The History of Dungeons & Dragons Computer Games

by Wimwick (Neil Ellis) on October 15, 2010

Video games were my introduction to Dungeons & Dragons, specifically SSI’s Pool of Radiance. Playing this game led me to purchase the original Red Box Set and guided me down the path to playing D&D. With the announcement of Neverwinter I started thinking about all of the D&D computer games that have been released. I’ve always felt that D&D having a digital presence through computer games is a great way to expand the presence of the brand. These games also serve as a great introduction to the hobby for the uninitiated.

With this in mind I thought it would be an interesting exercise to go back in time and look at D&D on the computer. There are of course other computer RPGs that don’t fall under the D&D brand, but we’ll have to save those for another time.

  • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Cloudy Mountain (1982)
    Released by Intellivision this was one of the first D&D titles to be made into a video game.
  • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin (1982)
    The sequel to Cloudy Mountain.
  • Pool of Radiance (1988)
    Published by SSI my life would never be the same after playing this game as it served as my introduction to the great hobby of D&D. My fondest memory of this game is hiring a hero in town and then turning on him in combat so I could loot his stuff. Return to town, rinse and repeat.
  • Heroes of the Lance (1988)
    Set in the Dragonlance campaign setting and filling in the gaps left in the novels, this game has you playing Raistlin, Caramon and Tanis half-elven.
  • Curse of the Azure Bonds (1989)
    Based on a novel of the same name, this game is the sequel to Pools of Radiance.
  • Dragons of Flame (1989)
    The sequel to Heroes of the Lance.
  • Hillsfar (1989)
    Another release from SSI, this game had a blend of arcade action and adventure.
  • War of the Lance (1989)
    Another game set in the Dragonlance setting. This release was a turn based strategy game.
  • Secret of the Silver Blades (1990)
    Part of the Pools of Radiance series by SSI, this game picks off where Curse of the Azure Bonds leaves off.
  • DragonStrike (1990)
    Set in Dragonlance, this game has you riding your dragon and taking the fight to the enemy.
  • Champions of Krynn (1990)
    Published by SSI, this was the first of a new three-part series set in Dragonlance.
  • Eye of the Beholder (1990)
    The first time I played Eye of the Beholder I was swept away by its state of the art graphics and sound. I was completely immersed in the experience, just thinking about it makes me want to almost install the game again.
  • Eye of the Beholder II: The Legend of Darkmoon (1991)
    The sequel to the game listed above.
  • Shadow Sorcerer (1991)
    The third installment of the Dragonlance series started with Heroes of the Lance.
  • Pools of Darkness (1991)
    The journey that started with Pools of Radiance comes to a conclusion with this release from SSI.
  • Death Knights of Krynn (1991)
    This is part two of three of the Dragonlance series started with Champions of Krynn.
  • Neverwinter Nights (1991)
    The first multi-player online D&D game.
  • Gateway to the Savage Frontier (1991)
    Another gold box game released by SSI, set in the Forgotten Realms.
  • The Dark Queen of Krynn (1992)
    The third part in the Dragonlance series started with Champions of Krynn. The art for this game is one of my favourite renditions of Takhisis.
  • Treasures of the Savage Frontier (1992)
    Sequel to the Gateway to the Savage Frontier.
  • Spelljammer: Pirates of Realmspace (1992)
    Spelljammer is one of the D&D campaign settings I never got into and as a result didn’t give this release a second look.
  • Eye of the Beholder III: Assault on Myth Drannor (1993)
    Part three in the series.
  • Fantasy Empires (1993)
    More of a tactical war game than RPG, set in the Mystara setting.
  • Dark Sun: Shattered Lands (1993)
    Dark Sun gets it’s turn at hosting a D&D computer game.
  • Stronghold (1993)
    A city/castle building simulation game.
  • Baldur’s Gate (1998)
    We jump forward a few years to the BioWare age of D&D products. Baldur’s Gate set the standard for RPGs to come and indeed BioWare with the release of Dragon’s Age (not a D&D product) demonstrate that they are still setting the standard for computer RPGs. This game had an expansion titled Tales of the Sword Coast.
  • Planescape: Torment (1999)
    Driven more by story than action, this release received widespread critical acclaim.
  • Icewind Dale (2000)
    A release by Black Isle Studio’s using the infinity engine first seen with Baldur’s Gate. Salvatore fans would be familiar with the Ten Towns where this adventure begins.
  • Baldur’s Gate II: Shadow’s of Amn (2000)
    Rated as one of the best computer RPGs of all time, this is the follow-up to the 1998 release of Baldur’s Gate.
  • Pools of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor (2001)
    This game grabbed my attention for two reasons. It was the first computer RPG to use D&D 3e rules and it was set after the SSI release Pools of Radiance. Unfortunately, the game failed to impress.
  • Neverwinter Nights (2002)
    Released by BioWare, the big draw for this release was the Aurora toolset which would allow player to create modules and then host sessions with their players. Virtual worlds were created by the community and the game had several expansions.
  • Icewind Dale II (2002)
    The sequel to Icewind Dale this game featured the D&D 3e rule set and was action heavy.
  • The Temple of Elemental Evil (2003)
    A computer rendition of this classic dungeon. The game used the D&D 3.5e rule set and was published by Atari, the only company to still retain a D&D license.
  • Dungeons and Dragons Online (2006)
    The modern MMO for D&D, the game has gone free to play in the past year. Set in Eberron the game uses a hybrid D&D 3.5e rules system.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 (2006)
    While this game had it’s share of bugs it was also a welcome back to the Neverwinter World. Featuring the D&D 3.5e rule set it is the last game to be published for D&D on the computer. The game had several expansions.
  • Neverwinter (2011)
    The next chapter in the history of D&D on the computer. Time will tell how this game holds up.

