Speak Out With Your Geek Out #2 Dungeons & Dragons


Tonight is my weekly Dungeons & Dragons night. Five friends and I will sit around the dining room table tonight and pull out our multi-sided dice, character sheets, and, with the modern age upon us, our laptops, as we continue to create an epic tale of heroes trying to save a fantasy world from the evils that seek to destroy it.  We are a young mage who comes from a small town, trying to make a name for himself and his family, a dishonored knight who has turned his back on the nobility and now lives for the common man, the son of a barbarian tribal chief who has left his people to learn from the outside world, a feral woodsman hunter who lack social graces and cleanliness but has a loyal streak like no other, and my character, a lowly thief who was orphaned on the streets and is trying to find fame and fortune while hiding the fact that he has escaped the royal prisons.
It is a great time.
Dungeons & Dragons is and always has been a beautiful game. It has evolved and changed over the years. It is currently on it’s 4th edition and each one has changed the style and mechanics of the game. But, at it’s heart it remains the same. It is a Role Playing Game.  This means it is a game where a group of players take on persona’s or Roles as the characters in a story or tale. We become the main characters in a tale or story created by a Game Master who tackles the immense task of developing a world and a cast of characters that we will interact with in some way or another. If he is good, he will include descriptions of weather, food, landscapes and more. He is the author of the story and has a cast of heroes who help him tell the grand adventure.

I have seen it compared to computer games many times and have to respectfully disagree. While RPG computer games are great fun, they are programs and therefore have a linear storyline. This is much more creative and free flowing.

This game has been a part of my life for over thirty years. I told everyone how I started playing it in 1977 with my uncle in the last blog. Since that first exciting quest,, I was hooked. Over the years I have had to defend it numerous times. When I was 12, my mother had me sit and listen to Talk Back with Bob Larson, a religious radio talk show host, attack the game as “satanic”. The worst part was  he was promoting his Christianized version of D&D the whole show. While he lied and had his “expert” on the show was spouting ridiculous statements about the game. I asked my mother if I could call and dispute her on her arguments and she said yes. I argued and debunked one of her statements and flustered her and Mr. Larson. Then I explained the game to my mother and she never questioned it again.

Many years later, I defended it to a substitute teacher and nun. Between my friend and I we not only defended the game, we had converted her to becoming a proponent of it. Then there were the many parents who came into the game store I worked at, worried about their children become demon worshippers. I can say with absolute certainty, this game is not evil.Does it have evil monsters and vile magics in its books? Absolutely! How can you tell a tale of heroes and villains without villains?

Over the years Dungeons & Dragons has enhanced my life in the following ways.

  • It has helped me and many others with literacy. It encouraged me to read, learn new terms and research history and mythology. It also led me to teach others to read. Many years ago when I was employed by our local game store a young high school boy came in and confessed to me he never truly learned to read. The school system pushed him through on what I would guess was a 2nd grade reading level. His friends were all playing Dungeons & Dragons as well as the Legend of the Five Rings RPG and the various offerings from White Wolf. He would play as well but was lost in the game many times. By the time he graduated high school he was not only as literate as his classmates, he had become an avid reader.
  • Mathematical skills have improved as well. Mind you, I started in the 70’s so I grew up with THACO (To Hit Armor Class Zero) so I have a bit of a different view on the much simpler math you young whippersnappers have to do today. There is still plenty of percentages, fractions and probabilities being learned by kids every time they sit and role those dice.
  • It has expanded my imagination and ability to tell stories that has only made being a father easier. Telling fairy tales has become very entertaining with my boys. I create stories for them and also add numerous voices to the stories I read them.
  • Working for the game store has taken me across the country and even overseas to a variety of conventions. From Las Vegas to Essen Germany, I have seen a small chunk of the world and met many people in the industry!
  • I have made so many friendships because of Dungeons & Dragons. Literally hundreds of people that I would never have interacted with, if not for this game.

So, if you want to see what this game is all about just go find your local store and ask if you can join a game!

If you like using your imagination, you won’t be disappointed.

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