Role Playing Games

Posted Oct 19, 2002
Last Updated Oct 30, 2011

Many years ago a couple of friends and I walked to Strete Hobbies on Sullivant Avenue. We wanted to spend our allowances on one hobby or another to occupy our time. We didn’t have anything in mind when we went, except that it needed to be something worth the buck and fun.

We went through the models and gizmos and books and paints. Eventually we came to the games. One box looked intriguing. It was a brown and red box with some cavalry knights charging across a grassy meadow. The title was "The World of Greyhawk.”

Looked cool enough. So we forked out the fifteen dollars and walked home. Halfway home I pulled the box out of the brown bag and scanned the game over again. My eyes caught something that made me my heart skip a beat, and a momentary panic came over my teenage mind. I saw the words "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.”

For years I had heard the lectures in church and at home to never play the game. "It’s evil” or "Bad spirits use that game” were the type of warnings that I kept hearing in my head. "People go crazy when they play that game,” caring adults had warned.

When friends had asked me to play it in the past I always left their homes because I was afraid of what it would bring.

And now I owned the game. There was a dilemma. I considered taking it back, but after discussing it with my friends, I decided to keep it. Kids are curious, what can I say?

We invited over Brett, someone who played the game frequently, to teach us. It didn’t take us long before we realized that we like the game. We bought some more books and played it almost every weekend.

To keep my parents from knowing that the game was in the house, I covered the books with paper bags, as kids do at school, and refrained from referring to the game as Dungeons & Dragons or D&D, but as "role playing.”

I came to a dilemma, though, when I felt bad about keeping the secret from my parents. It was obvious to me that the game was not the evil monster it had been made out to be, but I wasn’t so sure that my parents would understand. So to convince them I asked my Dad to "role play” with us without telling him what it was. As it turned out, Dad seemed amused with the experience. I don’t think he loved the game, but he didn’t see anything wrong. I didn’t feel comfortable telling him right away, but within a few days I came downstairs with all of my books uncovered and showed my parents.

While I know they were concerned, they realized that it was merely a hobby. They didn’t make me get rid of the game. Unfortunately, not everyone felt the same—some friends weren't allowed to come to my house when their parents learned that I played the game.

There is a lot of propaganda against role playing, and against Dungeons & Dragons in particular. Over the years I have found that almost all of that propaganda comes from people who have never played the game and base their judgments on what they have heard or read. The phobia of the game that claims that it drives people crazy is purely unjustified. In all my years playing, and among all the people I know who play, I have never met someone who has become "possessed” or who sees the game as anything more than a game.

The game is basically a social event. People get together to act out plays, essentially. People sit around a table and "control” a character in an adventure. The game is merely an interactive story where the people writing out the story are the players. There is always a lot of laughing and joking, and believe it or not, learning. I remember learning words such as "dexterity”, "charisma”, and "alignment” as a very young teenager. Concepts such as probability became relevant in the game.

Role playing games are just games. In the remote possibility that anyone would go crazy while playing them, the game cannot be blamed—the person was already crazy. If you preach the evils of role playing, I’d say there’s a good chance you’ve never played the game. The only valid criticism of the game is a matter of personal taste, meaning that only those who have played the game have any justification in deriding it, and then only because it just isn’t their cup of tea.

I suggest that anyone who preaches that D&D is evil should go to one of our local gaming stores and talk to some of the players. Go to The Guardtower on Trabue Road, or another local store, and find out that all the fear is pointless. People who play may be generally eccentric, but they aren’t generally crazy.

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