I am a relative newcomer to Dungeons & Dragons. Tabletop gaming as a whole, in fact, is something that’s been a fairly recent addition to my library of leisure activities. That said, I’m generally not the type that likes things casually and I’ve had a hankering to learn more about D&D pretty much since the roll of my first d20. Seeing as I also have an interest in retro video games, I decided to combine the two into an exploration of Dungeons & Dragons history in video games.

Now, before we get started, I should explain a few details. Firstly, this only covers licensed Dungeons & Dragons video games. While I do include a few of the earliest attempts by developers to translate it into digital media, I was more interested in looking in games bearing the official D&D brand stamp. Finally, because of the length of this history, I’m splitting it up over two weeks. This first article will cover the time period from 1975 up until the rough end of SSI’s long and vaunted run with the property. I’ll return next week to continue from that point on to the present day.

Now, with no further ado, here’s the history (part one) of D&D in video games. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

-Stew


dnd
Original Release: 1975, Platform(s): PLATO, Developer: Gary Whisenhunt/Ray Wood, Publisher: N/A


Much like Dungeons & Dragons itself was built on the foundation of the simpler game Chainmail, D&D mad its video game debut with a title that’s simple by modern standards but was groundbreaking for its time. Created for the PLATO computer system by Gary Whisenhunt and Ray Wood, it tasked players with creating their own character and the exploring a multi-floor maze in search of a legendary orb and grail. It was one of the first games to allow players to move back and forth between levels and featured an impressive array of spells, items and weapons for its day.
Image Source: RPGFanatic


Dungeon
Original Release: 1975, Platform(s): PDP-10, Developer: Don Daglow, Publisher: N/A


Made by Don Daglow while he attended Claremont Graduate University, Dungeon was another unofficial D&D adaptation. Giving the player control of a multi-adventurer party working their way through the titular dungeon, it featured combat both melee and ranged, auto-mapping, line of sight and NPCs complete with a dash of genuine AI.

Sadly, no images could be found for Dungeon. I contacted Mr. Daglow and he confirmed that its only being released on the PDP-10 made screenshots difficult. I’ll update if anything turns up.


Akalabeth a.k.a. D&D1-28b
Original Release: 1979, Platform(s): Apple II, DOS, Developer: Richard Garriott, Publisher: California Pacific Computer Co.


Richard Garriott is perhaps best known for his work on the classic Ultima games. Before he pioneered that franchised, however, he released Akalabeth. Started as a high school project, Akalabeth was based heavily on Dungeons & Dragons (the initial versions were titled D&D 1 through 28b). In the game, players are tasked with killing a series of successively more difficult monsters living inside a first-person dungeon. Along the way they’ll have to deal with enemies and diminishing food supplies on their quest to prove themselves to Lord British. While sales of Akalabeth would be humble by the standards of his later Ultima games, Garriott would later claim that it was one of the most profitable games of his career. He only spent $200 out of pocket to initially self-publish it and would earn more than $150,000 when California Pacific took over its distribution.
Image Source: Giant Bomb


Cloudy Mountain
Original Release: 1982, Platform(s): Intellivision, Developer: Mattel Electronics, Publisher: Mattel Electronics


Originally released as just Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Mattel’s Cloudy Mountain was one of the earliest games released as an officially licensed Dungeons & Dragons game. Sending players on a quest to recover the legendary Crown of Kings, the game employed randomly generated mazes filled with monsters to fight, bosses to defeat and items to collect. As far as incorporating actual elements from Dungeons & Dragons, the game didn’t actually do much besides use a fantasy setting. That said, the game was still decently regarded and is far from the worst retro game to bear the D&D name.
Image Source: CRPGAddict


Treasure of Tarmin
Original Release: 1983. Platform(s): Intellivision, Developer: APh Technological Consulting. Publisher: Mattel Electronics


Whereas the Intellivision’s first foray into recreating the Dungeons & Dragons experience ignored most of the actual RPG elements that make the brand what it is. The console’s second foray into the franchise took greater pains to be an actual RPG. A first person dungeon crawl, the player’s objective was to retrieve a fabled treasure by killing an evil Minotaur. A version was actually finished for the Atari 2600, but never saw a commercial release.
Image Source: Giant Bomb


Pool of Radiance
Original Release: 1988, Platform(s): Amiga, Apple II, C64, DOS, Macintosh, NES, Developer: Strategic Simulations, Inc., Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


