The Engineer's Notebook Blog

The Engineer's Notebook

The Engineer's Notebook is a shared blog for entries that don't fit into a specific CR4 blog. Topics may range from grammar to physics and could be research or or an individual's thoughts - like you'd jot down in a well-used notebook.

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Dungeons & Dragons: Geeky Fun or Gateway to Hell? (Part 4)

Posted October 21, 2009 12:01 AM by Vi Pham

In the early 1980s, Dungeons & Dragons was accused of being the source of psychological instability and encouraging cultism and crime. The role-playing game was also (and remains) popular among many engineering students.

Yet clinical research has determined that there is no real link between fantasy gaming and suicide. Studies have shown that role players do not typically exhibit depression or suicidal tendencies. Feelings of alienation are not associated with mainstream players, but players who are deeply and financially committed to the game do tend to feel alienated from others. Still, according to one study, there is "no significant correlation between years of playing the game and emotional stability."

People & Players

It's hard to say exactly what kind of person plays D&D. To play, all you really need is an interest in the fantasy genre, a willingness to play a role, and an imagination. And that can be anyone – not just engineering students! D&D can span all ages and interests.

My D&D group, for example, consists of college students and recent graduates. We all study different things: physics, economics, and philosophy; aeronautical, electrical, and mechanical engineering; psychology; and computer science. In high school, some of us were in the band, some of us were on sports teams, and some of us were class officers. And we all have different interests.

We also play very different characters.

Ah, the Flexibility

There is a great deal of flexibility regarding what kind of character you play. You can be good, evil, or somewhere in the middle. You can also be so lawfully, chaotically, or (again) somewhere in the middle In case you're wondering about the term "chaotically" here, a popular example of a chaotic-good character is Batman.

You can play a male or female character, too. And you can choose from a large number of races and classes. Races include, but are not limited to, human, half-orc, elf, gnome, halfling, and dwarf. Classes are like professions and include fighter, cleric, ranger, bard, wizard, and many more.

The choices don't end there. Your character's reaction in a given situation depends upon the back-story you've created. For example, my character never knew his parents and was treated with great disdain in his youth. He spent a lot of time on the outskirts of the village where he was born, and traveled all over the continent as a bodyguard. So if you insulted his mother, he wouldn't be offended. He has a great affinity for nature. He is also very hesitant to trust characters he meets in his travels, but if you do gain his trust, he will fight to the death in order to protect you.

You can even decide to become a member of a group of good adventuring humans whose main goal is to help those in need and to destroy all things evil and magical!

Most importantly, your character is exactly that – a character. Your character can be whoever or whatever you want it to be. Your actions do not need to reflect your character's actions, and vice versa. Perhaps if some people realized this beforehand, they would not have been so critical of the game and its players (then again, that might not have changed a thing).

More Popular Than You Think

As of 2006, D&D was the best-known and best-selling role-playing game. It's estimated that some 20 million people have played Dungeons and Dragons, and more than $1 billion (USD) has been spent buying D&D books and equipment. The game has also been translated into many different languages.

Its popularity and influence has also inspired many other role-playing games. Some are about knights and sorcerers. Others are about vampires. Some incorporate space travel, and there is even one based on H.P. Lovecraft's story, The Call of Cthulhu. D&D has also had a large impact on many modern video games. After all, isn't D&D just like a more interactive version of one?

Based on what I've read (and please correct me if I'm wrong here), average D&D players are in their 30s or 40s and work in varying professions. So are you wondering how many of your co-workers are D&D players?

It is a common belief that all D&D players are geeky or nerdy. Obviously, the truth of this is disputable. I, for one, am proud to call myself a nerd. I even have a set of dice displayed on my desk at work.

Gaming conventions with one or more D&D tables are held at colleges, universities, and convention centers all over the world. D&D is also played widely within Mensa, the world's the oldest, largest, and best-known high-IQ society.

