?
Dungeons & Dragons was created by Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax in 1974, under a company called TSR, which stood for Tactical Studies Rules. What’s interesting about the release date is that no one knows precisely when the first edition was released outside of its release year. This will give Wizards of the Coast a lot of leeway during the 50th-anniversary celebrations, as it can be spread across an entire year.
The history of the pre-third edition era of D&D is complicated, with Arneson and Gygax creating their own versions of the game and eventually entering legal action against each other. When Wizards of the Coast bought TSR in 1997, they took over ownership of D&D, with the third edition being developed by the company and released in 2000. Since then, Wizards of the Coast has been responsible for all editions of D&D under the oversight of its new owner, Hasbro.
Sadly, the creators of D&D are no longer with us, as Gygax passed in 2008 and Arneson passed in 2009. During their lives, they witnessed the growth of the game they created, as millions of players worldwide bellied up to the table and started slinging dice, all thanks to D&D. The game they built out of paper and minis became a global phenomenon, which is entering its 50th year on a high, thanks to the incredible popularity of fifth edition.