Episode 011 – How Dungeons & Dragons Influenced Video Games

Jake’s hard drive crashed, so Jonathan Drain of D20 Source joins us to talk about Dungeons & Dragons, how it influenced video games, and vise versa. (The 4th version of D&D took inspiration from MMORPGs, not to mention a certain well known FPS series.)

Direct MP3 Download (right-click link and save).

Mostly we just ramble on about this and that, including my personal 2008 Game of the Year, Mount & Blade, an Action/RPG/Strategy game which reminds JD of a LARP and me of those D&D strongholds which high level Fighters are supposed to build. We even touch a bit on that classic question, What Is An RPG? (previously covered in our first episode), because there’s no point in beating a dead horse — unless it’s a dead RPG horse, in which case you gain some experience.

Many thanks to Jonathan, who’ll be returning again next week in part two of the two-part episode, titled: Episode 11: Part Two — Episode 12.

We’re… still working on the title.

– Zeus

Published in: on August 7, 2009 at 7:22 am  Comments (6)  

6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. You guys do a great show!

    You should do an episode on the Earthbound series, Xenogears, or the Lunar series.

  2. Thanks, Evan! Glad to hear you like the show.

    Good news is, after part two of the D&D/Tabletop podcast goes up tomorrow, the next Level Up is going to be about Game Arts, covering both the Lunar and Grandia series.

    – Zeus

  3. Is this podcast available via iTunes? I can’t find it in their directory…

    • Heya, Ken. We’re not in the iTunes directory yet, but for now you can click the “Subscribe to Podcast” link at the top right, then click on the “Add to iTunes” link underneath all the various subscription options. (I have no idea why they didn’t go with a huge iTune icon to make it easier to find.)

      – Zeus

      • That worked. Thanks! Gotta love Feedburner.

  4. Hey there. I just discovered your podcast today and I’m looking forward to getting caught up on your archives, but being both a tabletop and video game player (and with some professional entanglements in both) I went straight for this episode first. Having spend some considerable time reading up on the history of tabletop RPGs, I wanted to point out a few things.

    The first thing that could really be called an RPG was probably Braunstein. This was a Napoleonic wargame set in a German town, but with the twist that players played individual characters rather than armies, and not just soldiers. It was a smash hit, and a major influence on Dave Arneson, who created an ongoing game in a fantasy setting called Blackmoor. If Sean Patrick Fanon’s book The Fantasy Role-Playing Gamer’s Bible is to be believed, Braunstein, Blackmoor, and later D&D in many ways drew off of developments in wargames, such as a naval warfare game that had named ships and hit points, and a dogfighting game where surviving pilots became more skilled over time. Before D&D, TSR put out a medieval wargame called Chainmail, which was notable for allowing fantasy elements. The very first version of D&D was basically joined at the hip with Chainmail, and the default way to handle combat was to fall back on the Chainmail rules. Early D&D was interesting in that it assumed that the Dungeon Master was a referee making rulings, much like what Mr. Drain was describing for wargames, and it took many years and editions for the rules to become as explicit as tabletop gamers are used to these days.

    Japanese got their hands on D&D-influenced computer games not long after they came about in the U.S., but the actual tabletop game lagged behind by a decade or so and never really caught on. There’s a very small niche tabletop RPG scene in Japan (which produces some *really* neat games), but for the most part “RPG” means a kind of video game over there. What’s interesting to me is that while Lord of the Rings has a following in Japan, the overall Japanese notion of Western-style fantasy owes a lot more to Dragon Quest than Tolkien.

    D&D 4th Edition is a very interesting game in that it took inspiration from quite a few different sources. MMORPGs like World of Warcraft definitely played a role, but so did European board games and independent tabletop RPGs. Interestingly, one of the most MMORPG-like aspects of the new edition isn’t the game itself, but WotC’s approach to supporting it, which more resembles a video game developer adding new expansions and patches. They’re aiming to make it a “living game,” and in the process they’ve accumulated more than 80 pages of errata (across the core rules and countless supplements), and tweaked classes and other elements in a variety of ways (such as how the Divine Power supplement added new stuff to improve Paladins). You’re definitely right that their digital stuff didn’t live up to what they were pitching. My understanding is that they had some serious problems with the software developers they contracted. The tools that they have gotten out for people to use are fantastic though. The Character Builder lets you create characters of any level with *any* official D&D material, which covers a dozen or more books and every magazine article as well.

    Tabletop RPGs have really branched out and blurred lines, to a degree comparable to video games with RPG elements. D&D4e has a lot of wargame elements, and other games have drawn on improv theater (A Flower For Mara), board games (Dance and the Dawn), card games (Misery Bubblegum), and generally done all kinds of crazy stuff you’d never think of (Ribbon Drive is a game about road trips you play using mix CDs). There’s a lot of angst in the tabletop RPG scene (or at least the internet component of it) about how to better attract new gamers, and one recurring theme is whether to do stuff that more resembles video game RPGs or to deliberately avoid that and go for things that require human beings. Regardless, there’s definitely a lot of cross-pollination going on, and it seems like every time someone asks what happened to a respected old-school tabletop RPG designer the answer turns out to be that he’s working in the video game industry.

    Anyway, I’ve gone on way too long, but keep up the good work!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: