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Campaign Extra Date 2015-05-27
Last Updated 2020-10-03 08:28:40 - Update

40 Years of Adventure

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Dungeons & Dragons influenced so many games that followed in different media and genres, but it has remained a vital product in its own right, appearing in diverse editions, media, and languages, as well as spinning off into literature, film, television, and the Internet. It has been a source of inspiration for artists of many kinds, but more importantly it has enriched the lives of tens of millions around the globe, offering a chance for anyone to experience fantastic roles and situations very different from everyday life. On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons, and the release of an eagerly-awaited new edition, this timeline shows some important dates in the development, elaboration, and the triumph of Dungeons & Dragons.

  • 1967
    • The International Federation of Wargaming (IFW), founded by Gary Gygax and others, provides a venue for wargame fans to exchange ideas and amateur game designs.
  • 1968
    • Gygax hosts the first Lake Geneva Wargames Convention, or Gen Con, in the Horticultural Hall of his home town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, as an IFW event.
  • 1969
    • Gygax meets Dave Arneson at the second Gen Con, and the two express a mutual interest in collaborating on game rules.
  • 1970
    • The Lake Geneva Tactical Studies Association, a small local wargames club, is founded. Initial membership includes Gygax and Don Kaye.
    • Due to his growing interest in the medieval period, Gygax forms the Castle & Crusade Society, a subgroup of the IFW focused on medieval wargaming. Members are assigned property in an imaginary continent called the Great Kingdom. Arneson joins shortly thereafter.
  • 1971
    • Chainmail, written by Gygax and Jeff Perren, is published by Guidon Games. It details fantastic medieval miniature warfare including wizards, heroes, and dragons.
    • Arneson uses Chainmail as rules for his Blackmoor fantasy campaign situated in the Great Kingdom, including forays into a dungeon of monsters and treasure.
  • 1972
    • In the summer, Arneson publishes “Facts about Black Moor” via issue #13 of the Castle & Crusade Society newsletter, the Domesday Book, which brings his activities to a wider audience.
    • Later in the year, Arneson demonstrates the Blackmoor game for Gygax in Lake Geneva; Dave Megarry then demonstrates his own “Dungeons of Pasha Cada,” later to be published as Dungeon!
  • 1973
    • Gygax and Arneson collaborate on drafts of Dungeons & Dragons.
    • Gygax and Kaye form a partnership called Tactical Studies Rules. Brian Blume joins Tactical Studies Rules to help produce the Dungeons & Dragons game.
  • 1974
    • Dungeons & Dragons is first published in January as three booklets shipping in a woodgrain-colored cardboard box: Men & MagicMonsters & Treasure, andUnderworld & Wilderness Adventures. Within eleven months, the entire hand-assembled print run of 1,000 games sells out.
  • 1975
    • Tactical Studies Rules dissolves and a new company forms: TSR Hobbies, Inc.
    • A second 1,000 set printing of Dungeons & Dragons sells out in just under six months, followed quickly by a third printing of 2,000, all sold before the new year.
    • The Dungeons & Dragons supplement Greyhawk specifies the Thief and Paladin classes; its sequel Blackmoor introduces the Monk and Assassin.
    • Origins I hosts the first major Dungeons & Dragons convention tournament, later to be published as the adventure module S1: Tomb of Horrors.
    • TSR Hobbies sponsors Gen Con for the first time.
  • 1976
    • For a fourth printing of 5,000 copies, Dungeons & Dragons switches to the white box that will be used for future printings of the original game.
    • The first professional magazine devoted to fantasy and science fiction gaming is published: The Dragon, which begins bi-monthly publication in June.
    • D&D supplements III and IV—Eldritch Wizardry and Gods, Demi-Gods, and Heroes—are introduced.
  • 1977
    • Dungeons & Dragons is divided into Basic and Advanced versions. The D&D Basic Set edited by J. Eric Holmes becomes the first Dungeons & Dragons boxed set to ship with dice included.
    • TSR Hobbies publishes the Monster Manual, the first book in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons product line. Its 350 monsters exert a huge influence over subsequent fantasy gaming, both on the tabletop and computers.
  • 1978
    • The Players Handbook, the second Advanced Dungeons & Dragon hardcover, is released.
