With the release of the basic rules for D&D’s 5th edition, there has been a huge buzz about the latest iteration of what many consider the progenitor product of tabletop gaming. Everything from the new rules to the Basic Set’s stated stance on inclusive gaming have garnered a great deal of attention, good and bad, and have led to larger conversations about the state of modern gaming in general and where it’s going next.
But as D&D (and gaming in general) keeps moving forward, one group is taking a look at the history behind it all: the torrid tale of how Dungeons & Dragons got its start and the impact it had on gaming as a hobby, and on our culture as a whole.
In honor of the game’s 40th anniversary this year, Anthony Savini and his team, late of their successful Kickstarter campaign, have produced Dungeons & Dragons: A Documentary, a feature-length film bringing further light to not only the impact D&D has had on gaming and the world, but the impact it had on its own creators as they quickly tangled with their own success and the darker sides of doing business.
Styling it after exposés like Food, Inc. and Inside Job, the film’s creators hope to tell the true tale of D&D from its inception through the words of many of those who lived it first-hand, including the heartbreaking shift where the game’s makers were largely forced out of the business. The film “will not so much untangle the Rashomon-like story of TSR as it will give it perspective,” which may bring to light a more accurate retelling of an event many older gamers know all too well.
In a strangely fitting twist, the documentary team experienced some friction of their own with original co-creators Andrew Pascal and James Sprattley, who have since splintered off into their own documentary project, The Great Kingdom, focusing largely on the lives of D&D’s creators and the contentious split with TSR, comparing it to “the Facebook story.”
But Savini’s team aren’t stopping there. D&D: A Documentary also illuminates D&D and tabletop gaming’s influence on our everyday interactions – the shocking degree to which roleplaying has become a natural part of all our lives. From educational reforms (something near and dear to my heart) to the treatment of public health issues (including PTSD), tabletop gaming has gone far beyond owlbears and ten-foot poles, a cultural shift that owes a great deal to the early success of Dungeons & Dragons.
The film’s creators will be airing a special 10-minute sneak peek of the film at GenCon along with a panel Q&A. You can find information on the event on GenCon’s event website. Check it out!