Talking Dungeons & Dragons With My Son, Gideon The Wise
One-on-one about the characters, campaigns and castles of Dungeons & Dragons
NEIL PATRICK HARRIS: So. Gideon. D&D. Wondercade. Let’s do this. Tell me how you came to learn about Dungeons & Dragons.
GIDEON BURTKA-HARRIS: So, one day I was over at my best friend August’s house and we were playing a card game which we both enjoyed called Magic: The Gathering.
I know it well, it has cost me thousands.
Well one day, a babysitter dude came over, he brought D&D and taught us how to play. And since then, August and I have been loving the game and basically doing anything we can to play it.
I have it on good authority that your knowledge of Dungeons & Dragons is vast…because you carry around a stack of hardcover books.
Which weighs about 60 pounds.
And they explain every—
—Every detail. Every spell, every attack, every everything.
So, for someone who has never played D&D before, how would you describe it to them in a way that would make them excited?
It’s a fantasy and role-playing game where you can be whatever you want to be. You can be a hero or villain…you can go around plundering dungeons and dragons’ dens for treasures, you could build a castle, conquer others’ castles…. You can be a monster, a con artist or a wizard who casts epic spells of destruction or healing…. The possibilities are endless.
And there is the Dungeon Master, who’s the person who guides everyone through the world and the adventures. The players are not against the Dungeon Master — the DM is there to create the world. And they also roll the dice for the monsters and stuff.
How do you create a world as a Dungeon Master?
You have to think of cool adventures. You tell the players where they begin and plot things out on a huge map of the world. You set up a dragon stand here, a city there, a rival city over there, your base camp is over here and yada, yada, yada.
How do you know the phrase “yada, yada, yada”?! You’re 11 and as far as I know have never seen Seinfeld. If I wanted to become a Dungeon Master, how would I do it?
You’d think of cool things that you’d want players to do. Things they would think are entertaining. And then you’d take a big map…it could be printed out, or you could just draw a rough sketch — it doesn’t have to be anything beautiful — and you’d make small circles of where things would be, where the characters would start.
Your knowledge of the minutia of D&D is remarkable to me, ‘cause you have been learning about it since you were 8 years old.
For example, name one of the races and character traits.
So, a ranger. A ranger is somebody who is usually equipped with a bow or a sword, a primal fighter outside the edges of civilization. (I am saying this from memory, readers. I am not looking at a book.) At the edges of civilization, the ranger defends that civilization or can survive in the wild — they know how to lay traps. They’re skilled with a bow and arrow, and are experts with such terrain as snowy, forest, swamp, anything, you name it. Or a fighter, a soldier who is just remarkably great at holding weapons and knowing how to use them, who can either focus on the primal knowledge of weapons or somebody else who can focus on how to use those weapons to surprise their enemies in special ways. Some fighters get the ability to use magic, but not many. Or a wizard, who just learns all of the magic that there is from throwing fireballs to devastate your enemy to even once learning so much magic that you can conjure a meteor storm out of thin air to just destroy anything in a 100-by-100 cube to even stopping time itself.
Wow. I only asked for one, but well done you. So what draws you to play a multi-hour, maybe multi-day….what are they called? Game? Quest?
Campaign. Is it the battles? Is it the—
—The thrill of it all. It’s so fun. During Covid when nobody went outside, I would get on Zoom or FaceTime with my friends, and we would just play. We had epic battles, built castles and pulled sieges with catapults, used meteors to kill things, fought epic monsters and saved civilization. It’s fun that you can do things you could never do in your normal life.
Should I be worried?
[Laughs] No. Your character could also be a friendly person who just wants to be friends with everyone. There are even people who can tame monsters to be allies with them.
So, there’s nothing I need to be worried about as far as you getting older and wanting to destroy things, people, everything?
Oh, no, you still have to worry about all of that. I kid!
“During Covid when nobody went outside, I would get on Zoom or FaceTime with my friends, and we would just play. We had epic battles…and saved civilization…. Things you could never do in your normal life.”
On a scale of 1 to 100, what are the chances of you becoming a devil worshiper in your real life?
Well, that’s good to know as a parent. What do you think about me being a DM someday?
You could definitely do that, but history shows that you never will.
Okay. Full disclosure, reader. I have promised Gideon—
—To create a campaign, but you’ve said that for three years.
Not three! Two!
It’s nearing three years! I remember, August said that for my 10th birthday “we should play a campaign with your Papa.” And I was like, That’s a great idea! Papa, I’m turning 12 soon.
Well, there’s, umm, it’s, umm, there’s a lot of pressure because you are so good at it! I have to create something really good. A truly complicated campaign.
You don’t have to do anything complicated! Just do what sounds cool.
All right. Well, I pinky swear that in the month of your friend’s first name, we will play and I’ll be the Dungeon Master. Please tell me that your friend’s name is January.
[Laughs] His name is August. You’ve said his name like 4 times in this conversation.
Right, right, his name is August. Okay. I’ve clearly got some work to do.
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