Since the earliest days of man’s existence, men have forged forward in inventing sport and games for both amusement and competition. Every game is said to have stemmed from the need to escape, the need to be something or pretend to be something that one is not or can not be due to some physical or mental limitation. As time progressed, games became much more intense and broke apart from sports as something that one can pursue on a day when due to some factor or the other, one is unable to perform in a sport. Playing cards were the earliest fore-runners of themodern board game. The sheer amount of games one can play with a deck of cards is endless. it is claimed that over 200 games of cards have been invented around the world.
Fast forward to the turn of the 20th century. Cardboard and paper were cheap and producing games and cards became much easier. Cards still held sway over the game market because simple games like Parchesi were expensive due to the trouble of fashioning playing pieces etc. The game market slowed considerably during the Great Depression, and after the finanacial disaster, things were never the same for many companies. However, games continued to be churned out, even though in a much drawn back fashion.
Again we skip forward a few years to the inception of strategic gaming. in 1971, Jeff Peren published a group of rules known simply as Chainmail. Chainmail presented the basic rules and regulations for commanding an army opposing another human-controlled army (or armies) in an epic scale medieval type battleground. The game relied heavily on strategic use of terrain and placement of troops to a level that made it a unique tool for recreating past events or creating fictional mock-battles.
It is from this that Gary Gygax (God rest his soul) invented a more personalised form of the strategy game, creating the forerunner to all Role-Playing Games since. Chainmail allowed one to control an entire army, but Gygax had something a little different in mind. Instead of controlling a batallion, Gygax thought that it would be much more immersive to throw the player into a single player’s body and control their actions in a fantastic world. The basic premise was born and in 1975, came to fruition with the pblishing of the OD&D ruleset.
The years continued with AD&D replacing OD&D, but matters of contention arose between gamers of the different rulesets. To resolve these matters, a second edition of the rules were drafted, polished and published and in 1989, AD&D2 was released. The public acceptance of the work was mixed, with the sexually suggestive artwork and the references to demons and devils rubbing some older heards the wrong way. Nevertheless the franchise persisted.
In 1997, TSR was purchased wholly and completely by Wizards of the Coast. The forthcoming Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition (or 3E as it’s colloquially called) rolled out on shelves in the year 2000. The 3E system unifies both OD&D, AD&D and splinter rulsets such as Basic D&D into one complete, unified rulset with no contradicting rules to be drawn from.
Wizards of the coast did a revamp of the 3E rules and produced the Revised 3rd Edition Rulset (Colloquially referred to as D&D 3.5e) in which they added a host of minor tweaks and balances and expanded the rulebooks immensely. The main rules were not changed but a myriad of options and additions were added, reqriting some of the small details of the game and making it a bit more enjoyable.
in June 2008, the fourth edition of the Ruleset (4E) was released, and changed the entire paradigm of the D&D game. This ruleset was designed to be more adaptable and easier to understand for many of the gamers who were currently leaving the RPG fold to play MMORPG’s online. The complexity and innovation available in the $E set is unsurpassed in any D20 system since. However, purists prefer to play 3.5e rulesets because of what they term as betrayal to the original ruleset. As it is, current players and DM’s are divided between using the 3.5E or 4E ruleset, a decision Wizards of the Coast leaves to the DM, since both the 3.5E and 4E books are still available in print.
Stay tuned for Part II: Rolling up a Character