The first Dungeons & Dragons title developed by Strategic Simulation, Pool of Radiance was the first game in a four part series as well as the opening salvo of the beloved Gold Box line of RPGs. Appearing on multiple systems (including the NES), it followed the efforts of a group of player-controlled adventurers to save the ruined city of Phlan from invading monsters. Much to the delight of role-playing fans, the game featured class, alignment and combat options drawn straight from AD&D. It likewise included the ability to do things like talk your way out fights rather than forcing you to straight-up murder everything in your path.
Image Source: Giant Bomb


Heroes of the Lance
Original Release: 1988, Platform(s): Amiga, Armstrad CPC, Atari ST< Commodor 64, DOS, MSX, Famicom, NES, Master System, ZX Spectrum, Developer: U.S. Gold, Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


Based on the Dragonlance novel Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Heroes of the Lance was a sidescroller that attempted to combine actual D&D stats and abilities with real-time action-centric gameplay. The game, to its credit, was liked by some. More, however, were left frustrated by its lousy controls, clunky interface and often exorbitant difficulty. The NES version especially is notably regarded by many as one of the console’s worst titles, making this one of the less well-remembered games to bear the D&D name.
Image Source: Moby Games


Curse of the Azure Bonds
Original Release: 1989. Platform(s): Amiga, Apple II, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, Macintosh, NEC PC-9801. Developer: Strategic Simulations, Inc., Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


The sequel to Pool of Radiance, Curse of the Azure Bonds took place immediately after the events of the first game. Opening in the city of Tilverton, the player controlled adventurers awaken from a magic induced sleep cursed with mystical bonds (hence the title) that they understandably want gone. The game, in turn, followed their quest free themselves. While ultimately another riff on the formula laid down in Pool of Radiance, Azure Bonds boasted improvements to the graphics as well as some appreciate refinements to Pool of Radiance‘s gameplay. Players who had beaten the previous game could also import their old characters into the new one.
Image Source: Moby Games


Dragons of Flame
Original Release: 1989, Platform(s): Amiga, Armstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore C64, DOS, NES, ZX Spectrum, Developer: U.S. Gold, Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


A partial adaptation of the Dragonlance adventure module of the same name, Dragons of Flame was very similar in many ways to the markedly less than perfect Heroes of the Lance. An action focused sidescroller, it made some minor improvements over Lance by expanding the cast of playable characters but is still generally regarded as one the lesser D&D titles of the era.
Image Source: Moby Games


Hillsfar
Original Release: 1989, Platform(s): Amiga, Atari ST, Commodore 64, NES, Developer: Westwood Studios, Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


Hillsfar was an interesting game if only because it tried to be different. Rather than just aping the arcade action or first person dungeon crawling of its forebears, its combined a collection of unique mini-games (horseback riding, lockpicking, archery, melee combat) to create an experience that was impressively diverse. Unfortunately, for all the variety it offered, it sometimes stumbled when I came to delivering actual fun. Many especially took issue with a repetitive interactive horse riding sequence that the player was forced to run through each and every time they wanted to travel to a new location. By no means was it the worst D&D RPG, but it was also far from the best.
Image Source: Moby Games


Secret of the Silver Blades
Original Release: 1990. Platform(s): Amiga, Commodore 64, DOS, Macintosh, NEC PC-9801, Developer: Strategic Simulations, Inc., Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


The second sequel to Pool of Radiance, Secret of the Silver Blades took the intrepid adventurers of the first two games (assuming the player imported them) and pit them against the not at all ominously named Dreadlord. Ditching the over world map from the series previous entries, Silver Blades was played entirely from the first person perspective and focused much more on combat than its predecessors. While some, in turn, disliked the resultant linearity (especially in comparison to its predecessors), it was still generally considered to be a solid entry in the Gold Box library.
Image Source: My Abandonware


DragonStrike
Original Release: 1990, Platform(s): Amiga, Commodore 64, DOS, NES. Developer: Westwood Studios. Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


Widely praised across multiple platforms, DragonStrike took the undeniable awesome factor of riding around on a fire breathing dragon and coupled it with strategic gameplay that many fans still rave about today. The computer and NES versions were notably different, with the Nintendo game playing as a top down shooter and the computer version playing as a straight up dragon flight sim. That said, both were high quality and DragonStrike is, overall, remembered as one of the most underrated D&D gems of its time.
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Champions of Krynn
Original Release: 1990, Platform(s): Amiga, Apple II, Commodore 64, DOS, Developer: Strategic Simulations, Inc., Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


