Thursday, October 23, 2014

An Attempt At A Review of D&D

If anything unifies all the experiences (and maybe nothing does) it's those cliches of the early levels--tavern keepers, scrimping for splint mail and ten foot poles, comically patchwork parties with the clerics next to half-orc thieves--not simply because they are a common starting point from which different games fork into mutually excluding orbits but because these early moments contain the maximum of the RPG's unique weapon: that constant intimation of potential. The moment when the door is not yet all the way open, when the clues have not yet jelled, when even the genre of monster is purely hypothetical. The million "coulds" of an isolated plinth in a square-plan stone place with 4 exits into 4 dark halls. 

On the first page of the novel when you don't even know what it's about "Walter stepped over a wheel onto the low, clean lawn…" what is it? What will it be? That's the RPG--except always, every chapter, because while the novel begins, imperceptibly but eventually, to list toward its themes (you know it is a book, you know it had an author, if the author isn't building to something you can stop paying attention to all the sandwiches and weather along the way), you know the RPG can't, even if it wanted to, proceed without scattering usable toys (the sandwich and the weather are yours if you want them), the potentia is always there, never quite dwindling into clarity because theme, or unity, or even meaning, implies an ending--and an ending is a limit. And the power of it is equal to the ability to suspend you in its limitlessness.

You are (and--when it's very good--can feel yourself-) standing continuously and absolutely genuinely on the brink of what art can only fake: the infinite.


  1. Damn. Not only are you an artist in the visual realm, but you are an artist in the verbal as well.

    This is beautiful Zak. Thank you sir.

  2. Yes, this is DnD to me as well: The ever-continuing story with branching possibilities at any and each point. This is also why predetermined adventure paths have not so much to do with DnD in my opinion as it strongly limits the potential of the story.

  3. Wow. just wow.

    I have been playing (A)D&D since '95. Since then it's been my passion and obsession, even if I don't play it nowadays.

    I always tried to define why exactly I am so passionated and obsessed with this "thing" that, in the eyes of many, is just a "silly game".

    And now you just hit the nail.

    Potentia. Yes, that's it. This is also reason why I've never wrote a book. Now and then, some great idea for a book pops in my head. But then I think: you know, this would be much better as a D&D adventure.

    If I wrote the book, the sandwich on the table would just lay there, an eternal scenario dressing, no matter how many times the page is read.

    But in a D&D session, I can just watch the endless situations the sandwich can provide: the characters can simply eat it or use it to bludgeon a kobold to death. And that anticipation is way more fun.