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.
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.
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.
We have a favour to ask
Thumbsticks has a couple of main aims. We want to write interesting articles and cover games that most outlets won't, and we want to give opportunities to new writers and new voices. And right now, with the current state of online publishing? It's tough! We hate to ask, but if you want us to continue writing what others won't, or to keep covering weird indie games, or to be able to give opportunities to new writers – and only if you can afford it – then please consider supporting us on Patreon.
Recommended for you
Latest from Thumbsticks
Animal Crossing: New Horizons to get a huge free update and paid DLC
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is getting an enormous free content update and a new paid DLC expansion.
Back 4 Blood review
Back 4 Blood is a rip-roaring zombie killing time, but without the right zombie slayers by your side, it's an...
Batman returns to Rocket League today
Batman returns for this year's Rocket League Haunted Hallows event, which begins today.
New Nintendo Switch releases: October 11-15, 2021 (Updated)
Disco Elysium – The Final Cut and The Good Life are among this week's lineup of new Nintendo Switch eShop...
This week’s Xbox Deals with Gold and Sale Highlights
Aliens: Fireteam Elite and games from the Fallout series headline this week's crop of Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S discounts.
Classic Star Wars games to get physical release on Switch and PS4
Aspyr Media is releasing four classic Star Wars games across two physical bundles on Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4.
New PlayStation Store releases: October 11-15, 2021
This week's lineup of PlayStation Store releases includes Jackbox Party Pack 8. Oh, and Back 4 Blood, Crysis Remastered, NHL...
The wonder and fear of radio in video games
There's a childlike sense of wonder to radio. Making an ocean of the sky, radio waves broadcast out like the...