“What is Dungeons & Dragons?”

See that?  That’s one of my ex-students.  He wants to be cool like Mr. Savage – and who can blame him?  So this is for him, in his efforts to Get On My Level.  Feel free to link to it yourself when someone asks you about D&D (or preferably, Pathfinder).  Yes, I’m going to completely ignore that this blog hasn’t been updated in seven months.

We’re going to speak in general terms here.  “D&D” will represent all tabletop role-playing games, and “WoW” will represent all MMO’s.  You’re familiar with World of Warcraft, right?  Well, WoW got the vast majority of its ideas from D&D.  Leveling up, stats to determine how strong you are, how healthy you are, how good your armor is, and how adept you are with your weapons / spells – all came from D&D.  A random number generator combined with some modifier that you’ve contributed to your character – either with equipment, training, or the choices you made in character creation – dictates how things go during combat and your social interactions.

Okay, well before there was an interbutts – there were polyhedral dice to determine those random numbers.  Before there were vidya screens that were good enough to render what your character looked like, there was imagination.  And those quests, rather than being bestowed by animated characters – were bestowed by people that took the time to either write their own adventures or prepare a published one.

Now, you’re looking at that description and no doubt thinking “we have an interbutts now.  We’ve progressed from imagination games.”

…which is a fair point.  What WoW (and games like it) have that D&D (and games like it) don’t is the ability to log in at-will and begin gaming with people.  There’s no advanced preparation needed.  Whereas with D&D, there needs to be some planning to get the players together, etc. etc.

However, here’s where D&D curb-stomps WoW, and will always curb-stomp WoW:

1) There are A LOT of resources available to play pretty much anything you can think of… and if what you want to play doesn’t exist, something can probably be created without much effort – and most everything’s been created in one form or another.  This game’s been around for 35 years or so.  Even if you do happen to think of something new, software will always have more limits than games that exist in the imagination.

2) Gaming is social.  We do it right at my place.  I’ll fire up the grill, we’ll have people over for gaming and dinner.  A buddy of mine does the same thing.  We’re at a table, looking at each other, creating and experiencing something.  There’s human interaction that’s built over a subculture that’s existed for 35+ years.  I instantly know I have *something* in common with a D&D player.  Sure, there’s douchebags in every group – but I met cool people in this hobby.  When I moved to this part of town from over an hour away, I started running D&D games at the game store for total strangers.  Now, the people I enjoy having at my home the most are the people I met from gaming.  We’ve each created our characters and share storytelling with them.  I’ve gamed with literally all ages, and one of my favorite things to see is a dad that brought his kids to a game convention.

3) You can do things in D&D that you can’t do in WoW.  Take conversation, for example – there’s only a few options to pick from.  In D&D, you can say anything to anyone… though it might not be a good idea.  My alcoholic clown character blew cigar smoke in a Beholder Lord’s face (and I know you don’t know what that is – but the capitalization and the word “Lord” give you some context clues) and told him to go screw.  Find me a vidya game where that’s an option.

One of the reasons I became a history teacher was so I can tell stories all day.  Course, those would be true stories… but I still like telling stories.  I like making up stories too, and that’s what games like D&D do – and I can do that with people I dig hanging out with.

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About Matt Savage

Matt Savage once had a torrid affair with a gelatinous cube.
This entry was posted in Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “What is Dungeons & Dragons?”

  1. Evangeline says:

    OMG… first of all, Matt, I read your thread about the gaming stores; you are frickin hysterical!!!
    But to be honest, I started gaming in 1985, and nothing has changed, dude.
    Second of all, I am a chick, so yes, you should duck 😉 However, you are not that much of a whiny douche so I’ll only hit you with my purse.
    Third of all, did that guy REALLY ask you what D&D was? Oh, the ignominy… how old AM I that I remember not only D&D, but remember it BEFORE it was AD&D??? Oh, the horror… I remember when three friends (or more), six differently-shaped dice, a sharp pencil, a piece of graph paper, a six-pack of Mountain Dew, a bag of Cheetos, and a sharp imagination made for a hell of a weekend.
    Keep up the good work. Maybe I’ll dust off the old twenty-sided and come out one night.
    “Evangeline the Cleric” signing off.

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