Jul 04

I Was A Goblin: Introduction

FT + TMFD3 comments • 1,674 views


I was 9 when I first heard of Dungeons And Dragons. I was 22 when I played my last role-playing game. When I think about or talk about being a teenager I tend to put the heaviest stress on music and how important it was to me. Then books and comics, and then maybe a nod to the angst and sexual frustration side of things. Dungeons And Dragons, and its warty kin, don’t get much of a mention. As I was saying in the pub the other day – it’s not that I’m ashamed of them exactly, but it’s not the kind of thing you talk about with people who didn’t, er, do it.

Well, OK, it is that I’m ashamed of them. There’s a kind of miasma of irredeemable lameness around role-playing games that no amount of revisionism or excuses can erase. And I tried all the excuses. The problem was, most of the criticisms of gaming and gamers – escapism, adolescent wank fantasies, wish-fulfilment, social abscesses – were true. It might just be a coincidence that I stopped rolling a dice in anger at around the same time as I started having sex but, you know, it might not. (I carried on playing the games for a few years after, but they were ‘diceless’ games – we’ll get to them.)

The thing is, though, I loved them. I loved playing them and I loved refereeing them even more. So I feel I should try and do right by them. Hence this occasional series: impassioned defences, embarrassed admissions, confirmed prejudices and good stories will rub shoulders as if they were sitting in a tavern waiting for an NPC to show up.

But for now – the facts. I was 9. I had seen a boardgame called Dungeon! in Doctor Who Monthly and asked for it for Christmas, from my Gran (who apparently regretted this ever after). She couldn’t find it and the shopkeeper fobbed her off with Dungeons And Dragons instead. And to my initial disappointment and subsequent wonder, that is what I got.


  1. 1
    Tom on 6 Feb 2008 #

    Even men with steel hearts love to see a huge D20 on the FT front page.

  2. 2
    Mark M on 16 Sep 2009 #

    Apologies if this has been linked to before, but it covers similar territory:


  3. 3
    slideyfoot on 15 May 2020 #

    “There’s a kind of miasma of irredeemable lameness around role-playing games that no amount of revisionism or excuses can erase”

    Which I think everybody who is over the age of something like 30 can attest to. However, I think that’s changed for the younger generation, at least of a certain demographic (I would guess down to a mix of the LOTR films, various CRPG franchises, Stranger Things and Game of Thrones, among other things). I train in Brazilian jiu jitsu and often go to big camps with lots of other people who are there to train BJJ. So I was surprised when I suggested at one of these camps, “Does anyone want to play some DnD?” A LOT of people did.

    It’s continued to build from there: a couple of years later, I now run a group of about 80 members from those BJJ camps. We play DnD several times a week online (at the start of the coronavirus lockdown, it was pretty much every day, something of a silver lining). I’m still finding that I get a much more positive response than I would have expected when I mention DnD to people these days, quite often they’re interested in playing (though admittedly that probably says more about the people I hang out with ;D).

    DnD has appeared in pop culture to the extent that I wonder if it’s started to shake off its old reputation. It’s not quite comparable way to how comicbooks have become culturally dominant over the last 12 years (in a way unthinkable on a 1970s/1980s school playground), but I think there’s definitely been a major shift.

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