Stuffed Crocodile

Mazes, Martians, Mead

D&D and the Colossal Cave

English: Print terminal output of Will Crowthe...

Print terminal output of Will Crowther’s original Colossal Cave Adventure aka ADVENT (1975-76) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t know if I came across this information earlier, but I think I might have: it sounds vaguely familiar.

The very, very classic game ADVENT (or Colossal Cave Adventure, or just Adventure), the game that inspired the adventure genre as a computer game genre as such, is obviously directly inspired by D&D. Not only that, it also started as an early way of computer assisted playing for a group of 8 players that didn’t have the time to meet often enough.

In a post in rec.arts.int-fiction from Oct 1994 Bernie Cosell wrote:

Well, Will Crowther made the game up after we had been playing D&D
for a few months.  A new arrival on the ARPANET project was also a
housemaster at Harvard at the time and D&D had pretty much just
appeared.  He dungeounmastered up a dungeon and a bunch of us from
the project team got sucked into playing.

Due to our inclinations, we were almost zero interested in the ‘battle and
monster’ aspect of the game, but rather a lot more interested in the
cooperation/innovation/puzzlesolving aspect.  And so quite against the
tide of the D&D world at the time, our dungeon turned into more of
a group problem-solving expedition than an every man for himself
hack-em-up.  Anyhow, it was great fun but VERY difficult for folk
who had any sort of a life: getting the eight of us together at the
same time and in the same place with nothing else to do for four
hours or so was a nontrivial problem.

So Will had the astounding idea that he could cobble up a
computer-mediated version of the game.  We mostly thought he was
nuts [but had long-since learned not to underestimate what Will
could innovate].  Given our predilections in the real game, in
ADVENT puzzles and cleverness were more of a premium than quick
reflexes and keeping track of hit-points.

[...]

No words on how well that worked though. The computer-mediation I mean. But the game itself soon spread over the servers of Arpanet and inspired other people to do similar things, or even go further than that. The genre of text-adventures/interactive fiction derives directly from this game, so do graphic adventures, and so do MUDs and by extension also MMORPGs.

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2 responses to “D&D and the Colossal Cave

  1. Anonymous December 13, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    How delightful! As one who earned his “Adventurer Grandmaster” status on an IBM 370/138, and was playing D&D in 1977 with a very similar group of linguistic nerds, I found this bit of history fascinating. Despite being a “wizard” with access to the source code for a DOS port, I still wander back into the cave from time to time. Thank you for sharing!

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