Lion of the Blogosphere

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.

* * *

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.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

August 6, 2014 at 2:37 pm

Posted in Nerdy stuff

37 Responses

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  1. As someone with limited time (and patience) for socializing I enjoyed Skyrim. My sons have been playing it a lot lately during their summer break, making me feel wistful about the many hours I lost to that game. My preference has always been for open ended games where the player character has the freedom to choose his own destiny. After the original final fantasy games which were scripted in story but open with the character, the series became a series of scripted events combined with pre-created characters which turned me off.

    Lately I don’t have much time for games, but I do enjoy company of heroes two whenever I can find the time for a quick match. Man that game is fun.


    August 6, 2014 at 3:39 pm

  2. Yes, people still play D&D. I personally don’t do it anymore, but some of my acquaintances do. Nothing wrong with having such a hobby.


    August 6, 2014 at 4:22 pm

  3. 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.

    When I was invited to play this by my greater omega clique in college (couldn’t bring myself to do it – the biggest fear of someone in the 15th percentile of SMV is doing something that could drop him to the 5th percentile) I asked them “why can’t someone just declare himself master of the dungeon master and change the rules?” They were like, “You just have to play it to get it.”


    August 6, 2014 at 5:22 pm

  4. All that said, is it likely that D&D could make a comeback? Does anyone still play it?

    Quite easily.

    Lock game programming nerds in a room. Put them on a borderline starvation diet, administer regular beatings, underpay them, and supply them with cocaine (for creativity). But supplied by a quality dealer, please. Finally tell them they’re not leaving until D&D’s reimagined into a best seller and you’ll get your damned video game.

    Royalties? Consider that value ‘transfered’.

    The Undiscovered Jew

    August 6, 2014 at 6:40 pm

  5. I played D&D a couple times in college with pals, some Magic the Gathering (card game), and tons of board games like Settlers of Catan. We played nearly every week.

    Now everyone has a job and lives far away, so we don’t play anymore. Lack of proximity and time.


    August 6, 2014 at 6:41 pm

  6. Great topic, suited to your blog. Unfortunately a lot of folks are reluctant to write about something as nerdy as D&D, because it reveals them as a nerd, but I wonder how many of your readers will out themselves as sometime Dungeons and Dragons fans.

    The new rules are more politically correct.

    They’ve been trending that way for several decades. So far as I am aware, the political correctness really began with AD&D 2nd edition, with its windy foreword explaining that the ubiquitous usage of the male pronoun was “not meant to exclude female players.” But, at least they used the male pronoun as the default. Another example that I can think of is the way that early editions placed limits on female Strength scores: female characters could have a max score of 17, where males could reach 18.

    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.

    Really? I am happy to hear this as well, as I grew up with 1st and 2nd editions and loathed many of the 3rd edition changes. Are the rules – class systems, etc. – actually more like the old rules?

    Samson J.

    August 6, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    • It was only a very quick perusal of 5e, but it looked a lot more familiar than 4 did.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      August 6, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    • “female characters could have a max score of 17, where males could reach 18.”

      Should be more like 13.


      August 7, 2014 at 12:18 am

    • You’d be surprised by how many people are proud to be nerds. Nerds are so uncool that they’re cool. The Big Bang Theory is the hottest show on TV. I was always a nerd wannabe & I wish my friends were nerdier.


      August 7, 2014 at 3:08 am

      • I guess the grass is always greener. I was always labeled a nerd by everyone despite not feeling like I was or wanting to be one. To me nerds weren’t just uncool (not that I care about being cool very much) they were boring! I was too much of a misanthrope I suppose. I had glasses though, so I guess that decided that.


        August 7, 2014 at 9:04 am

      • Sisyphean, if you’re skinny & bespectacled you’ll be considered a nerd, regardless of whether you have the nerd personality. Nerds are boring to most people but I find some science fascinating so they’re very interesting to me, although nerds do bore me to tears when they blather on about science fictions movies or comic book superheroes. I’m a huge horror fan but most nerds consider slasher films very stupid while I consider their cherished Batman & Star Wars movies childish nonsense.

        Nerds have more status in the multicultural regions of Canada because Asian girls love nerds & their parents also want them to marry a good nerdy boy. When some muscle bound jock tries to pick up an Asian girl, the girls are not attracted to him, they’re scared & their patents go ballistic. But if you’re from some football worshipping small American town, then yeah, being a nerd would suck.


        August 7, 2014 at 5:56 pm

      • Must be a generational thing. I can’t begin to describe the efforts I put into trying to wash the nerd smell off of me. I even signed up for the Jr. High wrestling team for one quarter (big mistake). Coach made a couple of wisecracks at my expense including one comment about guys with my grades not typically turning out for wrestling. He was right and there’s a reason for that. It is a really boring sport.


        August 7, 2014 at 10:57 pm

  7. This may sound like a weird thing to say, but I felt it was a societal marker – that the West had left the era of the 20th century – when Gary Gygax died.

    Samson J.

    August 6, 2014 at 7:29 pm

  8. Instead of talking to girls and developing social skills, I played AD&D (1st Ed) just like Lion in my teen years. I have fond memories of those times. This is actually not that detrimental because a man can always catch up when he’s older provided he’s aware and puts in some effort.


    August 6, 2014 at 9:00 pm

  9. So you’re talking with a chick in a nightclub and she asks you what you like to do in your spare time.

    You: I really like playing D&D.
    She: Oh. That’s … nice. Hey, I have to go, bye.

