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Dungeons and Dragons

The grandfather of all role-playing games, Dungeons and Dragons was created by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson and was first published by TSR in 1974. Since then, D&D has inspired thousands of fantasy RPGs, video games and novels. Shortly after its first release, the game was split into two sets of rules, Basic and Advanced. The Advanced Rules were considered the more official guidelines, and is the basis for this article.

Dungeons and Dragons is traditionally a pen-and-paper role-playing game, set in a fantasy world where magic is common, creatures are mythical, and experience levels are the key to glory. A D&D adventure, called a campaign or module, is run by a Dungeon Master (DM), who acts as a referee for the players. The dungeon master may use an existing module or a campaign of his /her own creation. The DM's job is to facilitate the role-playing experience by providing challenge, enjoyment and character growth for the players.

Players could choose from an ever-growing list of character classes. Traditional classes included magic-user, fighter, cleric and thief. Less obvious classes from the early rule were assassin, monk, druid and bard. Each class had a set of strengths, weaknesses and restrictions. For instance, magic-users could cast the most powerful spells, but had the fewest hit points and couldn't wear armor. A character could choose to be multi-classed, which meant that they could not be human. Thus, a fighter-mage would have to be elven or half-elven, and would face restrictions on hit points and experience points in exchange for the extra abilities. Available races were human, dwarf, elf, Halfling, half-elf, half-orc and gnome. Each non-human race had its own limitations and increased abilities, with humans having no special abilities.

Generally, Dungeons and Dragons players would form parties, which were groups of adventurers. Each player might take on one or more characters to play. Any party characters not controlled by the players were called NPCs (non-player characters), and were controlled by the DM. It was usually beneficial for each party to have a mixture of classes and races, so that every situation could be adapted to. For example, dwarves could see well underground and find secret doors better than other races, while halflings traded Strength points for Dexterity, and usually made the best thieves.

Characters were defined by their ability scores, which consisted of Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution and Charisma. Each score had some impact on the game to varying degrees. The most influential scores were often Strength (for attacking), Dexterity (for defending) and Constitution (for hit points). Intelligence was used most for Mage Spells, while Wisdom affected Cleric spells and Saving Throws, which could save a character from disaster. Charisma was often the least-used attribute, affecting the reactions of monsters and NPCs. Ability scores were determined by rolling three six-sided dice (3d6) to generate a number from 3 to 18. Often, players would be allowed to roll four dice, and choose the best three to eliminate truly weak characters.

As characters adventured, they would gain experience points by defeating foes in battle. They could also gain experience by finding treasure, solving puzzles or completing quests, depending on the DM. Experience points were used to gain experience levels. The higher the character's level, the more powerful they became. Spellcasters gained more spells as they gained levels, while all characters gained hit points with each level attained. All characters improved their fighting skills as they gained levels, with fighters improving much faster than magic-users. At certain levels, characters would gain special attributes, such as the ability to use a weapon in each hand, or the addition of a valuable follower.

As players adventured through wilderness, dungeons and other dangerous areas, they would meet increasingly challenging foes, carrying more valuable treasure. This would keep the excitement level high for the players, who were always on the quest for more gold, better weapons, and powerful spells. The dungeons were the cornerstone of the game. Players would willingly send their characters to face doom in dark dungeons for the prospect of building their treasure trove. The dungeon would be loaded with foul creatures. Some would be of the normal variety, giant spiders, snakes and rats. Some would be more interesting, however, including skeletons, trolls and dragons. Dragons were among the most powerful monsters one could encounter, and were often associated with the completion of a quest and large amounts of treasure.

The D&D rules, although pretty numerous and explicit, were always intended to be more guidelines than laws. So, if the DM wanted players to be able to have unlimited inventory capacity, he could simply ignore the encumbrance rules which stated how much a character could carry. Aspects of the game such as food, clothing and height and weight were likewise often disregarded for simpler, faster gameplay. The rules included massive lists of spells, one each for mages, clerics, illusionists and druids. Also included were many tables of magic items, which could be acquired throughout the course of an adventure. Thus, a 10th level fighter might have a whole arsenal of weapons to choose from when attacking his foes.

Dungeons and Dragons has captured the hearts and minds of many players since its original release. The game has gone through numerous rule changes, expansions and module releases. The game's success has largely been due to the ability to create fantasy worlds down to the smallest details, the endless options available for character customization, and the addictive nature of the adventure itself. D&D has elements of history, mythology, mathematics, travel and religion and rolls it all into an adventure that is pleasurable and easy to enjoy.

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