Connect with us
Advertisement

Features

Arcane Lore: the history of role-playing

We look back at the history of role-playing – prepare for ‘wizard’s sleeve’ and ‘whipping out your broadsword’ jokes – you have been warned…

Published

on

Dungeons and Dragons

We look back at the history of role-playing – prepare for ‘wizard’s sleeve’ and ‘whipping out your broadsword’ jokes – you have been warned…

To celebrate the release of Pillars of Eternity we’re having something of a role-playing week at Thumbsticks. We’ll be looking back at the nuances of the genre and some of our favourite titles, and of course getting hands on with Pillars of Eternity itself, but first let’s wind back to the very beginning of roleplaying itself and the original platform – to pen and paper.

The history boys

When you look at modern role-playing titles like Skyrim and Dragon Age: Inquisition it almost seems unfathomable that these complex and grandiose visions for the genre can trace their ancestry to pen and paper roleplaying games, but everything has to start somewhere, and when you look back through the mechanics of the formative games it begins to make more sense.

Advertisement

It’s hard to say for certain where the very first role-playing games as we know them originated. Some believe they were derived from theoretical exercises (like mock trials) at schools and universities, while others would argue that they were first played by historical reenactment societies who wanted a bit more fantasy on their battlefield, but it would be impossible to dispute that when Dungeons & Dragons was published in 1974, the first signs of the modern role-playing game were irrevocably seared into canon.

dungeons-and-dragons02

Prior to the advent of Dungeons & Dragons tabletop gaming had been painstaking recreations of real-world battles like the Napoleonic and Prussian wars, but a shift from modern to fantasy settings, combined with a desire to focus on individual characterisation over squad-based combat had led to tabletop gamers improvising their own fantasy rulesets (based on Tolkien and Classical mythology). In 1974, everything changed. Devised by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, and based on a modified ruleset of Gygax’s earlier tabletop game Chainmail, Dungeons & Dragons was the first commercially successful role-playing game venture and is still popular the world over. An updated version of the ruleset called Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was released in 1979, which has become the de facto standard ever since.

How did we do?

We hope you found this article useful, or informative, or thought provoking, or maybe even a little entertaining. Perhaps it was a guide that helped you through a tricky bit, or we even saved you some money? Lovely stuff! If you'd like to say "thanks" you could always buy the team a cup of coffee.

Recommended for you

Pages: 1 2 3

Tom is an itinerant freelance technology writer who found a home as an Editor with Thumbsticks. Powered by coffee, RPGs, and local co-op.

Advertisement

Latest from Thumbsticks

Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
News9 hours ago

Following years of crunch, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga gets a release date

Warner Bros. Games confirms the release date for Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga amid reports of crunch at developer TT...

Nintendo Switch Online - classic games Nintendo Switch Online - classic games
Guides13 hours ago

Nintendo Switch Online: The big list of NES, SNES, N64 and Genesis games

Nintendo Switch Online includes access to a growing library of classic NES, SNES, N64, and Sega Genesis games. Here’s the...

Death's Door - Xbox Game Pass Death's Door - Xbox Game Pass
News2 days ago

One of last year’s very best games is coming to Xbox Game Pass

Death's Door, Rainbow Six Extraction and Windjammers 2 are among this month's second wave of Xbox Game Pass titles.

Among Us - Roadmap 2022 Among Us - Roadmap 2022
News3 days ago

Among Us 2022 roadmap includes Friends List feature

Innersloth has outlined this year's content and development roadmap for Among Us.

New PlayStation Store releases - PS4 - PS5 New PlayStation Store releases - PS4 - PS5
News3 days ago

New PlayStation Store releases: January 17-21, 2022

Here's a quick roundup of this week's brand new PlayStation Store releases for the PS4 and PS5.

big box lair of the clockwork god collector's edition gradient background big box lair of the clockwork god collector's edition gradient background
Features4 days ago

Why the ‘Big Box’ Lair of the Clockwork God Collector’s Edition is a big deal

We spoke to Dan Marshall about the Lair of the Clockwork God Collector's Edition, and why indie games getting "Big...

New Nintendo Switch eShop releases New Nintendo Switch eShop releases
News5 days ago

New Nintendo Switch releases – January 17-22, 2022

Shadow Man Remastered and Windjammers 2 headline this week's list of new Nintendo Switch eShop releases.

New Xbox One game releases New Xbox One game releases
News6 days ago

New Xbox releases – January 17-21, 2022

Rainbow Six Extraction and Nobody Saves the World headline a busy week for new Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One...

Advertisement