A group of adventurers wearily stand at the top of the mountain, looking down upon the swarm of enemies below them – they know the oncoming battle will be fierce, and some of them, if not all, may fall. This does not discourage them, because they know they fight for a worthy cause, that all they have done so far has led to this very moment. Legends will be written of their deeds, and the bards will sing tales of their heroism long after they are gone.
The adventurers each look at one another, and nod. The time to fight has come….
The gathering of friends, looking across at each other over character sheets, notebooks, and dice on the table before them, nod in agreement. The campaign draws to an end, the last battle between good and evil is at hand – they look to the conduit of the story, their appointed Dungeon Master, who grins.
“Roll for initiative.”
This is a small glimpse into the world of the most popular tabletop game of all time, Dungeons and Dragons, which is recognized to be the beginning of modern role-playing, and the role-playing games industry.
In a world where gaming technology has advanced to the point of incredible realism in visual nature, it is astounding to think that a tabletop game which relies heavily on both imagination and verbal storytelling is still so popular, and even increasing in popularity. What could be the cause of this increase? Perhaps tradition being passed down by gamers to their children, or references from popular pop culture sources (such as the Netflix Original Series Stranger Things)? This could be, but I like to think that it stems from a growing desire for creativity that is sorely lacking in other gaming methods.
As a gamer myself, I am no stranger to the traditional console gaming that is widely popular with today’s youth, but I have always noticed things about it that reduce the enjoyment I gain from it. Games (however hard the developers try to increase the amount of content and flexibility) are very linear in their storyline and give little option for true customization. Sure, one may be able to make choices in the storyline that change the end result, and sure the character customization has come a long way since the first console games to come out, but these are very minor traits of flexibility – it is a very limited influence on the story, so players are guided down a path that is set by the developers, with no actual way to deviate from it.
The aspect of Dungeons and Dragons that most calls to me as a gamer, is the endless capability to affect the storylines set forth by the Dungeon Master. A good Dungeon Master will allow the players to make choices about what their characters say or do which drastically alters the direction of the plot. It is interactive storytelling at its best where the players themselves are as involved with the creation of the story as its author is which gives them the ability to totally immerse themselves in their characters and the world that is presented to them. This is even more so in the latest edition (5e, or 5th Edition) where the micro-management of earlier editions has been modified to delve back into the core of the game, the storytelling.
There is also the social aspect of the game – people gathering in person, conversing, and experiencing the game with one another in a manner that brings them closer together. Video Game culture has been trying to come back from its former anti-social tendencies by leaning more heavily on online-gaming in recent years, but nothing can truly touch the social quality of physically gathering with friends and flexing your creativity together.
Creativity and imagination are crucial to human development, and in today’s technological society, it seems as though they are dwindling in the masses. Anything that can cause people to break out of their shells, to inspire creativity in them, to bring back some form of childlike wonder, and bring people together to have an enjoyable experience is a positive thing in my mind.
Dungeons and Dragons may not be for everyone – it takes a dedication and investment in one’s own imagination that you don’t see in video gaming, as well as a lot of planning and creativity if you are the Dungeon Master – but I think it’s something that everyone should at least try. Like Bilbo Baggins came to find, you will never learn how satisfying and rewarding an adventure can be if you never set foot outside of your home.
(This was a guest writer, my hubby, Jarrett. Thank you for helping me while I have writer’s block.)