What’s Dungeons and Dragons?

July 28th, 2009

So an interesting thing happened to me the other day. Well, probably not THAT interesting, of itself, but it got me thinking. Some of our new neighbours came round for a drink, brought their son with them, who I’d guess is about 10 or 11 years old. I forget exactly how it came up, but he was talking about what he was in to (guitar playing and xbox, mainly) and I said something like, oh, you know, all I did at your age was play dungeons and dragons. I was prepared for various responses, such as, “dungeons and dragons sucks ass, man, what I like is getting girls PREGNANT”, or, “dungeons and dragons, that’s WEAK! I’m into KNIFE CRIME.” I was not, however, prepared for what he actually did, which was to give me this baffled look and say:

“What’s Dungeons and Dragons?”

Oh, the horror. I was massively into role-playing games as a kid, in fact it was probably my main leisure activity between the ages of about 10 and 14. Alright, 9 and 16. Alright, 8 and 18. Some D&D;, early on, then later a lot of MERP (Middle Earth Role Play, noobs) and some Runequest, along with sundry others, and, as a GM (gamesmaster, noobs), Warhammer Fantasy Role Play. All this stuff was a big influence on me, in fact it might be fair to say that fantasy filtered through the lens of roleplaying in the form of endless rather cheesy supplements and adventures was as big an influence as actual written fantasy fiction. Gamesmastering, in particular, has an awful lot in common with storytelling of the fictional sort. It certainly did in my games, where characters were barely presented with the illusion of choice, let alone actual choice.

It’s probably not much of a revelation to observe that many of today’s leading writers of fantasy share my deep roots in RPGs. Off the top of my head I believe (and forgive my ignorance if I’m wrong) that the worlds in which Ray Feist and Steven Erikson write were both originally gaming worlds. Scott Lynch wrote roleplaying supplements before selling a novel. I do not doubt that many more, if not most, of today’s fantasy writers have more than a passing acquaintance with a d20.

Now I guess I’d always assumed that dice and paper roleplaying would gradually wither as computer-based roleplaying games became more and more immersive and effective. But on my recent trip to Scandinavia, where I visited a good few very impressive F&SF; bookshops, I was assured that some areas of the old RPG scene are still in rude commercial health. I’m now wondering, though, whether a lot of that stuff gets bought by old soldiers like me, and Scott Lynch, and Ray Feist, wanting to read them while having a poo to see where the games have gone, rather than actually to run them in a proper session with, like, actual players (they always were the most irritating part of RPGs anyway, weren’t they, though?).

My neighbours question of “what’s D&D;?” certainly implies RPGs have nothing like the wide cultural purchase they used to. In my day, there were plenty of kids who wouldn’t have touched them with a shitty stick. Who’d have played sports, or played in the garden, or gone out on their bikes or some other Chaotic Evil activity instead. Who’d have thrown stones at kids who played D&D;, stole their glasses and laughed when blood came out of their heads. But even if they hated, scorned, and secretly feared it, they knew what it was.

I guess my train of thought creakily goes in this direction – if dice and paper roleplaying dies out, what will be the equivalent influences on the next generation of fantasy writers? Video game equivalents seem the obvious thing. World of Warcraft and the like. Now far be it from me to bemoan the influence of computer games, as I’ve been a keen fan my whole life, though not necessarily of the online variety. But there’s a world of difference between the imaginative effort of summoning up a world and characters out of one’s own head (not to mention the social effort of dealing with other players) and a computer-based world where the detail is already coded and can be viewed from every angle (not to mention that the social involvement rarely goes further than OMG YOU ******* NOOB PUSH THE ******* BUTTON YOU ******* NOOB **** **** NOOB **** DO YOU WANT TO BUY A SWORD?). Undoubtedly, playing computer based RPGs is just an awful lot more passive than having to gamesmaster yourself.