    • The Dragon moves to monthly publication as of April.
    • TSR Hobbies produces a series of six adventure modules that were used for convention tournaments, beginning with the Origins tournament combating hill, frost and fire giants (G1–G3), and then the Gen Con tournament exploring an underworld of kuo-toa and drow elves (D1-D3).
    • Gen Con leaves Lake Geneva for the University of Wisconsin-Parkside campus, where it remains for the next seven years.
  • 1979
    • TSR Hobbies releases the Dungeon Masters Guide, the third and final core Advanced Dungeons & Dragons hardcover rulebook.
    • Shortages in the supply chain lead to some copies of the Basic Set shipping with a cardboard chit sheet instead of dice.
  • 1980
    • Around 250,000 units of Dungeons & Dragons products were sold prior to the beginning of the year. By summer, sales of the Basic Set alone reach 12,000 copies per month.
    • To meet growing international demand, TSR Hobbies UK, Ltd. is formed in England.
    • The initial release of the World of Greyhawk folder marks the first campaign setting produced by TSR, providing a context for the action in modules which harkens back to the original Great Kingdom of the Castle & Crusade Society.
    • TSR Hobbies unveils the Deities & Demigods cyclopedia for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.
  • 1981
    • Tom Moldvay revises the Basic Set, and David “Zeb” Cook produces the sequel Expert Set. The Isle of Dread, the module shipping with the Expert Set, introduces the campaign world of Mystara.
    • The Fiend Folio tome for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons highlights creatures submitted to the pages of White Dwarf magazine.
    • The Role Playing Game Association (RPGA) is formed to promote quality role playing and unite gamers across the nation, aided by its flagship Polyhedronmagazine.
  • 1982
    • TSR releases its first video game products, including a version of the Dungeon! board game for the Apple II computer system.
    • Now a cultural icon, Dungeons & Dragons appears in numerous mainstream media, even inspiring a scene in the film E.T.
  • 1983
    • TSR Hobbies reorganizes into TSR, Inc.
    • TSR releases the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual II.
    • Frank Mentzer begins the three year process of revising and expanding Basic D&D with new versions of the Basic and Expert Set.
    • A new subsidiary, the Dungeons & Dragons Entertainment Company, premieres its Dungeons & Dragons cartoon series on September 17. This series spawns more than 100 different licenses and enjoys a positive reception.
    • French is the first foreign language adaptation of the D&D game, and many other translations follow: Danish, Finnish, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Swedish, and more.
  • 1984
    • The Companion Set continues Mentzer’s revision of Basic D&D.
    • For the tenth anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons, TSR publishes a collector’s boxed set including the BasicExpert and Companion Set rules along with modules and character sheets.
    • TSR, Inc. releases the first novel in the Dragonlance saga after two years of development. Dragonlance makes TSR the number one publisher of fantasy and science fiction novels in the nation.
  • 1985
    • The new hardbound AD&D titles Unearthed Arcana and Oriental Adventures are released.
    • The former Deities & Demigods is retitled Legends & Lore for a reissue.
    • TSR publishes Mentzer’s Masters Set for high-level adventuring based on Basic D&D.
    • Gen Con relocates to Milwaukee, where it will stay through 2002.
  • 1986
    • TSR introduces Dungeon Adventures magazine, an all-adventure bi-monthly.
    • The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeoneer’s Survival Guide and Wilderness Survival Guide are published.
    • For the ultimate adventuring in Basic D&D, Mentzer finishes his expansions with the Immortals Set.
  • 1987
    • The immense Forgotten Realms campaign setting is released; it will be the setting of numerous modules, novels and computer games.
    • TSR publishes the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Manual of the Planes.
    • A small team of designers starts work on the second edition of the AD&D game.
  • 1988
    • Strategic Simulations Incorporated (SSI) releases the personal computer game Pool of Radiance, the first licensed computer adaptation of the AD&D system, and the first computer game set in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting. A number of “Gold Box” games based on the same AD&D engine follow.
  • 1989
    • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition is released, under lead designer David “Zeb” Cook. Releases for Second Edition include: the Dungeon Master GuidePlayer's HandbookMonstrous Compendiums Volumes 1, 2, and 3Complete Fighter's Handbook; and Complete Thief's Handbook.