The first entry in a three part series based in the Dragonlance setting, Champions of Krynn expanded on SSI’s previous work in several notable ways. It added new races to the character creation options.It also introduced beneficial moon phases that mages could exploit, as well as deities that clerics could pledge themselves to. The game also boasted varying difficulty options, something that was relatively new at that point in time. Critically, Champions received a war reception from reviews who appreciated its solid execution of the Gold Box formula.
Image Source: Abandonia


Eye of the Beholder
Original Release: 1990, Platform(s): Amiga, DOS, SNES, Sega CD, Developer: Westwood Studios, Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


Praised in its time for its gorgeous graphics and impressive audio, Eye of the Beholder is remembered by most that played it as a through-and-through solid dungeon crawler. Set in the city of Waterdeep, the game followed a party of adventurers hired to root out the source of evil forces living beneath the city. Eventually trapped in the sewers, the player had to guide the poor saps through a dangerous labyrinth of monsters to a final confrontation with the titular Beholder. While not perfect (the ending was horribly unsatisfying),Eye of the Beholder received a ton of acclaim and is still remembered by most as one of the pioneers of dungeon crawling.
Image Source: Abandonia


Eye of the Beholder II: The Legend of Darkmoon
Original Release: 1991, Platform(s): Amiga, DOS PC-98. Developer: Westwood Studios, Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


Starting after the events of the first game, The Legend of Darkmoon took the experience established in the original Eye of Beholder and expanded on it with a new adventure that added outdoor areas and role-playing refinements that gave players more ways to interact with the game world. Granted, these didn’t quite fix some of the flaws from the first game (a clumsy interface most primarily), but it still added enough that many consider Darkmoon to be a bona fide classic in its own right.
Image Source: Moby Games


Shadow Sorcerer
Original Release: 1991, Platform(s): Amiga, Atari ST, DOS, Developer: U.S. Gold, Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


Fashioned as a sequel to Heroes of the Lance and Dragons of Flame, Shadow Sorcerer inhabited the same Dragonlance setting but abandoned the side-scrolling arcade action that defined those earlier titles. Instead, it employed a new combat system that put the player in control of a four person party fighting in real-time fights on an isometric battleground. While a step up from its predecessors, cruddy path-finding and other issues left many feeling like this was just a different flavor of subpar.
Image Source: Moby Games

Pool of Darkness


Original Release: 1991, Platform(s): Amiga, DOS, Macintosh, NEC PC-9801, Developer: Strategic Simulations, Inc., Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


The fourth and final entry in Pool of Radiance series, Pool of Darkness pit the protagonists against the forces of the evil Lord Bane who, at the game’s outset, claims dominance over the land of Faerun and uses his magical powers to terrorize its populous. The resulting quest retained much of the prior games’ basic framework; tactical battles, first person dungeon-crawling, etc. For all that stayed the same however, Darkness also expanded on the Gold Box formula to create what’s widely regarded as the deepest entry in the Pool of Radiance series. Integrating multiple unique locations, an expanded spell list and battles with some of AD&D‘s deadliest monsters, it iced its cake with upgraded visuals that allowed far greater detail than anything seen in prior iterations. Put shortly, it was a great cap to a beloved series.
Image Source: My Abandonware


Death Knights of Krynn
Original Release: 1991, Platform(s): Amiga, Commodore 64, DO, NEC PC-9801. Developer: Strategic Simulations, Inc., Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


The sequel to Champions of Krynn, Death Knights of Krynn put players on the frontline of a conflict with the diabolical Lord Soth, who has been using transforming the land’s fallen warriors into an undead army forced to do his bidding. Similar to its predecessor in terms of gameplay and visuals, Death Knights was well-reviewed and won a lot of additional fans thanks to its close ties to the popular DragonLance setting.

Image Source: Moby Games


Gateway to the Savage Frontier
Original Release: 1991, Platform(s): Amiga, Commodore 64, DOS, Developer: Stormfront Studios, Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


In 1991, SSI turned its focus toward the development of a new engine, leaving the furtherance of the Gold Box games to Stormfront Studios. The studio took to the task with vigor, producing Gateway to the Savage Frontier. Set in the Savage Frontier region (go figure), it focused on the player’s attempts to stop an evil organization from using magic to invade the frontier. From a gameplay standpoint, this amounted to an experience fairly similar to the previous Gold Box titles. That said, its polished execution was appreciated by both fans and critics. Its introduction of the Neverwinter location would also lead to other, greater things.
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Neverwinter Nights
Original Release: 1991, Platform(s): DOS, Developer: Stormfront Studios, Publisher: Strategic Simulations, In.


Developed in a cooperative effort between AOL, SSI and Stormfront Studios, Neverwinter Nights was the world’s first graphical online multiplayer RPG. Played via a combination of text interactions and turn-based combat (both PvP and PvE), the game attracted a large base of role-playing fans who kept it popular by organizing player guilds and staging special events for its members to enjoy. When the game first launched, each individual server could support a maximum of 50 people. This would grow to 500 per server by 1995, a number that would allow it to host as many as 2,000 players during its peak hours. Sadly, the Neverwinter Nights would close down in 1997.
Image Source: Moby Games


Order of the Griffon
Original Release: 1992, Platform(s): TurboGrafx-16, Developer: Westwood Studios, Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


Order of the Griffon on the TurboGrafx-16 drew heavily on the work done in the Gold Box titles, with one big exception. While Griffon employed exploration and combat similar to the likes of Pool of Radiance, its mechanics were based on the original Dungeons & Dragons rule set as opposed to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. This would prove a turn-off for some role-playing fans more used to playing under the umbrella of 2nd edition. That said, the game overall was still quite decent and quite far from the worst thing to ever get stamped with the D&D label.
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Warriors of the Eternal Sun
Original Release: 1992, Platform(s): Mega Drive, Developer: Westwood Studios, Publisher: Sega


Dropping players into the middle of a war between humans and goblins, Warriors of the Eternal Sun was a bit of a mixed bag of holding (nyuck, nyuck). While it boasted attractive visuals and a marginally entertaining combat system, many felt that it was lacking when compared to other console RPGs available at the time. Nonetheless, it’s potentially worth a try if you have a Mega Drive and a hankering to play something a bit less well known.
Image Source: Moby Games

The Dark Queen of Krynn


Original Release: 1992, Platform(s): Amiga, DOS, Macintosh, Developer: Strategic Simulations, Inc., Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


The third and final entry in the Krynn series, The Dark Queen of Krynn tasked players with investigating an evil force threatening the city of Caergoth. As with the previous games, Dark Queen allowed players to import their old characters. The gameplay, likewise, didn’t step away from the series’ established turn-based mechanics. In other words, if you already had a taste for the Gold Box games, you were going to like this. That said, while many did indeed praise the game, others maligned it for SSI’s failure to catch several substantial bugs before the game went to stores.
Image Source: My Abandonware


Treasures of the Savage Frontier
Original Release: 1992, Platform(s): Amiga, DOS, Developer: Stormfront Studios, Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


The follow-up to Gateway to the Savage Frontier, Treasure of the Savage Frontier is the last of the Gold Box games. Hoping to bring the line to a memorable close (and distract players from its aging engine), the game’s designers made some unique additions to the game’s story. Most notably, player characters could, for the first time ever, enter into a romance with an NPC. To accomplish this, the game tracked the player’s actions. If the player behaved in a consistently good or evil fashion, certain characters would fall in love with them. The remainder of the game was tried and true Gold Box, but this element helped Treasure close the line on a high note.
Image Source: My Abandonware

Spelljammer: Pirates of Realmspace


Original Release: 1992, Platform(s): DOS, Developer: Cybertech, Publisher: Strategic Simulation, Inc.000


Based on the 2nd Edition’s Spelljammer rule set, Pirates of Realmspace removed players from the humdrum fantasy worlds of past games and launched them into a space faring adventure hurtling across the universe in a magic powered starship. The game, in turn, combined real-time ship combat, turn-based melee battles and interplanetary trade to create an RPG experience truly unique among the ranks of the existing D&D games. Unfortunately, for all its ambition Spelljammer wasn’t without flaws. Many gamers and critics alike took issue with its occasional buggyness and lengthy load times.
Image Source: Moby Games

Eye of the Beholder III: Assault on Myth Drannor


Original Release: 1993
Platform(s): DOS, PC-98
Developer: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


The arguable black sheep of the Eye of the Beholder games, Assault on Myth Drannor boasted a variety of improvements to its visuals, interface and combat, all of which fell flat with many gamers. While the game’s developers at SSI worked hard to refine what Westwood had done with the franchise’s previous iterations, the game was met with harsh criticisms from critics and players who took issue with its confusing maps, pushover enemies and poorly made puzzles. While there were certainly some who enjoyed it, Eye of the Beholder III still stood as the weak pillar in an otherwise mighty house.
Image Source: Abandonia


Fantasy Empires
Original Release: 1993, Platform(s): DOS, Developer: Silicon Knights, Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