I find that idea oddly worrying. Well, not in a – OH MY GOD WITHIN SIX MONTHS WE’LL ALL BE LIVING LIKE IN CORMACK MCCARTHY’S THE ROAD IF WE’RE ALIVE AT ALL – sort of a way, but a bit worrying nonetheless. The creativity you need to gamesmaster is a useful step on the way to the creativity you need to write. Without GMing myself, I’m not sure I’d ever have thought about the possibility of taking the next step and trying to write fiction. I daresay there’s nothing one can do about it – except to hope that the computer generated fantasy worlds that replace RPGs are as clever and innovative as they can be, rather than the rather ill-conceived smorgasbord of cliches we often get served up (I’m looking at you, Oblivion). And hey, there are an awful lot of other ways for writers to find their creativity (like reading other people’s books, for instance).

But still. Can I shed just a little tear for The Keep on the Borderlands? Can YOU?

Posted in games by Joe Abercrombie on July 28th, 2009. Tags: ,

51 comments so far

  • innokenti says:

    Speaking as a role-player, and, indeed, a Larper (Live-action role-playing for those who don't know), it doesn't look like it's in too much trouble.

    Based on my local role-playing games society (Oxford University RPGSoc) which engages in table-top and live-action and almost everything else, there are always interested newcomers. Each year we get a varying number of new recruits, and though there is the occasional dry year, there are always much more the next.

    As you say, a lot more is happening on the video-game scene these days, but alas there is generally less actual role-playing going on than I would like. So I don't know what will happen… but for the near future I feel that we are safe.

    (Joe, you ought to do more role-playing, you know – in all that spare time you have away from novel-writing. Ahem… And you should also try some live-action stuff – there are some games out there that would be right up your alley in terms of setting and whatnot, and it isn't all about hacking up monsters. As you might know.

    Incidentally, you might add to your list Adrian Tchaikovsky (of Empire in Black and Gold and Dragonfly Falling fame) who is a role-player and larper. And an excellent author. And lawyer. I haven't had experience of the latter.)

  • โˆ… says:

    While online 'roleplaying' games has exploded in popularity and completely dwarfed the old pen and paper, I don't think it has led to fewer PnP players.

    There are notably three large commercial and a wide variety of lesser roleplaying systems / worlds where material is being produced, bought and used still. The three large (as far as I can tell) being D&D; (now in its 4th iteration), World of Darkness (with its vampires and werewolves and what have you) and the Warhammer (+40k) franchise.

    As you observed there is a very much alive and kicking roleplaying environment in scandinavia. In fact your visit overlapped with Norway's largest games conventions (not your daddys 'con) where PnP roleplaying is perhaps the largest game-type.
    Now could it be that scandinavians are strange and more into roleplaying than the rest of the world? Well, maybe (I don't know), but there is a real market in both america and the UK or else large english companies wouldn't spend so much money making all these books.

    Now I know for sure that people, now in their 20's play PnP's, but is this the case with the next generation as well? We can't know yet, but if Hasbro (WotC – DnD), Fantasy Flight (Warhammer RPG) and White Wolf (WoD) have anything to say about it, they will be picking up this generation as well.

    As you pointed out, online computer games generally don't have the creative role of gamemaster built into it (except of course for Neverwinter Nights) and for this very reason I believe that they won't properly displace PnP's. At least not unless they tap into that creativity. Kids love stuff that challenges their creativity, always have, always will. That's why LEGO is still in business.

    Sorry for the awful rant, it was totally uncalled for, I'm just a passionate roleplayer with withdrawal symptoms. You should have stopped by Arcon while in Oslo, you missed an unforgettable game of Call of Cthulu.

  • manmela says:

    I never got into D&D;, despite trying a couple of times. I did, and still have, a very large action figure collection. Except in those days I used to play with them, and have plot lines so convoluted that I mapped them out for the next year and a half for the neighbourhood kids I used to play with. I miss that creativity, but am a little too old now to play with toys.

    I do now play Warcraft, but more as a procrastination activity to keep me from writing. It is possible to immerse yourself in the world and the only time I came close to writing fan-fiction was when I wrote up the previous night's exploits of our little 4-man guild as a story to email out the next night.

  • I don't think paper and dice games are all /that/ dead.

    My first role-playing experience was online, once I had (barely) reached adulthood. I searched for RPG, hoping to find a Baldur's Gate style strategy game somewhere and found a prose role-playing game instead. From there I learned more about paper and dice. As it was more about acting and less about game mastering, I also learned a lot about characters and conflict.

