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When should we celebrate the fortieth anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons?

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2014 will be the 40th anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons, but Jon Peterson, author of Playing at the World, asked an important question: when, exactly, should we celebrate? The answer varies depending on whom you ask.

Getting a head start, David Ewalt published an article celebrating the birthday of Dungeons & Dragons titled Out of the Dungeons on December 29, 2013:

Published 40 years ago this month, the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons promised “a world where the fantastic is fact and magic really works!” To outsiders, it may seem impenetrably complex or impossibly nerdy, but the tabletop role-playing game has inspired a generation of writers and filmmakers and is credited with giving birth to the modern video-game industry. Happy birthday, D&D!

And the Guardian followed with its own article soon after on January 3, 2014:

Now it’s striking out towards a fifth edition, D&D Next, which is going through a long testing process and receiving a decidedly mixed response from players. Alongside it is a blossoming game scene that is pushing in all directions. The internet has disrupted this world along with everything else, and one-page games and home-brew systems have joined mass-produced heavyweights to compete for gamers’ time. It’s hard now to envisage any one system regaining the supremacy that D&D once had.

Peterson explained the challenges in pinning down an exact date, but ultimately settled on January 26, 2014:

The birth of a game is not such an easy thing to timestamp as the birth of a person. A game must be printed, assembled, advertised, and sold. At what point do we consider the game available? When the publishers have copies in hand, that they can distribute to friends? When sales have been made to the general public? Surely copies existed in January of 1974, but the first advertisements didn't start appearing until February, and the game was available to the general public only through the post at first, so formal sales must have come later. Ultimately, there is an unavoidable ambiguity surrounding the release of a product like this, one that probably can't be resolved to any single day.

Early in 2014, the geek-friendly television show Community will release a follow-up to the "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" episode, guest-starring David Cross:

Cross's episode will be a follow-up to the now-classic 2011 Dungeons & Dragons half-hour ("Advanced Dungeons & Dragons," for title purists). Per an official episode description, ANUSTART Cross will play Hank Hickey, the “bitterly estranged son” of Jonathan Banks’s previously announced character, Professor Hickey. Hank “joins the study group for, at the very least, the second most important game of Dungeons & Dragons ever.”

Other gamers may prefer instead to celebrate on Gary Gygax Day, July 27, with a toast.

Wizards of the Coast is releasing the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons in 2014, presumably at Gen Con, August 14-17 in 2014. The Dungeons & Dragons Documentary is also planned for release at Gen Con next year.

In the original boxed set of Dungeons & Dragons, co-creator Gary Gygax penned a forward to the game on November 1, as I noted in The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games:

On November 1, 1973 (I was born exactly a year earlier), Gygax penned the forward of the very first Dungeons & Dragons rulebook. Dungeons & Dragons consisted of three booklets: Men & Magic, Monsters & Treasure, and Wilderness & Dungeon Adventures. It featured four races (humans, dwarves, elves, and hobbits) and just three classes (Fighting-Men, Magic-Users, and Clerics). It also introduced individual statistics that had never existed before: Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma. This was a quantum leap from wargames of the past, as the statistics described an individual person, not a unit.

Whatever day you celebrate, 2014 is going to be a huge year for Dungeons & Dragons.

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