Friday, August 29, 2008

Why I started playing D&D again

In 2000, Wizards of the Coast released the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons. For me, it was completely unexpected. Unlike those who were keeping up with the role-playing game industry, I hadn’t prowled the internet for news about the latest products. I just didn’t care. Every once in a while I would visit Steve Jackson’s website and shop for GURPS source books. Not because I was actually playing RPGs anymore. It was partly because I wanted to study RPG rules with the intention of applying some of the concepts to computer video games.

I wasn’t interested at all in anything pertaining to D&D. I had heard no news about the third edition until I noticed the rule books sitting on the shelf at the book store. Just for the heck of it, I bought all three books. I was actually impressed with the new changes. But, alas, I had absolutely no one to play with. These books were merely an intellectual curiosity for me.

I was completely oblivious to the dire controversies surrounding the third edition of D&D that were being discussed on the internet. I would merely chuckle at the occasional person I would meet that complained about how the third edition had “ruined D&D forever.” I couldn’t really debate the issue because I had never actually played the new version of the game.

When I noticed that an introductory “basic” boxed set was for sale, I bought it with the intention of trying it out with some of my friends. The rules were presented in a simple manner with a series of short adventures. It would be a while before I met up with any interested players.

What really brought me back to the life of a pulp fantasy tabletop adventure gamer was not anyone I met, something I saw on TV, or something I read on the internet. It was actually a comic. A badly drawn comic book. This was unusual because really good art is what primarily attracts me to comic books. (I don’t like superhero comic books so don’t ask me about those. I like the kind of stuff you’d see in Heavy Metal Magazine.) One day, around the year 2002, I noticed a comic book titled, Knights of the Dinner Table.

Knights of the Dinner Table is a comic strip that started in 1990. Most of the stories take place at a dinning room table where a group of players are playing a fictional game that is obviously just like D&D. It’s just them, sitting around talking about what is happening in their game. For gamers, KotDT is hilarious and is packed with inside jokes that only gamers would understand. This strip rose to prominence in Dragon magazine and eventually became it’s own comic book. But it’s latest incarnation is actually more of a comic magazine because it contains just as many articles as it does comic strip material. And after almost 18 years, the quality of the artwork has not improved in the slightest. But illustration is not important in this case. It’s the story. With a smile on my face, I read the adventures of B.A. and his group of players humorously scheme and argue at the table.

I eventually started buying the comic book every month. And I also realized that I missed playing D&D. I had abandoned the game years ago. I realized that I longed for the days of hack-and-slash gaming. My heart melted with nostalgia. KotDT took me back to those days of slaying orcs and looting their gold. Kicking goblin ass! Falling into pit traps! Solving riddles and making maps. Torches burning out and getting eaten by a grue. With each new issue of the comic, I realized how much I missed those Saturday afternoons spent in the World of Greyhawk. I wanted to play D&D again. I wanted to dungeon crawl!

As I had mentioned in a previous article, I had all but given up on gaming because of the preparation and storytelling skills that were involved. I didn’t know it at the time, but KotDT was a turning point in my life.

No comments: