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The influence of Dungeons & Dragons on various forms of media, from novels to video games and pop culture, is considerable. Since its initial release in 1974, Dungeons & Dragons has directly or indirectly inspired multiple video game genres and widely-used game mechanics, popularized depictions of fantasy worlds. As a result, D&D has been referred to as "the single most influental game of all time".[1]

Influence on video games[]

Dungeons & Dragons inspired several early video games, which in turn were heavily influential on several major video games. Game mechanics originally introduced or popularized by D&D include hit points, mana, experience points, levelling up, numeric ability scores, random hit and damage, dungeon exploration, procedural dungeon generation, character class, and the tank/DPS/healer role system.

Early video games[]

The growth of Dungeons & Dragons in the 1970s and 1980s coincided with the increasing availability of computers, allowing for the development of video games. The earliest known D&D-inspired games were known as m199h, pedit5, dnd, and Moria, all created on the PLATO multi-user mainframe computer system at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign between 1974 and 1975.[2][3]

From 1975 to 1977, Colossal Cave was developed for the PDP-10 mainframe computer by Will Crowther, who cited his experience of playing D&D as partial influence.[4] Colossal Cave, also known as ADVENT or Adventure, was the first of what would be called the text adventure genre.

In 1980, Michael Toy and Glenn Wichman created Rogue, for BSD Unix mainframe system at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Rogue was a dungeon exploration game which included procedurally generated dungeons to allow for replayability. Toy and Wichman had both played Colossal Cave.[5] Rogue's inspiration from Dungeons & Dragons is obvious, including mechanics such as experience points, hit points.

Adventure and roleplaying game genres[]

The availability of home microcomputers in the 1980s created a market for video games. Two key early computer roleplaying games were Wizardry and Ultima both released in 1981 for the Apple II.

Wizardry developer Robert Woodhead cited the PLATO mainframe dungeon exploration games as inspiration. Wizardry features such D&D mechanics as ability scores, alignment, race, character class, hit points and experience. Ultima's developer Richard Garriott was also a Dungeons & Dragons player as far back as 1977,[6] Ultima also shows clear influence from D&D, including hit points and an experience system.[1]

Numerous other roleplaying game designers would cite Wizardry, Ultima, or D&D as inspirations, while others would demonstrate clear influence of D&D rules. The Bard's Tale (1980), whose creator was an avid D&D player,[7][8] used D&D-style ability scores, XP, hit points, and character classes. Might and Magic (1986) and Dungeon Master (1987) both cite Wizardry and Ultima as inspirations,[1] and make use of D&D core concepts. The first Elder Scrolls game, Arena (1994), was inspired by Ultima Underworld and based on the creators' D&D campaign setting.[9]

Ultima and Wizardry also gained a niche following in Japan, and would themselves inspire several notable games. In a 2003 interview, Shigeru Miyamoto cited Ultima as an inspiration for the original Legend of Zelda (1986). The creators of Dragon Quest (1986) cited both games: Yuji Horii was a fan of Wizardry, while Nakamura was a fan of Ultima. Yuji Horii was also inspired by text adventures to create Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken (1983), which is considered the origin of the visual novel genre.[1]

Final Fantasy (1987) designer Hironobu Sakaguchi was inspired by Ultima and Wizardry, while Akitoshi Kawazu based the game's combat mechanics on Wizardry and D&D.[10] Final Fantasy drew concepts from D&D, including the idea of weakness and resistance of elemental subtypes, which would later be used as a pivotal concept of the highly successful Pokémon series.

Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest went on to receive numerous sequels and define a genre of Japanese RPGs, or JRPGs, and would themselves be cited as direct inspiration by the creators of games including the action RPG Dark Souls (2011), a real-time rather than turn-based game.

The Japanese action RPG subgenre itself draws influence from Dragon Slayer, itself influenced by the Apple II title The Caverns of Freitag (1982), a game which shows level titles, hit points, experience points, and magic weapons.[11][12] The western action RPG genre is more influenced by Diablo (1997), originally designed as a turn-based RPG, but its iconic real-time gameplay was added later in development.[13]

Several RPG creatures created or popularized by Dungeons & Dragons appear in other video game RPGs. Monsters originally created by D&D include the mind flayer, appearing in the Final Fantasy series and Demon's Souls; the beholder, appearing in Magicka; and the mimic, appearing in numerous games, where it almost always has the form of a treasure chest.

