Dungeons and Dragons

Hi there Cecil!
Usually, I agree with most of your explanations about these mysteries of life, but your explanation of D&D was obviously cursory and glib.
Dungeons and Dragons is a complicated game, granted, however, it is a game with a difference.
Some pertinent points:
A: D&D, and roleplaying in general does not involve winning or losing, but accomplishment and problem-solving. For kids age 12 to 17 this is a good thing. in the hands of a proper moderator they can learn self-reliance, honor, responsibility, critical- and analytical thinking. It also involves a concept of result for action, with the consequences of unwise actions being"dire" (but not really!) The concept of “risk” creates an aura of excitement like any game, and the outcome is not always certain, even to the referee.
B: The Math involved, though at first daunting, is not anymore. The original editions of D&D were at first a bit like the Income Tax Long Form! Now, though, a new company has now produce the 3rd Edition, which is much simpler. But, what’s the problem with math, huh? The U.S. is one of the lowest rated countries as regards education, math being the worst.
C: “To play D&D you need at least two acolytes, who play under the guidance of a vaguely Mansonesque personage called the Dungeon Master (DM).” This I find very insulting. I am a 32 year old, educated, professional. I get together once or twice a week with five or six people of the same type, intelligent, normal people. We create a story, a movie of the mind if you will. We explore moral quandaries as well as current political themes with our characters as the “stars”. I refer to the Dungeon Master as a “moderator” “referee” or even “director”. This is the true purpose of a DM, as an arbiter in play situations where the outcome is unsure. With dice as a random factor, any situation can be played out to everyone’s satisfaction as to fairness.

Obviously, your research did not actually include “playing” the game. I invite you to find anyone who will, to let you play as research and then write another answer.

Thomas Cummings

Welcome to the SDMB, and thank thee for posting thy comment.
Please include a link to Cecil’s column if it’s on the straight dope web site.
To include a link, it can be as simple as including the web page location in thy post (make sure there is a space before and after the text of the URL).

Cecil’s column can be found on-line at this link:
What’s the deal with Dungeons and Dragons?

moderator, «Comments on Cecil’s Columns»

“Cursory and glib”, yep, that’s Cecil, all right. :smiley:

Of course, this was in Cecil’s first book, written <1986. Thus I would think that anything he wrote about D&D would be hopelessly out of date by now, since the 2nd edition came out in 1988, and the D&D franchise has not only gone through several managers since then, but several owners as well.

I’m betting that if you asked Cece to go back and learn all about D & D again, he’d probably throw you off the back porch. :smiley:

Besides, what’s different, exactly? Emmy?

My husband (and DM) actually thought Cecil’s description of (1st edition A)D&D as “a game that combines the charm of a Pentagon briefing with the excitement of double-entry bookkeeping” was pretty funny. (He also liked Cecil’s comment on the “grapefruit-like breasts” of the women in the illustrations.) He even photocopied that page so that he could post it in his cubicle at work. Apparently, he wasn’t too offended at being compared to Manson, either.

Frankly, I think Cecil must have done some good research on the game. He was able to discover, at a time when the mainstream media was portraying the game as “Satanic” and “evil” and Jack Chick was telling people that D&D players cast “real spells”, that the game was really a bunch of geeky kids and adults playing around with numbers, probabililty, and statistics in order to pretend to be knights and wizards. In other words, he gave the world the Straight Dope on D&D.

And, hey, Cecil, if you really want to do more research on this topic, you’re welcome to join our D&D group anytime.

Sorry if I sounded self-righteous, but I field critisism about D&D all day with people I work with, family members, etc. It’s amazing how many people are so misguided as to actually believe that Chick propaganda or the ravings of some toothless backwoods ramblings about devil-worship.
It is a mark of this coutries decline into ignorance when Brittany Spears is revered and independent imaginative thought is reviled.

<Insert various looney toon curse words here>

I live next to a Southern Baptist seminary and they actually have a class for prospective ministers on how to recognize the satanic influence of D&D on youth fellowship.

Make’s me just wanna slap some sense into SOMEONE!!

And before anyone opens up the old wound in this article again, let me get this out in the open right now:

Where Cecil’s article says:

… it is a misprint. The actual quote from the 1st Edition DMG reads:

The text is saying that a huge ancient red dragon is worth 7758 eXperience Points if you kill it, not that a huge ancient red dragon has 7758 Hit Points.

Thanks, tracer. The mere thought of staring down a critter with 7000 HP and a breath weapon has caused me to break out in a cold sweat.

Perhaps, but by the end of the Baldur’s Gate saga CRPG, staring down any critter without 7000 HP and a breath weapon makes you yawn.

You’re fielding criticism about D&D all day? Unless you work for the complaint line for Wizards of the Coast (or whoever makes the game these days), I find that hard to believe–unless, of course, you are one of those people who just can’t shut up about the game anywhere. Ever thought about telling these people “Gee, you know, Bob, I’d really love to discuss D&D and the state of my soul with you right now, but I really need to get back to work”? :slight_smile:

:rolleyes: Uh huh. I’m not even sure how those two things exclude each other. I’m sure there are many out there who make up wild fantasy stories about Ms. Spears, and, perhaps, in some of those fantasies, she is wearing those very “Chicks in Chainmail”-type outfits designed to show off “grapefruit-like breasts” that are found in many illustrations in D&D books and magazines.

