My history with Dungeons and Dragons is checkered. I wonder if it is the same with many other players. I started playing in high school. We put together a regular play group that contracted to just two of us after we graduated. However, some of the best stories and campaigns for me came out of those duo sessions. It takes a little bit of time, but this all leads directly to Giants in Phandalin.
When i had kids, I tried as much as possible to pass my nerd passions on to them. Some of them became life long passions like Liam and Quinn with Pokemon. Others, like Dungeons and Dragons, maybe still have potential. Because, to be fair, we only tried playing once as a family. The boys were all young and, on that particular day, I just wasn’t feeling particularly patient. So, I think I poisoned the well a little bit. In spite of that, I hold out hope that maybe one of these days we can try again.
Bigby Presents Glory of the Giants
I planned to cover this one last month in a Dungeons and Dragons week. However, Quinn and I never sat down to play the next episode in our Duo campaign. So, I moved Dungeons and Dragons to this month and decided to cover the two latest source books in this article. I never know how to properly cover something like this. But, that’s never stopped me before.
For this one, I read through the character creation parts of the book. I always try to build different characters for the game just to see how their peculiarities might show up in an actual game. This book goes one step further and talks about how to run an actual campaign built around giants. You might think, cynically, So, D&D but with big people? Yes, I suppose that’s one way to look at it. But, I feel like there’s so much more potential there.
Phandelver and Below: The Shattered Obelisk
Well, things come full circle now. The adventure we tried to play as a family was the Lost Mine of Phandelver. And, now, Wizards of the Coast release a new source book building on that. I’d be lying if the release of this book didn’t make me feel nostalgic for that time and the desire for a do over. Just have to figure out a time to do it. Everyone’s older and busier. Cats in the Cradle, indeed.
Giants in Phandalin brings two fun new books to the Dungeons and Dragons pantheon. One gives me an idea for how to build a new world and campaign. The other makes me want to recapture some of that fun of being young again for all involved. I’m sure we can find some time during Thanksgiving or Christmas break. Be on the lookout for a Lucas-Mullen D&D adventure in a few months.
In anticipation of the release of Baldur’s Gate three, I got the idea to talk about various Dungeons and Dragons properties. I chose the new source book about Giants, my duets adventure that I wrote for me and Quinn, and Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2. When I missed my deadline last month, I moved it to this month and added the new Phandelver source book as well.
Even with the extra time, I only played through about 15 minutes of both games. Hey, what can I say? I’m still a busy gamer dad who can’t always drop everything to play these games. But, I always make an effort. Besides, if I only play through enough for first impressions, that gives me a chance to revisit sometime in the future. It’s all about content, y’all!
Baldur’s Gate 1
The first thing I noticed after starting the game was the full featured character creation system. It felt just like rolling a new character in paper and pencil Dungeons and Dragons. You pick a race, class, roll your stats, set your profile picture, and pick your proficiencies. If you are a magic user (I usually pick mage/cleric), then you get to pick your spells.
After character creation, you start the game. It starts with an involved narrative to set the stage and prepare you for the adventure to come. This one starts off a bit slow. You go through the opening area, picking up basic quests and fighting off minor enemies.
Baldur’s Gate 2
I much prefer the beginning to the second game. Less initial narrative means the action starts much more quickly. And, boy, is there some action to start! You wake up in a dungeon after being tortured by some sadistic jailer. When I first played through, I sped out of that cell and to my death.
The second time, I explored the prison more and found two additional companions. Surely this barbarian can only help me survive longer during this game. I did survive longer, but that’s only because I explored longer to find the key to release one of my companions. Once I got to the same spot as earlier, I died again. Admittedly, I died slower, but still dead. So, I have some figuring out to do on this one.
Baldur’s Gate 1 and 2 reminded me just how unforgiving early level Dungeons and Dragons can be. You roll some dice and if you roll badly, you end up in the dust bin of history. Roll well, though, and eventually all the power of the universe at your fingertips. I’m willing to go back and risk it all again for that.
Editor’s Note: I wrote this before the decision to reverse course by Hasbro. Turns out all of the gnashing of teeth and wailing worked for now. However, I now see that emboldened nerds and some of them push for more. Some people are never happy.