    The internet is able to provide more opportunities for people to discover D&D;, Warhammer, Magic the Gathering and all the other great fantasy-related hobbies out there.

  • Matthew says:

    I saw a copy of Against the Giants the other day and desperately wished I was 13 again-which is not a thing a healthy person would wish to be.

    My favorite memories of playing RPGs came from someone doing something completely unexpected or hilariously foolish. I wonder if the discrete nature of the structure and choices available in on-line gaming will ever offer those types of experiences: things that you can use to mock your best friends with campaign after campaign, and arguments about bizarre situations not covered by the DM guide…..

  • etrangere says:

    The industry of roleplaying games is indeed pretty badly off. Lots of games are still made, and more inventively than ever, and with the ability to sell .pdf there's a lot of small games on the scene, but that doesn't recruit new players very easily, so your average roliste population is indeed much older than it was back in the days.
    OTOH, lots of people do still roleplay, on the internet, without official games or anything. Roleplaying characters and stories is one big activity in fandom, and is done by perhaps even more people than do roleplaying games. I'm not sure what that says for the future of SFF, but hey, while I love tabletop RPG and would hate to see that hobby dying off, I don't think there's cause to worry about how it'll affect books writing.

  • Heh. Interesting that you posted this right after my email mentioning D&D.; Nonetheless, you're absolutely right. Tabletop RPGs just don't have the appeal they used to. Kids are more willing to play a video game that can replicate the experience than they are willing to use their imaginations. It's a shame.

  • Anonymous says:

    You just need to make a Twilight RPG, that will fix everything, man.

  • barfly says:

    also grew up hunched over the gaming table, spent my teens this way and loved it. terrible to put it this way, some would say, but it was probably the one of the most influential things i've ever done in my life, right up there with going to university and eschewing violent crime. years, many years, later it's probably the thing that drives me to grind away at trying to write something worthy.

    like everybody else i've done the CRPG and MMORPG thing and, like Joe, i found most of them a pale shadow of the AD&D; experience. a few managed to make a decent blip on the radar but precious few.

    how will this affect future writings? damn good question but i suspect what we're seeing in the dark-fantasy/urban-fantasy tide has something of the future in it. i'm guessing it's a general diversification + dilution thing. put it this way, few kids know what an umber-hulk is but they all know a hobbit or an elf when they see one.

    that said i do miss the old days when everyone i knew had a bag of dice and i could make money painting figs for other players. not that that was the point but it was a hell of a fun time way to be an addict. if i ever do get published one of the credits for my work will have to be my old DM for the marvelous world he created for us to run around in and live our 'second life' without an internet connection in sight.

  • Susanne says:

    I didn't even know that tabletop RPGs existed until well into my beer-prolonged university career. (I blame growing up on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall – I guess general exposure must have been severely limited when I was young, otherwise surely I'd have learned of them somehow.)

    So I started RPGing on the old computer and have, predictably, ended up on WoW. I'd actually love to try out PnPs but I wouldn't even know where to start. I once peeped in the window of a Games Workshop – all those young boys looking up and out at me with such surprise (at my age, I thought) that I turned and ran.

    But judging from the other commentors, it can't all be doom and gloom!

  • Fordy says:

    Fear not, Joe. The death of the pen and paper RPG industry has been talked about for years, but let me assure you it's very much alive. I work for Mongoose Publishing (based in Swindon, not a million miles away from you I believe), the UK's largest publisher of p&p; RPGs, and business is pretty healthy as far as I can see. Our two main lines, Traveller and RuneQuest, (yes we now have the licence to produce it) are selling extremely well, and the convention scene is as popular as it's ever been both here, in Europe and in the US. It's true that it's difficult to tempt new blood with all the shiny computer gimmickry that's currently on the market, and that's one of the reasons we generally deal with licenced products (we're just about to release a Judge Dredd game, along with things like Lone Wolf, Conan, and our sister company is about to release the Dr Who RPG). However, our open days still see a large variety of people turning up, from the old and grey, to the youngsters who've brought their mums.

