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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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  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Wednesday January 22, 2014 @11:12PM (#46042665)

    Got bogged down by the rules.

    I always had a lot more fun as a kid playing pretend games (when kids still played those instead of video games) than RPGs with a lot of rules. I think the amount of books and their expense just killed it. Tried several RPGing systems since, BESM and the like.

    I learned that I like it a lot better when a computer takes care of all the details.

  • by msevior ( 145103 ) on Wednesday January 22, 2014 @11:25PM (#46042747)

    Clear rules are what makes a good game. It's really frustrating to play a game where "you make it up as you go along" :-)

    D&D was awesome as a 20-year-old and its far more fun having people rather then computers to interact with.

  • by Krishnoid ( 984597 ) on Wednesday January 22, 2014 @11:44PM (#46042817) Journal
    The concept that alignment describes behavior along multiple axes [slashdot.org] and how the differences between wisdom and intelligence [slashdot.org] are explicitly called out, are a couple things that shaped my perspective on the world.
  • by SpankiMonki ( 3493987 ) on Wednesday January 22, 2014 @11:54PM (#46042863)

    ...when disaffected nerdy kids could lock themselves away to play for hours and hours and hours without fear of getting sent to Chinese rehabs. [slashdot.org]

    Of course, players back then had to worry about being burned at the stake. [stuffyoushouldknow.com]

  • D&D Anecdotes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LordLucless ( 582312 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @12:08AM (#46042927)

    Well, this seems to be the place for sharing anecdotes (which, I think, is the big pull of D&D - the ability to create shared moments that you can look back on, talk about, and laugh at).

    There was the time the party was sneaking in to a goblin warren. The rogue volunteered to try and scout out the entryway, and slipped in. Sure enough, there were two goblins on watch. When spotted, he managed to kill both goblins before they raised the alarm. After this impressive feat of martial prowess (and lucky dice), he signalled the rest of the party that the way was clear by blowing his signal whistle (which the player had included on his sheet, and was looking for a reason to use), thereby alerting the whole warren who promptly swarmed out and mobbed him. After the party had rescued him, and beaten back the goblins, the paladin smashed his signal whistle.

    Then there was the time the ranger decided to try and activate the mystic weapon-orb at the top of a tower under siege by the undead, because the party's wizard was being too slow and cautious. It activated, destroying the undead, but also blew the ranger off the top of the tower. He had the ability to reduce falling damage though, and survived the fall. Running up the tower to meet his companions, he forgot about the flame trap the party had avoided earlier, and got scorched into the bargain. Finally he stumbled out onto the towers roof, interrupting the party leader's impassioned eulogy.

  • Re:D&D Anecdotes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by meerling ( 1487879 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @01:11AM (#46043175)
    Here's one for you. The party had decided that the Merchant was actually a thief (now known as rogue) and tried to force him to open a chest in an empty room. He figured it was a big obvious trap, and refused, also taking offense to being called a thief. They responded by putting a crossbow to his head (and other weapons pointed at other body parts) and forced him to open the chest.
    So he wouldn't try something, and so they'd be there to grab the loot, they went in the room as well. To avoid getting caught in the trap that must be on the chest, they were all 15' back.
    The merchant wasn't very happy about that. Seeing no other options that included possible survival, he unlocked and opened the chest.
    At this point, the entire floor of the room, except for the chest, and the tiny area in front of it collapsed into a very deep pit trap. All of the party except for the merchant were seriously injured by this.
    Taking advantage of the situation, the merchant spotted a handful of large gems in the chest on top of the coinage, which he promptly pocketed before yelling down to see if the party survived.

    Now you might think the GM was pulling a fast one to punish a party that turned on one of their own for loot and broke their vow to not harm one another. Well, we all pretty much thought that, including the player of the merchant. So we called the GM on it. He laughed and pulled out his map of that small area, and pointed out the room, and the trap notations. He didn't fudge a single thing. That's exactly how that trap was supposed to work.
    The GM thought this was hilarious. After seeing that the GM didn't pull a fast one of his own, the merchant player did to.
    On top of that, his character ended up with more valuables than the rest of the party did combined on that little delve, and he couldn't have done it if they'd have just trusted him. (Actually he wouldn't have even tried to steal those gems, except for the threats to his life. They convinced him that he needed some just compensation for their blackmail and attempts to kill him.)
  • by bob_super ( 3391281 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @02:49AM (#46043535)

    You may have forgotten how the first edition did have spec for all the major devils and demons.
    That's what freaked out short-sighted people. To them, it wasn't about how you were going to kick demon/devil butt, as much as the horror of seeing kids throwing scary names around.

    When Harry Potter came out, an otherwise very smart engineer, who spent too much time in church, told me that they had a discussion about the books and their influence on children. They had a witchcraft specialist (I think he said a witch) comment on how the spells JKR wrote down were too close to the real magic and children shouldn't be familiar with them or run around casting them at each other.
    I honestly wish I was making this up.

