Theater Of The Mind

I'll admit it.  I miss Dungeons & Dragons. Actually, I miss role-playing games in general.  Computers, the Internet and technology in general have redefined the RPG genre, and things are possible today that were completely impossible in the early 1980s when I started playing D&D.  Die-rolling has been replaced by behind-the-scenes calculations made by a computer.  Visualization of characters and environments has been replaced by graphical displays.  Decision-making is performed with keystrokes and mouse clicks rather than oral communication with a dungeon master or game master.  Environments are completely immersive and leave little to the imagination.

My friends and I used to sit around on rainy days with scores of manuals, dice and character sheets, playing whatever RPG suited our mood.  We started, of course, with D&D.  Later on we played Recon (Vietnam War setting), the RPG set in the Marvel Comics universe and much, much more.

Folks in the media business talk about radio, especially the early serials, as "theater of the mind."  Yes, it was fun filling in the blank visuals with one's own brain, but this theater didn't compare to the one prompted by the rise of role-playing games.  There were times I scared myself silly exploring dungeons and wondering what was around the next corner.  It's this aspect of RPG gaming I miss the most.

The other part I miss is the interactivity of it all.  Modern computer-based RPGs keep a group of players somewhat at arm's length.  You're not face to face with people sitting around a gaming table.  Your relationship with other folks in your party is limited to text chat between avatars.

While computers and the Internet have greatly enhanced the RPG genre, I'd be lying to say that it didn't take something away.