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Knights of the Dinner Table

Knights of the Dinner Table

Dungeon Master: The corridor ends at a closed wooden door.
Thief: I approach the door quietly, all the while searching for traps.
DM: [The sound of dice rolling.] You don’t detect any traps.
Thief: I listen at the door for any sounds?
DM: High pitched voices utter an ugly guttural tongue, goblins.
Thief: I alert the party and then quietly try to open the door.
DM: The door is locked.
Thief: I attempt to pick the lock.
DM: [More dice rolling is heard.] The lock springs open with an audible click and the voices inside fall silent.
Thief: I throw open the door, draw my dagger and then tumble into the room.
Warrior: I draw my broadsword, raise my shield and rush in after the thief.
Elf Ranger: I notch an arrow and draw my bow.
Wizard: I prepare to cast the spell, Magic Missile.
DM: Inside the room you all see several goblins seated around a large wooden table. It looks like you’ve interrupted them, while they were playing some sort of dice game. Also scattered across the table are pieces of paper and the occasional miniature figure. They all seemed surprised, but I still want everyone to roll for initiative. [The sound of dice rolling ensues.]

Anyone who has ever played Dungeons and Dragons will recognize the previous excerpted dialog as an example of play from that game. Millions of people have played the game. This month, D&D turns forty. One of the most defining games of my life, this game is now officially middle-aged. I was there at the first, in 1974. Well really the summer of ’75, but I did thumb the rules of Chainmail, one of the ancestors of D&D, even earlier than all of that. I think that after forty years, this all qualifies me as an early adopter.

When I lived in Ann Arbor, I role-played with my war-gaming buddies, but when I moved to Saint Louis similar buddies were hard to find. So, I decided to breed my dungeon crawling party. This worked out quite well. Dan and Dave still dabble with the game and will likely purchase D&D 5th edition, when it comes out this summer. Their paired initials even match those of the game!

I’m not an active player now, but this summer’s reboot does offer an opportunity to revisit it. Mainly now, because the game has been a part of my life for so long, aspects of it have crossed over into everyday life. For example, the mound of clothes that semi-permanently sits on our bedroom, waiting to be folded, is known as the Shambling Mound, a classic D&D monster. Another creature that sometimes appears, also due to poor housekeeping habits, is the Gelatinous Cube, usually found at the back of our frig. Need I say more? 

I’ve gotten my geek on here, but Dungeons and Dragons has influenced more than just me. It has spawned a billion dollar video game industry. It has also created a cottage industry in D&D parodies. TV shows like the Big Bang Theory and Community have dipped into this well, but the most fan-tastic of these tributes reside on YouTube. This video is one of the more loving. Besides SJ Tucker, the other cast members are The Gamers, who do many D&D parodies.

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