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Dungeons & Dragons' Influence and Legacy 127

Posted by Soulskill
from the roll-for-initiative dept.
An anonymous reader writes: This year is the 40th anniversary of the launch of Dungeons & Dragons, and it's getting a lot of mainstream attention. Long-time and former players are examining the game's influence and its legacy, even as it's being introduced to yet another generation of kids. "For countless players, Dungeons & Dragons redirected teen-age miseries and energies that might have been put to more destructive uses. How many depressed and lonely kids turned away from suicide because they found community and escape in role-playing games? How many acts of bullying or vandalism were sublimated into dice-driven combat? ... How many underage D.U.I.s never came to pass because spell tables were being consulted late into the night?" Meanwhile, as people who played the game long ago have grown into adults producing their own works, our culture has reaped the benefits of D&D's influence. "The league of ex-gamer writers also includes the 'weird fiction' author China Miéville (The City & the City); Brent Hartinger (author of Geography Club, a novel about gay and bisexual teenagers); the sci-fi and young adult author Cory Doctorow; the poet and fiction writer Sherman Alexie; the comedian Stephen Colbert; George R. R. Martin, author of the A Song of Ice and Fire series (who still enjoys role-playing games). Others who have been influenced are television and film storytellers and entertainers like Robin Williams, Matt Groening (The Simpsons), Dan Harmon (Community) and Chris Weitz (American Pie)."
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Dungeons & Dragons' Influence and Legacy

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19, 2014 @02:39PM (#47489895)

    I'm in middle management and make at least half of my decisions with a d20. Better than any MBA.

    Bringing the DM screen into meetings is still not very well accepted, however.

    • You can get decent 20-sider apps for your phone. Nice graphical ones. Makes it much more discreet.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 19, 2014 @02:46PM (#47489941)

    How many acts of bullying or vandalism were sublimated into dice-driven combat? ... How many underage D.U.I.s never came to pass because spell tables were being consulted late into the night?

    The gaming community really doesn't need this old stereotype of gamers as uptight nerds who are scared to step outside the bounds of adult-imposed propriety. I played D&D in high school in the 1980s, but I found plenty of time for illin' like any other teenager. I bought a lot of weed, sold some, and I also did a lot of grafitti tagging in my neighborhood. In these activities, I was often joined by peers who I would also meet for D&D.

    • I'm glad you posted this. I started playing in '76 when I was 9 or 10. By the time I was in high school games included beer and weed. We found plenty of time to go out and party, screw hot chicks, etc. Most of us played sports or did other activities that do not fit the stereotype as well.

    • The gaming community really doesn't need this old stereotype of gamers as uptight nerds who are scared to step outside the bounds of adult-imposed propriety. I played D&D in high school in the 1980s, but I found plenty of time for illin' like any other teenager.

      Pretty much this. The same guys I played D&D with on Saturday afternoons in '80/'81 were the same guys I cruised the Stratford Strip with on Friday night and went (underage) drinking with on Saturday night. And the same guys who drove their

  • And software process methodologies as hokey as that game.
  • The flip side: (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "For countless players, Dungeons & Dragons redirected teen-age miseries and energies that might have been put to more destructive uses. How many depressed and lonely kids turned away from suicide because they found community and escape in role-playing games?"

    On the flip side, how many hours were wasted the could have been put to better use? Studying Maths or computers or foreign languages or Music or Science or Drama, or even spent at football or wrestling practice? How many trebuchets were not built

    • by WheezyJoe (1168567) <fegg AT excite DOT com> on Saturday July 19, 2014 @03:46PM (#47490171)

      The great thing about D&D (that's often lost on people) is that it was a social thing. All your friends get together, kinda like college poker nights (except you're NOT trying to drain the sucker next to you). Best campaign I ever had we were ten kids in a room (on a rainy day), working together, hashing things out. The DM was really prepared, and we got completely immersed and the hours flew by like they do when you're really having fun. It was great.

      The fact is, it's just damn hard to get a good campaign together, get a lot of people interested. Probably much harder now because D&D has that (false) anti-social stigma these days, and who needs a DM when you got a computer? D&D takes a lot more work than just firing up WoW (or, for that matter, Zork) by yourself in the basement. Even in the day, if your friends weren't into it, role-playing games kinda suck. On the flip side, if your friends are stoked, your DM puts in the prep-time, and you're all keen to cooperate and work with each other, D&D can make some of the best memories you'll ever have. 'cause it's with your friends.

