Who would have thought that one of my home-brewed D&D adventures would wind up in a printed collection three decades later? I can’t rave enough about this publication, the brainchild of Timothy Hutchings, who among other things runs the Play Generated Map and Document Archive (PlaGMaDA). The archive’s goal is:
. . . to preserve, present, and interpret play generated cultural artifacts, namely manuscripts and drawings created to communicate a shared imaginative space. The Archive will solicit, collect, describe, and publicly display these documents so as to demonstrate their relevance, presenting them as both a historical record of a revolutionary period of experimental play and as aesthetic objects in their own right. By fostering discussion and educating the public, it is hoped that the folkways which generate these documents can be encouraged and preserved for future generations.
Countless kids like me spent hours meticulously crafting detailed worlds that would only come to life when we played the game with our friends. This involved mapping dungeons and other environments (usually on graph paper), populating them with monsters, traps, and treasure, and creating what one hoped would be a challenging but entertaining adventure for our players. Dungeons & Dragons, though reviled by many dull-witted adults as wicked, wasteful, or otherwise unhealthy, was in fact an incubator for creativity and world-builiding. It combined mathematics, creative writing, research, performance, visual arts, and storytelling into what was ostensibly a simple “game,” but it was so much more than that to me—and to the legions of others who used what they learned from playing and refereeing fantasy adventures into creative careers.
Without D&D, the enormous and lucrative industry that gave birth to computer fantasy role-playing games like World of Warcraft or Skyrim would never have existed. We might still be playing computer games with no more complexity than Super Mario Brothers if it hadn’t been for nerds who cut their teeth on pen-and-paper RPGs and wanted to recreate that immersive experience on a screen. In fact, fantasy entertainment has so conquered our culture that we often forget how far we’ve come in only a few decades since Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson self-published some very odd rule booklets and started something bigger than they could have ever imagined.
So, my fellow nerds, I say to thee: All those hours flipping through the Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide, graphing out intricate underground lairs, rolling polyhedral dice, play-acting orcs and beholders and tavern keepers and saucy wenches, and creating worlds from nothing—behold your great works. You took your passions and rolled a natural 20. You would have never believed it at the time, of course, especially when so many people looked at you as a little weird or too nerdy for your own good, but you’ve truly brought magic into the world.