If you wonder what the D&D OGL covers, then join me as I give a TLDR version. As I understand it, the document gives the community the ability to make homebrew content and make money from that content. Wikipedia explains it in better detail if you want more than that. I only know about the document now because a leak showed that Hasbro/WotC meant to update it.
And by update it, of course, the mean to basically gut the thing and make it almost impossible for anyone but them to make money from the game. Please bear in mind that all of my information here comes from the sometimes less than reliable world of social media (Facebook mostly), so take this whole article with a grain of salt if you want. However, I will say that they reversed course pretty quickly once people started to get loud about it. So, methinks that they hit a nerve.
Warning: Anti-Capitalist Message Ahead
I mean, just this weekend I said to a friend, “I’m about to sound like a communist sympathizer here.” I say this to provide context. Believe me when I say that I have no use for large corporations throwing their weight around to bully citizens. On the other hand, having grown up to see nerd culture become popular culture, I watch as nerds have almost weekly breakdowns over something or another. Captain Marvel? A more diverse Star Wars?
So, ignorant of the details in the first case and my opinion colored by the history of the second, initially I shrugged at the news. Obviously, I came down on the wrong side of history. People kept trying to explain to me that Critical Role might suffer because of it. I don’t interact with them at all, so that didn’t bother me.
I soon learned that Pathfinder came into existence because of the D&D OGL. Okay, I though, this could be big. Then, it trickled down into some of the Patreon campaigns that I support. Once that happened, I realized that I made a mistake by writing it off as another nerd temper tantrum.
I wanted to end New Year, New Games 2023 on a more positive note. Unfortunately, I also wanted to come clean. With all of that being said, I can’t find it in me to be all that fussed about the D&D OGL. Sure, it harms player and potentially the game. But, as Blizzard shows time and time again, if you give players enough time, they forgive and forget nearly everything. Come back after the next season of Stranger Things and this will all become a footnote in history.
Besides, unless you belong to Critical Role or one of the half dozen (maybe) other content creators that this affects, simply ignore the new OGL. Go on about your business playing Dungeons and Dragons as you do with your friends and family. Plenty of resources exist out there to enhance your gaming experience for every edition of the game. And, if it doesn’t, here’s an idea. Come up with the resource on your own and share it with those you love. My favorite D&D experience came from writing the adventure for Quinn. I loved it so much, I planned several others. Just get out there and have fun.
First Esper, then Gruul, now the Forgotten Realms Miscellany article. I am on a damn roll this week with content. Fear not, though, I have nothing planned for next week and the following week is the annual Cape Cod trip. So, the page will be languishing again in no time. Look forward to that!
But, for now, revel in the fact that we are here and providing you with at least second tier content. Chris texted me yesterday, “There’s a lot of good cards in the set.” I replied, “Yeah, it’s a fun set.” Of course, that reply came before I reviewed green, so I was grading on a bit of a curve. Nevertheless, I like the set and I agree with myself that they’ll probably make another D&D set once they see how popular this one is. Let’s see what fun cards are in Forgotten Realms miscellany.
Forgotten Realms Miscellany: Dungeons and Artifacts
I already touched on dungeons in one of the other articles, but I only showed one of them at that time. These three cards represent some of the most recognizable dungeons in the game Dungeons and Dragons. I can’t wait to put together my dungeon themed Tiny Leaders deck.
Speaking of dungeons, here’s a map! Plus, 50 feet of rope! But, watch out for that Mimic! Ah, mimic, the reason that generations of Dungeons and Dragons players have trust issues.
Forgotten Realms Miscellany: Multicolored
This section became a showcase for some of the most iconic names in Dungeons and Dragons history. Tiamat fills two purposes, one as a major geek-gasm and the other as a flavor win by being 5 colors. The alt art isn’t for Xanathar, but I wish it was. Maybe I will commission an alter to make it so. Finally, I never read nor played any of the Forgotten Realms setting, but even I know Drizzt.
Forgotten Realms Miscellany Gives Us Some Fun Cards
I love the dungeon concept. I wish they gave us more of them, but three gives enough variety now. Who knows? Perhaps they will make more or the MTG/D&D community will make more for us to use. Every single one of those artifact cards is going in my dungeon themed tiny leaders deck. I told Chris that I’m going to have fun opening my box of this set and I will. I just hope they make another D&D set and selfishly, I hope they base it on Dragonlance next time.
Yesterday, I rolled up into your life after 2 months like nothing ever happened with the first of my MTG Forgotten Realms articles. Today, I bring you Forgotten Realms Gruul Edition. These colors are always the most difficult for me to pick cards. I am in no way shape or form a red or green mage. Chris is, which is what makes our one-on-one duels so much fun. We end up on opposite ends of the color wheel almost every single time.
Though Chris has rubbed off on me a bit through our games and conversations, keep this in mind as you read the article. I pick red and green cards through they eyes of a blue (and sometimes black and white) mage. Don’t expect any one turn kills or massive mana spikes. No, for this Forgotten Realms Gruul edition, you may have to suffer through card draw and counter spells. It could happen! Red got Tibalt’s Trickery after all.
Red: Give me a quest, a baby Embercleave, and a possible 2 turn kill
Honorable Mention (You Find Some Prisoners/Dueling Rapier): I sent both of these cards to Chris. I like You Find Some Prisoners because it again illustrates a facet of Dungeons and Dragons. Since it is basically a cooperative storytelling game, as I explained to Chris, you often find yourself faced with decisions like this that are introduced in such a manner as “The party…”
When I texted Chris, I captioned “Dueling Rapier” with “Baby Embercleave”. Now that I look at it again, it is more like fetus Embercleave. Still, a fun card, just not the tiny broken weapon I initially rated it as. Now that I say that, someone will break it, most likely against me.
Minion of the Mighty: Yep, you guessed it again. I texted this one to Chris. My exact quote: “This is going to be a problem.” Sure enough, the next day, some web pages wrote articles about how it enabled turn 2 kill in some formats. Granted, it requires a specific set of cards, but most combos do. I just like to pat myself on the back when I get a card right.
Green: Give me a cursed idol, a neat trick, and a tiny leader
Honorable Mention (You Find a Cursed Idol/Wild Shape): Green cards in this set are pretty lame. I consider none of them good or even fun. These three represent the most fun and they are pretty damn awful. Cursed Idol, at least, has some versatility. Wild Shape, too, and it can be a fun trick to play at the end of the game to give you another turn to find an answer. I wish one of the options gave you deathtouch, but that’s neither here nor there.
Varis, Silverymoon Ranger: I have a tiny leaders deck with Yisan, the Wanderer Bard. It’s a fun deck that isn’t terribly tuned, but it was able to beat Chris’s even less tuned deck. As soon as I saw this card, I wanted to build a tiny leaders deck around a dungeon theme. Again, not a great card, but I guess if pressed I could call this one fun.
The Verdict (Forgotten Realms Gruul Edition weighs heavily in favor of red)
Red gets some of the most fun and powerful cards in the set. Green is all but forgotten in both cases. I suppose not all colors can be winners in every set, but they’ve actually been pretty good about printing powerful cards and balancing all colors in that regard. Maybe I’m missing something. It wouldn’t be the first time. However, thinking back on it, Chris and I didn’t share many green cards during our spoiler texts, so maybe green is just bad this time around. Thanks for reading my Forgotten Realms Gruul Edition and come back tomorrow for the miscellaneous cards.
Okay, this one is a lie, too. Sort of. Remember last time when I said that I would take this week to discuss games that we received for Christmas. Well, that’s not strictly true. I actually just pressed purchase on the D&D horror bundles from The Arcane Library about an hour ago. Since then, I’ve been looking at the adventures to see if they will, in fact, be good to try to get the family to play D&D again.
If this all seems to have come out of left field, you’re not entirely wrong. I mean, if you followed us on Twitter, you’d have seen that I was searching for an appropriate adventure to try to get the family hooked on Dungeons and Dragons. I want to get a weekly session going, if possible. This led me to purchase The Lost Mine of Phandelver on D&D Beyond before realizing that was the adventure we tried to play last year from the beginner’s set. Oh well, WotC can use the cash, I’m sure.
Well, Facebook ads finally got me this time. I saw an ad for The Arcane Library and visited it. Rarely does this ever result in me purchasing anything. However, this time it did. First, I downloaded the free adventure to see if the writing was any good. It’s very well designed. More on that in the review, obviously. Then, I bought the bundle meant to follow characters from 1 until level 20, I think. There may be some gaps needed to fill. Not entirely sure on that one. However, I then saw the D&D horror bundles. As the lone hold out from the first time, I think Aiden will get a kick out of some horror RPG. Let’s see if I’m right.