      Most people I know who shit on D&D either never played it, or had a lame experience in a lame campaign. That's a shame, but that's life. Anything involving people, from drama club to Boy Scouts to playing football can leave a bad taste in your mouth if the people in it don't care or are uncooperative assholes.

      • by JonnyCalcutta (524825) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @04:33PM (#47490393)

        Couldn't agree more. Some of my best memories are from playing RPGs as a teen / early adult. And like the other posters above that didn't prevent me from having the more normal and less respectable teen fun (drinking / smoking / partying / hanging round street corners / martial arts / football / movies). On the other hand, when the RPG campaign was rocking I wasn't adverse to skipping a party to keep the gaming going - it was that good.

        If someone thinks people should be skipping RPGs because its not studying maths or inventing new water filters for the third world then they are the ones with the unhealthy view, IMHO.

      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by bidule (173941)

        Most people I know who shit on D&D either never played it, or had a lame experience in a lame campaign.

        Your friend the Computer disagrees and reminds you that D&D is a gateway drug into secret societies revering Cthulhu, mutants calling themselves "superheroes" or knowledge of the Outside such as "mouse" and "vineyard".

      • by Jesus_666 (702802)
        Prep time is useful but not necessary. In fact, so is a GM. I've been in fun adventures where we had neither a GM nor a fixed plot. Not quite as great as a proper campaign but fun nonetheless and very quick to set up. Now, there are games where you need a GM who plans things out in advance - Shadowrun, for instance; at least if you play it the usual way with legwork and so on. But if you don't do anything that requires meticulous advance planning you can really just pick characters, have someone come up wit
      • by hibiki_r (649814)

        There's people that shit on D&D, like me, who say it not because it's an RPG, but because it's arguably the least social RPG system this side of Rolemaster. How many haven't had experiences of groups whose main focus was to try to maximize their combat efficiency, all else be damned? Then you have two games, a fine social game, where the combat people look bored, and suddenly combat, where the people that spend their days pouring over many pages of unnecessary rules enjoy themselves.

        I like tabletop stra

    • Re:The flip side: (Score:5, Insightful)

      by spire3661 (1038968) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @05:20PM (#47490587) Journal
      Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)

      " How many young men were not Eagle Scouts?"
      not enough.

      How many kids wasted their childhood being tricked into doing other peoples work? How may Eagle scouts would have learned to cooperate better and thing for themselves instead of how to be a pre military puppet?

      • by cwsumner (1303261)

        ... How many kids wasted their childhood being tricked into doing other peoples work? How may Eagle scouts would have learned to cooperate better and thing for themselves instead of how to be a pre military puppet?

        I guess you were not in the scouts that I was in, then. Or the military, either...

    • I don't think I was unique in spending my early teen years (in the late '70s) convinced that nobody had problems like mine or could possibly understand my problems, and that everybody else fit in and I was the only loner in the whole school. I'm pretty sure the only ways you get over things like that is to talk about them or to realize that they're just not true, and both of those require social interaction. For me that came at a gaming table. Suddenly I understood that there were a lot of people just like
      • Odd, after exposure to geek culture, I concluded that people lost value to me "as people" at age 2, and that we had nothing meaningfully in common that didn't outright make us rivals. Conventions, specifically, make me wonder who the fuck are all those blatant extroverts who love shopping in swarms.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sirnomad99 (2883747)

      "On the flip side, how many hours were wasted the could have been put to better use? Studying Maths or computers or foreign languages or Music or Science or Drama, or even spent at football or wrestling practice? How many trebuchets were not built because the teen-agers were busy playing games? How many young men were not Eagle Scouts? How many snow forts or tree houses were left empty, or even not built in the first place?

      Actually, a number of studies pointed out higher math and reasoning skills in those individuals who did game as opposed to peers who did not. Likewise there was significant development in creative talents such as literature and music as well as art. In my own groups we had a large number of individuals who went on to pursue careers in literature, music or art, either teaching or creating the same. Not to mention a high number of friends who are now successful IT professionals. To be quite frank I am hard pr

      • by obscuro (1448733)

        Dungeons and Dragons is a game of probability events and profiles that offset those probabilities. It's great training for decision-making under constraints. In the real world one seldom knows everything necessary to make the best decision. We're stuck using what information we can gather (and a model for best understanding) to take our best shot.

        On the DM side, a good campaign is about balancing the probability of kicking your players asses too hard and giving them enough challenge to build skills and hit

    • by Jawnn (445279)

      On the flip side, how many hours were wasted the could have been put to better use?