I’ve invariably missed a game or two in this list and I’ve deliberately omitted games that weren’t released on the PC, such as D&D Heroes which was released for the Xbox. In compiling the list it becomes apparent that there was a large D&D computer RPG appetite in the early 90s. From 1990 to 1993 there were 17 titles released. Clearly the time to create a computer game in today’s environment is more involved, I simply would love to see more computer D&D content be released. Another interesting note is that video games now seem to be turning into role playing games. World of Warcraft, Everquest, and Dragon Age have all transitioned off the screen and onto the page. Time will tell if this is a trend, I for one would love to see a stronger D&D presence via video games.

What are your memories of the titles that are listed above? Did any of these game serve as your introduction to Dungeons & Dragons? Do any of the games stand out to you in terms of their story or advancement of technology?

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Captain Spud October 15, 2010 at 10:31 am

My first D&D experience was playing Knights of the Old Republic on the PC. Yes, I know, it’s based on Star Wars RPG and not on D&D itself– but since SWRPG was based on D&D, it gave me enough of an intro to become familiar with the basic mechanics of attack and damage rolls, modifiers, saving throws, classes, feats, powers/spells, and the like.

I later tried out Neverwinter Nights and Baldur’s Gate II, but I tried both when they were quite old, so they failed to wow me as much as they both deserved. Both were still fun, but they were little more than time-wasters on my laptop.

I tried DDO because it was free… and uninstalled it almost immediately, because it’s TERRIBLE. By FAR the worst MMO I’ve ever played. Awful graphics, awful player gameplay, awful content… it’s just a shameless cash-in train wreck.

2 Coign October 15, 2010 at 12:10 pm

It is not PC but you are missing one of the few D&D games I still pop into the gaming console every so often.

http://www.jjgames.com/product/6275

3 Al October 15, 2010 at 12:39 pm

First experience was 1979 Computer Programing class offered in my H.S. The only access to a computer was the school’s only terminal to the school board’s mainframe. I’ll also point out that there was no screen but a printer using old 18″ wide printer paper. Somewhere along the semester one of us in the class found out that on the school board’s mainframe there were a couple of games such as Star Trek and Dungeons & Dragons, which was quickly disseminated to the rest of us in the class.

Fast forward 1 year, I was walking to a class in college and saw note looking for players for a game of Dungeons & Dragons. I was intrigue and when I went to the meet up, I responded to the DM’s question of how I had heard of the game with “That’s the game you play on the computer, right?” and the rest as they say is history.

4 Blue planet October 16, 2010 at 8:47 am

From the recent d&d games, the best ones are baldur’s gate 2 shadows of amn and NwN 1 in my opinion. BG 2 is extremely awesome in single player mode while NwN 1 is one of the best games i ever played in multiplayer mode. Some people whom i know are running their own PvP server which uses its own ruleset (thanks to aurora toolset) and we can battle each other in team vs team mode using all awesome features d&d offers: death magic, vorpal weapons, on hit effects, devastating criticals, poisons, petrification effects such as spells or supernatural abilities and many more.

5 Lahrs October 18, 2010 at 1:23 pm

A few of the games, Planescape: Torment, Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale and the Temple of Elemental Evil can be purchased from http://www.gog.com and have been fixed to run on Vista/Win 7. Great games.

6 Phil February 4, 2011 at 11:25 am

I am desperate to find a playable version of pools of radiance and the others that you can move your characters to. I am willing to pay for a playable version put onto a cd that I can install or any other way possible to play these games, if anyone has any ideas or is willing to try and find the version I will gladly pay for it.

Thanks,

Phil C.

7 Old Geiser August 3, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Started on the board game. Then to DOS/3.22 spent many hours on the Pools. Have not played the newer on as it seems they have got away from the party creating and building aspect. Enjoying a lot of the SyFy and BBc tv programs now. Going to try Lahrs gog.com. Don’t do tweets or faces.

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