Writing: This doesn’t come as a surprise now that I’ve read the author’s biography on the web page. She’s a former journalist and English teacher. Nevertheless, and this will come as rich from someone who hasn’t edited a single post on this web page in several years, it is good to find web based content that isn’t riddled with spelling and grammar errors. Especially in a D&D adventure, that takes you right out of the fiction.
Well Organized: Along with the good writing, the adventures follow the well established outline for adventures set by the official versions. Each adventure starts with a synopsis and some background. This is followed by some nuts and bolts to further explain. Each encounter flows smoothly, building a rich tapestry of the story. As I read, I saw how the encounters worked and, more importantly, how they worked together.
Minimalist: Piggy backing off that last point, the books contain only the information needed to continue the story. I feel like part of the reason our play session last year got bogged down was all of the reading necessary to run the adventure. As a DM, I try not to be a rules extremist when playing D&D, but I think I might have just been nervous. I really wanted my family to enjoy playing D&D with me. It just felt like a natural play group.
Horror: Granted, it is mostly up to me to set the proper mood. However, if you’re going to advertise an adventure as horror, there should obviously be the seeds of that horror in the adventure. These accomplish that quite nicely. I already said that I saw the story grow as I read the notes. The same can be said for the horror setting. These stories have great creep factor.
Story: This may seem strange given all the nice things I’ve already said. However, even as a criticism, please understand that this is minor. To be fair, it’s said that there are only 7 types of stories that can be told anyway. This may even be more limited in science fiction and fantasy settings. Even the official adventures are limited in their scope. Just know that these stories aren’t terribly original. But, they are still very good.
Not beginner friendly: Look, I also understand that if you are considering a non paying career as a D&D DM, you probably aren’t a beginner. With that being said, everyone gets their start somewhere. But, if you are getting your start as a DM, I wouldn’t recommend these adventures as your first campaign. They’re just so sparse in their notes for DMs.
The D&D horror bundles from The Arcane Library are, overall, very good. The stories are compelling enough. They have a definite horror vibe, even just from reading through them. That can, obviously, be tuned to your individual play group. I don’t regret purchasing them or the other bundle one bit. Now, I just have to get my family to want to play them. Stay tuned for that.
Dungeons and Dragons: Destination Ravnica? The title says it all. I remember back when Wizards of the Coast purchased the Dungeons and Dragons property from TSR, Inc. Being one of those grumpy old man gamers (more so even than I am now as an actual grumpy old man) who railed against the conglomeration happening at the time. I mean, generally speaking, it is a bad thing.
Then things more or less went as they had been. It was like the Activision acquisition of Blizzard. People were concerned about that, as well. I mean, sure, you can make an argument that it hasn’t worked out well. And, trust me, people have made that argument. However, I still play Hearthstone daily and the new trailer for Shadowlands has me thinking about picking up World of Warcraft again.
My main point is that the WotC acquisition of Dungeons and Dragons and then the acquisition of WotC by Hasbro has more or less gone off without much of a hitch. Sure, there have been some growing pains, but mostly unless you knew, you’d probably not even know the difference.
Okay, that’s not exactly true. In addition to putting the MTG license on board games, they have also released Dungeons and Dragons products with Magic the Gathering lore. The first I heard of this was a campaign based in Ravnica. This makes sense because Ravnica is quite possibly the most popular plane in Magic the Gathering. Well, I finally got around to picking up the sourcebook for the campaign. How is it? I’m glad you asked.
Well Integrated – You got Dungeons and Dragons in my Magic the Gathering! You got Magic the Gathering in my Dungeons and Dragons! Two great tastes that taste great together? Well, actually, yes. I spend some time in the Dungeons and Dragons Beyond character creation and simply from that I can see that they’ve been able to blend the two games almost flawlessly.
In Depth – Not that I expect any less from Dungeons and Dragons, but you never know. They could have easily just mailed it in. They didn’t. There is an absurd amount of information in this book about the plane of Ravnica and the denizens that reside there. I felt like I was being transported to the plane of Ravnica as I read through the book. Honestly, they’re probably just happy that they get to finally share all of this information with us.