      Assuming that one does not count creativity and the cultivation of it's associated skills as "wasted", I am going to say that zero hours were wasted. You don't really understand what's involved in a real RPG, do you.

    • On the flip side, how many hours were wasted the could have been put to better use? Studying Maths or computers or foreign languages or Music or Science or Drama, or even spent at football or wrestling practice? How many trebuchets were not built because the teen-agers were busy playing games? How many young men were not Eagle Scouts? How many snow forts or tree houses were left empty, or even not built in the first place? Well I was introduced to D&D on a service weekend for Order of the Arrow (www.oa
  • by poena.dare (306891) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @03:15PM (#47490047)

    Tunnels and Trolls and Traveller had more of an influence on me than D&D.

    D&D did teach me to take the parts I liked and screw the rest.

    METAMORPHOSIS ALPHA IS 40 YEARS OLD WHERE IS THEIR PARTY???

    • by Calydor (739835)

      Tunnels & Trolls (abbreviated T&T) is a fantasy role-playing game designed by Ken St. Andre and first published in 1975 by Flying Buffalo. The second modern role-playing game published, it was written by Ken St. Andre to be a more accessible alternative to Dungeons and Dragons[1][2] and is suitable for solitaire, group, and play-by-mail gameplay.

      Judging from the above blurb I'd say D&D influenced T&T which in turn influenced you.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Dud, it came out in 76. So not 40 years.
      It was fun, for the time.

      • My bones say - close enough to 40 in round numbers.

        Never played myself, I was 17-18 when I first heard of it. It appeared to me to have nothing to do with motorbikes or girls so it failed to hold my attention. We did however as younger teens play a (nameless) game that used a die, a ruler, an eraser, some pencils and a roll of wallpaper or similar.

        The idea was to set up a battle, drawing in pencil the units of your army on your end of the paper. To move a unit you erased and redrew it, the dice determ
    • I ran two MA campaigns on the warden. The second one, the players didn't see the rules or know they were on the warden- they were in the "City of Metal" campaign.

      I've run my dnd games through the decks of the Warden as well.

      I hate that I missed the MA kickstarter project.

      I've been running dnd since 1978. Successful career, grandkids, retired early-- and still run two games a month for 13 people from age 9 to 56.

  • Still play weekly (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Archfeld (6757) * <treboreel@live.com> on Saturday July 19, 2014 @03:23PM (#47490075) Journal

    Been meeting with the same group for more than 30 years now on Saturday night. I started playing the when the 1st red-book with crayons came out, I was like in 6th grade, and yes I still have the boxed set and nearly EVERY other book, module, and accessory. I'm 46 now and NO other form of RPG online or other can compare to the fun and comradeship of a face to face pen and paper RPG. More imagination, more interaction, and for those of you who doubt it is family fun, our group consists of 2 single ladies, 3 single guys, 2 married couples all my relative age (mid 40's) and 3 much younger players in their mid 20's ( 2 guys and a girl. We have 3 players who rotate as Game Master and we play in a long standing organically customized world. We have been at several Gen-Cons and we ran a full tourney game that was very successful several years ago.
    Long live D&D

    • by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @03:44PM (#47490163)

      This, a thousand times. A tabletop RPG gives a lot more freedom of choice and a much more visceral experience than anything technology has managed to produce or is likely to produce for the foreseeable future. And the barriers to entry are basically nonexistent, a few rules, some dice, pencils and paper.

      I mean think about it - you read a book, right, and you interpret the words in the book in a way unique to yourself, you see the castle or the starship in your own minds eye in a way that nobody else can. This is a big part of the magic of reading. Tabletop RPGs are like that except it's a shared imaginative experience, others literally walk in your imagination and you walk in theirs. What could be more marvellous?

      Books are to movies what tabletop RPGs are to computer games.

  • Quit playing D&D and finish the Ice and Fire already.

  • by Nyall (646782) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @03:27PM (#47490109) Homepage

    Depressed kids can always find outlets. I drew, listened to music, taught myself 68k assembly language for my calculator, read a lot, and lifted weights. I often reflect on how a depression based self education led to a career.

    • Depressed kids can always find outlets. I drew, listened to music, taught myself 68k assembly language for my calculator, read a lot, and lifted weights.

      That's not normal depression........

