Tag Archives: toys

Dungeons and STR+2

I’ve been thinking about Dungeons and Dragons lately. It’s an interesting social phenomenon.

(Before I go any farther, I should make it clear that I’m not out to bash D&D. I earned my gamer cred a long time ago, and I don’t have anything to prove to anybody. I learned D&D on literally Dungeons and Dragons. None of this "Advanced" stuff. And 3rd edition? We dreamed of a third edition! We wondered if we’d ever see one the same way I imagine the ancient Norse wondered when Ragnarok would happen. Sure, it was coming. One day. Some day. But today? Nah.)

What’s most interesting to me is that when I sit down to look at D&D now, I don’t see a strong role-playing system at all. At least not in the way we typically mean role-playing. What I see is a good gaming system. There’s a subtle difference. The D&D system has very little to commend it outside of two factors: A) easy mathematical modeling and 2) modularily. The first creates the second, though the second is a legitimate boon to gamers.

Think about it. What’s the most well-known icon in D&D from a functional player’s point of view?

(I disregard an observer’s point of view because in my general experience, outsiders to the D&D experience have little to no idea how the vast majority of D&D players play the game in practice. Most seem to hold an idealized vision of D&D which does exist to some extent, but generally falls far short of the reality.)

No, not the dragon. Players rarely fight actual dragons. Not the wizard, though the fireball spell comes in the top 5 archetypal icons. The beholder, with its giant central eye and numerous eyestalks, has made impressive ground in many minds. But I think all of those fall short of D&D’s ultimate symbol.

+1 long sword.

It’s every young player’s dream. The magic sword! You get +1 to-hit on a 20-sided die, and it does +1 damage (If I recall correctly, the base is rolled on an eight-sided die, so it’s a fairly large improvement). Whee! It doesn’t sound like a lot, I know. But hey, it’s just a start. There are +2 swords, +3 swords, and… dare we dream? +4 and +5 swords out there! Right. Does anybody think anybody walked around medieval France in search of a +1 sword? Yet D&D players do so with frightening regularity.

The +1 sword has no basis in mythology. It has no basis in legend. It has no basis in any folk tradition whatsoever. It’s a sword that an engineer would love. Precisely quantified, predictable, replicatable across settings, and very easy to explain.

Dungeons and Dragons may have given the players the tools to create a role-playing game, but I believe that examining the rules shows an attitude and implied culture that doesn’t care about the role-playing whatsoever. Let’s see it for what it really was: It was the attempt to create a video game before the computer technology for actual video games existed. All of the elements were there. Easy mathematical modeling, an incremental reward system (gold, XP points, treasure), and bosses. Somewhere in our collective unconscious, we yearned for the ability to put the math to work to crunch the numbers and say, "You know… If I spent all my proficiency points on dart skill, I can throw three every turn. I get three extra damage on each… So I do more damage than a long sword! Sweet. Load me up, Scotty."

(In my limited experience, this represents the general line of thought expressed by many/most D&D players.)

Maybe we should be happy. It wasn’t enough that math could conquer our world. We had to invent whole new ones for it to conquer, too.


I’m thinking about putting together a PVR
PC from an old PIII 866 with 768Mb RAM. Eventually, I will probably buy a Hauppauge
because it has hardware MPEG2
encoding and decoding. In the meantime, though, I’m stuck with a crappy ATI
for video capture. I do have a Creative
Labs DXR3
(aka Sigma
Designs Hollywood Plus
) MPEG2 decoder board. Unfortunately, the PVR software
I’d like to use, MythTV, doesn’t
support the DXR3 for video output. Do any of you fine folks know of either a way
to make DXR3 work in MythTV or PVR software that supports the DXR3? Thanks in advance.

Green Chri$tma$

Miracle on 34th Street endeared Macy’s to celebrators of Christmas, at least
the secular holiday.
Now, Macy’s is saying “bah humbug” by refusing to use the phrase “Merry
Christmas” in their advertisements and store displays

It doesn’t bother me too much that Macy’s won’t acknowledge Christmas. I don’t expect
a secular organization to do so, especially in today’s litigious society. What bothers
me is the rampant consumerism among Christians.

Companies like Macy’s shouldn’t be making millions of dollars off this or any holiday.
The gift-giving at Christmas has gotten way out of control. Christians are far too
greedy and attached to the “things” of this world. I understand the importance
of expressing our love and appreciation for friends, family, and neighbors, but
I think Christians could find better ways to spend money at Christmas. Remember
Matthew 25? There are many who are hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned, and/or
lonely. The millions we waste on frivolities could be used to help them. Christ
calls us to give until it hurts. This is unlikely to go over well with some people,
but Jesus knew that when he told us that we must hate our families to follow Him.
There are countless other verses from Scripture that I’m sure you know that call
followers of Christ to reject the impermanent things of this world and embrace the
permanence of the Lord’s kingdom.

In past years I’ve given out the typical toys, gadets, etc that one expects for
Christmas, but this year will be different. I’ve been feeling increasingly convicted
to live more simply and give more to those who have less. My gifts this year will
start to reflect this conviction. I will only be purchasing gifts that are needful
to my friends and loved ones. Next year, I hope to make gifts and/or donate to charities
in others’ names. It won’t be easy, because I’m a selfish, sinful person, but I
really want to get away from greedy consumerism. I really think all Christians need
to think more carefully about why they go into debt every year buying wants when
so many go without needs.

The tile of this post, by the way, refers to a song by Stan Freberg. Read the lyrics