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.
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: