Dungeons & Dragons (abbreviated as D&D) is a fantasy role-playing game (RPG) originally designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, and first published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. (TSR). The game has been published by Wizards of the Coast since 1997. It was derived from miniature wargames with a variation of the Chainmail game serving as the initial rule system. D&D's publication is widely regarded as the beginning of modern role-playing games and the role-playing game industry.
D&D departs from traditional wargaming and assigns each player a specific character to play instead of a military formation. These characters embark upon imaginary adventures within a fantasy setting. A Dungeon Master serves as the game's referee and storyteller, while also maintaining the setting in which the adventures occur. The characters form a party that interacts with the setting's inhabitants (and each other). Together they solve dilemmas, engage in battles and gather treasure and knowledge. In the process the characters earn experience points to become increasingly powerful over a series of sessions.
The early success of Dungeons & Dragons led to a proliferation of similar game systems. Despite this competition, D&D enjoys a dominant market position in the role-playing game industry. In 1977, the game was split into two versions: the more loose, open framework game system of Dungeons & Dragons and the much tighter and more structured game system of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (abbreviated as AD&D or ADnD). AD&D 2nd Edition was published in 1989. In 2000, the original version of the game was discontinued and the AD&D version was renamed simply Dungeons & Dragons with the release of its 3rd edition. These rules formed the basis of the d20 System that is available under the Open Game License for use by other publishers. Dungeons & Dragons version 3.5 was released in June 2003, with a 4th edition in June 2008.
As of 2006, Dungeons & Dragons remains the best-known and best-selling role-playing game, with an estimated 20 million people having played the game and more than US$1 billion in book and equipment sales. The game has been supplemented by many pre-made adventures as well as commercial campaign settings suitable for use by regular gaming groups. Dungeons & Dragons is known beyond the game for other D&D-branded products, references in popular culture and some of the controversies that have surrounded it, particularly a moral panic in the 1980s falsely linking it to Satanism and suicide. The game has won multiple awards and has been translated into many languages beyond the original English.