    You'll have to bob along one day and we'll talk about licencing The First Law RPG. Does a RuneQuest supplement sound good?

  • Elena says:

    RE the list of things you say during online RPGs: you forgot pwn.

  • Jared says:

    I think they're pretty dead. Or, at the very least, entering some sort of comatose metamorphic state, and have yet to emerge with the new genre-altering business model.

    I play, and I know a bunch of other players (mostly I play with them), and I can always find more, but the amount of new players coming in organically has reduced pretty drastically over the past decade.

    Probably the biggest piece of evidence is in the recent reformatting of Dungeons & Dragons itself. The new Fourth Edition emulates the vocabulary and strategy of video games. There's a conscious marketing move to appeal to (video) gamers.

    I'm not sure what the answer is. I'm happy that Wizards is actually trying to recapture the market (someone has got to TRY), but I don't think they've got it solved.

    My worry, to echo Mr. Abercrombie, is that video games *think* differently. The foundation of video games is winning & losing, whereas the foundation of good roleplaying is telling a great story.

  • Masrock says:

    I still have the D&D; rules – I was a DM, Masrock was my favourite NPC that I irritated the hell out of the PC's (not personal computers but Playing Characters.) I still have Keep of the borderlands and a copy of the Temple of elemental Evil amongst the other modules hiding in my loft. I had hoped to get a few friends together for a session on my 40th birthday for old times sake, but beer and my PS3 with Rock Band won out in the end.

  • Anonymous says:

    Have you read "The Elfish Gene" by Mark Barrowcliffe? – slightly uncomfortable reading about a youthful D&D; obsession. I really really wanted to get into it, but sadly no-one else I knew was interested, so it passed me by..
    Swindon Nick

  • Iain says:


    In the days when we were younger 'uns we had ZX Spectrums/Commodore 64s and Amstrads. It took games 10 minutes to load a game. Now our pukey teenagers have Xboxs, Playstations and PCs to deliver the instant satisfaction that we could only dream of. Is it any wonder they don't bother with a good RP adventure?

    MERP, oh that brings back fond memories. As does Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay – Shadows over Bogenhafen, Death on the Reik, Power Behind the Throne – cracking adventures one and all.

    I was never really into D&D; as it seemed to be all about killing and not a great deal about questing/roleplaying.

    I even remember my Warhammer character – Ragnar Erikson. He started out as a pit-fighter and ended up as the Baron of Middenheim. Very Conan like.

    Then girls and a fascination with booze took over for some years…

  • maxxxteamup says:

    I'm of the young sprite age of 22, so I've been given the unfortunate hand of living in a world almost devoid of table-top RPGs. I picked up Final Fantasy VII at a young age and nearly crapped my pants. It took me years to find out that what I was playing wasn't what I should have been calling an RPG.

    I played D&D; one time when I was about 14, with my cousin, a good friend Austin, and a weird kid I can't really remember. I remember generating a character via computer (i assume this is a new generation addition to D&D;) and tried to get into it. Unfortunately for me I've been tainted by console RPGs and couldn't get into it. Our GM was my friend, and if you knew him, you'd know he shouldn't be a GM, he made alot of wiener jokes.

    you bring up a good point though about the fear of where fantasy literature will be going down the road. This Dark Urban/Pretty Vampire/Tween Fantasy garbage has me a little worried. I'm about to put my finger in the proverbial closing car door here but I think we all have Harry Potter to blame. (here's the finger in the door part) I like HP. When that came out I was very young and wasn't as immersed into literature as i am now, and I do consider it my "door way drug" into reading. I still consider it one of my favorite readings due to the fact, TO ME, it created characters I could associate with via age bracket, and it allowed my imagination to flourish. (and move onto bigger and better things mind you.) but I look at what it's done to popular media. Hell, I date a girl who looks exactly like a character from the book, mind you, I refer to the movie version… the shame.

    Fantasy as we know it will be changing due to that series. (I bet some of you can see how it has already.) Younger people don't read, plain and simple, they require the internet for the mental stimulation. They require the TV and internet to tell them what to read.

