Friday, March 07, 2008

Explaining D&D to Novices

As part of my ongoing E. Gary Gygax memorial procrasinative web search, I unearthed the following Straight Dope column describing D&D for the uninitiated. As an avid D&D fan back in the day, I read & loved this column as collected in the first Straight Dope book. This slightly revised version still holds up today, I think. Here's a bit of it; I've substituted my from-memory version of the original "Parcheesi" line for the version in the revised draft, which you can find at the link; I think the original was funnier. Quoth Adams:
...let me tell you, R. buddy, this game is weird.

The basic idea in your run-of-the-mill Go Fish-type game is to get all your opponent's cards or all his checkers or some other readily grasped commodity. Not so with D&D.

Here is a quote from Mr. Gygax on the subject: "The ultimate aim of the game is to gain sufficient esteem as a good player to retire your character--he becomes a kind of mythical, historical figure, someone for others to look up to and admire."

A lifetime of Parcheesi doesn't prepare you for this....

There are two main problems: (1) there are one billion rules, and (2) the game requires nonstop mathematical finagling that would constipate Einstein.

The rule book is laden with such mystifying pronouncements as the following: "An ancient spell-using red dragon of huge size with 88 hits points has a BXPV of 1300, XP/HP total of 1408, SAXPB of 2800 (armor class plus special defense plus high intelligence plus saving throw bonus due to h.p./die), and an EAXPA of 2550 (major breath weapon plus spell use plus attack damage of 3-30/bite)--totalling 7758 h.p."

Here we have a game that combines the charm of a Pentagon briefing with the excitement of double-entry bookkeeping.
Equally funny for the player & the newbie, I think -- although in different ways. Read the rest here.

Also fun is this Believer article from a few years ago describing a journey to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, to play D&D with GG himself. (via) But it's not as funny, nor as succinct, as Cecil Adams.

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