Sample Adventure – Speaking of mailing it in, the sample adventure that they’ve included in the book feels like just a bit of generic Dungeons and Dragons with the Ravnica characters tossed in for some flavor. I get it. It’s just a sample adventure and D&D has a certain feel to is, so maybe all adventures/games feel like this. I know I had a similar reaction to Pool of Radiance.
Character Creation – As mentioned earlier, I spent a good two hours in the Dungeons and Dragons Beyond character creation tool. So, why isn’t this in the great section? Well, I now have these two characters that I’ve invested time and emotion into and now I don’t have a campaign to play them. Poor guys.
Tables to create adventures – I know that not everyone is creative. However, I was a bit taken aback by the tables that they put in the book to create an adventure. Basically, nearly all of the decision making and creativity is taken out of the task of being a Dungeon Master. Ultimately, it doesn’t affect me and I can ignore it.
I want more! – Yes, this is a cop out. No, I don’t care. Honestly, the only “bad” thing I can find about this is, in spite of how in depth it is, I still want more. More lore, more characters, more story. The whole thing is just a testament to how much I love both of these games. I can’t wait for Theros to be released.
You never know how these crossovers are going to go. Especially in comic books lately, their super summer crossover events have been lackluster. However, Dungeons and Dragons: Destination Ravnica is an overwhelming success. I already have the adventure that I wrote for the family and I will be sure to expand on that, but there’s nothing that says we can’t have multiple campaigns. See you on Ravnica!
I don’t know if I ever played Pool of Radiance. One of my most fond memories of high school is playing Dungeons and Dragons. I’ve already talked some about my memories with paper and pencil D&D. However, I also have extensive experience with the computer games as well.
The thing about the PC games is that I don’t have specific memories of which games I played. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I remember playing the Spelljammer game and I remember playing at least one of the Dark Sun games. I don’t know if I played any of the Dragonlance games, though I’m almost positive that I did at one point or another. It remains my favorite setting even today.
One game I’m almost positive that I never played was Pool of Radiance. Why, then, am I picking that game to feature? Well, according to my extensive research (a single Google search), it is the first of the PC games to feature the mechanics of D&D. So, it’s only fair that I pick that one as my first entry into the Way Back Machine. If it goes well, I might take a look at one of the Dark Sun games in a couple of weeks. If it goes poorly, I definitely will.
Decent Graphics – I know many of you will scoff at this. And, you might have a right to do so. However, compared to my expectations, this game blew them away. Granted, I’m not sure what my expectations were, but I clearly forgot about the capabilities of those early games. There were different sprites for the different monsters and you were able to customize your characters to some degree.
Surprisingly in depth – Again, I’m not sure what I was expecting. I mean, we’re not exactly in the prehistory of games, but 1988 is pretty early in the history. The Super Nintendo (when I really started to become involved in video games and consider to be the start of good graphics and consistently good gameplay) is still 3 or 4 years away. I guess the old PC gamer mentality of being a step ahead was true at the time. In addition to the character creation feeling almost (you don’t individually roll stats, but you do pick alignment) like pencil and paper, the features of the game are greater than the sum of their parts. Let’s talk about some of those features.
Intuitive – Granted, this isn’t pick up and play if you haven’t played Dungeons and Dragons before. It will take some getting used to. As I told Chris when he texted about flipping through a source book, “It’s a whole other language. However, like Magic, once you get used to it, it’s second nature.” This game is very much along those lines. Within a half an hour of (probably too in depth for a simple review article) character creation, I was into the game and wiping my party. (More on that in a bit)
Minimap – Again, those of you who have grown up in modern video game times might get a chuckle out of an oldbie like me thinking that the minimap is worth of mention in the article. But, hear me out. Being an oldbie pencil and paper D&D guy, I took about 5 minutes to look for some graph paper to start drawing my own map of the town before I realized there was a minimap built into the interface.
