Whatever Happened To? #2: Dungeons & Dragons

Dungeon Master: The troll hits you with his +2 battle
axe causing 4 hit points of damage to Nestar the half-elf thief.

Nestar: I pull out my Cloak of Invisibility from my Bag of
Holding ...

Sound familiar?

Although many may choose to forget or deny, Dungeons & Dragons was once an immensely popular pastime with over 20 million players and over $1 billion dollars in sales. The role playing game inspired video games, a Saturday morning cartoon and countless other media such as comic books, paperbacks and magazines. It couldn't possibly have been just a fringe of nerdy guys rolling the 20 sided die, right? As evidence, we have Jamie Gertz in a D&D commercial.

I will confess that I jumped on the D&D bandwagon in the early '80s, and purchased the TSR Basic D&D kit which came with the module "Keep on the Borderlands". It wasn't long before I bought a few more modules, some books (The Monster Manual, The Dungeon Master's Guide, and The Player's Handbook) and some fancy dice. Of course, you know where all this ultimately leads...a murderous delusional psychosis - Mazes and Monsters taught us that. The Tom Hanks film disturbed parents across the country warning the public about the harmful effects of D&D, and thus, many a set of oddly shaped dice ended up in the trash.

Predictably, the movie did nothing but heighten D&D's popularity, and TSR and the game's creator, Gary Gygax, enjoyed many more years of high profits. A perfect recreation of a typical D&D session has to be the "Discos and Dragons" episode of "Freaks and Geeks".

However, these days, role playing is just a shell of its former "glory". What happened you ask? The basements that were once full of pimply faced kids pretending to be paladins and magic-users downing Mountain Dew by the gallon, are now populated with kids playing video games.

Sure, D&D may not have been as healthy a pastime as, say tennis or even chess, but it did involve a good amount of creativity and imagination. What's more, there was a certain amount of socializing and communication that is lacking in video games. Oh well, trends come and go, and I can't resist but to say that D&D's hit points now equal zero.


  1. AnonymousJuly 10, 2008

    I see your site is becoming more media laden, which is great. You have some music and more videos and a slideshow. The look of the site is great.

    I know some sites you can select skinned MP3 players for your site. There is a big selection really, and some are pretty retro and could add to the effect. They are:



    I use the second site, but the 1st one has more selection. Flash Fetish has a real retro tape cassette skin you may like. You can upload an entire album if you choose, like I did with Jimmy Page's Death Wish II, and they can be saved easily by us listeners.

    You explore a variety of retro issues, even games, which is cool.There are more coming, but I have to sit around and do some cropping and editing and I get lazy. They are yours to use of course, the world's, and promote. adorable Sea Monkeys and killer Kung Fu secrets to stop those bullies!

    If you have not see n them, on my sidebar is a collection of old comic book and Men's mags ads.

  2. AnonymousJuly 10, 2008

    Oops, not all my message is here. i am rambling. But feel free to use my comic ads as they are classic and represent the period in so many ways.

    More will be coming as I have gigs of old comics books, I just need to crop them one afternoon. Everything from your own nuclear sub to Sea Monkeys to the deadly Kung Fu of Count Dante.

    I used to just look at those ads all day long.

  3. I was always just a little too acutely aware of how geeky it (Dungeons & Dragons) was to feel completely comfortable playing it. D & D was replaced by video games. That's my theory, anyway. I think card games like Magic: The Gathering drew people away from role playing games, too. Boot Hill was my favorite of the TSR games. Gygax died a couple of months ago. I was strangely saddened by that.

  4. Thanks, Bill. As usual, your advice and expertise is welcome (and much needed). Yeah, I'm getting the hang of this little by little, and am able to spice retrospace up a bit. Thanks for noticing. I will certainly give your music player a try - no guarantees I'll succeed, though.

    Chris - I was too geeky in 1981 to be aware how geeky D&D was. By the time I got to high school I put aside my comic books and D&D and concentrated on "more important things". But for those few brief years as a geeky dungeon master I have a lot of good memories and had a lot of fun. Gary Gygax R.I.P.

  5. I made the vast mistake of doing a talk (a show and tell I guess) on AD&D at school - oh, how the popular kids laughed... Still, I was too thick skinned (or just plain thick) to care.

    But, my word, how young Jamie Gertz looks in that commercial

  6. AnonymousJuly 10, 2008

    If you have any questions about the MP3 players I may be able to help you.

    I am happy to say that I finally figured out how to do the slide show player on my site. it took about 3 or 4 days, but it is up and running with whacky images.

    Take care

  7. Forget the kids in that ad. It's all about the rad Ken Nordine voiceover!

  8. D&D is still out there, and in fact, Fifth Edition of the rules are coming out in the next year. And while probably not as publicly popular as in the 80's, it still brings in a large slice of Wizards of the Coast's revenue, and along with Trading Card Game 'Magic: The gathering" is the reason Hasbro bought WotC. It has spawed many video games, and even a very popular MMO, "Dungeons & Dragons Online" (www.ddo.com). I'm posting this anonymously, but only because I don't wish to create a new account or link one of my other accounts.