Role Playing Corner: Celebrating Thirty Years of Forced Abstinence
Simply posting this image gives me an "in" with the D&D crowd.
Many of you, gentle readers, have probably heard of the famous (some would say infamous) role playing game "Dungeons & Dragons". This Saturday nerds and those who make their livelihood off of nerds around the world celebrated the 30th birthday of "Dungeons & Dragons". Prior to D&D the closest thing to role playing games were various tabletop strategy games. D&D creator Dave Arneson and perpetually bitter king nerd Gary Gygax transformed the little figurines into fully realized characters of a player's own imagining and catapulted gaming from table tops to character sheets.
I would like to devote today to great moments in "Dungeons & Dragons" history. You may scoff, but without the kobolds and magic missiles of D&D where would computer RPGs be today? Here's a hint: GAY ANIME ROBOT STORIES. If you prefer Nordic barbarians over huge-eyed elves with romantic problems then you should view D&D with just a modicum of respect. Just a modicum.
Gygax and Arneson created the first release of the Dungeons and Dragons rule set. This version is very crude and only includes two or three tables of data on which you rolled information. Later versions, supplements, and technological advances in computer spreadsheet software further improve the game.
After the success of the initial release of Dungeons and Dragons Gygax and Arneson form TSR (Tactical Studies Rules) to publish new versions of Dungeons and Dragons and future supplements. By the second edition the charts and tables inside the books have advanced from using a simple six sided craps die to two ten sided dice used to effectively determine a number from 1-100. By the third edition dice making has advanced so much that Gygax is able to harness the power of the massive 280,500 sided die for his legendary "Random Furniture Found Inside Secluded Gnome Huts" table.
The first accusations surface that Dungeons and Dragons has a Satanic basis and is essentially a devil-worshipping cult. Fundamentalists Christians, the willfully ignorant, the profoundly retarded, and most but not all inanimate objects fail to recognize that Dungeons and Dragons takes sociopaths off the streets, forces them to socialize, and generally prevents crime. The Satanic cult accusations gradually diminish and then disappear entirely only to be replaced with the much more accurate "D&D leads to Dorito and Mountain Dew binges."
Gygax introduces the famous THAC0 or "Thacko" statistic. It supposedly means "To Hit Armor Class Zero" although only a handful of math major college students know exactly how it applies to the game. When this statistic is later removed from the game these math majors become violently outraged.
Nothing says class like a rawhide mumu.
Gygax leaves TSR in a massive management shakeup. The parting is acrimonious, although the most venom comes from fans loyal to Gygax rather than the D&D brand. Immediately after Gygax leaves TSR the quality on D&D releases slips dramatically down from one chart or table every three pages to one every nine.
The Dungeon Master's Guide for 2nd Edition Advanced Super Dungeons & Dragons is released in which TSR unveils its new random encounter chart that branches into 78 different randomly determined random encounter charts. Still smarting over the Gygax departure the new edition receives a lukewarm response from devoted fans and fails to generate any real buzz in the community.
TSR's popularity is on the decline thanks in no small part to the failure of the desperate Robotlandia, Super Mario World, and Sex Island campaign settings. Magic: The Gathering card maker Wizards of the Coast purchases TSR near the end of the year, prompting almost as much impotent fan outrage as occurred during the Gygax imbroglio. Most of the world remains apathetic and maybe even slightly hostile towards the unfolding drama.
Wizards of the Coast releases a new version of the Dungeons and Dragons rules called "3rd Edition" that uses a generic and simplified version of the original D&D rules. For some reason this sends thousands of diehard fans into an uproar which is only quieted by a staggering succession of supplements featuring all new charts and tables. One of the interesting aspects of this new rule set is that it is based around the "Open Gaming License" which allows other publishers to use the rules without paying royalties to Wizards of the Coast. Seconds after the first print run ships to distributors Furries around the Internet are developing their own campaign setting.
Dungeons and Dragons is once again the crowned king of pen and paper role playing games. Every weekend tens of thousands of gamers file into hobby shops around the world, muscling past the overpowering legion of 9 year olds playing "Yu-Gi-Oh!" to set up a fart zone around a card table in the dingy corner where their nerd musk and hateful glare won't frighten off paying customers. Table turf fights frequently break out between D&D gamers and Warhammer 40,000 players who view their hobby as having more "street cred" (read: it's infinitesimally less emasculating).
The history of Dungeons and Dragons is long and full of triumph and tribulation, but D&D does have its undeniable dark side. Let's take a look at some of the worst things that have come about as a result of D&D.
Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor for the PC - The only PC game to ever include a bug that could format your hard drive when you uninstalled it and you would be uninstalling it about five minutes after you first played it.
Indirectly Resulted in the Book of Erotic Fantasy - Anything even peripherally associated with the most pathetic role playing supplement ever made is thrice damned. Dungeons and Dragons is much more than peripherally associated with it.
Diablo and Everquest Pen and Paper RPGS - In case Diablo and Everquest weren't derivative enough of Dungeons and Dragons for you to actually just play Dungeons and Dragons you get these two gems from Wizards of the Coast. Role a D6 for each time you click on the monster!
LARPing - Live action role playing is like pen and paper D&D, combined with paintball, minus 99% of the exercise and 100% of the dignity. On the plus side, if you're LARPing D&D at least you aren't LARPing "Vampire: The Masquerade". That would be REALLY humiliating.
Renaissance Festivals - I can't actually blame D&D for the existence of Renaissance Festivals, but I can blame it for making them much worse. Without D&D Renaissance festivals would almost be cool. Okay, not cool, but no worse than Historical Williamsburg re-enactors. As it is now every single person at a Renaissance festival either plays D&D or is married to someone who plays D&D, and you can't get that thought out of your head when you go to one. It's like showering at a gym where you know everyone is gay.
The Dungeons & Dragons Movie - I don't think I need to describe how bad this was to you; all I saw were the trailers and I nearly threw up on my lap. Of course, without D&D we wouldn't have Tom Hanks in the role the Academy sadly overlooked him for as troubled teen Robbie Wheeling in the taught psychological drama "Mazes & Monsters".
Making up for all of this: kobolds. What the hell would the world be without the kobolds? Not somewhere I would want to live, that's for sure.