In role-playing games (such as Dungeons and Dragons), munchkinism or as it is also known, power-gaming, is a way of playing, whose emphasis lies on developing a character that is as powerful as possible, usually to the detriment of other aspects of the game, such as player interaction and other player’s feelings. Munchkinism often involves an expert knowledge of the game’s rules and how to apply them to get maximum results with minimal penalties (often called min-maxing). Munchkinism is not necessarily limited to just role-playing games. During the late seventies, I and three of my buddies decided to go on a backpacking trip. It was late summer by then and earlier in that summer Anne and I had gone backpacking in Porcupine Mountains State Park.
Anne and I had taken the eighteen-hour bus trip from Ann Arbor to Wakefield, Michigan, in the western Upper Peninsula. Wakefield is still fifteen miles from the park, so we had to hitch-hike to the park entrance. Along the way we were treated to the sight of a black bear doing its garbage run, from one house to the next. It was June and it was a hot and buggy June at that. The bugs were so bad that throughout our sojourn we wore as much clothing as we could stand. I remember sweating profusely. We plied ourselves with bug repellent, but had to joke that the black flies only enjoyed it as a spicy hot sauce. At the scheduled end of our hike, we returned to Wakefield, with about half the food that we had brought. We waited for the returning bus in a pizzeria. We must have been the sight, because a group of local high school girls were all giggling and openly joking about our appearances in the adjoining booth. I must admit that a week of slathering on bug repellent does give one a rather unwholesome appearance.
Fast forward to the end of the summer, by then my Grandmother Adeline had given me her 1962 Buick Skylark. It had an eight-cylinder aluminum block engine, but I digress. Suffice to say, Ned, Armin, Cooper and I drove to the Porcupines. I bought the food and estimated what was needed based upon the earlier trip. Big mistake! Ned, Armin and Cooper are all bigger then Anne or I. Plus the weather was a bit colder. We ran out of food after only a couple of days. We tried fishing, but our tackle consisted of only dental floss and safety pins. The fish didn’t even thank us for our gifts of hard salami. After a rainy night full of recriminations we all decided to bag it and force marched ourselves back to the car. Armin, who had probably never camped in his life, had bought brand new boots; they hadn’t been broken in yet. He walked out barefoot.
Oh yea, munchkinism. After we had devoured everything on the table, condiments included, at the first restaurant that we came to, we headed to the Cabin. Egos were still feeling bruised, but a game of Scrabble on Betty’s back porch helped to salve some of those wounds. Now Ned, Armin, Cooper and I were all hot and heavy into Dungeons and Dragons around then, so it was no surprise to me at some of the munchkinism that ensued. I think that the players were Ned, Betty, Anne and I. Armin and Cooper were content to kibitz. Ned must have led Betty, because much of my memory of that game involves coaching from Armin and Cooper on how to block her moves. I think that she found the discussion of these intentions more infuriating then the eventual move. This is a classic example of munchkinism, as applied to the game of Scrabble. Even though me and my friends manners were blatant munchkinism, Betty still seemed to believe that we were a hoot.