I played Dungeons and Dragons once, when I was a kid. My friend and I mucked around with some dice and a rule book for a while, and then I was rather ignominiously killed by a skeleton. It wasn’t as much fun as, say, Frogger, and it was a lot more work. Since then, despite various opportunities, I’ve never been able to feel the excitement that others do when discussing the merits of a +3 Hammer of Bonking. Occasionally, I’ll feel bad about being so arithmophobic as to reject a entire category of gaming, but then I’ll look at character sheets that have more boxes to fill out than an IRS form, my eyes will glaze over, and I’ll retreat to the comfort of my mindless button-mashing video games.


Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic may force me to change my mind about D&D, though. The game is based on the 3rd Edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, but takes care of all the dice-rolling and stat-managing for you; all the player has to do in battle is equip their weapons, pick a target, and watch the sparks fly. But developers BioWare, in a stroke of cleverness, keep a log of every action and dice roll taken, and make it easily accessible to the player. So while it’s easy to go through the game without ever worrying about the numbers (evaluating equipment is simple: bigger numbers equals better stuff), it’s also very possible to min-max your way to godhood while poring over every roll and modifier to see where you need improvement.

I played most of the game in a pretty straightforward hack-and-slash manner, enjoying the game’s storyline and its smart treatment of the traditional light-side/dark-side conflict. But occasionally, I found myself rummaging through my inventory for an accessory to improve my lockpicking skill after seeing that my rolls were coming up a few DC points short on a particularly sticky door. I still don’t know what “DC” stands for, but it’s nice to be able to have that level of detail available. Playing so many plot-centric RPGs sometimes makes me forget that games are just as much about systems as they are about spaces or stories.