Category Archives: Dungeons & Dragons

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Cartridge, a home video game for the Intellivision 1982

Dungeons & Dragons At 40: Its Role in Video Game History

It was, most likely, 40 years ago this month that Gary Gigax and Dave Arneson started showing friends and family their freshly printed rule books for a new tabletop miniatures fantasy game, sold under the company name Tactical Studies Rules or TSR.  A combination of Gygax’s Chainmail and Arneson’s Blackmoor, the new ruleset would be called Dungeons & Dragons and it would change the landscape of gaming forever. D&D, and its later branch-off Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, widely influenced computer and video games at their onset, both in the games themselves and those that create them.  To wit:

Willie Crowther was part of the team that built the foundations of the Internet at BBN in Cambridge, MA. in the early 70’s.  He was also involved in the large D&D community in the area, and later created the seminal text-adventure computer game Adventure.

Dave Lebling created a bookkeeping program on MIT’s computer in the 70’s, to help manage his D&D obsession. He later worked with a team at the school to make the wildly popular computer text adventure Zork, and subsequently helped found Infocom.

Box art for Zork, a computer text adventure game for the TRS-80, by Infocom 1980

Zork box art, TRS-80 version


Jim Connelly and Jon Freeman were regular players in a D&D group in the 70’s, and they went on to start up Automated Simulations, producing the heavily D&D influenced Temple of Apshai, as well as other games in the Dunjunquest series. Automated Simulations would eventually morph into Epyx.

That’s not to forget Richard Garriott’s penchant for organizing D&D games at his parent’s house in Houston, Texas in the late 70’s. Garriott would create the profoundly successful Ultima computer role playing games, and himself sink into a fantasy role as the fabled Lord British.

And then there are the direct licenses of D&D to video and computer games.  Too numerous to count here, but I’ll leave you with one of the first.  Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Cartridge (its full name, as per the contract with TSR) was developed by APh Technological Consulting and published by Mattel Electronics for the Intellivision in 1982.  A D&D game in label only, it concerns itself with a team of three adventurers travelling across a mountainous landscape in a bit to retrieve the two halves of a broken royal crown, secreted away by a cadre of dragons.  It would later be renamed Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Cloudy Mountain to distinguish it from another AD&D game from Mattel called Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin, released in 1983. While it may not do much with the D&D lore, the first AD&D game from Mattel is still a fun adventure that accomplishes a lot inside its 6K boundaries: