A Modest Proposal: Share Your D&D Story & Win a Free Book

The first time I played Dungeons & Dragons with a group was transformative.

Since I lived in the country, I played mostly small solo adventures because there weren’t lots of other folks around who were interested in the game. But in 1988, I met  met a group of D&D players who’d come to Putt-n-Fun, where I worked in the summers. Up until that point, I’d largely been a casual D&D player.

Then those guys showed up, and I found myself drawn the game. Their passion for the game gave me the space I needed to bring my passion to the game as well.

I bring this up because those summer D&D games helped start me on the path to write Dungeons & Dreamers. John and I have spent hundreds of hours talking with gamers and developers, asking them to share their stories about D&D and computer gaming. Along the way, we’ve seen our own lives reflected back upon us (and we hope you will see yours reflected back to you…even if you’ve never played D&D or a computer game.)

Which brings me to this. We’ve partnered with a publisher, Carnegie Mellon’s ETC Press, that has given us a great deal of flexibility with the book’s rollout. This means we can begin pre-sales before the book is published, and get a copy into your hands before it hits the bookstores.

It also means we can run book giveaways without asking anyone, which is what I’m about to do.

The Contest

The rules are simple: tell me your favorite story about playing Dungeons & Dragons, or your favorite story about playing a massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG). What is the story that geeks you out the most? What’s the story you find yourself telling over and over?

Share that story, and the best stories win.

Simple.

“Brad, what does that mean? What should be in the story,” you ask.

“Well,” I respond, “our book is about the power of game communities. You should tell me an awesome story about our experiences with that. It can be funny, sad, poignant, or any of the other adjectives you can imagine. The most important aspects: it needs to be real and it needs to be engaging.” 

“Will you tell me if my story fits those criteria,” you sheepishly ask.

“No,” I reply, “because the best stories will win even if they aren’t exactly perfect. We’re flexible when we play Dungeons & Dragons, as long as you adhere to the framework of the guidelines and entertain us.”

Here’s what I can tell you:

  1. The story needs to involve playing with friends (online or offline), and the community needs to be integral to the experience.
  2. It doesn’t need to a PG experience and you can use adult language, but the story you tell should be awesome.
    • Before you hit send on your submission, ask yourself if you’ve adhered to the Wil Wheaton code of justice: “Don’t Be a Dick!”
  3. You can write it, record a video, animate it, illustrate it, or record audio
  4. Send me your story either as:
    • A link through the Contact Us Form, or
    • A link in the comments below; or
    • You can post the full story in the comments or Contact Form.

As I receive your stories, I’ll share some of the best on the blog.

How Long Will This Run

We’ll keep the contest open for until December 31, and I’ll announce the winners on January 1.

“Why that day,” you ask.

“Because Dungeons & Dragons turns 40 in 2014,” I reply. “What a great way to kick of the year of birthday celebrations.”

“That is wise, Brad,” you say, hoping to curry favor.

“It is,” I reply, rejecting your curry.

The Winners Get

When it’s all said and done, the best stories will get the only thing of value that I have to give, which is a copy (or various copies) of the book:

  • The top 5 winners, as determined by me (with input from you), will each receive a free ebook (EPUB or Amazon Kindle), and
  • The top 3 will also receive an autographed copy of the book sometime in February (before it hits the bookstore)

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10 comments

  • Michael Feir December 20, 2013   Reply →

    Hello everyone. Here is the link to my actual contest entry.

    https://t.co/ByQgyBeCzZ

    It’s recorded in audio. Below, as a further token of gratitude to all who care about games and recognise their importance, I offer this poetic celebration of Infocom and the Zork games in particular. May both submitions lead to +5 happiness.

    Within An Old White House
    by Michael Feir

    I sat before my great machine, and gave a woeful sigh,
    Countless icons filled the screen, but none would catch my eye.
    Each icon ran a game I owned, from Doom to Daggerfall,
    But none of these could rescue me, for I had won them all.

    My case was grave and serious, since I could not afford,
    To purchase any other games and keep from being bored.
    My bank account was empty and my credit cards all maxed,
    Any game worth paying for would be so steeply taxed.

    Desperately, I donned my helmet, and got upon my bike,
    And aimlessly, I rode along the paths where others hike.
    Within the woods, I lost my way, far from the beaten trail,
    Darkness neared, then stars appeared! My legs began to fail.

    Fearful of the woods at night, I slowly peddled on,
    Searching for a sheltered site where I could rest till dawn.
    I came upon a small white house, its entrance boarded closed,
    With all my might, I could not pass the obstacle they posed.

    To have safe haven near at hand with access thusly blocked,
    Was very hard for me to stand, With helpless rage, I rocked.
    I paced in fury around the house, and hadn’t gone too far,
    When all at once, fate smiled on me, A window swung ajar.

    With ebbing strength I forced it wide enough to clamber through.
    A kitchen lay around me with its table set for two.
    Physically exhausted, I collapsed into a chair,
    An older man walked in and took the other that was there.

    “I don’t get many visits,” Said the hermit with a chortle,
    “Eccentricity compelled me to board up their standard portal.”
    “Rest here, my weary traveller, Feel free to help yourself.”
    He motioned to a bunch of tasty food upon a shelf.

    We ate and talked of many games, our claims to private glory,
    Of reality’s far too frequent stings, and of my tragic story,
    He conversed with great intelligence, in a diction quaint and kind,
    His thoughtfulness would always be engraved into my mind.

    At length he rose up from his place, and headed off to bed,
    First showing me a couch where I could lay my weary head,
    I rested well that starlit night, but had some freakish dreams,
    Of darkened realms deep underground, explored by lantern beams.

    My brass lamp shone on wonders, an many terrors too,
    My ears took in a dragon’s roar, and the gurgles of a grue!
    I walked across a rainbow, above a waterfall,
    And ballooned up a volcano’s core, behind an icy wall.

    Waking from my dreams, I was quite startled through and through,
    To discover that a part of them seemed absolutely true!
    I looked around the living room, and as the hermit snored,
    I saw a trophy case, a rug, a lantern and strange sword!

    And as the morning sun came up, bestowing warmth and light,
    The hermit came with rueful cheer and asked about my night.
    I told him all that I had dreamed, and requested he explain,
    This world that I had visited, so full of joy and pain.

    He moved aside the oriental rug upon the floor,
    I gaped in disbelief when this revealed a closed trap-door.
    I helped him heave it open, since the effort made him frown,
    He took the lantern from its place, and with me ventured down.

    The cellar in which we found ourselves brimmed with forgotten junk,
    Amid the mess, the man possessed a rusty iron trunk,
    I helped him hoist the tarnished box into the living room,
    He opened it with care and took its contents from their tomb.

    The old computer he unveiled was piteous to behold,
    I would have laughed had he not shown it reverence due to gold,
    He plugged it in and turned it on, Its screen was black and white,
    Its ancient disks could not hold more than half a megabyte.

    “The tale I have to tell you happened in the recent past,”
    “There was a firm whose every game was intricate and vast,”
    “For years they were successful, and proceeded with aplomb,”
    “But I doubt you’ve ever heard of them, for they were Infocom.”

    “Zork was where you were last night, They made that universe,”
    “It inspired many gleeful shouts, and many a-vengeful curse.”
    “Just give me half a moment, and I’ll show you what I mean,”
    “These days what you will shortly view is all too rarely seen.”

    He put a disk into the drive, and entered a command,
    And while the system worked he placed a book into my hand.
    My fascination grew quite strong as I began to find,
    Details of the fantastic place which occupied my mind.

    I closed the book and found that I was thoroughly ignored,
    The world could end, but he’d still bend before that old keyboard,
    My anger quickly cooled and gave me cause for private shame,
    Our ages were quite different, but our passions were the same.

    Despite my small deduction, I still felt rather vexed,
    When I looked to see my dreamscape and discovered only text!
    “Take the very best in modern sound and animation,”
    “And what is there will not compare with your imagination.”

    Doubtfully, I played his game, My choice was quickly made,
    I had to find more of these games so rare and seldom played,
    I almost asked the hermit why this company had died,
    But the answer cut me to the bone before I even tried.

    These pioneers were swept aside by new technology,
    Graphic games won market shares for their simplicity,
    Time turned its page upon this age of thought-provoking fun,
    And Pac-man’s maze became the craze obsessing everyone.

    “The look upon your face tells me you’ve understood my story,”
    “You comprehend what caused the end of Infocom’s brief glory.”
    “But don’t despair, Just be aware they’ve left a legacy,”
    “Their games have been preserved upon the Masterpiece CD!”

    “And if you can’t afford to buy a copy of it yet,”
    “Loyal fans have made new games and placed them on the Net!”
    “And though their works are gratis, they are to a large degree,”
    “Free from major glitches, and quite high in quality.”