Roguelike genre[]

Initially a fantasy tabletop RPG subgenre, "roguelike" games draw their roots in Rogue (1980), a D&D-inspired prodecurally generated dungeon exploration text-mode game written for BSD Unix. A clone of this game, Hack (1982), was ported to MS-DOS and served as the basis of NetHack (1987), a greatly expanded version which is still under active development as of 2020.

NetHack was so named due to its release on the Usenet internet forum system, where it was discussed on the forum rec.games.roguelike.nethack. The term "roguelike" initially referred to the game's similarity to Rogue, but later came to refer to any game with NetHack-like features of procedural generation and permadeath, so that the player's progress is erased when their character is killed. These features are not unusual in D&D, but are so rare in video game RPGs where one can usually load from a saved game or checkpoint or return to life relatively easily.

In Japan, Dragon Quest designer Yuji Horii took inspiration from Rogue to create the Mystery Dungeon series.[1]

First-person shooter genre[]

Doom (1993) was inspired by Dungeons & Dragons.[14] The graphics for the cacodemon enemy was infamously copied from the cover of the AD&D Manual of the Planes (1e) (1987), where it depicts the astral dreadnought.

Later, online first-person shooter games drew greater inspiration from RPG-style game mechanics. The Quake mod Team Fortress, and later Half-Life mod Team Fortress Classic (1999), deployed a character class system where each class gives the player different amounts of health, armor, movement speed, and access to weapons. Its sequel, Team Fortress 2 (2007), made each class a defined character, in turn inspiring the popular team shooter Overwatch (2016).

Other tabletop roleplaying games[]

Numerous other tabletop roleplaying games have been created which either follow from D&D's designs, or have been created to intentionally subvert D&D's design decisions.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 The Birth of the Japanese RPG (2020). Game Maker's Toolkit, YouTube.
  2. Interview with the creators of dnd (PLATO)
  3. BRIEF: Everything We Know About 1970s Mainframe RPGs We Can No Longer Play (June 20, 2021). The CRPG Addict.
  4. "I had been involved in a non-computer role-playing game called Dungeons and Dragons at the time, and also I had been actively exploring in caves - Mammoth Cave in Kentucky in particular. Suddenly, I got involved in a divorce, and that left me a bit pulled apart in various ways. In particular I was missing my kids. Also the caving had stopped, because that had become awkward, so I decided I would fool around and write a program that was a re-creation in fantasy of my caving, and also would be a game for the kids, and perhaps some aspects of the Dungeons and Dragons that I had been playing. My idea was that it would be a computer game that would not be intimidating to non-computer people, and that was one of the reasons why I made it so that the player directs the game with natural language input, instead of more standardized commands. My kids thought it was a lot of fun." Dale Peterson, Genesis II, Creation and Recreation with Computers (1983), p.188. [1]
  5. A Brief History of "Rogue" (1997), Glenn R. Wichman.
  6. "When I was in high school I took the one computer class my school offered, and using the school's one Teletype, system operated by paper tape no less. At the same time I learned to play fantasy games such as Dungeons & Dragons. This was in 1977." Computer Gaming World #26, page 18.
  7. Matt Chat 89: Bard's Tale and Wizardry with Brian Fargo (2011)
  8. Matt Chat 85: Rebecca Heineman Pt. 4 (2010)
  9. Arena - Behind the Scenes (2004)
  10. Akitoshi Kawazu on the origins of SaGa's insanity (2012)
  11. The Secret Origin of the Action RPG (2020)
  12. Game 130: The Caverns of Freitag (2014), The CRPG Addict
  13. Diablo was far from the first ARPG, ... (2020), Hacker News
  14. "We played a lot of D&D for years before we started making Doom, and so we decided this was gong to be one of our D&D-inspired games. [John] Carmack was really excited to do a game that had demons in it, and, y'know, we all agreed." [2] (2011)