Dungeons and Dragons' legacy goes beyond tabletop games. Without the hit 45-year-old tabletop game, a lot of video games today would never have existed or would probably look a lot different. Since it's inception by Gary Gygax and David Arneson, Dungeons and Dragons has inspired not only geeks or nerds, but also video game developers when it comes to coming up with video game elements.
Suffice it to say, plenty of gamers today owe a lot to Dungeons and Dragons for actually providing the template for video games that have become standard in the gaming industry. If you find a certain universal video game element chances are, it was borrowed from D&D. So, whether it's Dark Souls, Diablo, Mass Effect, or even Call of Duty, here are 10 of video game elements taken straight out of D&D's books.
10 Combat Mechanics
If you play video games long enough, there's no way you would miss certain terms like critical attacks, offense, defense, evasion, and many other euphemisms for numerical calculations that take place in the background while you play. Turns out, D&D's intricate system for combat is the granddaddy of such gaming terminologies.
It introduced many different types of attacks, armors, and other "checks" before damage is calculated. Before this, most video game enemies just outright kill you when they die (looking at you, Pac-Man) or there are no combat mechanics at all. Thanks to D&D, video games found out a way to make combat more exciting and varied than the usual rock-paper-scissors formula.
This is a system that most video games—not just MMORPGs—use and even abuse (loot boxes, anyone?) these days. Apparently, Gygax and Arneson knew what kind of thrill gambling and luck brings on human beings. Hence, they introduced an element of luck in D&D in the form of the d20 system die. It was a way to determine which hits do damage, which treasure isn't trapped, and many other situations that rely on chance.
Video game developers took this approach, injected steroids into it, and usually calls it random number generator or RNG. This turned the mild lottery system into a full-blown digital gamble with a disproportionate risk to reward ratio—depending on which video game, of course. It did achieve the same effect and added more depth and replay value, but it can be so frustrating, gamers had to make up a humorous deity tied to it called RNGesus.
8 Slow and Mathematical Battles
Of course, when numbers are concerned in combat, you can expect slower-than usual battles or fights in games like D&D. Some video games, despite utilizing computers instead of the human brain for calculation, still offer players a chance to savor the small numerical details and values of each attack, spell, or mitigation.
Video games like Pillars of Eternity, X-Com, and Divinity: Original Sin still respect the blow-by-blow calculation that players do in D&D and thus incorporate slower combat that you can pause and calculate yourself. Such a system also allowed players to "theory-craft" or "min-max" their character builds to ensure that they're as efficient as possible.
7 Hit Points
We did mention before that before D&D took pop culture by a landslide, most video game enemies killed players in one hit, right? No matter how hardcore you are, this tends to get annoying and shallow. So, D&D introduced another system that would come to define video game characters' survivability: hit points.
Simply put, it's the amount of durability, health, or vitality your character has to withstand punishment before dying. So, if you have any health bar or meter (invisible or otherwise) in your video games, make sure to thank D&D for saving you from eternal exasperation.
6 Tanky Bosses
You do have to admit that hit points make the game easier. Whoever came up with that had to find a way to make boss monsters more formidable and scarier, so they cranked up the hit points for the bosses. Eventually, because of this, bosses came to be seen as nothing more than sponges who soak up huge amounts of damage. D&D was the first to do this.
In this regard, D&D's hit point system became a double-edged sword. They also gave us those insane bosses with millions of hit points and require the whole server to take down. It's even worse if you're in singleplayer, just like what Dark Souls or any other Souls-like game has shown us.
5 Character Progression
Before video games started borrowing from D&D's progression system, how you proceed in video games is more like a race. Environments are merely stages or your skill is only shown through a high score. Thanks to roleplaying games (RPGs) that took after D&D, progression was given more richness.
You now progress by finding shinier loot, getting experience for your character, killing some bosses, and facing scarier and tougher enemies are just some of D&D's contribution to how video games gave players a sense of progression. It was a system that's as functional and effective as the wheel, meaning it's not about to be replaced any time soon.
Many fans of The Elder Scrolls games are familiar (or probably even married) with this notion. The idea of making your own character, giving it it's own quirks and background, and going on an adventure with it in the huge open world all stemmed from D&D's signature idea of giving players the freedom to be whoever they want in a fantasy world.
Games like Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, or even more modern ones like Dragon Age wouldn't have let you played as a bisexual one-eyed bad-mouthed dwarf with a soft spot for bears if not for D&D's revolutionary roleplaying contributions. To that end, RPGs would not have been as successful or have even existed at all were it not for D&D.
In addition to imagining your character's appearance and story, you're also allowed to choose and improve its dispositions in life. Is it a barbarian brute with no brains and all brawn? Or is it a scrawny and pale wizard but has a silver tongue? D&D has found a way to translate real-life traits and characteristics into its tabletop world with all the familiar stats like strength, agility, intelligence, charisma, endurance, and many others.
Like the character progression system, it's a timeless system that determines many things and even acts as the backbone of the combat mechanics. Many games have tried to replicate this system as using D&D's might be grounds for a lawsuit. Still, it was such a successful RPG element that even the imitations work well enough.
Because there are different attributes and character qualities, their jobs, classes, or professions are also varied. Strong characters are fighters or warriors, intelligent characters are wizards or mages, and agile characters are rogues or marksmen and those are just the basic types. D&D has given players the ultimate freedom to create a character that reflects their personality or something else.
Again, this is certainly one of the most apparent elements most RPGs have borrowed from D&D and has since been a mainstay in the gaming industry. As a testament to how well-crafted D&D's class system is, it also translated well to video games especially when increasing replayability.
One of the reasons why classes are present in D&D is that you simply can't play it alone. You have to play well with others in your campaigns, and this makes class dynamics add an exciting and unpredictable layer on top of the already interesting game mechanics. This is where parties come into play; by that, we mean a group of adventurers, which is arguably more fun than the usual connotation for a party.
This sense of diverse party multiplayer has often been replicated mostly by Bioware in games like Dragon Age or Mass Effect or more masterfully by Baldur's Gate. Of course, those are controlled by A.I. and could never really be a true substitute for the D&D experience. Nevertheless, it made RPGs more refined and spellbinding; the same can be said for any game that borrowed an element from D&D.