Back to the Roots

Having the wisdom of a sage comes with its downsides. Namely, it’s a lot harder to broaden your horizons. There’s a certain joy in going outside your comfort zone. And when you’ve already got a knowledge of so much, it’s harder to find it. But lately, I’ve gotten that. I’ve found something that properly stretches my sphere.


I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Which is not a completely new thing. I’ve dabbled in it, with a group of friends who were all new to it with me. And I’ve done a fair bit of tabletop gaming in more structured games. This is my first time taking D&D seriously, however. I’ve got a ‘character’. I’m in the middle of a ‘campaign’. I am getting ‘involved’ with ‘other people’ to the point that they express disappointment when I’m not able to make it.

Yeah, I never thought I’d see the day.

There’s a lot of modern gaming that has its foundations in tabletop, of which the originator is good old D&D. The version I’ve been playing is a few editions removed from the classic that everything sprang root from, but even so, there’s a lot of familiar ground there. My gaming experience actually leaves me feeling relatively comfortable in D&D. I’m able to analyze the options available to me, navigate the rules in play, strategize, etc., the same way I would in a similarly-styled video game.

Almost like the good old Vidcons and D&D are cousins or something.

For that matter, I wonder how much they continue to influence each other. The similarities are way too strong for them to have been a straight divergent growth, two branches starting at one point then heading in two completely different directions. And I’m not educated enough in the matter of D&D to track its development. Hell, I haven’t played any of the ‘good’ versions of the game, which according to the internet, seems to be whatever one OP isn’t playing at the moment. Even so, there’s some cues, some balances I’m picking up that do seem to be remarkably familiar, specifically from video games that came out well after D&D had it’s big impact.
It’d be easy to say that D&D still continues to inspire video games. And honestly, that’s probably very true. I can’t imagine it’s a one way relationship, though. They may be in different mediums, but any developer worth it’s salt is going to be picking up inspiration whenever it arises, no matter whether it comes from within or without its sphere. I’d be very, very surprised if video games didn’t inspire tabletop the way tabletop has inspired videogames.

But then could you imagine if D&D was up for review in video game publications? The game millions have passionately enjoyed for decades? “The graphics leave much to be desired. Success or failure in any given move seems arbitrary, and player skill doesn’t seem to have much place here. Also, the main character is completely off putting. Who would think of putting someone like that in the game? 6 out of 10.”

I’m having a good time with it, though. Lame newbie though I am. It’s fun being out of your depth every once in a while.

6 responses to “Back to the Roots

  1. I’ve never played a tabletop RPG, though thanks to playing Baldur’s Gate and Planescape: Torment as well as watching other people talk about it in videos, I’ve sort of absorbed the rules of Dungeons and Dragons through osmosis.

    Speaking of which, it’s interesting going back to the original Final Fantasy and seeing just how much of an influence Dungeons and Dragons had on it. The magic level system is a lot like memorizing spells upon resting, and there were a lot of other elements that seem like they’d belong in a typical D&D campaign, yet seem out of place in what Final Fantasy would ultimately become. Now it has such a distinct identity, it’s hard to believe one had an impact on the other. Then again, being the first commercially available RPG, Dungeons and Dragons was ground zero for the genre in electronic form; early CRPGs such as Ultima and Wizardry also have residual elements of it – especially the early installments.

    • It’s surprising how easy it is to do. I’ve never played much D&D aside from a few brief practice sessions and a failed run at Baldur’s Gate and an old GBA game, yet, just like you said, I absorbed so much through osmosis. I’m not even playing the same edition as those games, yet D&D has become such a part of the collective dialogue among certain circles it’s easy to find.

      Oddly enough, the magic system carried over into a lot of games. None of them identified with it nearly so strongly as Final Fantasy, which even dives back into it occasionally in the more modern games, such as with Final Fantasy VIII. But if you know what to look for, you can find elements of it plenty of places. For example, Dark Souls uses something very similar to old school D&D’s Vancian magic system. But I do think that one of the things that always worked so well with the Final Fantasy series was their willingness to take established conventions and experiment with them while still leaving them familiar, and you can see that even as early as the first game, with the way it treated its source materials.

  2. I’ve wanted to get into Dungeons and Dragons for a while now, but unfortunately I can’t seem to find people in my area with similar interests (shockingly). Dragon Age: Origins was my first foray into RPGs, which got me into Baldur’s Gate, which got me thinking about D&D.

    I’m interested to see how table-top RPGs and the video game ones have influenced each other, too. I appreciate Red Metal’s brief rundown; it seems like at some point there were more similarities, but then the two mediums spiraled away from each other. Hm…

    • Yeah, I don’t personally know anybody within driving distance with similar interests either. I had to resort to the internet. Ended up breaking my rule about not particularly enjoying playing with people I don’t already know, but I’m enjoying it more here than I usually do in videogames. Ended up part of a pretty fun group of people from all around the continent.

      • That’s really awesome! I didn’t realize you could play a tabletop game online. Silly me. And I’m glad you found some cool people to play with.

        I’ll have to check that out for sure!

      • is where I’ve been doing it. It’s free, relatively easy to use (aside from setting up your character, which I needed a bit of help with), and I’ve been having a good time with it thus far. Of course, you’ll need to get the D&D guidebooks or whatever game you’re looking to play, which does take a fair bit of investment, and although I got in to the first game I applied for, there does seem to be more players than there are open games, so if I was just really lucky, I don’t know how competitive it might be. But, then again, both myself and the person who introduced it to me are in good ongoing games, and it wasn’t all to hard for us to find a group there, so if that experience is the pattern, you might be in good showing there.

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