Being the random thoughts of Greg Tito, age 29.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

D&D = Dorks and the Devil

I've spoken in depth before of the prejudices against those who play video games in our culture. In some people's minds (read, assholes), gamers are all wasting their time when they should be doing their homework. If they are too old for homework, then they are peter pan-types who desparately need to grow up and/or become miserable like the rest of the country. Most of you can agree that this line of thinking is complete bullshit. Of my circle of friends, I may be the most voracious gamer but I am not alone.

But there is one game for which I receive plenty of scorn and derision.
My wife Mephistopholes, god bless her, is the worst culprit. She practically holds up a cross every time I tell her that I'll be playing that night. But even my dorkiest friends shudder when I mention that I play *gasp* Dungeons and Dragons.

I don't get it.

I mean, I suppose that most of this bad reputation comes from the whole D&D backlash in the early 80s. Two suicides, 1 in 1979 and 1 in 1982, were blamed in the press on the victim's obsession with D&D. Never mind that these 2 kids were extremely sick mentally, were drug-addicts and exhibited all of the warning signs typical of suicides months before their deaths. No, let's blame it all on a game that not many people knew about at the time, that makes more sense than placing any kind of responsibility with the parents.

One of these mothers, Pat Pulling, did more for damaging D&D's public perception than anything else by forming
Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons (BADD), an effective propaganda machine. Of course, the tactics employed by this radical group are just as much in question as their stance against role playing games. They were thrown out of courtrooms throughout the 80s and even committed mild brainwashing of an accused murderer, Darren (not Paul) Molitor, into releasing a statement which blamed D&D for his actions. PS. I got all this from a quick Google search which brought up this page.

While BADD was eventually discredited and dissolved, the attitude of the Christian conservatives and nervous mothers across the country were irrecovably aligned against a game where the players pretend to be fantasy fighters and elves. I'm not sure how religion got mixed up into it but you need only read this Jack Chick pile of shit to figure out how easy it is to damn something you know nothing about. (The advocation of burning books in that comic is more creepy than D&D if you ask me)

Growing up in an extremely Catholic environment (I was forbidden to watch the Simpsons, MTV, Steve Martin), I was never able to play D&D as a hobby. Having been an avid reader of fantasy since my introduction to the Hobbit, I was fascinated with a game that would let me be a part of the great epic stories I was reading. I guess it was the writer in me wanting to imagine wonderful, complex worlds and create characters which would have compelling stories to tell. At any rate, my mother, being the impressionable Catholic she was, listened to all the warmongering of the above-mentioned crazies and did everything she could to discourage my interest.

I can understand my mother having a attitude predilection against D&D, my mother is nothing if not predictable, but I don't understand my recent conversations with my peers. The trickle-down effect from people like my mother to New York City hipsters is quite surprising.

Let me try to explain what exactly happens when one plays D&D, to avoid any confusion. One dude is a DM and he's the one who, in effect, writes the story. He figures out what challenges we will face over the course of an adventure. The players, which have invariably formed some kind of team like The Fellowship of the Ring and have as many disparate parts, then go about solving the mystery, defeating the monster or finding the treasure, whatever the case may be. This is done by saying stuff like, "I search for secret doors" or "I attack." Whenever something like that comes up where there is a chance for failure, a die is rolled. That's it. The players must continue to communicate, work together, and problem-solve until the goal is reached.

It's important to keep in mind that D&D is just a game. It is no different than poker, or chess, or Monopoly, or Pictionary, or fucking anything made by Milton Bradley. Sometimes there is a board or map which you can place miniatures, but that is really just an aid to help the players visualize their relative positions. The majority of the game is played in your imagination, like a book.

Which is what appeals to me about role-playing games, really. It is different from its computer or console counterparts which show you exactly where your chracter is at any given moment. Traditional pen &paper D&D forces you to imagine what the DM is describing to you, which, if he is worth his salt, can be as interesting as any novel. But unlike a book, I am able to act in this imaginary world as if I was a character.

When I talk about playing D&D with my peers, I invariably get the same response. They think it's somehow terribly uncool. "Only dorks with no friends play D&D. You don't want to associate with some pimply-faced nerds, do you?" My own Mephistopholes has gone so far as to accuse all roleplayers as gay faggots who all want to penetrate my virgin ass. Why would I want to spend my time with such losers? "Why are you such a loser?" "It's weird." "Do you all prance about in costume casting spells at each other?"

The closemindedness is somehow frightening to me. Have we not graduated past all of that prejudice when we graduated from high school? Are you all as impressionable as my Mother and the Christian right?

Let me dispell a few demons: The handful of people I've met who play RPGs in New York have not been weirdos or rapists or devil-worshippers. They have been mostly male 20-40, professionals, about 50% are either married or married with children. One works in the administration of U.S. congressman. One was a teacher in a Manhattan school for 20 years before becoming a live-at-home Dad. Two were illustrators, one just staring out and one accomplished. In short, they are kinda like me. They are on average more intelligent, better spoken, and more well-read than the kind of people I meet at my boring job full of people who "are normal."

We don't sacrifice animals while playing. There are no occult symbols drawn on the floor or demon summonings going on. There is no mind-controlling or brainwashing from death cults or homosexuals. D&D is just a bunch of guys sitting around playing a game they are all interested in.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to finish making my half-elf ranger.


Rain Delay said...

Whatever Lancelot.

Bob Jingle said...

My point exactly.

Cayzle said...

Thanks for a great post. It is refreshing to hear someone tackle this with such candor. I once wrote in my blog on this topic, but I think you nailed it here better than I did.

Christien Lomax (TheCatWhisperer) said...

I have had similar experiences. Granted, when I played D&D (and eventually moved to Rolemaster), I was in high school & college. The guys (and gal) I played with were all more or less similar to me, a few of us popular-ish, others not even close. But we all got along great (usually, except for the girl who played a hobbit, we actually used her as a shield once... tangent..). But our friends outside of the Role-playing group thought it loserish and weird, even though some of them would do silly things like dress up in "army uniforms" and play risk... (was that not role playing?).

Anyway, great article, found your blog via "the escapist", your recent WoW article there was great as well BTW, not sure where to leave comments about it though.


The Troxels said...

Me and a group of Army buddies had a good run playing D&D along with several other role-playing games. But, when I got out of the Army and went to college I ran smack dab into this stereotype and that combined with the computer explosion and I haven't played once, since.

Truth be told, I miss it.

Ian Savage said...

I started reading this....but it'd too long :(

looked good though....NERD!

WWKnight said...

I like DnD. :)

Good on you. I remembe when I blogged about my character death one night, I got many a strange looks from my new friends. I had just become a christian, and people liked reading my blogs cause they were all God positive, and YAY FOR JESUS!!!

THen I happened to mention how a cleric of the God of Death managed to kill me with an evil prayer to his Red Mistress...

Yeah...Not great. is a link to the month of the said blog, if your interested in reading it. It's funny to put yourself in the shoes of a conservative christian, checking up on what a new member of the flock is thinking about, and coming across:
"With that, Levistis raised his scythe to the air. "Lady of Death and Magic, aid me!"


Anyway, I came across your blog through the WoW homepage. I noticed you are a 60 Paladin on Detheroc. :D I am a 20 something paladin on Dethroc. If you ever see eitehr McTina or McTaggart running around Stormwind, feel free to say hi. (Yes, I have 2 paladins on the same server. long story.)