Around the blogosphere, there have been a number of ways to commemorate this occasion. Kobold Press have interviewed a number of people involved with Dungeons and Dragons over the years to give their answers about the quirkiest things they thought existed in the game - some of the answers are probably plain to old-timers (various typos, for example, and a knowledge of other earlier products).
For my own part, I actually like the second edition of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons best. I think many other people regard that edition as a pinnacle of this line's roleplaying achievement, but others would point to the more modern iterations (version 3.5 is immensely popular for instance), and a DnD "NEXT" version is in the pipeline from Wizards of the Coast. The game certainly spawned a large number of emulations from other companies and a variety of controversy besides. If one googles for it, there are still cases online about how the game was linked to satanism, or how players became so decoupled from reality as to not be able to tell what was real any longer. Academic papers have even been published with this kind of stuff in. I believe these days, most of those ideas have been largely debunked (but there is a certain resonance with the modern day graphic horror movie inspiring crimes perhaps? but don't quote me on that, that's just a gut feeling). I would personally point to the more positive aspects of the game.
Not only does Dungeons and Dragons provide an excellent arena for friendships to blossom, but it is also a strong learning tool. Many school and college teachers now utilize roleplaying tools in their classrooms and lecture theatres (admittedly with less die rolls!) to strong effect. And in the publications themselves, the language used in the pulled no punches either. Polysyllabic words like "antithesis" crop up with frequent regularity and the reader is assumed to have a half decent education to be able to read the (oft times dense) paragraphs. It certainly widened my youthful vocabulary far more than English Literature classes would. Further, the mathematics behind some of the die rolling required a quick mind (unless gaming sessions went on for tooooo long). Ask any gamer of my generation what a THAC0 is and they will tell you in a lot of detail what it is and how it is computed. Most times. There were always a hard core who didn't like to think too much though: "just tell me what I need to hit the monster with!" would often be heard around the gaming table as well.
I have very fond memories of playing Dark Sun, Forgotten Realms, Dragonlance and a small host of home brew worlds with friends at high school and university that provided endless entertainment. Usually, as the DM, but sometimes as a player too. And oh: those dungeons filled with treasure and danger. Happy memories! I think I may have to review some of those settings in future posts on this blog as they both merit and deserve attention in many ways.
Regardless: Happy Birthday Dungeons and Dragons! Thanks for all the fun! Hope to have more play sessions in the future with your good or other roleplaying systems that you inspired!