    I fear that Glen Cook's THE BLACK COMPANY will be replaced by (enter name here)'s THE TEENAGE WEREWOLF FAIRY or something equal to that of WoW…

    Please, someone tell me this won't happen, and everything will be alright.

    and to end this in some form of ironic thought, i was playing OBLIVION while reading your book, while reading you blog… You stab me Joe, in the heart.

  • monoman says:

    Most of the RPG franchises have migrated online, and back again (e.g. the WoW RPG.) Nothing wrong with that. Creativity just manifests itself differently these days – fan fiction, modding etc.
    Games Workshop products are still massively popular tho (I play 40k and WH.) Although I've always thought it's a hugely idiosyncratic presence on the high street: a shop selling *nothing but* wargaming systems and miniatures set in an extremely dark and violent fictional world. Next door to Greggs' Bakers, Superdrug et al.

  • I'm still playing GURPS twice a month, sad old git that I am…

  • Elena says:

    maxxxteamup (sorry Joe, that (1) i'm not talking to you and (2) i'm jumping in here),

    i would disagree that harry potter is the start of all this teen werewolf stuff. i'm 26 (barely a cougar when it comes to you!), and nice vampires and werewolves were already around when i was reading YA stuff in the early 90s. maybe Fear street and christopher pike (which both had PLENTY of paranormal stuff in at least some books) didn't get as much publicity from parents as HP has, because they really weren't as universally appealing, but everyone i knew read them–and i am still the only one who also reads fantasy. none of my younger cousins who read HP but weren't already reading fantasy have started because of it. none of my friends who got really into HP have picked up fantasy afterward. from my experience with it, it's a series that everyone likes that happens to be fantasy, not something that inspires people to go read fantasy because fantasy is clearly awesome. i think they like it in SPITE of it being fantasy; i don't think it's a gateway drug.

    also, the rise of urban fantasy in my opinion can be traced back to Buffy (the series and its popularity even among non-fantasy readers/viewers) and a couple key writers who were doing something different at the time (mid-90s) and got really popular and sparked a lot of knockoffs. or even anne rice, maybe. i think what you're seeing on the shelves is a pandering to a relatively new addition to fantasy readers, and i don't think UF is much of a gateway to "real" fantasy (yes i am a snob, UF is not really fantasy to me), either. trust me when i say that it gives me the sads to see how much shelf space is devoted to it, but then again it gives my hard-SF-loving partner the sads to see how much of the section is devoted to dragons and flaming swords….

    anyway, to make an actual point out of this rant, (1) i don't think that the recent popularity of certain teen franchises is going to ultimately matter too much to the fantasy market in general, because i think the people who like fantasy enough to create it will be drawn in regardless of those series and anyone who just likes those series will re-write them…for the same audience, and (2) i don't know that the absence of true RPGs will ruin the future of the genre, either–i mean, what-ever did the people writing fantasy in the 80s, who didn't grow up with such games, do for inspiration? influences can change but i think overall the biggest influence on most writers is other writers. just my 2…hundred…cents….

  • innokenti says:

    Jared makes a very interesting comment that cuts to the heart of the difference between a p&p;/live-action and video-game role-playing.

    In non-video-game RPGs it is really true that it's the 'taking part', not the winning that counts. It's about the entire experience, it's about a situation where a damn good story is told. Having your entire party wiped out in a thrilling and entertaining manner can be (and for me often is, especially as GM) even better than rescuing the princess and getting all the gold.

    Video-games are built on completely different foundations, even if they are borrowing from tabletop RPGs. They're only borrowing the window-dressing, not the spirit of it all.

    An interesting deviation, however, may be present in Left 4 Dead, the co-operative zombie-slaying game. I've been playing it a lot, and the interesting thing is that, when you are playing Versus mode (when two teams of 4 take turns to be first the human survivours and then the zombies hunting them), losing, and losing in an exciting way, is no less fun. Sure, you don't get to win, and the other team may have scored more points than you, but simply losing a level doesn't end the game and when you lose the game… you come out of it more or less the same as the winners. Except that you haven't won. But you've probably had fun desperately trying to save your comrades from the zombie horde even as you hear the sound of the tank about to release your tasty brain from the captivity of your skull…

    I don't think making losing fun is necessarily beyond video-games. The key is not to fall into the trap of making losing over-punishing or meaningless (i.e. imposing crippling penalties or supremely mild penalties that let you carry on as before). Add a little pizazz to losing, and… well… we'll see.

