Happy 40th anniversary, Dungeons & Dragons, from all your grateful geeks

Raise your hand if you too squandered your youth on polyhedral dice and inscrutable role playing

It wasn't a slow news day for those scouring the Web's wooly fringes for the asinine and arcane. In the end, I had five topics to choose from: (1) Incredibly obvious scientific studies, (2) the highly creepy and cold-sweat-inducing news that Apple is patenting technology designed to target ads based not just on behavior but also on your mood, (3) the budding church of Kanye West, or (4) how (and why) the Pentagon is saving BlackBerry.

Then I happened upon choice number 5: the realization that it's the 40th anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons. That clinched it.

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Seeing how my demographic tends to be geeks in varying stages of age or decay (and a surprisingly large contingent of incarcerated females with low standards and histories of violence against men and animals), I know D&D has figured significantly in many of our lives, especially the complete lack of nonplatonic dates until college -- and that's being generous. However, if you suggest this to an old-timey player, he'll regale you with tales of high school flesh exploitation that would make Tiger Woods pale, even as the raconteur's nasal dimensions quadruple and his pants spontaneously combust.

Yes, our group, like most, did have some girls playing, but we didn't realize one of them was a woman until two years in, and the other set her own ground rules, including who could and couldn't make eye contact with her. We happily complied.

If you've never played the game, here is my very brief description (you're welcome, America): Picture a group of social outcasts in denial sitting at a pizza-box laden table pretending to be various medieval/Tolkienesque creatures in story lines invented by the Dungeon Master, also known as the Chief Virgin, but where the player's fantasy characters have free will -- or at least think they do.

Everyone attempts to play their character with attitude, and success is determined by an array of different-colored and different-sized die generally stored in blue Crown Royal bags, as well as weird voices from both players and the CV. A typical session can last up to 36 hours, during which time we all enthusiastically agree that this was way more fun than going to the prom and engaging in normal human interaction.

Hip to be square

The game has come back into vogue in recent years as many celebrities have come out of the dice bag and admitted that they, too, used to (or even still) roll the plastic polyhedrons: rock band Nine Inch Nails, Vin Diesel, Kevin Smith, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Stephen Colbert, Tom Hanks, and supposedly Darryl Hannah, among quite a few others. The general consensus among these folks is that it's a fantastic activity for creative types and pretty much taught them all they needed to know about life.

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