Some well-known people who play D&D are basketball player Tim Duncan; comedian Stephen Colbert; and actors Robin Williams, Mike Meyers and Vin Diesel. Diesel, star of the 2001 film The Fast and the Furious, even wrote the forward to a book called 30 Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons & Dragons.

Today, despite all efforts to eliminate it, Dungeons & Dragons is more popular than ever. Regardless of whether you consider D&D to be geeky or not, it remains a good way for friends to get together and go on adventures without ever leaving home

Click here to read Part 1!
Here to read Part 2!
And here for Part 3!


Wikipedia – Dungeons & Dragons


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Join Date: May 2007
Location: Geelong, Australia
Posts: 1084
Good Answers: 54

Re: Dungeons & Dragons: Geeky Fun or Gateway to Hell? (Part 4)

10/22/2009 12:38 AM

I've been swinging a hammer recently, could this be summoning or inadvertently worshipping the Norse gog Thor?

If this question seems stupid, just look at the title of the blog.

If there's something you don't understand...Then a wizard did it. As heard on "The Simpsons".
Anonymous Poster
In reply to #1

Re: Dungeons & Dragons: Geeky Fun or Gateway to Hell? (Part 4)

10/22/2009 9:13 PM

Hi ffej (?),

I am in Newcastle NSW Australia and would really like to know if there are any D&Ders in my area. Since you are in Geelong, I was wondering if you could put me onto a site/contact/anything that will let me know who to contact regarding learning about the technicalities of the game or even joining a group who has the patience to teach me and thereafter include me. I bought a starter's pack and now I'm confused as well as enthused... Thanks.


Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 5

Re: Dungeons & Dragons: Geeky Fun or Gateway to Hell? (Part 4)

10/23/2009 9:03 PM

That's one heck of a D20!!!


Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Ottawa Canada
Posts: 1975
Good Answers: 117

Re: Dungeons & Dragons: Geeky Fun or Gateway to Hell? (Part 4)

11/06/2009 11:54 AM

Interesting character. Are the rest of your characters in the same vein....that is to say, outcasts of society, people that skirt the edges of the law, and elite individuals who set themselves away from others? Such a person in real life would be vaguely psychotic. One may be excused for being a little leery of such a person sitting in the back desk.

Just curious...which study was it that you referred to? What clinical research are you referring to?

If it was easy anybody could do it.

Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 59
Good Answers: 2
In reply to #4

Re: Dungeons & Dragons: Geeky Fun or Gateway to Hell? (Part 4)

11/11/2009 11:11 AM

I understand the concern that a person's D&D character may reflect the actual behavior of that individual, but it can also be the exact opposite.

A player may have many characters that are chaotic or evil (or both) simply because it is fun to cause pretend chaos in a make-believe world. The player himself may not have any intentions of doing so in the real world.

Of course, that is not to say that a chaotic D&D player cannot be actually chaotic in nature. It is just my experience that people tend to have characters that are different from themselves. It is a role-playing game, after all.

To answer your question specifically, no, not all my characters are like that. One of my characters is an Elven ranger whose job and passion is to defend the Elven kingdom and its citizens. I chose to describe the chaotic Half-orc barbarian simply because he is the opposite of what I am in real life. (also because I put more thought into his back-story.)

There have been studies and research done by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Association of Suicidology and the Health & Welfare Center of Canada. I do not know the specific studies though. I will try to find out some more information.

Thanks for reading!


Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Karlsruhe, Germany
Posts: 4

Re: Dungeons & Dragons: Geeky Fun or Gateway to Hell? (Part 4)

11/09/2009 5:40 AM

Recently the 4th Edition of D&D has found the way to my Roleplaying Libary. Maybe sometime i will even consider to playing it. Up to now it is "Warhammer" or "Deadlands".

But while i am not playing D&D i is still the game that i started roleplaying with.

And for the ~25 years i have playing it i still do not see the "Gateway to Hell".

Or should i turn around and look behind me?

Geeky? Well i think that may be

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