    “Return now to your youthful life with my earnest benediction,”
    “And do be sure you search the web for interactive fiction.”

    Gloss

    1. The gamer bemoans his seemingly inescapable fate. Despite having an enormous quantity of games at his disposal, he still faces the prospect of boredom.

    2. Due to previous expenditures, now devalued in the face of boredom, the gamer lacks the financial means to purchase yet more games to fend it off.

    3. Driven to drastic measures, the gamer rides his bicycle off into a nearby forest. Failing to maintain a sense of direction, he eventually finds himself lost. As night arrives, his legs grow weary from his continual exertion.

    4. Afraid of spending the night in the open woods, the gamer searches for a less exposed place to spend the remainder of the night. He comes upon a house like that found at the start of Infocom’s game “Zork I: The Great Underground Empire”. As it is in the game, the gamer finds the front entrance to the structure boarded shut. As the player of Zork cannot remove them, neither can he despite the use of all his strength.

    5. The cruel irony of his circumstances infuriates the gamer, resulting in the bodily undulations he recounts. Unwilling to give up on the structure entirely despite being balked by the boards, he walks around it in quest of another means of ingress. Like the player in Zork I, he finds this in the form of an old window left slightly ajar.

    6. Despite his near exhaustion, he is able to force the window open wide enough to allow entry. He finds himself in a kitchen, as does the player in Zork I. Incidentally, there are no chairs in the house in the game, nor is there an old man living in the house.

    7. The old man greets the gamer by informing him of how infrequently anyone visits the house. he then goes some way to explaining this lack of company when he describes how his obsession with the Zork games has prompted him to board his front door and leave his window open instead to conform with the white house in Zork I. the hermit then offers the gamer rest and food. The “tasty food” referred to by the hermit can actually be found in the building found in Colossal Cave, the first computerized text adventure ever created. this adventure would be crucial in inspiring the creation of the original mainframe version of Zork, now known as Dungeon.

    8. The gamer and hermit are better acquainted through long and worthwhile conversation. the hermit displays intelligence, eloquence, and kindness to the gamer, who is deeply effected by the affability of his host.

    9. Growing sleepy, the hermit shows the gamer to a couch for him to sleep on, and proceeds to his own bed. The gamer sleeps well, but has strange dreams. These dreams are of places and events in the Zork universe. In the Zork trilogy, the player is constantly in need of a source of light, which is usually a battery-powered brass lantern. Almost all of the Zork trilogy takes place in underground settings of various kinds.

    10. The gamer briefly recounts the contents of his dreams. The dragon is found in the second game of the Zork trilogy, “Zork II: The Wizard of Froboz”. Grues can be found in most of Infocom’s fantasy games. They are said to make sinister gurgles, and will devour adventurers foolish enough to explore in darkness. The rainbow and waterfall are found in Zork I, and the icy wall and volcano core are in Zork II.

    11. The gamer awakens to find more evidence of the hermit’s obsession with the Zork universe. The items mentioned are found in the living room and attic of the white house in Zork I.

    12. The day dawns, and the hermit makes a cheerful entrance. The gamer asks him to shed light on the mysteries surrounding the house and his dreams.

    13. As the player does in Zork I, so the hermit moves aside a rug to find a trap-door. The gamer helps him open it, and taking up an actual replica of the famed fictitious lantern found in the Zork trilogy, they proceed downwards into the cellar of Zork I.

    14. Unlike the empty cellar in Zork I, the hermit’s is full of junk. The iron trunk is a chest found in “Zork III: The Dungeon Master”. The hermit requires the gamer’s help to get it up into the living room. In Zork III, the player must trust a pirate in order to salvage anything from the chest.

    15. The computer described by the gamer in such a deprecating manner is modeled after an Apple II E, one of the earliest popular home computers on which games like Zork could be played. Old five-and-a-quarter-inch floppies could normally hold around three hundred and sixty kilobytes. This is far less than half a megabyte, which is comprised of one thousand kilobytes.

    16. The hermit begins his explanation by telling the gamer about Infocom. Despite enjoying a period of phenomenal fame and success, Infocom has since faded largely into obscurity.

    17. The hermit reveals the origin of Zork, and prepares to show his attentive listener one of the Zork games.

    18. The hermit gives the player a manual to one of the Zork games. Infocom took extraordinary pains to provide players with plenty of background information and documentation to its games. The Zork documentation largely consisted of historical information, a realistic travel guide, and a financial report from the dominant corporation in the Great Underground Empire, or GUE.