Sometimes you just want to stop saving the world and try your hand at ruling it. Enter Fantasy Empires, a strategy game that challenged players to take control of one of the provinces of Mystara and use it as a base from which they could conquer the rest of the world. Giving gamers access to a variety of buildings, diplomatic actions based in D&D alignment, and multi-racial army options, Fantasy Empires was widely regarded as a solid strategy title and an oft-overlooked gem from Silicon Knights early days.
Image Source: Abandonia


Forgotten Realms: Unlimited Adventures
Original Release: 1993, Platform(s): DOS, Macintosh, Developer: MicroMagic, Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


Based on the now defunct Gold Box engine, Forgotten Realms: Unlimited Adventures was essentially a “make your own adventure” title targeted at gamers interested in creating their own RPGs. While far from perfect at the time of its original release, it still found an audience among would be game maker eager to craft their own adventures. Since its original release, Unlimited Adventures has been the subject of numerous fan hacks and improvements that have expanded on its native building tools and served as the basis of hundreds of fan made games.
Image Source: Abandonia


Dark Sun: Shattered Lands
Original Release: 1993, Platform(s): DOS, Developer: Strategic Simulations, Inc., Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


Built with a new engine, Dark Sun: Shattered Lands was meant to be the next step forward for SSI as it moved beyond its Gold Box games. Unfortunately, whereas the Gold Box games are often revered as classics, Dark Sun is frequently remembered today for its imperfections. Taking place in D&D‘s Dark Sun campaign setting, Shattered Lands followed the quest of four escaped gladiators as they worked to unite the cities of the desert against the mad Sorcerer-King of Draj. While many actually enjoyed the game and its new mechanics, others criticized it for being too easy and also for looking a bit too cutesy for a game set in the grim lands of Dark Sun.
Image Source: Moby Games


Stronghold
Original Release: 1993. Platform(s): DOS, Developer: Stormfront Studios, Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


Putting the player in charge of a D&D kingdom, Stronghold followed the quest of a startup lordling to govern their land, expand its power and lead it to victory against its rival neighbors. Working from a first person perspective, it gave players the ability to found villages, build buildings, gather resources, raise armies and, of course, lead them into glorious pixelated battle. While many criticized it for being difficult to manage as the player’s territories expanded, it’s nonetheless retained a stalwart fan base that considers it to be one of the best city management games ever made.
Image Source: Moby Games


Dungeon Hack
Original Release: 1993, Platform(s): DOS, NEC PC-9801, Developer: DreamForge Intertainment, Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


Essentially a graphical update of the Hack, Dungeon Hack dropped the player into a random spot in a randomly generated dungeon with the simple goal of killing monsters, gathering loot and not dying. The whole “stay alive” part could be made even more paramount with hardcore permadeath options that, when activated, would erase all of your save files if your character kicked the bucket. If you ever wanted to play a rogue-like built with the Eye of the Beholder Engine this would be your ticket.
Image Source: Moby Games


Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom
Original Release: 1993, Platform(s): Arcade, Sega Saturn, Developer: Capcom, Publisher: Capcom


Whereas earlier action oriented games like Heroes of the Lance left gamers underwhelmed, Tower of Doom is remembered even today as a prime example of what an arcade beat-em up should be. Featuring non-linear level progression, four unique playable characters, dynamic combat and a cast of enemies drawn straight from the various monster manuals of Dungeons & Dragons, it’s been a fan favorite since it first hit arcades in 1993. The game was also notably ported to the Sega Saturn, but sadly that version never made it to North America.
Image Source: GameFaqs


Dark Sun: Wake of the Ravager
Original Release: 1994, Platform(s): DOS, Developer: Strategic Simulations, Inc., Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


Taking place after the events of Dark Sun: Shattered Lands, Wake of the Ravager was, in no small part, an attempt on the part of SSI to correct some of the things that gamers disliked about the first game. Most primarily, the graphics received a bit of an overhaul, utilizing larger, more detailed sprites. Unfortunately, the improvements to its visuals were somewhat counteracted by the inclusion of several serious bugs, some of which could even make the game unwinnable. These would be addressed somewhat with patches, but they still understandably left a bad taste in many gamers’ mouths.
Image Source: Moby Games


Slayer
Original Release: 1994, Platform(s): 3DO, Developer: Lion Entertainment, Publisher: Strategic Designs