    So yeah, the bad rep of the game was because some people get scared at the mere mention of some dark elements of their religious mythos.

  • by VortexCortex ( 1117377 ) <(VortexCortex) ( ... -retrograde.com)> on Thursday January 23, 2014 @03:15AM (#46043655)

    Clear rules are what makes a good game. It's really frustrating to play a game where "you make it up as you go along" :-)

    This is an anecdotal statement, and I disagree vehemently. The rules only help the GM make a game good. I shall counter with my own anecdote: In my youth I played a wide variety of RPGs in a nearly daily group of about 10 friends, we'd hit up someone's house after school, and summer time was 3 months of non stop RPG building, story crafting, and playing. We had some games that lasted for years, and developed a set of "house rules" for running games. In our experience Role Playing games are far more fun when the Game Master (read: DM) is used as a story teller and the rules are largely set aside to let us focus on the game play, i.e. let us use the available skills and world crafting and thinking in-character on the fly instead of hampering creativity and bogging down battles. If a plausible explanation could be made, we rolled with it -- or rather didn't roll for anything at all. Rules of the game were used to settle disputes between the players and GM, and the GM applied the player's actions to the world according to a general understanding of the character. Anyone could challenge an event to trial by dice, and that's really the only role the strict rules played well. In fact, when the new editions of AD&D came out we just used the settings and monsters, etc., screw all those bullshit rules. GURPS was better for combating power creep anyway (and let us throw in time traveling cyborgs, or characters from other campaigns etc. from time to time).

    In fact, some games like In Nomine, embraced this type of game-play where rules take a back seat explicitly. It had a simplistic dice mechanic that called for a degree of interpretation and yielded far more frequent spectacular successes and failures. [2D6 to beat a target number for a skill / ability, blow karma points to lower the target, 1D6 is severity of success or failure, 1,1,1 = Divine intervention. 6,6,6 = Satan smiles upon you -- Either is good or bad depending on who you're working for.] The dice in this use were like an aide to the story teller and players -- To smooth disputes, and let chaos nudge the course while allowing a player's desire to win a dice roll actually influence its outcome somewhat. E.g., A player spends two karma points to really end his foe, and insists on rolling to ensure the GM doesn't tamper with fate:

    You rare back and throw every fiber of your angelic form into the punch, nearly tearing the tendons of your corporeal vessel. The blow destroys the treacherous demon's skull will a loud crunch. As the vermin's soul escapes back to hell you catch a fleeting whiff of brimstone and realize that in the scuffle your own flaming sword of valor has set your hair afire. The voice of the Dark Prince himself booms from everywhere and nowhere, "Consider the hair cut a gift for saving me the trouble of finding that fiendish failure. Yes, the diabolical look does suit you..." The 666 roll doesn't have to be terribly bad for the good guys, it can just add character and mood, or it can enhance the plot -- for instance, if the angel falls. The flexible rules allow success and failure to be far more nuanced and malleable to both players and story tellers. A good Game Master uses the rules to make the game more fun, and a good rule set lets them do so. It's why we play after all.

    D&D was awesome as a 20-year-old and its far more fun having people rather then computers to interact with.

    Then why the hell would you apply strict rules to make humans emulate computers? All the speed and determinism of a human calculator trying to apply complex rule based programs with all the frustration of interfacing with a dumb computer running glitchy logic and neither knows nor cares about what 'fun' is. You picked the worst spot in the venn diagram ever. Creative people make the classic RPGs fun, not the boring rules.

  • by Vintermann ( 400722 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @04:49AM (#46043967) Homepage

    The dice are there to force you out of your prior expectations, and keep you from going down the same old paths.

    This was one of the central messages of Kirk Botula's "Complete book of Villains", IMHO one of the most underestimated RPG accessories of all time. Many bestselling fiction writers would have been better for reading that book.

    If you tell a person "make up a hero", or "make up a villain", he might make up an original one - once or twice. Then odds are they'll start to resemble each other, and display lack of interesting diversity. Botula's advice was to use die rolls, and try to make sense of them. So your villain has high intelligence but low wisdom. How can we interpret that?

    Or you could roll for a villain's motives. Wealth? Power? The need to feel loved? Or even the need to be seen as the good guy?

    And as always, of course, not slavishly follow the die rolls. If every villain is super-complex, you get a soap opera. Some combinations just don't make sense (or, at least, you're going to get a really weird world if you always try to force them to make sense.)

    Basically, you use randomness to resist your own biases and predictability, and push the limits of your creativity and imagination.

  • by Mashdar ( 876825 ) on Thursday January 23, 2014 @11:43AM (#46046359)
    Hell, as a DM I even lied about rolls with some frequency. Players rolled their own attacks for the excitement of it, but many of the various environmental checks and more bizzare actions taken by players were rolled behind a screen. (Along with many "fake" rolls to prevent metagaming.) Sometimes the lie was just more fun than the actual roll. :)

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972