    • The RPGA Network branches out into Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the U.K., Israel, and Australia.
  • 1990
    • The Ravenloft campaign setting is released, featuring Count Strahd Von Zarovich, one of the most popular and enduring villains of the AD&D game.
    • TSR publishes the Hollow Worldcampaign set.
    • Dragonlance comes to the computer in the SSI “Gold Box” title Champions of Krynn.
  • 1991
    • TSR releases the Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia designed by Aaron Allston, integrating systems from the BasicExpertCompanion, and Master Setrules.
    • The Neverwinter Nights online graphical multiplayer role-playing game begins on the AOL network, in collaboration with SSI, Stormfront and TSR.
    • The savage world of Athas features in the new Dark Sun campaign setting.
    • An introductory Dungeons & Dragons game, produced by Troy Denning and Tim Brown, aims to attract beginners to the game.
  • 1992
    • The first Al Qadim campaign setting product is released, Arabian Adventures.
    • TSR's first hardcover novel is published: The Legacy, by R.A. Salvatore, which debuts in the top ten of the New York Times bestseller list.
    • The 25th anniversary of Gen Con, co-located with Origins, breaks all previous attendance records for any U.S. gaming convention.
  • 1993
    • The early Monstrous Compendiums are repackaged as the hardcover Monstrous Manual tome.
    • The release of the Dragon Strike Entertainment product, which includes a thirty minute video dramatizing a unique perspective on tabletop role-playing.
  • 1994
    • In response to the success of trading card games, TSR publishes SpellfireMaster the Magic, a trading card game featuring the well-known names and settings of the AD&D game.
    • The dark and rich Planescape campaign setting is introduced.
    • The first TSR game products incorporating an audio compact disc are released.
  • 1995
    • TSR marks its 20th anniversary with revised versions of the Second Edition Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master Guide. Experienced Second Edition fans find new ideas in the Player's Option and Dungeon Master Option rulebooks.
    • TheBirthright campaign setting introduces blood magic, the power of the land, and the divine right of kings.
  • 1996
    • TSR sells a digital version of its Dungeons & Dragons rules for the first time: the AD&D Core Rules CD-ROM.
    • The Wizard Spell Compendiums, a new book series, is launched, compiling all wizard spells into four volumes.
    • The Dragonlance: Fifth Age role-playing game is released, bringing the popular setting to the card-based SAGA System.
  • 1997
    • A new era in gaming commences as Wizards of the Coast—purchases TSR in June.
  • 1998
    • Wizards resurrects the Greyhawk setting for the Return of the Eight.
    • Baldur’s Gate, the first computer game in the Forgotten Realms developed by BioWare, is released. The “Infinity Engine” used for Baldur’s Gate would serve as the basis for several other Second Edition AD&D computer adaptations.
  • 1999
    • Wizards celebrates the 25th birthday of Dungeons & Dragons with the Silver Anniversary Tour of game stores throughout the United States, as well as the release of the Silver Anniversary retrospective boxed set of Dungeons & Dragons.
    • The acclaimed Planescape: Torment brings the Planescape setting to computer games.
  • 2000
    • Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons is released by Wizards of the Coast, under the core design team of Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, and Skip Williams, with new revisions of the Player’s HandbookDungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manual. Wizards no longer refers to these flagship releases as “Advanced” D&D.
    • With the initial publication of the Open Game License (OGL), and the first System Reference Document (SRD), the industry is transformed by opportunities for third-party products based on the Third Edition D&D rules.
    • A feature film based on D&D appears in theaters, starring Jeremy Irons and including a cameo appearance as a magic-user by game co-creator Dave Arneson.
    • Gary Gygax guest-stars in the “Anthology of Interest” episode of Futurama, wherein he plays D&D with Al Gore, Stephen Hawking, and others.
  • 2001
    • The Dungeons & Dragons Chainmail miniatures game is released in October, bringing gameplay back to its roots in fantastic medieval wargaming.
    • The Pool of Radiance computer game series returns with the Ruins of Myth Drannor produced by Ubisoft.
  • 2002
    • Gen Con is purchased by the Wizards' founder and former CEO, Peter Adkison, who the following year would move the convention to its current home in Indianapolis.