  • Maurice says:

    I started with 3rd Edition so I don't classify as an old school player of DnD, but I do agree that even until recently it was very well known. I went to school in Zimbabwe and event the bullies there knew it was reason enough for them to hit me.

    I do think its relevance is dying down. There are too many other things out there to distract them, but I don't really see potential players as being lost. Yes, we have what I would identify as games without an real soul or life like Oblivion, but then we have games to counter that like The Witcher and although they aren't sitting around a table they are still getting their creativity fueled.

    In order for it to survive though, Wizard will need to step up and integrate more of DnD online if not it will totally lose to it's spiritual successor, the MMORPG.

  • franti says:

    You know, I've thought of myself as a nerd, dweeb, geek, loser, et al. my whole life (probably from using phrases like "et al.", which alienated me even when I was playing sportas and getting girls pregnant), but I've only recently, at the sprightly age of 22, started playing D&D.; And I really, really wish I had started sooner. On the plus side, there IS still a huge following of it, and even though I can probably never know what it was like back in the good old days, I can just find an elderly D&D; player and listen to him tell us about how rhagodessa's way-back-when were so much more powerful, and how they totally nerfed the Bard class.

    But don't worry Joe, I'll keep this alive if I have to murder every single WoW player I can.

  • drey says:

    I don't think that D&D; will go the way of the dodo, whatever the D&D; purists may say about whatever-version-the-rules-are-on-now… The hubby used to play in HS. I went mudding in college. But I did play a D&D; game IRL, with a GM & everything! Of course, I probably would've had an easier time if I wasn't a gnome.

    We have friends who still run and play D&D.; We have friends who do off-shoots, like Ars Magica. I have found that I'm not so good in the taking-part-while-in-character, because I want to do what I want to do, and tend to forget the character's limitations (Alzheimer's, here I come), but I do like to listen in on the shenanigans when the boys come over & spend an evening hashing out whatever they're messing around with for the day.

  • AJ says:

    Played way too much Rolemaster myself (I'm pretty sure it was a MERP product) back in the 80s and 90s. Most of the group I gamed with still keep in touch. We all still have our geeky die bags filled with a veritable arsenal of 10 and 20-sided goodness.

    Ugh. How I lived through all of the pizza, soda and fumbled rolls I'll never know.

    I do play some online games today (much to the bewilderment of my inlaws, who think someone who is nearly 40 should be growing fat in the LaZBoy, not in front of the computer), but nothing in the gaming world–and I mean nothing–can compare to the sweat you can work up by waiting to see if the GM's dice are going to be in the favor of your level 6 ranger, or in the favor of that angry, slathering, level 7 orc standing over you with a battle axe.

    Oh, and if the orc wins, you're dead. No corpse runs, no insta-healing potions. When we played, if your character died, you might just as well feed it to the garbage.

    Good times.

    Now, where did put all of those old Rolemaster books???

  • rattsu says:

    Well, while pen and paper RPG games still exist, most RP I've heard off these days is going on in message boards on the net.

    I've RP'd since they were released in sweden, but I haven't touched the pen and paper stuff in ages. In fact, I think that the online RP scene is an even better builder for prospective authors since it needs written language to work at all, and you need to set scenes and not just say what your character does.

    Of course strangely enough, this area seems to be mostly populated by women, up to about 80% in the places I frequent.

    Also, I am just wondering when the first authors that started out by writing fanfiction will be published…

    Maybe the problem is more for boys than girls really.

  • Delfoss Draco,twelfth-level thief with an 18 charisma and not much else to recommend him. At your service.

  • Kelmar says:

    I still try and run games even at 33. Still love it but with 2 kids, kind of hard to find the time. I am hoping they are players when they get older ๐Ÿ™‚

    Regarding Feist… I read the first two sets when I was very young and recently looked on his blog to see what was going on.

