As a master expert of sports, I am often asked what is the greatest game in the world. "Is it baseball, Abner Doubleday's masterful synergy of intellect and athleticism?," they'll ask.
"No, not baseball," I'll reply. "That's for nerds."
"Then what of football?" is often the follow-up. "If ever a game were a metaphor for the mechanistic clash of nations, America's group therapy for the continuing psychic horrors of World War II, surely football is the greatest game."
"Wrong again, Captain Thinks-Too-Much," I'll answer.
"Surely it must be soccer then?" they'll inevitably entreat.
"You mean that 'sport' where Europeans in evening gowns fly broomsticks after Harry Potter? Not even close. And before you offer basketball, golf, checkers (Chinese or even Chilean), or any other from the archives of also-rans, I'll just tell you," I'll say, pausing before I drop some serious master-expert knowledge. "The greatest game ever created by man, God, or Gary Gygax is Dungeons and Dragons. No question. No contest."
Mountain Dew is 11 times better than Gatorade, and a bag of dice costs way less than a basketball bat. Man or woman, girl or boy, Dungeons and Dragons is the people's game. You don't need to be 7-foot-14-inches or run the 40 in two seconds flat. You can get winded in a long line at Wendy's and still play Division 1 dungeon master. You can be a mouth-breathing, crystal-clutching hobbit-dork or even the seXXXiest bald, charisma-free action star on Earth (I'm looking at you, confirmed nerd Vin Diesel) and still get your geek-game on. There is simply no better way to introduce people to the joys of animal sacrifice and the Church of Satan.
I currently play in a campaign (that's what we nerds call a season, but instead of facing the Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays, we square off against dragons, gelatinous cubes, and the deep-down horrors of the human heart. Advantage: D&D) with a bunch of other stand-up comedians. Our Barbarian is a mohawked madman whose real-life name means "without spleen" and who rides his motorcycle on the streets of America wearing handmade leather armor (AC 7) covered in illuminated ping-pong balls. Our Halfling thief is played by a part-time comedian, part-time professor, full-time stoner with an afro so big he looks like he arrived to the game on an invisible motorcycle with two other bears (obscure, but for those who get it: GOLD). Our Dungeon Master is a cornrowed crossdresser named for an Oscar Wilde character who runs for miles and tops it off with Farm Store chicken. We even have a pharmacist who is a real live girl! There is not another game on earth we could play and not get beaten mercilessly. We were once run off a putt-putt course by a band of thugs. The chess team regularly steals our lunch money. If it weren't for D&D to help us make friends, we'd be at home playing Sudoku with Teddy Ruxpin and our collections of Cabbage Patch Dolls (still in their boxes).
There are few constants in my life like D&D. I've been playing since I was 8, had my first beer in an imaginary bar populated by half-orcs and elves, and slew my first dragon before I lost my virginity (in a joyfully orc-free environment). Not many games carry so well throughout a life, and that's a big part of the beauty of role-playing. Every step, you can find some other nerds willing to play. In college, that guy who sold the good acid? Also a great dungeon master. When I moved to Oregon, my first friends were a bunch of Alaskan ex-pats who had spent the icy times rolling dice. Where else can you make friends, kill kobolds, and learn what whales taste like (a lot like walrus, apparently)? Every step of the way, I've found kindred spirits willing to roll various polygons and consume mass quantities of Doritos.
In D&D, you're bound only by your imagination, the rules are only there to facilitate whatever you wish to create. More than video games, more than movies, certainly more than the games out on the field (no amount of imagination is going to have me throwing like Joe Flacco), D&D offers complete creative and emotional freedom. Want to recreate the clash of cultures in a post-Columbian world where the Europeans were the ones on the short end of the stick? No problem. How about a post-ecological disaster planet with an uninhabitable surface through the eyes of a web-footed Kevin Costnerian hero? Done. How about a land where you can totally bang all those hot barmaids at the Lusty Lycanthrope and your wife won't mind? D&D, you're there for me!
The cray-cray thing is there are millions of us, wheezing on the stairs, ruing (we do a lot of ruing) the tardiness of the elevator repairman and our decision to do anything on the second floor, laughing knowingly at the mid-credit scene featuring some purple dude in a tin hat wielding an Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator in the latest superhero flick, or huddled in the back of Collector's Corner arguing over THAC-0 (where my Second Edition peeps at?). We are nerd. We are legion. We don't know what vaginas look like. There must be something in those tomes most square that binds us.