    19. The gamer emerges from being engrossed in the book to find that the hermit is completely absorbed in the game he had originally loaded for the gamer’s benefit. The gamer is originally angered by this, but this quickly turns to shame as he recognizes that he is similarly guilty of ignoring those around him while playing games.

    20. The gamer is angry at having his expectations dashed by discovering only text on the old screen. The hermit responds to the gamer’s ire with Infocom’s response to similar surprise and questions regarding the lack of graphics in their games.

    21. The gamer quickly finds himself hooked on interactive fiction, and is led to wonder why such good games could not support the company which made them. Before he can ask, he intuits the answer of why Infocom collapsed commercially.

    22. The gamer realizes that graphical games, far easier to grasp intuitively, spelled the demise of Infocom. As graphical games became more refined, Infocom’s text games were unable to attract such large numbers of entertainment-seekers. In truth, Sierra’s graphical adventures were a more direct threat to Infocom’s survival. As the King’s Quest, Space Quest, and Police quest games emerged, they provided a midpoint between the simple video game and the brain-taxing and completely non-visually stimulating text adventure.

    23. The Masterpiece CD referred to by the hermit is produced by Activision, and is called the Infocom Masterpieces CD. It contains thirty of Infocom’s best games, and can be found in computer stores.

    24. The hermit gives the financially strapped gamer further cause for celebration by telling him of the many free works of interactive fiction obtainable from the Internet. These are mostly found at:
    http://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive.
    The entire Zork trilogy can be found at:
    http://ftp.activision.com/activision/zork/legacy
    Hints and documentation for these games is available at:
    http://ftp.gmd.de/if-archive

    25. The hermit ends his lecture, and tells the gamer to return home and try these games for himself.

    The End

    • Brad_King December 20, 2013   Reply →

      Awesome. I loved your story. Thanks for sharing!

  • WispHollow Games December 20, 2013   Reply →

    Brad approached me about submitting a story for Dungeons and Dreamers. So here is my submission. The tarnished paladin. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsGcV7APb94&feature=youtu.be

  • Psychochild December 30, 2013   Reply →

    They were playing Dungeons & Dragons in a room in the university.

    He was a dwarven vindicator, a berzerker fighter/cleric given the gift of rage by his god.  She was an elven thief, quiet and calculating as she sized up the group.  The dwarf was suspicious of the new pointy-ear in the group and went to look through her stuff as they set up camp

    “What are you doing?” she asks.  He ignored her, looking for evidence to show she’s not to be trusted.  But, he doesn’t find anything.

    The elf’s career is short, when she forgot her gloves and fails a saving throw against some deadly contact poison.

    They were playing Dungeons & Dragons a year later.

    He was a human evil paladin, a lawful evil champion of the dark gods.  She was a half-elf fighter, although few people realized that her other half was demonic in nature instead of the usual human.  She had magic to disguise her, but he was assigned to guard her against all who might go against her.

    His dedication was tested when some dark dwarves captured the party.  They commanded him to kill another of the party, and he complied even though it meant walking through a wall of fire and taking severe burns.  He followed orders, and he would protect the half-demon as commanded.

    The two had many grand adventures together, eventually retiring to a keep he had built.

    They were sitting in a quiet room together later that year.

    He was a computer science student, drawn to programming from a love of games.  He would go on to be an MMO game developer, although he had little idea that was his future.

    She was an engineering student.  It turned out it was not a good fit for her, and she eventually turning her admiration of fantasy art into a degree in fine art.

    Both of them had been playing together and talking for over a year.  He and she both had shared interests outside of games as well.
    “What if I told you I loved you?” she said that night.

    He smiled. because he didn’t know what to say.  But, she wasn’t scared off so easily by his odd behavior, and they began a wonderful relationship.

    They were playing Dungeons & Dragons Online nearly 20 years later.

    He was a dwarven ranger, dual-wielding dwarven axes and rushing headlong into danger.  She was a dwarven paladin, her tower shield, her armor, and her skill making her nearly invulnerable.  She was ever running after the crazy ranger who she claims “moves like a drunken bumble bee” and getting him out of trouble he always seemed to stumble into.
    And their adventures continue to this day.

  • wiredbeat2000 December 30, 2013   Reply →

    Psychochild awesome story. It’s going up on the blog now!

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