    Contrast this to:
    You: I’m a rabid NFL fan, I watch every game I can and play fantasy football.
    She: Let’s have sex.



    August 6, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    • While I agree that saying you play D&D will be perceived negatively by SWPL women, talking about how you are a big football fan will NOT get you sex.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      August 6, 2014 at 11:32 pm

      • Untrue. Saying that you worship the Most Important Sport in the World will start an epidemic of panty-dropping. It shows that you’re a conventionally masculine man with conventional tastes. Chix adore conventionality.



        August 6, 2014 at 11:59 pm

      • What Lion said. Declaring yourself to be a “rabid fan” of any sport marks you as beta and a follower. Alphas PLAY sports, and while a lot of them follow pro sports casually most real men have better things to do than watch other men play games on TV.

        Peter Akuleyev

        August 8, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    • Contrast this to:
      You: Free time, who has free time? I had to fire another pilot today. Good ones are hard to find and I hate having to school newbies on the peculiarities of my Lear.
      She: Let’s have sex.*


      August 7, 2014 at 1:27 am

    • To women, fantasy football might as well be AD&D.


      August 7, 2014 at 2:09 am

    • If a guy’s good looking, no woman will be dissuaded by his nerdiness. Just the opposite, she’ll find it endearingly ironic. Now maybe a jersey shore woman will go running for the hills at the first sign of nerdiness, but not women above 115 IQ.


      August 7, 2014 at 3:18 am

      • A guy such as Steve Jobs, embodied the smooth talking bad boy and cerebral geek at the same time. It’s a rare combination.


        August 7, 2014 at 9:02 am

      • JS, if a nerd is confidant & dominant like Steve Jobs, then women will probably like him.


        August 7, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    • Well then the answer is to not talk to the kind of women who go to nightclubs. The leader of the D&D club at high school was the first one of my friends to get laid. I was not part of any D&D groups until university. But even there, in my D&D group we had a DM and four players. Two of the four eventually started dating and are still in a relationship today.


      August 7, 2014 at 11:49 pm

      • That’s because he was the leader.


        August 8, 2014 at 9:10 am

      • Okay, then explain how my college buddy got laid, even though he has never been a leader of anything. Being a leader certainly helps a man’s chances of getting laid, but it is still possible to get laid without being a leader.


        August 10, 2014 at 10:41 pm

  10. I dunno — Dungeon Masters can be pretty alpha: they lead, they invent a world on the fly, they control your fate. Whether a particular D&D session was fun depended a lot on the imagination and preparation of the DM. And it also depended a lot on the cooperation and imagination of the players, too. And I don’t think you need a particularly high verbal IQ to enjoy D&D; many of my less-intellectual pals and family members back in the ’80s had a lot of fun playing D&D. I still remember some of our goofy campaigns and characters with fondness. Check out “Of Dice and Men” for a nostalgic backglance at the genesis and evolution of Dungeons & Dragons — a good read.


    August 7, 2014 at 12:05 am

  11. I remember getting this game with a cool picture of a dragon on the box. I opened it and saw it had a really thick instruction manual. Then I noticed there was no game board and no playing pieces. I read the manual and it said to “use your imagination”, and I was like, WTF?


    August 7, 2014 at 12:23 am

  12. I wonder why the Tolkien estate never sued?


    August 7, 2014 at 12:25 am

  13. I played Magic the Gathering when it was relatively new, back in 1996 or so. At my peak I had a killer blue deck, summoning the powers of the oceans and… nevermind.

    I hear the game is far, far more sophisticated now. I also tried my hand at the Star Trek TNG card game. God how weak was that? But fun to collect ’em.


    August 7, 2014 at 1:08 am

  14. Sadly I’ve never played. As a young child I looked on enviously as the older kids played & hoped to play when I was older, but it never happened. It looked fascinating and I feel I really missed out. Never played WoW either. Chess was the only game I got into.


    August 7, 2014 at 2:32 am

  15. Played w/ 3 friends in (public) middle school and into (public) high school until one of got a girlfriend and that pretty much ended it. Another guy and me traded off as DM – we were the hi-Q duo of the group. Interestingly, the other guys were average to slightly above – one of them works as a truck driver today – and I think you’re probably right they couldn’t hack it as DM but they were OK as players. Both of them probably would and perhaps do prefer video games today.


    August 7, 2014 at 2:51 am

  16. ‘Cause I’m D&D, I’m dynamite,
    D&D, and I’ll win the fight,
    D&D, I’m a power load,
    D&D, watch me explode.

    Brian Johnson

    August 7, 2014 at 10:28 am

  17. Recently, I was helping clean out my parent’s garage and I found a dusty box filled with my old D&D material. I was surprised about the number of rule books that were available (and that my parents bought me).

    Also, in the same box, I found my D&D notebook. Judging by the sheer amount of hand written material, I spent many a girl-less night writing plots, making maps and developing adventures.

    Many memories flooded back, going through those old books and notes. I took an hour or more just thumbing through them, lost in thoughts of younger days.

    When I brought them home, my wife’s first inclination was to throw them out. After explaining to her what they meant to me, she relented and at least understood my nostalgia but not what the books actually contained.

    Some say that D&D prevents social interaction but it was just the opposite for me. I brought together friends of all types and we had two or three fun summers of D&D. And swimming. We’d play D&D for an hour or three, then hit the pool and then back to D&D. Good times and friends.


    August 7, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    • I have the same books and they have the same effect. Will never throw them out.


      August 7, 2014 at 11:01 pm

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