DUNGEONS & DRAGONS at 50: a chat with Chris Perkins, Game Design Architect, WOTC

When did D&D become a brand? Wizards of the Coast stalwart Chris Perkins shares his thoughts…

Chris, thanks for joining me. Before we crack on, please introduce yourself!
Hi, I’m Chris Perkins. I’m a Game Architect who works on DUNGEONS & DRAGONS studio at Wizards of the Coast. I’ve been making D&D stuff professionally since I was a teenager, and I’ve been working on D&D full-time for the past 27 years.

Wow! And to give that some context what – on a day-to-day basis – do you actually do?
These days, my primary responsibility is to manage the team of designers and editors who create official DUNGEONS & DRAGONS tabletop game products. I also assist and advise other D&D teams as well as business partners. As a D&D steward, I also have the privilege of representing this game I love at conventions and elsewhere. Much of my time is spend in meetings and answering email, but I always carve out time to creatively contribute to the game.

There are plenty of online articles and videos about the history of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS as a game… At what point, though, do you think did the game become a brand?
I’d say DUNGEONS & DRAGONS became a ‘brand’ in the early 1980s when other games started to emulate what it was doing. The 1980s was also a time when D&D expanded into transmedia with offerings like the D&D cartoon series, the Dragonlance novels, and the early video games like Pool of Radiance. Now, it’s a true franchise with offerings across every consumer category – from fashion and footwear to publishing, live entertainment, digital experiences and much more.

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, Chris Perkins, Wizards of the Coast, Hasbro, Toys & Games, Video Game,

And since those earliest expansions, how has the brand grown? And how has it matured?
Today, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is mainstream. Rightfully dubbed the world’s greatest roleplaying game, it’s become one of the top fantasy brands and game brands – to the extent that references are everywhere in popular culture. So beloved is the D&D game that, in the past year alone, we’ve seen a fabulous Hollywood movie based on it as well as an award-winning video game – Baldur’s Gate 3. These expressions – coupled with live-streaming, active play, social media and online gaming – have made D&D a lot more accessible.

“These expressions – coupled with live-streaming, social media and online gaming – have made D&D a lot more accessible…”

Great! Thank you. Now… Getting into some weeds what – for the uninitiated – are the ‘edition wars’? And how have they shaped today’s DUNGEONS & DRAGONS?
The DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game is currently enjoying its fifth edition, which was shaped in part by all the game’s earlier editions. Every edition of the game has its faithful adherents and champions, and arguments about which edition is best rage on forums and social media from time to time. These ‘edition wars’ had little effect on the development of the current edition, which tried to carry forward the best that each previous edition had to offer.

And for those that look sideways at DUNGEONS & DRAGONS – the brand and the game – what would you suggest is the best way into that world?
While Baldur’s Gate 3 and the recent movie, DUNGEONS & DRAGONS: Honor Among Thieves, provide a taste of what D&D is like, a lot of people learn how to play the tabletop roleplaying game by watching streamed games online or by trying the game at conventions. Others learn how to play the old-fashioned way: with the help of a family member or friend who already knows how to play. Introductory products such as the D&D Starter Set and the D&D Essentials Kit are easy, friendly ways to experience D&D for the first time.

DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, Chris Perkins, Wizards of the Coast, Hasbro, Toys & Games, Video Game,

What’s the one aspect of the history of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS you’d love to have talked about today… But so far haven’t had the chance to explore?
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS has evolved and grown tremendously over the past 50 years, and so many people have contributed to its success. The game has had literally hundreds of stewards, and they’re all part of the game’s history and legacy, including those who were stewards of the game from the 1980s to the present day – people who contributed as much to D&D’s history and success as the game’s original creators.

And signing off, what else would you say about it?!
I’ve been lucky to work with many of the greatest contributors to DUNGEONS & DRAGONS… But not all of them – despite my many years working on the game! I don’t know the game’s complete history. Few people do. But in June, we’ll be releasing The Making of Original D&D: 1970-1977 – that will offer a glimpse at how the original game came to be. There are many stories yet to tell!

Fantastic! Thanks for joining us, Chris.

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