Dungeons & Dragons, now 40
In July, Dungeons & Dragons celebrated its 40th anniversary. However that dates back to the original game, and hardly anyone was playing it until two years later. The Dungeons & Dragons that I know and played was the “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” which was published in three books between 1977 and 1979.
In honor of the 40th anniversary, the current owners of Dungeons & Dragons, Wizards of the Coast, are publishing a new Fifth Edition. You can obtain the basic rules for free, online.
Although I only briefly looked through the rulebook, I am happy to report my impression that the new 5e rules remind me of the classic AD&D I knew when I was a kid. When perused the 4e rules, it seemed like WotC was trying to turn the game into a tabletop version of videogames like World of Warcraft. 5e presents itself more like the original game which was generally played mostly verbally with no gameboard.
The new rules are more politically correct. Half-Orcs are no longer talked about as a race that you can play. The idea of a race that was genetically evil and had low intelligence but was physically superior is now considered to be racist. There are still Elves, Dwarves and Halflings because those races are good and have redeeming qualities that in many ways make them morally superior to humans.
The new rules also have an ode to LGBT players: “You could also play a female character who presents herself as a man, a man who feels trapped in a female body, or a bearded female dwarf who hates being mistaken for a male.” In the old rules, you couldn’t play a female dwarf because they were very few and were kept hidden away in their underground cities. Dwarves of the 21st century are no longer the misogynists that they were 40 years ago.
All that said, is it likely that D&D could make a comeback? Does anyone still play it? Sadly, I think the answer is that the popularity of D&D was the product of a time when there were no computer games like World of Warcraft*. WoW is based on D&D concepts, but you can actually see the world you are exploring. And WoW isn’t necessarily that solitary because you can join a guild and speak to other guildmembers using a voicechat program like Teamspeak. Furthermore, D&D can never be a true mass-market game because it requires high verbal IQ in order to appreciate it. The typical person with an IQ of 100 to 115 will get more enjoyment out of WoW.
The dungeon master who has to orchestrate the whole thing especially needs a high verbal IQ. D&D isn’t really a game with hard and fast rules like Settlers of Catan, but rather it’s a roleplaying fantasy augmented by the appearance of game rules, but also the dungeon master is just winging a lot of it and making things up as needed. It’s probably impossible to learn how to play the game without first having been taught how to play it by other experienced players, or the very least by one experienced player acting as dungeon master.
*WoW is used as an example because of its popularity, but there’s a new game, Final Fantasy XIV, that’s a lot better. Yes, I played FFXIV. I highly recommend it if you are looking for a way to waste a lot of time. And it’s way better if you can find some people to chat with on Teamspeak while you do a challenging dungeon together.
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Why are games like D&D mostly played by teenagers and young adults? Because older people have less vivid imaginations, and are too busy working and taking care of their children to have time to do fun but not-prestigious activities. The non-college-educated probably have more time, but lack the IQ and imagination required for D&D.