The Story – The story of Pool of Radiance isn’t bad. In fact, it’s actually pretty engaging and gets you into the action quickly. I’m not surprised because this is a TSR (the owners of the D&D license before WotC bought them) product. Even so, the story is pretty generic RPG stuff and isn’t engaging enough to keep me coming back for more. That’s to be expected since The Forgotten Realms is the most generic of D&D settings
Pool of Radiance is hard! – So, I went to the City Hall to find out what commissions I could collect. “Go to the ruins and help clear it of monsters.” Okay, sounds good. Let’s kill some monsters. First encounter in the ruins? A party of kobolds. No problem, right? Wrong. 2 party members dead. Crikey! Let’s rest. Nope. Interrupted by a party of monsters. Let’s rest in the city. Nope. It costs 1 platinum to rest in the inn. Let’s rest in an alley. Nope. Caught by the guards. WTF. Okay, how about a temple? 100 gold pieces for cure light wounds. Jesus. Fine. Now, back into the ruins. Second encounter is a party of orcs. And, we’re all dead. Well, that was fun.
Pool of Radiance is a game that definitely stands the test of time. Over 30 years later and I will probably keep going back to try to at least defeat that first dungeon. Who knows? Once I do that, I’m sure that I’ll be back to try to finish the rest of the game. Then, I’ll move on to other games in the series. I have been playing the game on this web based emulator. However, I recently discovered a place that has the game plus a bunch of others for only 10 bucks. I just have to vet the source to make sure that it is legit and not bloatware or virus ridden like the old Limewire files. In spite of the frustration of the game being hard, I suggest you give it a try.
Welcome to Joizha! Yesterday, on Facebook, I got the question, “When did you start playing Dungeons and Dragons?” The person followed up that they hadn’t heard of the game until high school. So, here’s my story. And, I promise this time it will be a short one.
My mother bought me a book when I was in middle school. It was called “Firstborn: The Eleven (This isn’t correct. Spoiler Alert.) Nations Trilogy”. I read through the entire book and then went searching at Waldenbooks (if you need further proof that I’m old) for more. I don’t think I found the second book in the trilogy, but I did find the Dragonlance Chronicles series.
But, I promised quick and this is already going too long for some of you, I’m sure. It wasn’t until I read the second and, maybe even after I finished the trilogy, that I realized it was the Elven nation. Oh, that makes sense. Sithel and Kith-Kanan are elves. Also, there aren’t 11 nations.
In any case, that is how I ended up being introduced to Dungeons and Dragons. From the novels, I moved on to the game as most do. First, I purchased the Player’s Handbook and the Dungeon Master’s Guide when I was in high school. I don’t remember if my friends at the time played the game or if I got them into the game. I think it was a mixture of both. Eventually, I started jotting down ideas for campaigns of my own.
What is Joizha?
One of those campaigns I started was an ambitious attempted crossover to introduce technology into Dungeons and Dragons. My friends and I hadn’t discovered RIFTS yet, so this was a ground breaking achievement in my mind. I set out to start building the world. As often happened during my teenage years, the attempt stalled because I was more interested in young women and the mall and going to the mall to look at young women. I didn’t have the courage to talk to any of them.
However, I’m now married. It is frowned upon to look at other women. As a result, I have more time to finish those projects that I started and abandoned all those years ago. I completed two books (I’m more proud of the short stories, if you have time). When this quarantine (I know it’s not technically a quarantine, but we’ve all agreed that’s what we’re calling it) started, I decided to write my own Dungeons and Dragons adventure.
Enter Joizha. It was a small mining town in that “technologically advanced” campaign that I started as a teenager. So, instead of reinventing the wheel for my first campaign that I’d have time to finish, I went back and mined my memories for details. It came together pretty quickly. I fleshed out the town a bit, a harbor city that the party might visit (Staten Harbor), and took a mine from the Campaign and Catacomb Sourcebook as inspiration for the dungeon.
Welcome to Joizha (Eventually)
I haven’t written about Dungeons and Dragons in over 5 years. As mentioned in one of the articles I wrote back then, it’s mainly because Chris doesn’t play. The boys and I (and even Christine) played a game last year, but it ended a bit sour with the boys saying that they were bored. So, I went researching on ways to make it more interesting for them.
Then, I got a second job as a custodian at nights and things fell apart in more ways than one. I just didn’t have the time to dedicate to an extended D&D campaign. Now, as mentioned several times over the past month, I have nothing but time. Especially when school ends, we’ll be lousy with free time. So, hopefully, I have the opportunity to say, “Welcome to Joizha!” to my family and get a chance to play through the dungeon with them.
