10 Things Videogames Learned from D&D

To generate a D&D character, the player rolls three 6-sided dice and adds the results to produce a number between 3 and 18 for each Ability. Classes have varying ability requirements (for example, to be a magic-user a character must have at least 9 for Intelligence). Variations on the six basic character Abilities introduced by D&D - Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution, Charisma - recur in most videogames. When you boost your boxer’s Chin and Agility stats, you’re basically aping D&D’s Abilities system - and you thought the jock was the natural enemy of the geek!

Hit Points
Health, Stamina, Hearts, Overshields… whatever you call it, it began as Hit Points. D&D was the first game to attach a fluctuating numerical value to a character’s physical state of well being. Initially, a videogame character’s Life was a binary condition: alive (jumping over barrels) or dead (crushed by barrels). The life meter is standard issue in modern videogames, except in the case of the trendy retro throwback.

Critical Damage
A critical strike is achieved in D&D by rolling a 20 (aka “natural 20”) on a 20-sided die, resulting in twice the normal amount of damage. The operating principle is that it hurts more to get stabbed in the face than the shoulder. Extra damage for headshots and bosses with giant glowing weak points are just some of the ways this combat mechanism has been absorbed into videogames. D&D also had an assassination system for resolving attacks on unaware victims. A melee kill from behind in Halo 3 and a stealth kill in Assassin’s Creed are two modern implementations of D&D assassinations.

Especially popular in first-person shooters, the phrase ‘melee attack’ is rooted in D&D lore. A "melee round" in D&D consists of a one-minute period of time during which the participants of a combat scenario attack, defend, cast spells or flee like cowards. Further, "melee combat" refers to the use of a hand-held weapon or magical attack involving touch. 


  • FtMyersGamer - October 6, 2008 7:35 a.m.

    So true.. The systems he came up with will never die. I remember spending the better portion of my young adulthood spinning dice and moving little figurines around a tablecloth. Timeless stuff.
  • cultofbananas - October 1, 2008 2:29 a.m.

    One of the best articles I've ever read. Oustanding job.
  • blankpixelsCG - September 25, 2008 4:11 a.m.

    Awesome article. I'm surprised there aren't any comments. Great job, Joe.
  • MyGameName - October 9, 2008 2:05 a.m.

    I used to play d&d but now i play d20 modern. Very similar. Same rules but different skills (ride becomes drive, etc.)

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