Role-playing games are distributed in various digital & non-digital formats AFAIK. What was the world's first computer RPG? It was written from scratch or was an adaption of a pen-and-paper RPG?
There are three early RPG-style computer games which vie for the title of “first RPG”: Rusty Rutherford’s
pedit5, Gary Whisenhunt and Ray Wood’s Game of Dungeons (aka
dnd), both on the PLATO, and Don Daglow’s Dungeon on the PDP-10. All three were available in 1975, and all three were at least inspired by, if not based on, paper-based games (particularly TSR’s Dungeons & Dragons).
In 1975 such games weren’t even known as RPGs yet; TSR started describing Dungeons & Dragons as a role-playing game in 1977 (second edition), and that’s when programmers started using the term for their adaptations.
Rutherford and Daglow explicitly name Dungeons & Dragons as the inspiration for their implementations; Whisenhunt and Wood based their
dnd on Dungeons & Dragons too, with the addition of lessons from
pedit5 (which means
dnd can’t strictly speaking be considered the first such game), in particular its limited availability — since
pedit5 competed for CPU time with other legitimate uses of PLATO, system administrators regularly deleted it when they found it; Whisenhunt and Wood however administered their own PLATO system, so they didn’t have to deal with administrators deleting
dnd introduced a number of features: it has the first “boss” (the dragon guarding the Orb which the player must steal), the first level design tool, the first character creation and progression system based on experience points, and increasing difficulty levels.
(Source: Raphaël Lucas’ L’histoire du RPG, Éditions Pix’n Love, 2014.)
It's not the earliest, but:
There was a BASIC game listed for the Kim-1 that involved hiking through a forest, avoiding monsters, listed in a magazine. I typed it into a friend's VIC-20 sometime around 1981 (and had to edit it down, since the game was 4K and the VIC only had 3.5K RAM).
Adventurer, check. Wilderness, check. Monsters and peril, check.
And it was D&D inspired.
So it might straddle the fuzzy line between "adventure" game and RPG.