  • You can solve anything with the d20 system.
  • Learning English (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cerberusss (660701) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @04:16PM (#47490309) Homepage Journal

    I'm from Europe and I didn't learn English in class. Instead I learned it from the AD&D (2nd edition) material. Together with a class mate who also had DM aspirations, we swapped and traded material through BBSes.

    We were so far ahead of the class, the teacher would set us apart and just let us do whatever we wanted. As long as we whispered, we could talk and read separate from the rest of the class. Of course that got us nasty looks, but we got to talk for a solid two hours about Planescape or Forgotten Realms.

    After class, we'd ask the teacher words that we couldn't find in the dictionary. He couldn't them either. I remember finding out what "to be marooned" meant, ahead of the teacher.

    I also remember that me and my gaming buddy got an A- on our final exams. After the verbal part of the exam, the teacher said he was a bit disappointed in my verbal skills. But because he knew I had it in me, he'd give me an A-.

    I stopped gaming when college started, I couldn't find a gaming group. After almost twenty years, I found out my current employer has a group of colleagues who regularly play Pathfinder, and I joined them. I'm playing a fifth level thief, and it's an absolute blast.

    • I'm a native english speaker, and learned a ton of language just by reading D&D books... They use an assortment of words you don't regularly encounter in regular off-the-street speak. :)

  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @04:28PM (#47490353)
    They would be wise to get a celebrity D&D campaign. Just imagine an evening with Cory Doctorow, Stephen Colbert, George R. R. Martin, Matt Groening etc, all sitting around a table, trying to lawyer rules and hold off a raid of hobgoblins! That would be a "reality" show that I could watch!
    • by Lesrahpem (687242)
      I would actually pay to watch that. Kickstarter, anyone?
  • by A NonyMouse CowHerd (545245) on Saturday July 19, 2014 @04:33PM (#47490391) Homepage
    D&D was loosely based on concepts from "The Lord of the Rings", recently published back then by Ace in paperback format. The American publisher of LOTR had allowed the copyright to lapse because the books just didn't sell. And the people at Ace were explicit after-the-fact -- if the had been required to negotiate royaltie payments the project would never have been done. The consensus at the time was that adult fantasy does not sell.

    Within weeks there was a set by Ballentine books (at 95 cents each, vs the Ace 75 cents) as the 'authorized edition'; shortly thereafter, Ace announced they had made royalty arrangements. Then Houghton-Mifflin re-printed the hardbacks. Lancer started issuing paperbacks of the Conan stories and Lord Dunsany's fantasy stories. New fantasy stories started to appear - and Gygax and Arneson came up with D&D.

    Look at all the LOTR and D&D spin-offs in books, movies, other FRP games - and most would probably never have come about if the copyrights to LOTR had not been allowed to lapse.
    • by geekoid (135745)

      nope.

      LotR was used, but the core concepts are older the LotR. IF they didn't use hobbit' initially, they would have used something else.
      It is NOT because copyright expired.

      • Correct, as far as I'm aware it grew out of wargames and borrowed rules from diverse sources both mechanically and conceptually. Vancian magic is as close to a working interpretation of western magickal beliefs (Crowley et al) as could be envisioned, although with less emphasis on demons. Prepare your spell, cast your spell, spell gone.

        Also fantasy was already a proven market long before it was published, Moorcock's Elric first showed up back in 1961 for example. As the game developed it changed from a skir

      • Tolkien may have reinvented the world, or he may have read it and forgot it and then reinvented it (as he said himself when asked).

        The word "Hobbit" appeared as a fantastic creature name in 1854.
        ---
        http://blog.oxforddictionaries... [oxforddictionaries.com]

        Then, after Tolkienâ(TM)s death, an example of the word did turn up, in a long list of âsupernatural beingsâ(TM) appearing in the so-called Denham Tracts, compiled by the Yorkshire merchant M. A. Denham (1800 or 1801-1859). Denham was an amateur folklorist who publi

    • Correlation does not equal causation. And you've left out how Gygax and Arneson were avid wargamers, and how the first ruleset of what would become D&D was an expansion (by Gygax) of a medieval rule set by Jeff Perren... and how Arneson (an avid player of Napoleonic figures based wargames) further expanded on the concept.

      • by Fnord666 (889225)

        Correlation does not equal causation. And you've left out how Gygax and Arneson were avid wargamers, and how the first ruleset of what would become D&D was an expansion (by Gygax) of a medieval rule set by Jeff Perren... and how Arneson (an avid player of Napoleonic figures based wargames) further expanded on the concept.

