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Robert Lashley: On the Table: D&D and Video Game Folktales

Columns By Robert Lashley on November 18, 2016

On the Table: D&D and Video Game Folktales

Earlier this week the Strong National Museum of Play announced their inductees for the 2016 National Toy Hall of Fame. They include the swing, yes that of rope or chain and a seat, Fisher-Price little People, and Dungeons & Dragons. Sadly Transformers didn’t make the cut. Earlier this week when we learned of the announcement we asked you to share your memories of D&D over the years. You can find the full list here. It’s clear from the overwhelming response that we received that a lot of our readers are still in love with D&D and some to a lesser extent it’s stepchild Pathfinder (boo, hiss... just kidding).

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As I mentioned in the comments of that article I currently DM a group of players and depending on how many can attend on a given Saturday we bounce back and forth between Curse of Strahd, and Storm King’s Thunder. Both of these are great stories drawing from years of accumulated D&D lore. Storm King’s Thunder is by far the easier of the two to DM. It’s fairly linear and a bit easier to prep for what the players will probably do next. The same can’t be said for Curse of Strahd. This adventure is very open ended and has a lot of replayability due to an interesting mechanic, that of the card reading. You’ll read a set of Tarokka cards that decide where to place certain magical items within the game that are required to defeat Strahd. Since the locations of the items can change you can easily play through this campaign more than once with varying paths to victory.

One of my recent favorite moments was when a player at my table had advantage on an attack and rolled two 1s. Critical misses. Before that they had rolled a 1 on an athletics check and fell down a chimney. Whenever one of my players rolls a 1 in combat I roll a 20 sided die to see if they inadvertently hit themselves or hit one of their party members. I rolled a 1 too. That player permanently lost a leg. When trying to kill a sleeping goblin he missed and cut his own leg off. They group made him a peg but he will always walk with a limp.

On to the folklore:

I’ve come across two folk tales over the years that show just how much D&D has directly influenced certain Nintendo games. I’m not sure either of these brought up lawsuits, and frankly only one of them should. But it is easy to see how something other than inspiration may have been afoot.

The Temple of Elemental Evil and Final Fantasy

In the Temple of Elemental Evil you liberate a town, Hommlet, that will serve as your foot hold. From there you complete missions and clear a temple of four elemental forces and clear their nodes before you take on the ultimate boss the demon Zuggtmoy. In Final Fantasy you are the Warriors of Light. You are tasked with cleansing 4 elemental crystals. Once this is done you fight the ultimate demon Chaos in his Temple after you travel into the past 3000 years and discover that Chaos sent the demons into the future. It’s easy to see how the former may have influenced the later but it would be disingenuous to call the later a total rip off. Enjoy this picture of my Temple of Elemental Evil module.

Ravenloft and Castlevania II

This one is harder to call a pure coincidence. Take a look at the artwork from the cover of the Ravenloft Module and the North American game box cover from Castlevania II.

Here is the module cover:

Here is a close up of Strahd:

Here is the Castlevania II cover:

The vampire’s head is positioned a little differently but other than that it is the same picture. The similarities don’t stop with the cover art either. Ravenloft was revolutionary in how open the game was. Players would have to find certain weapons to help them kill the Vampire Strahd. These locations were determined at the beginning of the game by drawing cards from a deck. In Castlevania II Simon would have to find pieces of Dracula to put him back together and kill him. Castlevania II incorporated more RPG elements than the previous Castlevania title and was not as linear. It would go on to influence later Castlevania titles such as Symphony of the Night. I’ll let you be the judge on the level of influence here.

I’m going to close this week’s column out by incorporating some snippets of everyone’s favorite moments from D&D over the past 40 years, if you haven’t already make sure you to leave yours as well.

Konfess:  “9th Grade, and the hot girl in our group asks if she can lean against my back for support.  And so began my career as a support character.”

Smooth

WayneJr2: “Been in a couple of games with Gary Gygax as DM.”

Apparently Wayne is an OG

Hinge645: “My fondest memories were while playing the massive series that started with The Village of Hommlet leading to the Temple of Elemental Evil then on to the Slavers series leading to the Giants series leading to the Drow series and then concluding with my favorite of all time, The Queen of the Demonweb Pits.”

Maybe Hinge can back me up on the ToEE and FF comparison.

BingBongBros: “My favorite memory was when I was permanently blinded by my friend who was playing a wizard.”

That’s a DM after my own heart!

Robert Lashley / Rob Lashley is a Staff Writer and Online host for MMORPG.com and RTSGuru.com. Rob's bald and when he isn't blinding people from the glare on his head talking in front of a camera you can chase him down on twitter @grakulen or find him on PSN @ Grakulen

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