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Role Playing (Games) Games

Looking Back At Dungeons & Dragons 189

An anonymous reader sends in a nostalgic piece about Dungeons & Dragons and the influence it's had on games and gamers for the past 36 years. Quoting: "Maybe there was something in the air during the early '70s. Maybe it was historically inevitable. But it seems way more than convenient coincidence that Gygax and Arneson got their first packet of rules for D&D out the door in 1974, the same year Nolan Bushnell managed to cobble together a little arcade machine called Pong. We've never had fun quite the same way since. Looking back, these two events set today's world of gaming into motion — the Romulus and Remus of modern game civilization. For the rest of forever, we would sit around and argue whether games should let us do more or tell us better stories."
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Looking Back At Dungeons & Dragons

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  • by Lando242 ( 1322757 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @04:58AM (#30829538)
    Not only that, but Pong was cribbed from Ralph Baer's Odyssey, which he had been demoing around since at least 1968.
  • by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @05:25AM (#30829660)
    Really? I asked around at church, and we got so many people interested, we had to rope in another DM and organise two games. Most of the people who play are in the 18 - 24 bracket. Although our assistant minister joined us for one game as a cleric of atheism.
  • Rogue-like (Score:5, Interesting)

    by VincenzoRomano ( 881055 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @05:38AM (#30829742) Homepage Journal
    Rogue-like [] games are here since 1972!
    And you have been killed by a troll!
  • by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @05:48AM (#30829782)
    Really? You don't think a minister could get a helluva lot of kicks putting words into the mouth of a proponent of atheism?
  • Nothing more fun? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kieran ( 20691 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @05:50AM (#30829788)

    D&D taught a generation of kids that they could make the games they play, and that nothing was more fun than getting together with friends for an evening of games.

    Utter bollocks - an evening of games pales in comparison with a day-long pizza-fuelled session at the weekend.

  • DND had it's issues (Score:1, Interesting)

    by forestwalkerjoe ( 915811 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:10AM (#30829892)
    I am in my mid 40's and ran into it in the late 70's. it did open your head a bit and make you think, Dream , Imagine.. it also was a monumental time waster. It prevented you from learning or doing some thing that had lasting EXP points, in your True Life. You learned about skills and game play.. related to the game.. which were not related to skills useful in any type of every day life. Most of the kids i played with were obsessive about it.. i was.. for years. We even had a few Real Artists and designers make images for us.. and a few OCD members spend Days and Weeks and serious Months,designing new Modules. ( cost us all a lot of Lunch money to pay for the art too) But all in all.. there was no lasting positive effect on me or nearly any of the persons we played with other than learning how to draw real nice. I wasted the better portion of my Junior and High School years being a 26th level Magi or a 16 level Cleric. and DM'ing here and again.. I could have learned more in a Comparative Religion Class or taking a practical art class.. Hell Dating a little bit.. It was just over overpoweringly easy to obsess on such a game.. it gave you sense of RANK and Earning Rewards.. even Favor with your peer's. BUT all that passes the second you get old enough to have to deal with REAL LIFE. I can see using a Game.. one you play a little and then it's done.. this was nearly Demonic in it's effects on those who were young and impressionable.
  • You are WRONG (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:51AM (#30830084)

    What you just said is like claiming that "no one will read books" anymore after TV was invented.

    Pen and Paper Roleplaying games offer a completely different kind of experience that you get from books, movies, computer games.
    It has it's own advantages and disadvantages and offers a "unique" kind of entertainment - just as all other forms as other "unique" kinds of entertainment do as well. I really do not see why those cannot co-exist. And as we are it I'd also say that LARP will also be around in the years and decades to come as it ALSO offers something you don't get with watching a movie or with sitting around a P&P-table.

    You SOUND old because you ARE old. And I'm not talking about your body. Your set-of-thought is what makes you old and from yesterday. You entered the stage of "my youth is the measurement of all that is good and today is totally different, thus bad". I can give you a very short example that shows how rididculuos your post was (and also the mods who moded you +4 insightful, geez!). Example: "Kids seeing Star Wars will be imagination-impaired".

  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @06:58AM (#30830136)
    Huh, I learned quite a bit about medieval history. Not just of Europe, but other cultures of the time. This sparked a general interest in history that I keep to this day. And D&D helped get me into reading a wider variety of fantasy and science fiction than I had before. D&D was my first practical application of combinatorics and probability. I now have a PhD in math, in part due to this game (and subsequent RPGs that I played). It helps develop basic record keeping and arithmetic. Anyone who has DMed successfully has picked up a little experience in managing groups.

