I’m the Comics Ninja and I haven’t played Dungeons & Dragons since junior high school. In fact, most recovering addicts I know haven’t rolled a twenty-sided die or fretted the frailty of a first level magic user in nearly a quarter of a century but that doesn’t mean that the game still doesn’t hang all over us like a suit of chain-mail plus three.
With that said, I have found it curious that despite the fact that D&D is so deeply ingrained in popular culture it hasn’t gained the same level of acceptance as say Star Wars or other popular staples of fan boy nation. For example, in polite society it’s perfectly acceptable to play the Darth Vader March after scoring a touchdown or to chalk up an inexplicable one night stand to a Jedi mind trick, but call somebody a kobold or tell them you are going to summon your flesh golem and, more often than not, they’ll look at you like you have pixies crawling out of your ears.
Exhibit A: several years ago I was suffering through a tedious staff meeting and suddenly found myself called on by the boss despite my efforts to hide behind my Chewbacca coffee mug (note, hot liquid in a Sasquatch head is deemed perfectly acceptable in a professional setting). My boss, Mr. Hitler (not his actual name) was asking questions about data storage or some such thing to which I felt I was giving perfectly sufficient and constructive answers.
Clearly, Mr. Hitler felt differently. He expressed his opinion simply as “nope, unsatisfactory.” After the fifth “nope,” my hide became officially chapped and I shot back, to quote, “Well I don’t know, Mr. Hitler, maybe we could store all of the data in a magic bag of holding.”
A sensible response in my mind but the others in the room apparently felt differently falling deadly silent. Finally a portly gentleman at the end of table named Gandalf (actual name… no not really) began giggling. I pegged him as a fellow former D20 roller and shot him a smile. He returned a nod which of course only egged me on.
“Maybe my third level thief could sneak about in Elvin boots gathering data from our staff?” I added hand gestures and a hunching of the shoulders for visualization purposes. More giggles from Gandalf, more mouths agape around the table, Hitler began turning a dangerous shade of red. Never being one to quite while ahead, I continued.
“Perhaps we could use our Psionic abilities to send the data to the third level of hell. A lesser demon could watch over it or something. Would that work, would that, you know, be satisfactory?” Yup, too far, it was cloak of invisibility time, but I think you see my point.
My outlandish behavior aside, I do have to ask the question, where did D&D go wrong? Why was D&D forced to the dark corners of America’s collective basements? Maybe it was the whole pagan gods and sorcery thing? Back in the 80′s people were open to the idea that maybe Satan himself served as the grand dungeon master.
In my neighborhood, the DM was a skinny kid with glasses, marginal social skills and a charisma of 8. Maybe, if you squinted real hard, I guess he could have passed for the great horned one. I mean, he did torture us with that whole “roll for picking the lock” thing every damn time.
Anyhoo, back in D&D’s heyday some Christian groups went over the reality cliff and associated D&D witheverything from witchcraft and suicide to, worst of all, drawings of naked boobs. As a side note, let it be known right here and now that D&D was cool enough all on its own, throw in the boobs and it had me at hello. But seriously, associating D&D with witchcraft, murder and suicide? Come on, the only thing getting murdered was the poor gamer’s chance at pre-marital sex. It was only fair to let them have their hand drawn boobies.