Thursday, July 13, 2023

Trivial Pursuits

The other day a friend of mine whom I have not seen in many years paid a visit and, along with two other friends, we had lunch together. One of those other friends brought with him a copy of the Dungeons & Dragons edition of the game Trivial Pursuit. I think I may have been dimly aware of its existence, but I'd certainly never played it before. I seem to recall that, a couple of years ago(?), Hasbro produced a whole slew of oddly D&D-branded editions of classic boardgames, like Clue and Monopoly, so I'm not at all surprised that there'd be a D&D Trivial Pursuit as well – and, unlike the others, it makes some degree of sense, since D&D certainly has a fair share of trivia associated with it.

That said, I was initially reluctant to participate in the game. As long-time readers know, I have a strong aversion to the lifestyle brandification of everything these days, especially hallowed nerd pastimes. On the other hand, it was all in good fun. Curmudgeon I may be, but even I couldn't permit myself to sneer in the corner while everyone else was enjoying themselves. Furthermore, I was pretty sure I could win, since my brain is jampacked with useless information about Dungeons & Dragons. If I couldn't put that information to good use winning a friendly game in a bar on a Tuesday afternoon, what good was it anyway?

I hadn't played Trivial Pursuit in likely decades. I had forgotten just how tedious it is, with its requirement that a piece has to land on one of the special designated spaces before a player can acquire a "wedge" for the category associated with it. This results in nigh endless wandering around the board until you roll the right number. The D&D version mixes this up a little by introducing the use of more dice – d4, d6, d8, d10, and d12 – which allows the player to tailor the range of results and thus (theoretically) make it easier to reach one's desired space on the board. Nevertheless, my friends quickly ruled that a player could get a wedge from any space of the appropriate color. Otherwise, we'd probably have been playing for even longer.

The categories of the trivia were, I think, six in number: history, magic and miscellany, monsters, characters, dungeons and adventures, and cosmology. Like all editions of Trivial Pursuit, they ranged from the truly obscure ("What was the name of the needlepoint company TSR acquired in 1982?") to the blindingly obvious ("What spellcasting class can use create food and drink?"). I naturally did well in the history category, which included lots of questions about the early history of the hobby ("What was the name of Brian Blume's brother?" and "What was the name of the King of the Orcs in the Blackmoor campaign?"). The other categories proved hit or miss for me, since they included an inordinate amount of questions pertaining to 5th Edition – not a shock, I guess, but I know next to nothing about it.

In the end, I did in fact win the game, though it was actually close. I had much more fun than I expected I would and would definitely play it again. In the course of play, I discovered that I know a disturbingly large amount about both the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance settings. Conversely, I don't know nearly as much about the specifics of magic items and magic spells. I also learned that I should have invested more time in my youth reading D&D novels, because many of the questions in the "characters" category seemed to involve characters who appeared in them. 

As I get older and my memory becomes less acute, I am regularly amazed – disappointed? – by how much I can still remember about trivial things like D&D. For example, I am still capable of recognizing an episode of the original Star Trek series after seeing only its first minute or so, but I sometimes struggle to recall why I've entered a room. It's maddening the way memory works and I imagine it will only get more maddening as my senescence creeps ever closer. Fortunately for me, games like the D&D edition of Trivial Pursuit exist, so I can feel, if only for a little while, that I hadn't wasted my youth by learning all this stuff.

8 comments:

  1. Trivial Pursuit games are best played by discarding the board and just reading the questions to another player or players.

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    1. Correct.


      What might be fun is a Dungeons & Dragons version of Cranium. Can you imagine having to silently act out spell titles or make Cranium Clay (TM) monsters or having spell a demon prince's name backwards in order to win your points?

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  2. "Nevertheless, my friends quickly ruled that a player could get a wedge from any space of the appropriate color". Its been years (decades?) so I'm not sure, but I think that we always played that way.

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  3. Though the first using the Trivial Pursuit brand and rules, this is not the first official D&D Trivia game--TSR produced one of their own in July 1991.

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    1. I had completely forgotten about that! Of course, I never played it. Have you?

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    2. I have a copy sitting on my shelf behind me...

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  4. Mark - thanks for the idea! I'm going to get a copy to use for a quiz game while we are waiting for players to show. One of my players also shared the idea of quizzing each other on spells by just listing spell components... Signed, the other Mark ­čśÇ

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  5. I discovered that I know a disturbingly large amount about both the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance settings.

    So do I! And that's probably not to my credit.

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