D&D is just a game. It’s not going to salvage the American education system or anything like that.

sniffsniff “Aha! Pizza and Mountain Dew on your breath! Dice in unholy, non-cubical shapes! These strange books full of numbers and tables! You’ve been playing D&D, haven’t you? Well, either that, or you’ve been cramming for a math test.”

We’ve actually got a Baptist playing with us in our group. I have the feeling, though, that he’s not very devout.

emmy66, Tamex, Cecil’s column makes reference to the AD&D CDROM that came out in 1996 as being in the near future. So I estimate that his column was written in 1995 or 1996, long after 2nd edition came out.

I also thought this column was, you know, cursory and glib, as well as a bit brusque, but that’s our Cecil. If he could have faults, one might say he was brusque to a fault. Other than that, he pretty well nailed it. He could have been a little fairer, but apparently RPGs aren’t his thing.

I didn’t read the online column…I read the semi-original as it was written in the first book. Be that as it may, it looks like the sentence mentioning the CD-ROM was a tacked-on addendum rather than a revision.

My main point in the post I made was that the game was revised because a few managers decided that the game was getting a “bad-rep” and removed all references to demons and devils (a later management restored them but used new names, and a still later one restored the original names), and stopped calling dieties “gods” and started calling them “powers.”

Also, the game rules have changed drastically in the 3rd edition, and IMO the only thing that is the same is the name. A person converting their existing 2nd Edition game to 3rd edition rules may as well be converting another RPG. Calling D&D3 a “sequel” to AD&D2 is like saying Final Fantasy 9 is a sequel to Final Fantasy 8.

N.B. The column (including Slug Signorino’s illustration) can also be found on pages 309-311 of Cecil Adams’ book «The Straight Dope (1984; reissued 1986, 1998)».

Thanks for all the feedback, guys.
I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought D&D got a bad rap.
But seriously, no I’m not one of those guys who talk of nothing else but gaming, I am a convention and RPGA organizer here in Texas.
I come in contact with Moms, teachers, and cops who have bought in to all the negative propaganda.
“It makes ya go crazy!”
“It’s satanic.”
“It’s unproductive”
That’s the worst one in a way. I make my living partly with this stuff. I believe it has a purpose, just not a “world-saving” one.

And, yes, I do think that some sort of “role-playing” would make a difference in the quality of our educational system in this country.

It’s not Cecil’s fault, let’s give the guy a break.

I worked on the Dune RPG, including a version of it that uses the same rules-set used by D&D, as well as RPGs for Star Trek, Lord of the Rings and real, actual D&D. It’s not easy to explain even when you understand the theories behind it and have watched it be deconstructed into its component parts by psychologists.

Imagine trying to understand it cold just by reading a book.

Roleplaying is a lot like language and sports and lots of other things we pick up as kids without actually having to have the entire thing explained to us. Your friends play D&D, they invite you, you go over, and they’re playing. You jump in. Just like learning language, you get the gist of some things, experiment with what makes sense, miss some things. But you slowly get it.

Anyone who has D&D explained to them by someone else can understand the mechanics of it in the abstract, but they don’t understand why it’s fun.

If you’d never played a sport or seen one played, but just had the rules explained to you, you wouldn’t know why people enjoyed it. And it’s very enjoyable. It’s the most fun you can have with your brain.

You said it, mattcolville. I have recently gotten back into table-top role playing games (learning Earthdawn and Shadowrun), and I know that I couldn’t give half a damn about all of the tables and mathematics. I play a character, not a computer. I let the DM worry about all of the issues; as long as I understand how my character’s abilities work in order to strategize and roll the correct dice, I’m swell. You can’t learn about the flavor of role-playing from the books. Different groups are so different! I played 2nd ed AD&D briefly with a group last year, and their half-evil, half-naive-good-characters-with-no-clue drunken schemes were completely different from the games I played in high school. Heck, I play Earthdawn and Shadowrun with some of the same people (different DMs) and the feel of the games is utterly different because of the characters.

Role-playing is like acting without the pressure of an audience in some ways. In tactical ways, it can be like a strategy computer game, but it is always open-ended. Mostly, it’s fun and a great way to spend six hours!

Nekronn99 wrote:

Especially if they use the Imagine Role-Playing System. I hear that its combat engine is so complex, it requires you to take square roots from time to time. If that doesn’t give you an incentive to learn higher math, I don’t know what will.
tracer, who has a T-shirt that says “How many Experience Points do we get?”

I just wanted to point out as a gamer that I’m sorry Dune was killed. But, I also need to point out that having played it at a local con (DieCon) last year it was easily one of the most masochistic experiences of my life. I guess I’m just not one for political intrigue. To much Heinlein I guess. :slight_smile:

D&D ruined my life. Well, actually I ruined my life by enjoying AD&D so much that I neglected my studies at University and ended up spending many years in a dead end job. About half the people I played with ended up with degrees and two with Phds. The others could have graduated if they’d had more willpower. Some, myself included, finally grew up and went back to school. The end result ? A graduate job in a different city where I don’t have anyone to game with. I guess I’ll have to address some other neglected areas. Maybe go out at night and get a girlfriend. Nah ! There’s always that pseudo DM, the computer. Guess where I learned that word ?