(Editor’s Note: Are you or do you know someone who identifies as a nerd, gamer, geek, dork, dweeb, or freak? If so, this is the place for you. Come on in and make yourself comfortable)
As I’ve mentioned more than once, I’m a teacher. Technically, right now, I am a non-tenured adjunct professor at two community colleges. Who cares about titles, though, right? If this article is your introduction to the page, welcome! I hope you enjoy your stay. Either way, the point is that underneath the sometimes gamer rage filled geek persona is a possibly respectable adult with a respectable job, a loving family, and all of the sitcom style hilarity that ensues.
Two weeks ago we were supposed to take a field trip with our classes. Never mind the comments that I got from friends and family about how weird field trips in college sound and what a waste of time the class was. Maybe I will talk more about those on my soon to be web page, “1 Middle Aged Guy Seeks Therapy”. The trip and the class aren’t ultimately important to the story. I am using a writing technique known as “setting the stage”.
Well, the field trip never happened to due a miscommunication. Due to no adequate back up plan on my part, we ended up wasting our time watching Gravity. Decent movie, by the way, if you’re perpetually behind the times in pop culture, like I am.
Waiting an hour and a half for a bus that ultimately will never show gives you ample time for idle conversation. Bus and train stops (and the vehicles themselves), airports, and even elevators (if you’re brave enough to say “Hi” instead of staring straight ahead trying to pretend that there isn’t other people in there until it arrives at your stop) are all weirdly intimate. People will not only talk. They will often share surprisingly intimate details of their lives with you. The internet has had a similar effect on many people.
As we waited, I learned quite a bit about both my students and the students in the class being run concurrent to ours. They also learned some things about me. The conversation that led to much of this discovery started with an innocent observation and question. I noticed that one of the students from the other class was wearing a shirt with the design below.
If you are like me and you spend your formative teenage years in basements rolling dice instead of joints, you recognize that ampersand immediately. It took some courage to ask the obvious question. While wearing a D&D T-shirt is more an admission of your status, some people want to keep such topics secret in mixed company. I ultimately decided to just put it out there and deal with the consequences.
“Do you play?” I pointed at the shirt.
“I do.” The student responded.
We then went on to discuss Roll 20 because that was her preferred method to play the game. I replied that a friend and I tried to get a game going through the site, but it fell apart. She plays Roll 20 mostly because the local play groups (that I’ve considered joining) are not very open to new members. What did I say? Some geeks are just very protective of their culture. We may have ultimately won the war, but those battle wounds from wedgies and swirlies run deep.
We discussed World of Warcraft briefly. We both came to the conclusion that 5 million others have. Fifteen dollars a month isn’t much, but it is more than we are willing to pay grinding the same content with different skins over and over again. During this part of the conversation, one of my own students interjected with, “You game? I never expected that.”
That, folks, as I often feel the need to explain, is the point of the article. People who play games are all around us. Geek culture has infiltrated pop culture to such a degree that the two are virtually indistinguishable. However, the willingness to admit that you play games or read comics in mixed company is still low. As I said, the scars of the past run deep.
Nevertheless, as we talked about on the most recent podcast, we are the first generation to grow up with video game and, to an extent, games like D&D. Previous generations mostly only had comic books as their escape (and later D&D) if they didn’t quite fit the mold. Some parents and teachersdid a good job of branding both comic books and RPGs as only for kids or otherwise unsuitable for polite society. The same was almost done for video games. Thankfully, video games came of age at a time when the internet was gaining popularity. Geeks that once suffered in silence alone or in their small circle of friends could now congregate and battle as a team. It may have been this development that also saved comics and led to the explosion of comic themed pop culture we see today.
Why, then, do we find ourselves still unwilling to admit our enjoyment of these things? Sure, some people look down on them as diversions or a complete waste of time. Nerds and geeks are shunned from some groups and jokes of social awkwardness are widely accepted. I actually don’t mind the jokes much. Some of them are even funny and are the basis of a once upon a time very funny TV show. I haven’t checked in lately, but I hear that its not the same, which is to be expected after so many years.
What I’m trying to say is that we’re everywhere. You never know when or where you will meet another comic fan, Magic player, Twitch chat user (actually, they are easy to spot, especially Hearthstone viewers, by their casual use of words like “Kappa” in every day conversation), XBox or Playstation owner, WoW addict, or other kindred spirit. We are Legion. We are many.
Fly your geek flag high and proud.
Articles, podcasts, videos, and more about games and occasionally pop culture