    JOE! Do not ever write on your blog how you fell for a stripper and she broke your heart. Do not spend 4 blog posts on it.

    I'm just saying…

  • Susanne says:

    @Kelmar : You made me go look. At Feist's blog. I hate you.

  • Kelmar says:

    Sorry for the hate Susanne! I just had to make sure that I can read Joe's books down the line.

    I can't go back and even reread Feist until that whole debacle is forgotten which may never happen ๐Ÿ™

    How can I read about a smart, heroic people when the author is so … well, best not to bad mouth.


  • David Borgstrรถm says:

    All these comments rather cements Joe's point, do they not? We are all at least 20+…
    With that said, I don't think the old pen & paper games will die. At least not here in Scandinavia, where it still thrives. In Sweden those under 25 even get money from the goverment if we play rpg's (and other games) and report it! ๐Ÿ˜€ That's great for growing gaming communities.

  • enjai says:

    On the brightside online gamers are starting to have a lot more control over their worlds so i think it would only be a matter of time before people are creating their own worlds using online templates. It's probably happening already but I deliberately avoid online gaming as Travian almost destroyed my life ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Noel says:

    I'm an old school role player as well; haven't played for a long year though.

    Reading the First Law trilogy, when Jezal first sees a shanka, the picture of the Orcs by DCS III in the first AD&D; Monster Manual popped into my head, and I started to feel certain that this was written by an RP geek.

    Awesome to read something that came from the mind of fantasy RPer that ain't pixie shit.

    Keep putting these books out mate and I'll keep chuking my hard earned at you.

    Well, the little portion that gets to you anyway.

  • James says:

    Yup, as a 17 year old in the UK, sad to say, Joe, that in trying to get together a D&D; group, I had to spend long, laborious hours explaining what an RPG was to them, let alone Dungeons and Dragons specifically. Then, the reply in general was "Sounds hard. Why not use a computer instead?"


    Still, there are a fair few groups out there if you know where to find them. And the fact that nobody knows what it is has the added effect that people aren't afraid of 'coming out the D&D; closet' so to speak, as they used to be…

  • Lateralus says:

    I wouldn't quite throw role-playing out the door for up and coming writers quite yet. There's a third form of RPing based off of DnD that takes a drastically different direction than today's video game RPs do. Popular in chat rooms and forums is a form of role playing in which everything is entirely hand written. Game masters set the environment and initial setting, players are responsible for creating characters and then interacting with one another to help the story along. I'm not sure if you've ever heard of round-robins but it's very similar in approach to that. Each turn can take anywhere from a paragraph to several pages worth of individual story-telling. Since it's so versatile you'll also see subjects and settings for just about any genre. (If you want an off the wall example, I used to play a serial killer within the Foot Clan for a Ninja Turtle game, this one was definitely not for kids.)

    Anyways if the truly advanced and talented members of this form of gaming don't rise and take the field, I'm not sure who would.

  • Ariadne says:

    Completely unsurprised to learn you're a gamer–I just finished the First Law Trilogy and though the environment is very different, the [insert profanity here] you put your characters through reminds me very much of WFRP.

  • Slynt says:

    Interesting post. As a teacher I always make sure that my kids know what roleplaying games are, and those who find it interesting, well I teach them how to play it.

    I play "The Riddle of Steel", which is the perfect system for settings such as Martin's Westeros or indeed Abercrombie's Circle of the World. So perfect in fact that I want to recommend you who reads this to try it out.

    And the stories and setting of the game – I hope that one day they will appear in a novel as well ๐Ÿ™‚

  • aramis says:

    I substitute teach. I've been in my alma mater's halls at lunch. As of late 2007, there were twice as many visible groups playing RPG's in the halls as when I was a student there in the mid 1980's.

    Every high school has several different groups. D&D; is not the big game. It's a pretty even split between assorted d20 (D&D;, True20, and others), Palladium Megaversal games (Rifts, Robotech, Heroes Unlimited, Palladium Fantasy), and WWG's World of Darkness games (Vampire, Werewolf, Mage). A 4th share goes to a wide range of other stuff carried in stock. Now, i don't know about 4E penetration into the HS market (I was injured at work and haven't been working for about a year.)