    Frankly, even just learning to draw nice is a useful skill. Simple things like learning how to correct mistakes or to come up with a drawing style unique to yourself can carry over to other activities than merely drawing. And I fail to come up with useful activities that I would have done in place of role playing. Maybe you could have learned more in a comparative religion or practical art class, but would you have? Methinks, there'd be some other distraction.
  • by Knyterage ( 1365183 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @08:48AM (#30830668)
    I don't see this as totally true. My one cousin was born in August of 1990 and she keeps hounding me when we are going to be playing D&D again. Granted it started with me running games with her brother and his friends when they were in high school. She's been playing since she was around 10 and has a very good imagination. However I am not saying that all this cgi and special effects won't hurt others of that generation but I know when I have kids, it will not be the case. Also my friends kids, when old enough will involved in our gaming, that is as long as we are still playing, despite his wife's best effort to squash our little group just because, and I quote, "I don't get it."
  • by Sandbags ( 964742 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @09:20AM (#30830840) Journal

    I completely agree. "Pen and Paper" has been replaced with digital character sheets on laptops, an electronic map displayed on a big-screen TV (including FoW) to let players know where they are in relation to objects and creatures, and some still prefer real dice but command-line rolling using macros is much more efficient.

    MapTool from is by far the core tool we use. We have custom macros for all the powers each player is using, and it's not that hard to keep them up to date (players only level up about once a month, and don't get new powers every level, and the macros are pretty easy to write). the DM's notebook runs 2 instances of it, one for the DM's view and another on the second screen (TV) for everyone to see. The maps themselves for pregenerated campaigns are available online, though more recently, we've been making our own (from scans mostly).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @09:57AM (#30831154)
    You know what is really funny to me is that when I was growing up in the 70's and playing D&D it was declared as satanic by the church. Much the way there are churches and religious people that claim Harry Potter is satanic or is witchcraft today. I recently did a report on this for a class I was taking, which I had never thought about until I did that paper. However I remember as a child and reading all the D&D books and being told they were satanic, yet I knew better because I actually read the books. Everyone that told me they were satanic I simply asked, can you give me an example of what is satanic about them, which they couldn't because they never read the books. I also remember that was also when I realized people in religion didn't have a clue what they were talking about and I seriously think this was key in me becoming an Atheist. At a young age being persecuted for playing a game, I had my books taken away from me as well, because they were supposedly satanic. I seriously to this day have an utter hatred and distaste for all organized religions. I see things like China censorship of Avatar and see this as the same thing. Somewhere a group of people do not want you to think a certain way and they try to oppress you.
  • by S77IM ( 1371931 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @11:17AM (#30832170)

    Wrong -- pen-and-paper RPGs are selling better today than at any previous point in history (well, actually I think the high point was 2008, but we can probably blame this slump on the economy). And it's not all just nostalgic 30-somethings (my demographic) either. There are a LOT of high-school and middle-school kids getting into the hobby.

    Remember, these kids grew up on Pokemon, which is both a CRPG and a collectible card game, and WoW and LotR make them very familiar with the source material. It's not a far leap for them to try out a little D&D. (Everybody's doing it. It'll make you feel good... Your first hit's free!)

    If you bemoan childhood development due to the lack of role-playing and the prevalence of 3D movies, imagine how horrified YOUR parents were when they realized you were going to stop reading books and spend all your time watching TV.

      -- 77IM

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @11:35AM (#30832416) Homepage Journal

    I was a DM during the heyday of AD&D 2nd Ed. I ran successful AD&D and Traveler campaigns for several years, until work commitments and the old gang moving away put and end to that. After ten years of my old roleplaying stuff gathering dust I put it in the library book sale.

    When I was running campaigns, I quickly realized that the rules were not really workable from a DM's perspective. The roleplaying aspect of the game was too open ended to be practical for this set of rules. That's why the ridiculous "dungeon crawl" campaigns were so popular, because they paid back *all* of the DM's work. If you filled a hundred rooms with treasure and monsters, the players would methodically clean out each level.

    In a sense this recaptured the old strategic simulation games from which this kind of thing evolved. If you set up Napolean vs. Wellington at Waterloo, you didn't have to worry about players saying, "I think I'll take my army and move back over Belgian fronteir, then negotiate a treaty which will apparently give Britain what it is looking for, under the cover of which I can build other geopolitical alliances that will undercut her." After you did all the work of researching and setting up the initial conditions for an elaborate battle simulation, the players were jolly well going to play out *your* scenario. But the freedom to do something unexpected is the essence of roleplaying.