        Ah yes. I fondly remember playing Chainmail [wikipedia.org]. In fact, I still have my rule book as well as the three book set for the original Dungeons and Dragons.

        Actually I originally got started playing such games at an individual level (as opposed to a unit level) thanks to Howard Thompson [wikipedia.org] at Metagaming Concepts [wikipedia.org]. A group of us were playing a lot of the microgames from Metagaming such as Ogre, GEV, WarpWar [wikipedia.org] and Chitin:I when we found the microgames Melee, Wizard, and Death Test by Metagaming. Inexpensive and pocket

    • D&D had many sources of inspiration beyond Papa Tolkien, The only real aspect that you could strongly argue came from only LOTR was the concept of the halfling. Almost every other aspect of the game had been used repeatedly even before LOTR was written. Do remember that Tolkien's primary occupation was professor of English literature. He borrowed from the traditional myth cycle so heavily that every author writing fantasy around the time of LOTR 25th anniversary was accused of copying him and it wasn't

      • by khallow (566160)

        The only real aspect that you could strongly argue came from only LOTR was the concept of the halfling.

        And elves, dwarves, and dragons. Sure, other sources had them, but these races as presented in D&D were of Tolkien's peculiar flavor.

    • by StefanJ (88986)

      Sirnomad99 notes that there were other influences. Jon Peterson, author of the scholarly gaming history Playing at the World, suggests that Tolkein and LOTR was just one influence among many. The Conan stories, Pratt and de Camp, Leiber and Vance are all specifically mentioned.

      In fact . . . I just picked up the book and turned to page (117) where I'd last left off. There are quotes from Gygax where he suggests that Tolkein is not the be-all and end-all authority on the nature of fantasy creatures.

      Oh . . . I

    • by Anonymous Coward

      That is just mind bogglingly wrong and long armed grasping for straws. D&D was spawned from the Chainmail rule set for a tabletop medieval warfare game. Gary Gygax and friends wanted to spice it up with some mythology like trolls under bridges, wizards, dragons and such. Just normal medieval folklore that can be found in the same books they studied for their tactical game. After having some fun and the rule set taking off at college campuses someone pointed out how dumb it was to have various monsters o

  • by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Saturday July 19, 2014 @06:49PM (#47491013) Homepage Journal

    false idea that all kids that played DnD only played DnD and didn't do anything else.

  • I was raised on Choose your Own adventure books bought at a thrift store. Then I got the Red Box when I was 12. I got all the boxes then. Later I got original AD&D from a friend.

    Dungeons and Dragons got some things right, but I argue against some parts of their system such as armor. Their armor means you dodge more, but if you get hit, it is full damage. A better system makes armor reduce damage, and agility+dodge skill avoid attacks. There's no ways to overstate D&D's affects on modern games
    • This variant of the rules is discussed in Unearthed Arcana (pages 111-112) as an option with extensive tables detailing the necessary modifications the base rules and a sidebar noting the effects. Basically, with armor as damage reduction attacks hit more often and do less damage. At lower levels this tends to make combat less dangerous, especially for armored characters. However, at higher levels the advantage shifts back in favor of monsters that deal large amounts of damage per hit. For example, when fac

      • Thank you for that:

        I made my own RPG influenced off D&D. Intergalactic Bounty Hunter (needs a webpage)

        I had a dodge and an armor. Damage reduction is 1/2 your armor plus a roll of 1d(That 1/2 your armor number). Armor stops low damaging things for the most part only takes the edge off harder hitting stuff.

        My weapons would be sorted between lots of rapid hitting small damage, or "armor piercing" high damage hits

        Sometimes a lot of rapid damage deals a total higher damage than an armor piercer if
  • at 2am for complaints by the neighbors about loud arguing.

    We were apparently loudly with the DM's interpretation that a polymorphed ogre into a flower was "as tough as an ogre" -- as in it could still inflict 1d10 damage to us while polymorphed into a flower instead of merely still having 20 hit points.

    Ah... good times.

  • Switched to HackMaster.

  • Table top gaming made its way early into the Internet and computing. Things like MUD, and NetHack (Mines of Moria, etc), Dwarf Fortress. In fact I remember some of my first video games being Curse of the Azure Bonds, and Pools of Radiance, which were both officially licenced AD&D products. Later things like Neverwinter nights, etc... even Skyrim.

    Not to mention all the writing (some good, others no so much), such as Forgotten Realms, etc... Much of it had an birth with D&D.

    Hell I was at a pub last we

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