From the author's blog:
"Dark Dungeons is a free retro-clone role playing game—a game in the style of old-school 1990′s role playing games, back in the days when rogues were thieves, races were classes, and you could start your adventuring career exploring a few basic dungeons and end up travelling the planes as an immortal being of pure divine power.
In international copyright law, it is not possible to copyright actual game mechanics, only the literary and artistic expression of the author(s) of the game when describing those rules. Therefore- providing one is careful to avoid infringing on the copyrighted expression of the original author(s) while doing so- it is possible to replicate the mechanical rules of an old game that is no longer available in order to provide compatibility with the old game’s expansions and adventures; and to replicate the playing experience of the game."
As the name of the original game is trademarked, the author never refers to it on his own site, or within the actual rulebook. However, it is based directly off of Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia and Wrath of the Immortals, with some ideas taken from Spelljammer: AD&D Adventures in Space.
It is also described as: "Dark Dungeons is around 90% BECMI/RC emulation and 10% my house rules."