Thursday, September 8, 2011

Why We Played D&D

"People don’t play Dungeons & Dragons because they love adventure. They do it because they believe their social group will fall apart without some kind of structure." - by James Ernest from The Kobold Guide to Board Game Design.

This is from an excerpt of the cited book that was in today's DriveThru RPG Newsletter (which I highly recommend, and not just because The Weirding was featured in this particular installment [although it was]) and it gave me pause - I mean, I stopped reading the whole thing right then and there, despite the fact that the excerpt is very interesting.

I wondered if this is true. Then I considered my own, personal experience with D&D.

The group with which I was involved had a few common interests, most notably music and movies - but most notably music. However, this wasn't true for all of us; a core few of us were into the same music, a handful of us liked the same types of movies, but we all loved tabletop RPG. Some of us were "cool," others of us were a bit of the everyman, and still others were die-hard, real-life nerds. Not geeks; calculator-in-the-pen-stained-pocket, comic books in the carseat, new RPG book in-hand, Coke-bottle glasses-wearing nerds. But we all had one thing in common that kept us together and that was tabletop roleplaying, and AD&D was first and foremost amongst the games we played.

As we all got older, we got involved in various other pursuits - most notably girls, but also music, drugs/partying (for some) - got jobs and girlfriends, and basically started growing-up. We got together less often, but when we did, we always wanted to start a game. I say "wanted to" because we never really got one going after those Golden Days while in, and right out of, highschool.

Within a year or two, all of our group had disbanded and gone their separate ways. Over the last 20 years or so, I've seen most of them in various places from time to time, and have several on my Facebook now, but we have little in common and, after you spend a few hours here and there catching-up, there isn't much left to say. It isn't that I like them any less - in fact, I will always love them, even the ones with whom I had fallings-out or no longer speak to for whatever reason - it's simply that, without the pinion of tabletop gaming, we simply don't have much to say to one another.

So James Ernest's statement was definitely true in my experience, and truly puts a capstone on one of the questions I have sought to answer from time to time in my life - not just for me or my friends, but in general: Why do people play tabletop roleplaying games?

Is this limited just to Dungeons & Dragons, or is it tabletop gaming in general? Because D&D is, by far, the biggest and most well-known of the industry - at this point, and kind of always has been, as much a game in and of itself as a tabletop RPG - and could stand on its own as a game as much as Monopoly or Clue are what they are, oh and also boardgames. Are those of us who pursue tabletop gaming in general truly pursuing the social group under the guise of looking to play the game?

I'm not certain of that one, but as for Dungeons & Dragons - as a game in and of itself - I can't argue against James Ernest's statement.

© C Harris Lynn, 2011

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