Monday, July 13, 2009

D&D analogies

I hate coming up with titles; it's like coming up with character names. No matter what I eventually settle on, most of the time I'm unsatisfied with the end result. This post deals with something I was thinking about the past week, unrelated to D&D and rpgs in general: AC/DC is a pretty good band. This may be obvious to some, or completely false to others, but objectively it's true. For around 35 years, they've been making music, using the same three chords over and over again. Say what you want about the repetitive nature of the music, the lack of diverse subject matter or the contrived guitar solos...their fans are legion, they've sold hundreds of millions of records, and when you see them live it's a religious experience. Plus, they REALLY like their fans. A lot. I heard an interview they did with Howard Stern last year when Black Ice was released. Apparently, they sold several million albums to Walmart to decrease the cost and assure that everyone would have access to purchasing it. Completely unpretentious, they really seem to enjoy playing music and interacting with people.

When I listen to AC/DC, I know exactly what I'm going to get. I don't put on an AC/DC album and expect something ground-breaking. They're not going to take any artistic chances or move into an avant-garde direction. Angus won't suddenly be playing sitar solos, back by Malcolm on harpsichord. There won't be whiny lyrics, schadenfreude, depression or self-loathing. Sure, the song might be about something bad that happened, but the overall impression is that life is pretty kickass because we have rock 'n' roll. And it is. Life IS pretty kickass because we have rock 'n' roll. AC/DC is extremely positive; the music is about having a good time.

It took me a while to appreciate AC/DC. While I always liked Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Rolling Stones, whatever, AC/DC always seemed a bit too pedestrian. They're not dynamic; rock solid rhythm with precision, cutting guitar is the musical equivalent of vanilla ice cream. But, there's a reason vanilla is still around, even after other more flamboyant flavors have made the rounds then disappeared into obscurity: vanilla is familiar, and really, it's great. "Plain" isn't always bad, and a lot of times it suits the situation perfectly. Even when another flavor would be better, you can get by on vanilla if you have to. No one would complain about vanilla ice cream over no ice cream at all, not unless they were a whiny idiot.

Alright, now to make the D&D analogy: D&D is just like AC/DC. It's been around forever and defines the genre that it resides in. Oft overlooked for being too boring, it still persists in the public consciousness, likened to a radioactive cockroach. It was even attacked for being Satanic. D&D campaigns are AC/DC albums: each is different, but most of the same recognizable elements crop up time and time again. When I play in a D&D game, I know exactly what I'm going to get. Roll 3D6 for this, d20 for that, etc. D&D is shorthand for rpgs, just like AC/DC is shorthand for rock music. And it's fun. D&D is about having a good time, enjoying hanging out with your buddies, bitching about work and then killing some orcs. There isn't some grand, over-arcing "plot", just like AC/DC would never make a rock opera.

Some people prefer more elaborate gaming. Sometimes I want to listen to more elaborate music. But AC/DC, and D&D, will always be there, waiting for me. A comfort food that I know will bring enjoyment into my life. I tried to think of bands that other rpgs would be related to, but the only thing I could come up with was SenZar and Britney Spears.