Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Level Up Blogfest: D&D

Level Up! Blogfest

Today is the day of the Level Up Blogfest, hosted by Jamie Gibbs of Mithril Wisdom and Allison *hrphemumble* of Geek Banter. The 'Fest celebrates the joy of gaming in all its forms--board, video, card, mind, wicked, recess, reindeer, etc. As a consummate lover of all these different forms and blogger on this very subject, I felt it was my solemn duty to join in the festivities.

Of course, I have chosen to talk about Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) as the subject for my Level Up post. I am certain that I am not the only person in the Blogfest to do so, but because it is the main topic of discourse here on ROFLInitiative, I feel it is only appropriate.

The Level Up fest actually comes at a significant moment in my history with D&D. This month marks the (counts on fingers) fourth anniversary of the start of my current campaign, and the first game I have ever run--with the exception of some awkward experimentation in high school.

So, what is D&D? In essence, it is interactive storytelling set by default in a high fantasy world and using dice to instill an element of chance in the flow of the story. Unlike many board or card games, D&D is cooperative in nature and does not have a set win/end condition. One player takes on the role of the storyteller, called the Dungeon Master, or Game Master. He or she is responsible for developing and implementing the story, supporting characters and acting as a sort of referee. The other players take on the role of the heroes in the story, each typically assuming a single character role.

Originally published back in 1974, the game has gone through several official editions over the years and has spawned countless spin-offs, copycats, rules variants and game materials of various associations. All of this creative procreation (is that redundant?) makes it very difficult to peg down the essence of D&D. It's like jazz. Nobody plays it exactly the same as anyone else, and that's what makes it beautiful.

For the past four years, I have run a game for several friends of mine. When we started, I was new to the role of DM, and only my girlfriend-now-fiancee had played before. Our initial group of four players and myself, eventually grew to a total of eight individuals, having added another newcomer and a couple experienced dice rollers. My players all look for different things out of the game. Some love the thrill of blowing stuff up and smashing faces in dice-driven combat. Some love planning tactical infiltrations, or solving puzzles, or devising complex psychological interrogation regimes involving smelly foods. Others like to hang out with the group and quote Futurama. Beneath all this variety, however, we all have one thing in common. We like each other, and we like playing the game. That's why we've been playing pretty steadily every couple of weeks since 2009.

The long run definitely leaves me feeling worn out sometimes. As the GM, I spend more time preparing the adventures than we do actually playing. But building the adventures scratches its own itch. Ever since I was a kid, I have loved dreaming up worlds and strange imaginings. In grade school, I came up with the world of Boink, which featured a hodgepodge of classic fantasy elements, late 80s consumer culture references and weird 8 year-old logic. A couple years later, I created another universe around a Whovian Lego personality named the Intergalactic Hood. What can I say? It's in my blood, man! So, as time-consuming as it can be, I can't help but get giddy as I did last night planning for my next game as the muses on my shoulders spun epic visions from the ether of my imagination. Tonight, I get to share those visions with my friends, drinking beer, eating good food, rolling dice and telling stories. That is why I play.




15 comments:

  1. Wow! You and friends are really into this game! I have never played it, but have heard others talk about it. Loved the detailed description, it will stick with me when looking for games for my nephew...a true gamer, and I will bet you he probably already has this one! Ha ha Lots of fun to visit here this morning! Thanks, Sandy

    sandysanderellasmusings

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  2. I never got into this game, but I can see how much fun it was. Especially if you had a group of friends who were into it as much as you were.

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    1. It's definitely an odd-bird of a game and really requires that you find a group that you click with. My players and I actually run a pretty casual style of game, often referred to as a "beer and pretzels game". We play 3-4 hour sessions on a weeknight and spend as much time chatting with each other, making jokes and catching up on our lives as we do playing. I think our casual approach is part of why it has worked for us, but I know it would drive other, more intense gamers bonkers.

      The other good thing is that if you don't like Tolkienesque high fantasy, there are tons of similar games that take advantage of different genres. D&D also has a post-apocalyptic mutant game called Gamma World, there's a Star Wars RPG, a Pulp Fictiony game called Fiasco, and even an Indiana Jones-style game just called Adventure!... with the exclamation point.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  3. D & D seems to be game lots of people love to play!
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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  4. It also helps that you're the best DM ever in the history of DMs :) I never get tired of your boundless creativity and enthusiasm for making the game as fun as possible for the participants.

    I LOVE your metaphor that D&D is like jazz: "Nobody plays it exactly the same as anyone else, and that's what makes it beautiful." You hit the nail on the head!

    I'm looking forward to blowing some ish up during our next session tonight!!! :)

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  5. 4 years on a single campaign? Wowzas, nice going! I really want to start an RPG, but my friends are reluctant (I tell them it's not too much of a jump from Warhammer and Magic the Gathering, but they don't want to go 'full geek'. Amateurs!

    Thanks for taking part in the blogfest; I'm really glad someone picked D&D :D

    Jamie @ Mithril Wisdom

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    1. Several of my players were also hesitant when we first started. Pitching it as, "hanging out with friends, having fun" really helped. Also, I feel like D&D doesn't have the social stigma it used to. When people find out that folks who don't fit the stereotype, like Vin Diesel, people with grownup jobs, and "actual women" play, it goes a long way towards breaking down those barriers. My group, in fact, is made up of two college students, a Microsofty, a teacher, an acupuncturist, a computer programmer and a mad genius think-tank type... oh, and evenly split on the gender front, so productive citizens all around!

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  6. Dropping by from the Level Up Blog Fest.

    DnD is one of those things I was totally interested in while in high school (I loved the high fantasy genre) but never knew how to get into. It seems too late now while I try to divide up my time between my current pursuits but well done on keeping up with it.

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    1. I suspect it might actually be hard to get into in high school. I tried during my sophomore year when I was dating a girl whose father played and got her into it. I put together a group of friends and we played a couple times, but it never went anywhere. I kept my books, but never played that edition again.

      Oddly enough, I didn't start playing for realsies until I was in grad school when I got into a group through a friend from work. It's definitely easiest if you are just playing, rather than DM-ing, because you just have to show up on game night ready to play.

      These days a lot of game stores have D&D Encounters nights, which are specifically designed so people can just show up and play without having to form a group, or even a character ahead of time. You might check one of those out if it intrigues you.

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  7. hahaha. I loled at the *hrphemumble.* I should really have used my last name when I made my blog to avoid confusion... ah well. I think I would really like D&D, and that I would probably get obsessed with it if I started playing it :) Good pick!

    Allison (Geek Banter)

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  8. It sounds like you and your friends have a lot of fun playing D&D!

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  9. One thing I love about role-playing games is the storytelling, and the friendships. I haven't played one in a while, but I remember the fun I had with friends in high school, all over some paper and dice, with our imaginations engaged.

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  10. I envy those who have friends that they can play games like D&D with. I've never really had circles of friends who do that despite all of our other geeky loves. I need to try to convince a group to play. I just watched the two part Dragon Age episode of Table Top and that has again fueled my desire to do some old-school gaming like this.

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    1. I loved that issue of Table Top! Actually, our household is completely addicted to the entire Geek and Sundry channel. All of the discussion about convincing others to play is giving me some ideas for a post.

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    2. Isn't it such a great idea? I've become much more willing to try games I wouldn't have even thought about because of that show.

      My wife and I are huge Geek and Sundry fans too.

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