    • BioWare releases a new Neverwinter Nights computer game, which includes an Internet-based multiplayer mode. The system is based on Third Edition D&D, and the campaign is set in the Forgotten Realms.
    • Bestselling novels continue to emerge from the Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms settings, including this year’s Dragons of a Vanished Moon: The War of Souls, Vol. III and The Thousand Orcs, both of which debut on the New York Times bestseller’s list.
  • 2003
    • A revision to Third Edition D&D, known as v 3.5, appears in new versions of the core rulebooks.
    • The Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures Game debuts with the first in a series of collectible miniatures for tactical combat based on D&D.
    • The classic super-module the Temple of Elemental Evil set in Greyhawk jumps to computer games in a version developed by Troika Games.
  • 2004
    • Wizards releases the Eberron campaign setting, which had won their 2002 contest to design a new campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons.
    • The 30th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons is honored with a retrospective book on the game’s history, 30 Years of Adventure.
    • A new Dungeons & Dragons Basic Game is released, designed by Jonathan Tweet.
    • The first Worldwide Dungeons & Dragons Game Day is held October 16.
  • 2005
    • Three-Dragon Ante, a non-collectible Wizards card game, provides a system for incorporating its use into the play of Dungeons & Dragons.
  • 2006
    • The massively-multiplayer online role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons Online is released by Turbine Entertainment.
    • Wizards holds a Dungeons & Dragons fan film contest.
    • Obsidian Entertainment releases Neverwinter Nights 2, a sequel to the prior BioWare title, which incorporates Dungeons & Dragons edition 3.5 rules.
  • 2007
    • Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons is announced at Gen Con.
    • Wizards launches D&D Insider, an online subscription service that provides character and adventure management tools.
    • The Dragon and Dungeon Adventure magazines relaunch as online publications for D&D Insider subscribers.
    • The traditional “Winter Fantasy” convention is renamed the “D&D Experience” up to 2013.
  • 2008
    • Wizards publishes the core Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons sourcebooks, under lead designer Rob Heinsoo: a Player’s HandbookDungeon Master’s GuideMonster Manual and also a new Adventurer’s Vault containing equipment and treasure.
    • Release of the Game System License (GSL) enables third-party publishers to produce Fourth Edition compatible products.
    • The Dungeons & Dragons Miniature Game rules change to permit use with Fourth Edition D&D.
  • 2009
    • Fourth Edition expands on its core rulebooks with sequels: the Players Handbook II, Dungeon Master’s Guide II, Monster Manual II and Adventurer’s Vault II.
    • Select articles from The Dragon are compiled into a hardcover annual.
  • 2010
    • The Dungeons & Dragons Essentials product line offers a streamlined rendition of the rules through its introductory Starter Set as well as the Dungeon Master’s KitRules Compendium and Monster Vault.
    • The first season of Organized Play’s D&D Encounters series of adventures begins in March with Undermountain: Halaster’s Lost Apprentice.
    • The release of the Dungeons & Dragons: Castle Ravenloft board game launches a series of Dungeons & Dragons Adventure System cooperative board games.
  • 2011
    • A series of Player’s Option books returns with yet more new classes, races, feats and powers.
    • The first “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” episode of the show Community airs.
  • 2012
    • Wizards launches the open playtest of “D&D Next,” which will ultimately include over 175,000 playtesters.
    • Wizards’s Dungeon Command skirmish combat game provides fast-based tactical miniature warfare on configurable boards.
    • The board game Lords of Waterdeep brings a competitive dimension of play to the Forgotten Realms setting.
  • 2013
    • The 1974 original boxed set Dungeons & Dragons game with its supplements is reprinted with new cover art in a deluxe collector’s edition.
    • Lords of Waterdeep appears in an iOS version for the iPad.
    • Beta for the Neverwinter MMO, developed by Cryptic Studios, begins in February. The game officially releases in June.
  • 2014
    • The second “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” episode of Community airs.
    • Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons is released, under lead designer Mike Mearls. The initial product is a free online version of the D&D Basic Rules, and helps mark the 40th anniversary of the publication of the game.
    • A cross-platform campaign—Tyranny of Dragons—begins in August/Gen Con, with a storyline impacting both tabletop and digital play.


Jon Peterson is the author of Playing at the World, a history of role-playing games and wargames.

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