    What I will say, tho', is that the D&D; crowd are usually looking for a better game; the kids who ask for recommendations are almost always annoyed with D&D;/D20. The WW crowd generally are not; most don't play other systems. The palladium crowd tend to be looking for more palladium, but are open to other game engines.

    WFRP didn't have much play in the high schools. Nor BRP.

  • TV and computer games in excess seem a bit worrisome as a whole, as the effect I have seen is a complete replacement of anything individually imaginative.

    That is why RPGs are so fabulous, while they offer a certain amount of structure, there is still plenty of room for improvisation.

    Being a long time gamer (paper, table, and electronic) I dont too much about the decline of pen and paper RPGs, as my experiance has shown that old timers (like us) end up playing with their kids; initiating a whole new generation of RPG noobs. =D

    Its an incredibly satisfying experience sharing such an enjoyable activity with kids.

  • Hi All,

    I used to do Role-playing but have not for years,but realy want to get back into it, is there a group in Swindon I can join for RPG, AD&D; etc?????

    If you could let me know.

  • Hi everyone

    I used to do RPG but don't know anyone in Swindon, Wiltshire to take it up again.

    If you know of a group then please let me know.


  • Mr. Bob says:

    This one sorta hits close to home for me as well. I am a little longer in the tooth than most (36…*sigh*) and spent most of my Junior High School, HS and College time playing different forms of RPG's- mostly AD&D; and WW. Once I got out of academia, as it were, I shifted to online text gaming, less storytelling and mostly trying to be flavor for the story.
    The thing is, there is no real roleplaying online. RPG to this generation is not about character or story development, so much as stacking stats. A game like Oblivion aint bad, but it's still no where near as…"organic" of a storyline as what can develop in a RPG.
    The most fun was had among the players- the camaraderie, the one liners, the sense of accomplishment. And the total fear of the dreaded "One" rolled (d20) or a botched roll (WW).
    I still wrestle with exposing my kid to Role Playing. I easily admit that I would not have picked up a book (Piers Anthony- On a Pale Horse, for those of you that are keeping notes) if not for playing D&D; when I was 11. I'm a thick skinned individual, and took the geek stigma associated with being a gamer in stride. I just wonder if it's healthy for me to put him into that mental/social framework if he isn't moving there on his own

  • Anonymous says:

    I knew it. Bayaz is an railroading asshole GM.

  • Polgara says:

    I love D&D. You might be interested that I based a campaign on ‘Best Served Cold’. That was fun!

  • Just Jo says:

    You’re the only person I’ve encountered so far who’s actually played MERP. I’m not entirely sure what that says about you, but I do know what that says about what I think about you. Not that that should matter but there you go.

  • […] recent entry over at Joe Abercrombie’s blog about his encounter with a neighbor boy who hadn’t even heard of D&D got me reflecting on […]

  • David Montgomery says:

    The Keep on the Borderlands was overrun and destroyed in the summer of ’83. I was there with the others – We watched it burn! Why would we shed tears? We got out alive!

  • Dan says:

    You can add George R.R. Martin and Elizabeth Moon to your list of gamers. I still have a lot of books, but my face-to-face gaming has dropped off dramatically over the last few years.

  • […] noteworthy fantasy authors credit playing RPGs as an influence, notably one of our favorites, Joe Abercrombie, author of the First Law series of […]

  • […] next for D&D? Well, although it is certainly far from its heyday (Joe Abercrombie tells the sad talk of his next-door neighbour’s son not even having heard of i…), the franchise is far from dead or even dying; earlier this year, Warner Bros. acquired the rights […]

  • Man From Threshold says:

    Well I’m glad it didn’t happen in the end. What a difference a decade makes. I blame all the streams and podcasts. Everyday it feels I’m one step closer to sitting around a table with at least one person who thinks that CE means “behave like a petulant arsehole for four hours”. Maybe I’m just feeling a little nostalgic, fresh from a decade delayed retread out past Aulcus and back. Hardcopy was dutifully bought and forwarded to a friend who had never made the trip before. Ta for the tales.

Add Your Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *