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The assignment: find out about Dungeons and Dragons

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Parents of D&D players add that their children have made new friends through playing the game, and they feel that that is a "positive thing." The continuous nature of the game, which can go on for hours and sometimes even days, along with the amount of time spent playing, seems to encourage both cooperation and closer friendships.

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Gary Gygax, the creator of D&D, is obviously enthusiastic. He mentioned another asset: because both adults and children can play, "there's no generation gap. It promotes interaction."

The director of a Boston-area camp, also a local educator, stated enthusiastically that D&D is "remarkable" because it "involves group dynamics as well as being a solitary thing." She has seen it "make solitary children into a real group."

In Arizona, D&D is used in many programs for gifted children.Some teachers feel it requires more imagination and cooperation than more structured lessons. One Arizona administrator commented that the game helps children to express their frustrations; another, that it "teaches children to hate."

Violence and conflict? The adult players I talked with denied or did not see violence in the game. A Boston area man who has played D&D since May commented thoughtfully, "Well, there's no overt violence. It's just battling with monsters and stuff like that."

Added another player: "This is no hack- and-slash game. You win by creativity."

A parent, however, expressed concern: "The violence certainly is there, and it certainly does concern me."

Mr. Ward of TSR sees this preoccupation with violence and competition, as well as "the desire for advantage," as the game's greatest flaws. He argues, though, that they are "secondary" to the positive aspects of D&D.

And the camp director agrees: "It is wonderful -- it takes children to the outer limits of their imaginations. It's very challenging."

Others expressed concern about the game's reliance on the minds of the players. Because the game depends so heavily on people, "People can get out of hand."

People who play the game mentioned the danger of becoming too absorbed. Gary Gygax cited this as the game's major danger. A player added that people "can become their characters. Reality is that fragile."

"I have very mixed feelings," says a parent.

The introduction in the "Dungeon Master's Guide," one of the advanced handbooks, states: "D&D is first and foremost a game for the fun and enjoyment of those who seek to use imagination and creativity."

Mr. Gygax echoes this in defense of Dungeons and Dragons, stating that it was developed "just for fun."

But a grandmother, also a teacher, remarked that "there's too much hate involved." When two children she knows stopped playing D&D as part of a school club, they said they were astounded at the hate and constant violence.

See related comment on Page 17.m