Saturday, February 5, 2011

Old School D&D on Television!

[God, I really want to write about Raggi's recent post over at LotFP and the earlier posts that spawned it, but I feel obliged to offer a more time-sensitive post first. I will (hopefully) come back to this particular bit of blogging mayhem, but you can read my basic thoughts in the comments section of Raggi's post]

So, once upon a time, I lived for a number of years withOUT a television, and let me tell you, you miss it not when it's gone. Sure, these days I miss a whole slew of cultural references from the decade of TV-watching I avoided, but truly a lot of it was dross anyway, right?

Those days of non-TV watching have been behind me for several years now. My wife and I acquired a television shortly before (or after) we got married (back in 2000) and my abstinence from the boob-tube went the same way as my veganism and daily martial arts training. Ah, well...I'm a little fatter, but it sure is a comfortable life!

Now I still try not to watch too much, but it's definitely harder to stay away from the TV during football season or Top Chef. However, the only real night of sitcom watching I do is on Thursdays (comedy on NBC), and in recent months I've been missing that in favor of gaming down at the local bar, the Baranof.

Doesn't mean I miss my shows, though...thanks to the magic of Comcast's On-Demand (yes, the wife and I upgraded to cable a year or so ago), I can watch the shows over the weekend. So it was that my (non-gamer) wife told me I absolutely HAD to watch an episode of the show Community (a sit-com about lovable misfits at a community college), that prominently featured Dungeons & Dragons.

Now, just so everyone knows, I wasn't super-enthused by the idea. Community is often pretty funny, but doesn't always "hit" for me, and I expected a lot of liberties to be taken with a game I well as a lot of snide humor directed at the expense of table-top role-players, possible World of Warcraft references, and perhaps even some product placement for Hasbro/WotC.

Frankly, I was fairly blown away.

First off, the characters were playing Old School D&D...not 4E, not D20, not even 2nd edition! They broke out a huge stack of 1st edition AD&D books...the same stack I used to carry around in MY backback whenever I went a-gaming somewhere. There was no product placement associated with the episode, the main "product" often featured was the old Dungeon Masters Guide with the re-issued cover...the same book that was first gifted to me at the age of...what? 11? 12?

They used a fake module for the episode that was worked up with the same trade dress as the old TSR modules (I assume it's fake because I've never heard of it and it was missing the standard TSR banner in the corner). And while there were liberties taken with the gameplay (only the DM ever rolled any dice) the game otherwise played a LOT like my old AD&D games...the semi-serious tones, the griping and snarkiness, the occasional spontaneous bits of getting into character...not to mention sexual overtones, inter-party conflict, and cheating in back rooms! It really took me back to my youth!

And battle mats or miniatures and no cutesy TV animations.

If anyone was interested in seeing what an Old School AD&D game looked like in action, they could sure do worse than watching this particular show. Yes, there were over-the-top bits (I was never so impartial as a Dungeon Master...though Lord knows I tried!), and certainly people sat still a lot more than we ever did, but otherwise there was a fairly accurate depiction of real role-playing in that show. I was pretty impressed. It actually made me want to pull out my own AD&D books, even though I've semi-sworn off that edition.

[I figure the books must have actually belonged to one of the writers/producers...they were just too damn authentic]


  1. Excellent! In case anyone is interested, this episode is currently available to watch on hulu:

  2. Also available at

    My favorite line:

    "I won Dungeons & Dragons...and it was ADVANCED!"
    : )

  3. You know it's on the money when your non-gaming ex texts you right as the D&D books hit the table. Thank god we are still friends... heh ;)

    It was much more accurate then I would have ever expected. Not perfect, but damn good.

  4. Thanks for pointing me to that show. What fun!

  5. They did have one 4th edition Essentials book sitting on the table, but that was it. As for just the DM rolling dice, that is seriously old school(OD&D old) and realistic. I believe there is a reference somewhere in the LBBs about the just the DM rolling dice. Overall, I would say its the best depiction of role playing ever done by Hollywood.

  6. @ Arc: Yeah, I DID see that when I watched it again (my brother insisted on checking it out when I told him). I agree it was a decent depiction. Certainly a cut above Mazes & Monsters (IMO).