Dicing With Dragons: A Blast From The Past

Some of you may have noticed that this year is the 40th Anniversary of the creation of Dungeons & Dragons. Wizards of the Cost* have marked the occasion by, amongst other things, unveiling a new logo. Ten years ago, however, BBC Radio 4 took it upon itself to mark the 30th Anniversary by commissioning Kim Newman to make a documentary about the strange game which Beeb staffers probably still think is a weird and possibly dangerous cult. The program was called Dicing With Dragons, and it is currently available once more via the iPlayer.

In putting together the show, Kim talked to a variety of people, including Steve Jackson (UK) and Ian Livingstone, the founders of Games Workshop. He also hauled in some of the formerly-young people who had made a name for themselves through the game, including Marc Gascoigne (now of Angry Robot) and myself. There was also someone who played the game at school and wrote numerous letters to White Dwarf, a chap called China Miéville.

I was in California at the time Kim was making the show, so the BBC arranged for me to pop into a local radio station in San José so that Kim and I could record an interview of sufficient quality to put in a BBC program. Needless to say, most of my contributions ended up on the cutting room floor, but I do get two short sound bites. As this is probably the only time I will appear on national radio, I still remember to program fondly.

It is also interesting to note that, despite Kim’s air of doom and gloom, role-playing is still not yet dead. Obviously it is no longer the cultural phenomenon that it was, but I don’t think interest in it has decreased at all in the intervening 10 years. If anything it might have grown a bit. I find that strangely comforting.

* Deliberate invocation of a legendary typo.

One thought on “Dicing With Dragons: A Blast From The Past

  1. Roleplaying books, especially D&D, are now found in many Waterstones branches; ten years ago, you’d only be looking in Forbidden Planet and some independent bookshops. I think that says a lot about the spreading popularity, even if it’s an underground spread, of the game, especially when combined with the way roleplaying societies at universities and schools continue to thrive and, indeed, grow.

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