Monday, June 02, 2008

"D&D has a sword-and-sorcery heart, but the guts of insurance underwriting."

Via the Velvet Dicebag, this wonderful, thought-provoking article on the nature of D&D by Ray Huling at The Escapist:

Pong, released in 1972, relied on cutting-edge electronics. Dungeons & Dragons, which appeared two years later, employed technologies that had existed for thousands of years. The odd-shaped dice used to play original D&D - the pyramids, the icosahedrons, the strange gear of so many roleplaying games - are the five Platonic solids. The Greeks had advanced math, writing, drama, myth and lots of leisure time - not to mention an academy at Athens loaded with nerds. So why didn't Plato ever think to deck out a dungeon for his fellows to loot?

From ancient Babylon to post-WWII Europe, nobody thought of such a thing as roleplaying games, though the materials existed for making them. No one conceived of Dungeons & Dragons until the American Midwest in the early '70s. Why is that? Why would it take a guy from Minnesota and a guy from Wisconsin to invent D&D just before the Age of Disco? What makes D&D so modern?

Maybe I've lived a sheltered life, but there are ideas here I've never consciously played with before, though it's clear they apply to D&D, and many other RPGs as well.


James Maliszewski said...

Some good, some crazy points in that article. I think it's overly analytical about things that don't really deserve analysis and not analytical enough about things that should be analyzed. That said, I'm still glad to see any attempts, however halting, to discuss the roots of the game and why and how it developed as it did. We need more of this.

Secular Transhumanist said...

Ahahaha... I love the reference to "Black Leaf" as the sample character. Well played, sir.