While Slayer‘s presence on the 3DO unfortunately limited its audience, those who played it generally recall it as being a fairly solid, if not particularly remarkable, dungeon crawler. Built around a customizable dungeon generator, the game presented players with a completely fresh dungeon every time they started a new game. Granted, they weren’t always the most challenging of labyrinths, but the game overall still delivered a fair deal of fun and replayability.
Image Source: Giant Bomb


Ravenloft: Strahd’s Possession
Original Release: 1994, Platform(s): DOS, Developer: DreamForge Intertainment, Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


Set in the Ravenloft campaign setting, Strahd’s Possession set players into the poison ringed land of Barovia where they were tasked with retrieving a stolen amulet from the vampiric lord Strahd von Zarovich. Boasting an enjoyably dark tone, the game also benefited from new-for-its-time features such as free movement in a 3D environment. It did find some detractors in players less than satisfied with some of less positive foibles of its mouse click combat, but overall Strahd’s Possession was a solid addition to D&D‘s gaming shelf.
Image Source: My Abandonware

Al-Qadim: The Genie’s Curse


Original Release: 1994, Platform(s): DOS, Developer: Cyberlore Studios, Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


Taking D&D in a different direction, Al-Qadim: The Genie’s Curse stepped far and away from RPGs and instead delivered an action adventure experience that entertained some, but left many others unsatisfied. While the game contained an entertaining story and an arguably faithful representation of the Al-Qadim setting, the experience as a whole was drastically simplified in comparison to other D&D games. Lacking things like upgrade-able weapons and downplaying elements like complex world interaction and combat, it focusing its attention on adventure style puzzles. The end result was a game that was by no means bad, but also one that failed to scratch many player’s Dungeons & Dragons itch.
Image Source: My Abandonware


Menzoberranzan
Original Release: 1994, Platform(s): DOS, Developer: DreamForge Intertainment, Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


A pseudo follow-up to Ravenloft: Strahd’s Possession, Menzoberranzan followed the player on a quest into the Drow realm of the Underdark. Using the same engine from Strahd’s Revenge as well as similar gameplay, it unfortunately left many unimpressed thanks to its dull story and frequently unfleshed world. The titular city of Menzoberranzan just had too many empty, wasted spaces for the taste of some players. It did make up for that some with its clever application of puzzle solving. You’d likewise be hard-pressed to find a D&D fan out there who didn’t squeal with joy when Drizzt do’Urden showed up for the first time.
Image Source: Moby Games


Ravenloft: Stone Prophet
Original Release: 1995, Platform(s): DOS, Developer: DreamForge Intertainment, Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


A sort-of sequel to Strahd’s Possession, Stone Prophet opened up after the events of the first Ravenloft and tasked players with investigating a mysterious wall of fire in the desert of Har’Akir. This, of course, led to a whole bunch of shenanigans involving mummies and an ancient pharaoh. While many found the game’s ending to be a bit lacking, Stone Prophet, overall, was considered to be a significant step up from Menzoberranzan. Improved graphics, expanded class options and a more user friendly interface also helped it be a worthy successor to Strahd’s Possession.
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DeathKeep
Original Release: 1995, Platform(s): DOS, 3DO, Developer: Lion Entertainment, Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


The last single player Dungeons & Dragons game published by SSI, Deathkeep is, unfortunately, also widely regarded as one of the worst. An attempt to transplant the mechanics and settings of Dungeons & Dragons into the body of a Doom-style shooter, both the DOS and 3DO versions fell flat on their faces with critics who had little patience for their boring dungeons, subpar controls, unattractive visuals and “why the hell am I playing this?” story. Put shortly, it was about as from the Gold Box games as you could get.
Image Source: GameSpot


Dark Sun Online: Crimson Sands
Original Release: 1996, Platform(s): Windows 95, Developer: Strategic Simulations, Inc., Publisher: Strategic Simulations, Inc.


Developed with a modified version of the Dark Sun engine, Dark Sun Online was originally intended to be a game for AT&T’s Interchange network. Unfortunately for SSI, AT&T eventually abandoned Interchange, walking away from the game at the same time. Opting to finish it nonetheless, SSI continued with its development and eventually launched the game on the Total Entertainment Network. This partnership would also come crashing down, however, when TEN was discontinued in 1998. Dark Sun Online closed down with it. While its impact on the MMO sphere was relatively limited, it’s still notable for being one of the first fully graphical MMOs.

And that wraps up the first part of the History of Dungeons & Dragons in Video Games. Come back next week for part two and then the week after that for my review of Planescape: Torment. In the mean time feel free to email me with comments, suggestions and review ideas!

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