Five Fake Truths about Roleplaying & RPGs

“I played the original D&D back in the day”

The amount of people I have met stating this. It is quite a few, often dads trying to impress their kids, when they spot a D&D book or starter set in a game store, library or at a game convention.

It is not true. Well, some people did play the original D&D, and some of them still play RPGs and are still around, but what most people think of as the original D&D is actually the red box, the third edition of the Basic rules from 1983 edited by Frank Mentzer. It is a good place to begin, and we are many who begun playing D&D with that set of rules, but it is not the original.

“We roleplay, they rollplay”

It is common to ascribe less ideal or wrong behavior to others and the ideal or right behavior to oneself. In anthropology this is expressed through this example: “The sorcerer in our village is a wise woman, but the sorcerer in the other village is a crooked witch”. Likewise, among roleplayers, people always describe their own game as one of immersion, drama and evocative roleplaying, where other people merely rollplay, are needlessly bound by the rules and probably all very wrong.

“D&D is based on Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings”

This one is often stated by journalists trying to sum up the history of D&D. It is not wrong, that D&D was influenced by the works of Tolkien from Hobbits (halflings) to Balrogs (Pit Fiends), but as anyone having had a look at Appendix N in the Dungeon Master’s Guide can see, many other books also helped shape D&D. In other words, there is a reason, that the D&D magic system is called Vancian magic after Jack Vance and some spells are obviously named after magic in his Dying Earth stories. Many other elements in D&D have obvious roots in other stories such as the cleric class, that has no good parallel in Middle-Earth. Some of the earliest D&D campaigns even contained science fiction elements.

“That is because D&D originates in a wargame”

This one is often stated by game designers and reviewers creating a rationale for some oddity of the D&D rule system or game structure from Hit Points and Armor Class to dungeoneering. It is not incorrect, that D&D has roots in wargaming, but the statement is used to explain any oddity without really examining whether the roots in wargaming is actually the reason or not. It is a simple ‘just so’ explanation, that never really explains the how or the why, but merely ends the rationale at the declaration.

“The minis are not for me, but for my players”

Quite a few roleplayers explain their buying of minis, terrain and play mats as a necessity for their D&D game. Not for themselves, of course, but for their players. Their fellow players need the minis – because they are more visual, inexperienced, just like having minis, will not play without minis etc.

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