Dungeons & Dragons is a name that almost everyone knows. To many people, Dungeons & Dragons is an awesome game that can be enjoyed with a group of friends, as team up every week to outfight or outsmart the monstrous residents of a fantasy world. These games can involve detailed roleplaying, where you become your character through method acting, to simple tactical games where you kill monsters and steal their stuff. Dungeons & Dragons also has a flip side to its reputation, as there are people in the world who believe a simple game can be responsible for unholy teachings and inspiring murder. This is to say nothing of the numerous lawsuits that have been filed against the game since its creation.
We are here today to look into the bizarre and often controversial history of the most famous tabletop RPG of all time. From stealing ideas from the creator of Game of Thrones to the worst movie ever put to video tape.
Here are the 15 Things You Didn’t About Dungeons & Dragons!
15. One Of The Monster Names Was Stolen From The Creator Of Game Of Thrones
In 1981, TSR released a book of material for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons called the Fiend Folio. This was a tome that was filled with information on new monsters for the DM to use in their game. One of the new races introduced in this book was the Githyanki. These are a race of yellow-skinned humanoids that live throughout the multiverse.
The Githyanki were created by Charles Stross. He submitted them for publication in White Dwarf magazine and they were well-received by the fans. They were so popular that they were added into the Fiend Folio and have been a part of every single edition of Dungeons & Dragons.
Charles Stross never told anyone that he took the name Githyanki from the novel Dying of the Light, which was written by George R. R. Martin, the creator of A Song of Ice and Fire and Game of Thrones. Martin was not aware of the name being used until long after the Fiend Folio was published. He has never sought legal action of any kind, so he must be fine with the use of the Githyanki name.
14. Vin Diesel Made A Movie Based On His D&D Character
There are many famous celebrities that admit to being fans of Dungeons & Dragons and still play the game when they can. This list includes the likes of Will Wheaton, Felicia Day, Kevin Smith, and Mike Myers. Robin Williams was also a huge fan of roleplaying, wargaming, and video games, which is why he named his daughter after Princess Zelda.
One of the biggest advocates of Dungeons & Dragons is Vin Diesel. He has spoken about the game in numerous interviews over the years. Vin Diesel took his fandom to another level when he managed to make a movie about one of his D&D characters.
Vin Diesel was working with screenwriter Cory Goodman when they started talking about D&D. Diesel talked about a character he played called Melkor who was a Witch Hunter (a Ranger/spell caster hybrid). This character was worked into the star of a movie called The Last Witch Hunter. The movie follows an immortal Witch Hunter who must stop a magical plague from destroying New York City. The film received poor reviews, though it did make a profit at the box office.
13. The Horrors Of The D&D Movie
There was a Dungeons & Dragons movie released in the year 2000. It was terrible. We aren’t going to go into the reasons why here, as it would take all day. Rest assured, the Dungeons & Dragons movie was savaged by critics, was a financial failure at the box office, and was forgotten in the wake of the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings movie franchises.
The most interesting part of the story of the Dungeons & Dragons movie was what was going on behind the scenes. According to Courtney Solomon, the director of the film, the whole project was dominated by the owners of the game. The people at TSR held the project back, due to numerous unreasonable demands, which forced the script to be rewritten several times. When Wizards of the Coast bought the rights to Dungeons & Dragons, they immediately sued the production of the film in order to get it stopped. The suit was settled out of court, with the caveat that it had to be filmed straight away, otherwise the producers would lose the rights to make the film.
12. A D&D Module Had To Be Recalled Due To S&M Themed Artwork
The creators of Dungeons & Dragons have released numerous pre-written adventures over the years. One of the earliest Dungeons & Dragons adventure modules was called Palace of the Silver Princess. This module is notable for the fact that is was recalled almost immediately. The content of the adventure wasn’t anything special: it was just another romp through an abandoned palace. What caused the recall was an illustration on page nine of the book, which depicted a woman who was hung from the ceiling by her hair. She is trapped in a torture dungeon and surrounded by small monsters, who are tearing pieces of her clothes off from her body. This picture caused the book to be pulled and reissued with new illustrations.
This image was considered far too risque for a Dungeons & Dragons book, as they were moving towards making their publications available to all ages. The earlier books did contain some topless nudity, which was phased out over time.
11. The Cthulhu & Elric Lawsuit
One book that has been recreated across the various editions of Dungeons & Dragons is Deities & Demigods. This is a book that details the strength of the gods, should you wish to include them into your game.
The first ever version of Deities & Demigods turned out to be a legal nightmare for TSR. This was due to the inclusion of two different pantheons that TSR thought they could use. The first was the gods of the Cthulhu Mythos from the works of H.P. Lovecraft. TSR believed these fictional deities were public domain (as Lovecraft died a long time ago). They didn’t realize that a company called Chaosium owned the rights to the Cthulhu Mythos at that time. The second problem was the gods of Michael Moorcock’s Elric series. Moorcock actually gave TSR permission to use them, without realizing that Chaosium also owned publication rights for those gods to appear in their books. TSR was forced to include a reference to Chaosium (one of their chief competitors) in the second printing of the book. The later printings removed the offending gods entirely.
10. The Killing Of Venger
One of the most underrated aspects of the Dungeons & Dragons franchise is the animated series that ran in the ’80s. The series followed a group of kids who were trapped in the world of the game. They were given a set of magical items by the enigmatic Dungeon Master, in order to help them find a way back to their home world. Throughout their adventures, they were pursued by an evil wizard named Venger, who wanted to steal their magical items for himself.
The most highly rated episode of the show’s run is also the one that got the producers into trouble with Broadcast Standards & Practises. It was called the “Dragon’s Graveyard” and the episode focused on the cast’s decision to lead Venger into a trap and murder him! In order to do so, they travel to the Dragon’s Graveyard, as their magic items were stronger there. They defeated Venger and almost killed him, before deciding to spare him at the last second. The idea of the cast of a Saturday morning cartoon plotting to slay their enemy almost got the episode shelved. Luckily, the producers fought for the episode and it made it to air, where it became one of the most highly regarded stories of the series.
9. A House Cat Can Kill A Commoner
There has always been a division among the Dungeons & Dragons community over which edition is the best. This is simply a matter of taste and has no definitive answer. What is clear is that there is a huge difference between the first two editions of the game and the three that have followed. The differences between the second and third editions of the game are many, with the two games being almost unrecognizable from each other.
One of the most amusing aspects of the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons is a rules disparity between the strength of cats and the weakness of humans. In D&D, all lethal attacks must deal at least one point of damage (unless resisted). A house cat can perform several attacks per turn, which means it can potentially deal a few hit points worth of damage. By comparison, a regular human commoner has one to four hit points. This means that it is possible for a regular cat to kill a person with low hit points in Dungeons & Dragons.
8. The Power Of The Original Bards
One of the least popular character classes in the Dungeons & Dragons series is the bard. The reason for this is because they are a jack of all trades style of character. They can do a lot of different things at once, without being especially great at any of them. Bards can fight, cast spells, sneak around, heal, and use their music on the battlefield. The problem with this is that D&D is a group based game, where every player is expected to fill a niche and be great at what they do. It is for this reason that bards are often portrayed less seriously in D&D fiction, such as with Elan from Order of the Stick.
In the first edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, the bard class required you to have several levels in other classes first. When the bard class became accessible, they were one of the most powerful classes in the game. This is due to the fact that they were as strong as fighters or thieves of the same level and possessed the spellcasting ability of druids, as well as other unique abilities. The original bards were badasses and would wreck anyone who tried to cross them.
7. The Hellish Name Change
In the multiverse of the Dungeons & Dragons setting, there are two warring factions of evil beings that live in hellish domains. They were originally referred to as Demons and Devils. These two races referenced real world mythology concerning evil supernatural creatures (such as the Succubus) and their home plane was the destination for the souls of evil mortals.
It is no secret that Dungeons & Dragons was highly scrutinized by religious groups during the early days of the game’s release. The game was also blamed for several murders and suicides that have happened (though the influence of the game on the crimes was blown out of proportion by the media). As such, there were many changes made to the second edition of Dungeons & Dragons that were intended to defuse the controversy surrounding the game.
In Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition, the Demon and Devil races were called Tanar’I and Baatezu respectively. They were portrayed as more of an extraterrestrial threat than as stealers of souls. These changes were reverted in the third edition of the game, where they became Demons and Devils once more.
6. D&D Used To Include Hobbits, Ents, and Balrogs
The creators of Dungeons & Dragons tried to downplay the significance of Lord of the Rings in its inspiration for the game. This was clearly a lie, as the early editions of the game featured several elements from Lord of the Rings that were printed in books and sold at stores. In the early version of Dungeons & Dragons, you could play as a hobbit and go on adventures, where you could befriend Ents and battle against the mighty Balrog.
It didn’t take long for these Lord of the Rings elements to disappear. A man named Saul Zaentz owned the rights to the Tolkien characters usage in fiction and he took TSR to court. The case was settled out of court, with future editions of Dungeons & Dragons changing the hobbits to halflings, the ents to treants, and the balrogs to balors.
5. The Artwork For The Invisible Monster
The owners of Dungeons & Dragons have released numerous books known as Monster Manuals. These books are filled with statistics for various creatures that you can use in your game. The Monster Manuals are filled with beautifully drawn illustrations of each creature, with the intention of inspiring the DM’s descriptions for the player’s benefit. It is advised that people who wish to run a game of Dungeons & Dragons should buy a Monster Manual as one of their first purchases.
One of the most infamous illustrations for a monster was in the Monstrous Manual for the second edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. The creature known as the Invisible Stalker just had a blank space where its artwork should be. This makes sense because it is invisible, but later versions of the Monster Manual managed to create visually interesting interpretations of the Invisible Stalker to show in the book.
4. The Curse Of Myth Drannor
In the Forgotten Realms setting of Dungeons & Dragons, there is a ruined elven city called Myth Drannor. It was once a beautiful place, where magic was woven into the very air itself and all races were welcome to stay. Myth Drannor would fall to the forces of evil and be overrun by demons and monsters of all description. It is said that the city is cursed, which is certainly true of the game that was based on it.
Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor was released for Windows in 2001. It was poorly received at launch, due to the brutal difficulty of the gameplay and for a large number of glitches. Ruins of Myth Drannor shipped with what may be the most damaging video game glitch of all time.
If you installed Ruins of Myth Drannor straight out of the box without patching it, then you were in for a bad time. When you uninstalled the game, it would delete the system files of your computer. If you wanted to use that computer again, then you would have had to reinstall Windows.
3. The Dawizard Done By Shoddy Editing
Microsoft Word and similar programs possess the greatest tool ever for the indecisive. Let’s say you wrote a five hundred page novel and the main character is called Dave, what would happen if you wanted to change his name to Jeff? You could manually go through all five hundred pages and make the change yourself, or, you could select the Find/Replace option. This will change all instances of Dave to Jeff in a second.
If you do decide to use the Find/Replace tool, then make sure to put a space before or after the word. The people at TSR learned this the hard way in their 1994 book Advanced Dungeons & Dragons book Encyclopedia Magica, Volume 1.
At some point during the development of Encyclopedia Magica, the decision was made to change all instances of the word “mage” to “wizard”. The problem was that the editor didn’t put a space before the word mage. This meant that all instances of the word damage now became dawizard. A generation of gamers was forced to read their Encyclopedia Magica in a Jamaican accent.
2. Fifty Shades Of Grey Elf
Dungeons & Dragons was often accused of some unsavory stuff during its early years. There were religious organizations that claimed it was teaching witchcraft to kids and lawyers were claiming that the game was convincing unhinged teenagers to go out and murder people, in a manner similar to the controversy over violent video games that would come later. TSR was forced to tone down their product in order to keep the game alive.
When Wizards of the Coast bought the rights to Dungeons & Dragons, they embraced the game’s reputation by releasing a book that needed a warning on its cover due to its objectionable content. This was the Book of Vile Darkness and it detailed the evilest things that the previous editions had been afraid to touch.
The Book of Vile Darkness covered subjects like sexual fetishes (though it lists S&M as something that only evil people can enjoy). It also dealt with the benefits of human sacrifice, the effects of torture, the stats of the incestuous demon lords, and details for classes like the Cancer Mage.
1. The DragonStrike VHS Tape
It can be tricky to explain what a game of Dungeons & Dragons is like to someone who has never seen one before. This isn’t so much of a problem now due to YouTube, but in the old days, you had to do your best to explain what your group got up to every week without making them sound like the Manson family.
In 1993, TSR released a simplified version of Dungeons & Dragons as a board game. It was called DragonStrike, and it came with rule books, miniature figures, and a selection of cardboard maps. DragonStrike also came with a VHS tape that contained a thirty-minute movie which was intended to show newcomers what a game of DragonStrike is actually like.
For any Dungeons & Dragons who want to feel embarrassed about enjoying their hobby, the DragonStrike tape is available online. If the intention was to teach people about the game, then they failed miserably. The tape tries to show the world of the game, whilst a group of unseen players is trying to learn the rules. As the audience, we see a troupe of z-list actors chewing the green screen scenery to pieces, as they compete with stuntmen in cardboard monster outfits.
DragonStrike is still better than the Dungeons & Dragons movie though.
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