Dungeons & Dragons


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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23 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    We (the editorial we, not the royal we) are building up to some posts discussing tabletop board games that can approximate a decent D&D session (you’ll want 3-4 friends and 4-5 hours).Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    And my review of Dragon Age II is available here:


    Warning, it contains spoilers.Report

  3. Cool post, Erik. It gets me thinking. I still get together with my brothers and play a raucous session of good old table-top, paper-and-pencil, polyhedral-dice Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (2nd Edition–that’s the one we still have all the books for!), maybe every couple of years or so, whenever we can all get together. And occasionally I’m tempted by other D&D games; for about a year I was part of an online table-top campaign with Jacob Levy as DM–he’d send us maps and the set-up, we’d choose our actions and e-mail him, he’d role the dice–but that kind of faded away as we all got busy with other things. I’m completely in agreement with you about preferring table-top to video games, and the power of nostalgia in general. I suppose it’s to be expected that I’d feel that way, being a partial Luddite, but I’ll defend it as a legitimate and worthy perspective all the same.Report

  4. Avatar NoSuchLuck says:

    Tried to get into D&D at college many (many MANY) moons ago. Along with 3 buddies, paid my membership fee to the College Gaming Association (they organized games for new players), was told “we’re in the middle of a game, but we will call you as soon as a new one starts.” Their call came in the middle of final exams that semester (only 3 months later!).

    Kindly told them to stick it up their behinds. Have not tried since.Report

  5. Avatar gregiank says:

    I find that i more enjoy reading about games now then actually playing them. I can picture how fun it would be but i just don’t jump into playing anymore. I was very into some WW2 tactics games but that is years ago. The last game i thought about trying to get into was the Star Trek Online game but i just don’t have the drive. I’m guessing at some point, some game will hook me. However i do have a nifty Asteroids game i enjoy at times. Live D and D would be fun, if i knew anybody to play with.Report

  6. Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

    The best (read: most realistic) combat system in a tabletop RPG was GURPS, last time I checked ’em all, which was a while.

    It’s largely because the entire game system was built on top of a gladiatorial combat system. If you want to really have a realistic man-to-man fight, it’s the way to go. It also turns combat sessions during your RPG into… well, let’s be generous and call them a “time sink”.

    It also doesn’t scale well up past normal human capabilities. The mass combat rules are megh.Report

  7. Avatar Kyle Cupp says:

    Some day I want to create my own D&D style RPG and incorporate all my favorite elements (aspects; not wind, earth, fire, etc. ) from all my favorite role-playing games. Maybe I’ll do so when my children are old enough to play (and if they haven’t lost any of the geekiness I am and will be trying to instill in their hearts).Report

    • Avatar Pat Cahalan says:

      This has gotten past the “couple hundred pages of notes” stage.Report

    • Avatar Teri says:

      We started our boys out on large foam dice during our regular Sunday Afternoon Games. (We even had a table of “Random Baby Action” that could spell doom or treasure depending on the load level of the diaper) The babies from our group are teenagers now and still have our Sunday Afternoon games. Start them young, teach them life as chaotic good and you will enjoy the rewards of long car trips. Although my combat bard with extra mime skill was put in a large hamster ball by the DM due to the excessive (his words) singing. Can I help it that random phrases are all song cues, and when you are a combat bard (+4 bagpipes) you have to play when the muse strikes!Report

  8. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    There seem to be two schools of D&D players — those who focus on narrative and those who focus on rules. I was never much of a “rules lawyer” and always looked for a good storyteller to be the DM. Since these wound up being in short supply, I took over DM duty a lot — and this turned out to be a balancing act, between trying to guide my players down a narrative on the one hand, and dealing with their inherent unpredictability on the other. It took a while before I was able to craft a campaign that fit their personalities but doing so rewarded us all nicely. My players went on to be spoiled by this treatment later — catching up to them later in life, I find they kept up the D&D and were always annoyed when their new DM’s insisted on following the rulebooks exactly. “The rules serve the story, not the other way around,” is the winning philosophy in my book.Report

  9. Avatar Turgid Jacobian says:

    Wil Wheaton had a fun post about this fairly recently.Report

  10. Avatar Ken says:

    I played D&D from close to the beginning — 1979 or so.

    I’d love to play now. But who has the time? Most of the friends I played with are [nominal] grown-ups with jobs and kids, like me. The days of lazy Saturdays with 12-hour gaming marathons are long over.

    But my son is 10 this week — and he shows promise. Hopefully I can start gaming with him and his friends soon.Report

  11. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    Although it’s not a perfect replacement, I’ve found that Neverwinter Nights persistent worlds tend to offer quite a bit of the highs that can come from tabletop D&D sessions, including the most important: the organic friendship/community.

    I’d recommend it if you don’t have the time to keep up a regularly scheduled tabletop game, but would still like to do your collaborative storytelling through gaming angle…(shameless plug! Always looking for new players at the World of Avlis! http://www.avlis.org )Report

  12. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    I only got to play D&D a few times, growing up. We moved so often I never had the same set of friends for very long.

    In Africa, there wasn’t any radio and obviously no TV. Somewhere along the line, very early, probably second grade, I found I could cobble together an original story as fast as I could tell it. First my roommates, then kids from other rooms, would come around to hear me tell stories. First one kid, then another, would interject, wanting a reappearance of a character from another story I’d told. It got to be a problem: so I was made a regular at Story Time at the end of the day, where the dorm parents would normally read from a book.

    I told my own children such stories, though they were read a great deal of fiction aloud. My son became a good gamer, far too much WoW, but D&D wasn’t popular among his friends. I think he eventually found D&D through the comic book shop, where he hung out a good deal more than was good for him.

    I only DMed twice, as I recall. Same skill set applied, and I was told I was good at it. Often wonder what I might have become, if I’d become a writer of stories instead of software, juggling characters and situations instead of variables and queries.

    Narrative really is key to such things.

    Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
    As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
    Are melted into air, into thin air:
    And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
    The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
    The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
    Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
    And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
    Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
    As dreams are made on; and our little life
    Is rounded with a sleep.