Saturday, June 20, 2009

DDO Free to Play (and D&D hysteria)

Recently I came across news that Dungeons & Dragons Online is going to a free-to-play model. In all my excitement I have been spending time at their website reading up on classes and races and all those goodies that go along with a D&D style game. For some reason I looked up the original D&D on Wikipedia - oh, I remember, I saw an article about a lawsuit that Wizards of the Coast brought against a guy distributing D&D books online. Good ol' Wizards - always out to protect their profit. They're about as controlling as Metallica.

Anyway, as I glanced over the article, I saw the picture of the D&D board and the arms of the folks sitting around the table just scream "NERD!!!" in such a huge fashion that I had to stifle a giggle. And at that point I suddenly remembered, flashback version, how I used to hear stories of how D&D was satanic and if you play it, you are invoking demonic powers and evil magic. Now I am just dumbfounded at the thought. Remember all that hysteria?

The point those superstitious folks missed was that within the human existence, there is greed, avarice, theft, jealousy, honor, duty, justice ... And the overarching story of D&D is the time-honored tale of good vs. evil - that we humans have choices to make and that we can battle evil and conquer the demons that stand in our way (and often learn something about ourselves and our own personal moral choices in the process).

Kids used to play Cowboys and Indians; kids used to play Jedi and Sith (that's newer); kids used to play Pokemon (oh wait, did we remove the bad guys from that play? No one ever pretends to be Team Rocket ... sigh) .... and D&D is just a bunch of friends sitting around playing pretend (knights+sorcerers -think Arthurian legend- vs. monsters) with the human condition as the backdrop.

The monsters and races of Dungeons and Dragons were adapted straight from J.R.R. Tolkien's world - his Lord of the Rings and other works (I am still finding my way through the History of Middle Earth; I'm on book five). I didn't realize until now how extensively he interwined European legends of all sort into his expansive mythology. He was effectively taking all ancient legends and expanding and relating them. It's amazing.

But back in the 70's those college kids that read Tolkien's stuff were enthralled and wanted to play pretend in that fantastic world. And the old miniature military stategy war games were a good medium from which to launch this more grown-up/complex form of play - Gary Gygax started in wargaming long before publishing D&D.

So I never actually played the real pen-and-paper D&D, but by the time Neverwinter Nights computer game came out back in the late 90's, based on the D&D rule books and character classes, etc., I was excited to try it out. I ended up getting stuck in the solo play of that game and didn't want to start over, and the multi-player left a lot to be desired, so I abandoned the game.

Then D&D Online came online a few years ago, but it has been a subscription-only game at $15 per month since its inception, so that kept me from trying it (I don't mind paying a purchase price for the install, but to keep paying a monthly fee is annoying - makes me feel obligated to play - which rips the joy right out of it). But now that they will offer a free-to-play model with a cash shop for optional purchases, I'm psyched.

All these choices ... What will I be? Oh the exhilarating bewilderment!

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