Once a Nerd, Always a Nerd: D&D 4Eva

Books, die, figurines from Dungeons & Dragons to go with story on the game's creator, Gary Gygax (Photo by Simon Hayter/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Bullied as a child in school in the 1980s, Canadian poet George Murray found solace in the make-believe world of Dungeons & Dragons, where he could become “a seven-foot-tall warrior who could punch the face off a troll.” At The Walrus, Murray writes of the role-playing game’s renaissance — how it helped his blended family bond — and about how he’s “playing it forward” by acting as dragon master for local families who want to learn to play.

Why had I stayed away so long? It was ideal family time — everyone looked directly at each other over the table, eyes bright, describing their next move in detail, moving their miniature warriors around the grid map on the table, engaging with the story, building powerful avatars of good. No phones, no screens, no video games, no earbuds — just family talking and laughing for hours at a time.

We played like this until the teens got more teenish and the little ones became bigger ones, and soon, they all started playing d&d in groups with their own friends. Turns out d&d was no longer the game of pariahs and nerds. A generation of cool kids brought up on fantasy movies and novels saw nothing wrong or aberrant about role-playing. Gaming was just another activity they did with their friends, like going to parties or the movies.

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