    That the rules were really not very adequate didn't hurt, because short of simulating the whole world, they couldn't possibly be. The DM makes up rules governing outcomes as he goes along, and if he does it skillfully the players don't even notice. In fact once I got very experienced at this *most* of the campaign, and usually the best parts of the campaign, were improvised on the spot. Instead of spending five hours preparing for a five hour session, I could spend one hour on something that would make a really big difference.

    The key insight I got was this: roleplaying games aren't simulation. They're "cops and robbers" or "cowboys and indians" with just enough structure to make them interesting and challenging. It's group story telling, not for the end product but for the experience of being in the story.

    Now recently my teenaged daughter expressed interest in learning D&D, so I picked up the latest books. Now before I start yelling at all you kids with your newfangled systems to get off my lawn, let me say that the new rules are impressive. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into them, and they cover contingencies a lot more clearly, and tweak some of the things that were illogical. These are much better *simulation* rules. But they aren't necessarily better roleplaying rules.

    Perfect, even *reasonably good* simulation rules for roleplaying are impractical, in my opinion, because such rules would have to be a reasonably good ontology of some world. Well before you'd get to "reasonably good" you'd reach the point where the rules are cumbersome. What rules ought to do (in my opinion) is provide a framework in which players are forced to make decisions that are meaningful to them (e.g., "Am I up to fighting this guy, or should I run away and heal up?"; "If I want to steal the jewel from the idol, how should I prepare my escape?").

    It seems to me that roleplaying rules should focus on (a) forcing player decisions, (b) being convenient to use and (c) being easy to learn for both gamemaster and player.

    It seems to me the new D&D rules are no better at A, not significantly better at B, and a lot worse at C.

    It used to be that you could bring up a new player with about fifteen minutes of explanation and another fifteen minutes of walking him through his character generation. That coincided with the phase of the evening's entertainment that featured pizza and chatting for the other players. If you wanted to bring a whole group up, you took them all through the half hour orientation then treated them to a one evening dungeon crawl, after which they'd know everything th

  • by maurert ( 515791 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @12:04PM (#30832916)

    I disagree that noone born after 1990 wants to play pen and paper D&D. My two boys ages 9 and 13 are hooked. My 4 year-old daughter wants to play SO BAD. There is a whole gaggle of boys at scouts that have been roped in. Of course maybe that's because ipods, cell phones and computers are banned at overnighters! But that's not really the reason.

    Why did I show D&D to my boys? The answer will surprise you. My older son was then 8. He was an advanced reader, but he much preferred books on tape, CD or later iPod. However none of the D&D books, my AD&D versions in particular, had audio versions. He had to wade through them himself. Seriously, how many 8 year olds are reading and trying to undrestand what a theocracy is. Then he wanted to take over and refurbish the moat house in one of the modules. He then needed to figure out the costs in GPs to plan. Enter the need for Excel!

    D&D has been a tool to teach Microsoft Office skills, governments, reading, folklore, map making, budgets, medival culture, etc. I highly recommend it as a cirriculum for home schooling! Okay maybe that's taking it a bit too far.

  • Re:Nothing more fun? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CodeBuster ( 516420 ) on Wednesday January 20, 2010 @12:45PM (#30833670)

    Utter bollocks - an evening of games pales in comparison with a day-long pizza-fuelled session at the weekend.

    ED: You see a well groomed garden. In the middle, on a small hill, you see a gazebo.

    ERIC: A gazebo? What color is it?

    ED: (Pause) It's white, Eric.

    ERIC: How far away is it?

    ED: About fifty yards.

    ERIC: How big is it?

    ED: (Pause) It's about thirty feet across, fifteen feet high, with a pointed top.

    ERIC: I use my sword to detect good on it.

    ED: It's not good, Eric. It's a gazebo!

    ERIC: (Pause) I call out to it.

    ED: It won't answer. It's a gazebo!

    ERIC: (Pause) I sheathe my sword and draw my bow and arrows. Does it respond in any way?

    ED: No, Eric, it's a gazebo!

    ERIC: I shoot it with my bow (roll to hit). What happened?

    ED: There is now a gazebo with an arrow sticking out of it.

    ERIC: (Pause) Wasn't it wounded?

    ED: Of course not, Eric! It's a gazebo!

    ERIC: (Whimper) But that was a plus three arrow!

    ED: It's a gazebo, Eric, a gazebo! If you really want to try to destroy it, you could try to chop it with an axe, I suppose, or you could try to burn it, but I don't know why anybody would even try. It's a *)@#! gazebo!

    ERIC: (Long pause. He has no axe or fire spells.) I run away.

    ED: (Thoroughly frustrated) It's too late. You've woken up the gazebo, and it catches you and eats you.

    ERIC: (Reaching for his dice) Maybe I'll roll up a fire-using mage so I can avenge my Paladin.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982