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Celebrating Dungeons & Dragons' 40th Anniversary 218

disconj writes "With the 40th anniversary of the release of Dungeons & Dragons coming up this weekend, the Internet is ablaze with reflections on its legacy. Dave Ewalt gives an intro for the uninitiated. Ethan Gilsdorf explains how 'all I need to know about life I learned from Dungeons & Dragons'. Finally, Jon Peterson presents a video show-and-tell of rare artifacts from D&D's development." The real question is how many characters have you lost in Tomb of Horrors?
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Celebrating Dungeons & Dragons' 40th Anniversary

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  • Meanwhile, I played as a kid, and now I play with my kids. It's actually a convenient parenting tool, because you can let them perish from the consequences of their poor decisions without being arrested for child neglect.

  • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @12:00AM (#46042893)

    As an avid video gamer who's gotten into tabletop gaming, I've found they both have their strengths.

    Computers work well for rigidly-defined rules, particularly for stuff like combat. If all you're doing is slaying orcs and such, computers can do a lot of it better.

    Tabletop gaming works for less well-defined systems. No game has really, *really* gotten diplomacy right - it comes down to figuring out the right choices to make in a few menus. And clever players will be able to work better in a tabletop RPG - things that totally would work in the real world, but the official rules don't have anything for. With video games, maybe you can find a mod to add a button to let you do something, but with a tabletop game and a decent GM, you'll be able to create "rules" on the fly to handle it.

    My players were fighting a dragon, and managed to wound it enough that it would (logically) retreat rather than keep fighting. He took off, they all fired off ranged attacks while he flew off, except for one. She threw her grappling hook at it, which there aren't specific rules for so I treated it as a ranged touch attack. Success. She tried to climb it (which there is a set of rules for), failed, and then failed an opposed strength check from the dragon trying to shake her off (I improvised the check being necessary, but used the general rule for "two people doing something against each other involving muscle").

    I've gotten to the point now where I don't even try to plan things step-by-step, I just invent a scenario and let my players figure out the best solution. For another example:
    In the aftermath of the last quest, two of the three players ended up in jail (on charges of public indecency/intoxication and high treason/negligent regicide, respectively). The last had to break them out. All I had planned was what sort of cells and protection each was under, as well as the idea that they would be taken eventually to the court to be judged and they could possibly be rescued in transit. They figured out how to get one out beforehand by bending the bars of the window enough for him to slip through. They then set up a detailed plan to rescue the last guy in transit, having one person in disguise as a guard to disable the guards with drugged treats, with the other standing by on the rooftops to Errol Flynn his way in if combat broke out. Meanwhile, the imprisoned guy was taunting his captors, trying to goad them into dragging him out of his cage to engage in some police brutality (both as a distraction, and to get out of some of his restraints). Their stealth approach failed, but they managed to fight their way through it with the element of surprise. The game starts up again tomorrow with them on the run in the immediate aftermath, and I have absolutely no idea how they're going to get out of this, but I'm sure they'll come up with something.

    As a guy who both studied game design and is working on a video game, and as a guy running two Pathfinder* campaigns, both have their unique strengths. A paper RPG that has too many rules *is* doing something wrong, but that's a fault of the specific game, not tabletop RPGs in general. And I think it may have been a historic thing - since I'm far from the first to realize the strengths of the two, tabletop RPGs have mostly gotten simpler and more streamlined since the early days, and having massive multi-volume rulebooks is no longer considered a good thing.

    * Pathfinder is basically D&D 3.75. Like with any nerddom, major changes piss off users, so a company (actually the magazine publishing arm of WotC, which was spun off shortly before D&D 4.0) took advantage of the open-sourcing of D&D 3.5 to fork it and make a new game that's basically 3.5 with some simplifications and a new trademark, rather than the major upheaval that is 4.0. I like it because it's just complex enough to be interesting, and it's also like 75% cheaper (you can get into it with just the Beginner Box for $30 or so, and the only book you absolutely need for the full game

  • by nedlohs ( 1335013 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @01:16AM (#46043191)

    1. It is fun with a weak character relative to everyone else.
    2. Failure is as fun as success - notice that almost all old school D&D players have a favorite story to tell in which usually a character if not the entire party dies.
    3. Fudging dice rolls is unnecessary. Yes some DMs want a softer game and so do that - which I guess is fine if that's the game you want to play. There's no need to, just don't get attached to that character...

  • Re:When?! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by dcollins ( 135727 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @02:00AM (#46043333) Homepage
  • by VortexCortex ( 1117377 ) <.moc.edargorter- ... . .xetroCxetroV.> on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:02AM (#46043823)

    DM: What class is your character?

    Noob: Vulcan! Spock is wicked cool.

    Irritated? Dungeon Master, heh, yeah. What a bore. A Game Master would be Overjoyed. Halflings and Wizards can work with Spock, (hell, he'd be mistaken for an Elf in Shadowrun []), and in games like Rifts, [] or super-rule-sets like GURPS, [] the more worlds collide the better!

    You'd actually be irritated instead of imagining a Star Trek 'away team' going off course on The Voyage Home and winding up amidst There and Back Again? You can't fathom the fun of Starfleet's finest crash landing on Bag End, and being guilt tripped into helping Gandalf take back the Lonely Mountain from a dragon that's been conspiring with dimensional shamblers to bring an evil cyBorg race to Middle Earth?

    Closed minds are the biggest reason the medium is in such a state.

  • Re:When?! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Saint Fnordius ( 456567 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:38AM (#46046317) Homepage Journal

    Yeah, you're better off playing Illuminati or GURPS or Car Wars or Traveller or Warhammer or any of the other games. 1st Edition AD&D was just my gateway drug.

I use technology in order to hate it more properly. -- Nam June Paik