Dungeons & Dragons, and Grimrock with friends

Minotaurs! Yes!

Upon starting up Legend of Grimrock for the first time, all it took for me to get excited about the game was the possibility to have an adventuring party composed entirely of minotaurs. Instead of recycling the same generic races of elves and dwarves of every other fantasy game, Almost Human included the options of Insectoids, Lizardmen, and Humans. For me though, it was all about the minotaurs.

Having read tales of them being the great evil locked away inside labyrinths, I immediately began to spin a new story of false imprisonment and a grand adventure of a group of minotaurs escaping the mountain prison together. I got excited about the prospect of spending time walking down long passageways and fighting monsters in the dark. The reward, I imagined, was going to be guiding this unlikely band of warriors to their freedom.


“It’s like playing Dungeons & Dragons,” I tried to explain to a friend of mine a few days later. “You put together a group of people, pick their skills, and then go through the campaign.”

“But you’ve never played D&D,” my friend replied. “How do you know what it’s like?”

I haven’t. It’s true. Despite trying for years to convince my local friends to try a campaign, they keep turning me down. For nearly a decade now, I’ve wanted to play with nothing but paper, figures, and our minds for the story, but I can’t seem to get them to want to try it.

It’s what I was thinking about as I was telling him about Legend of Grimrock. As I described solving the puzzles and fighting in first-person, I’m thinking how much fun it would be if we could translate the game back into its roots and all take part in the game. Each one of us could be one of the four prisoners and battle our way through the depths together.

Of course, I say nothing about this. I merely talk up how interesting the game has been to me and how I want to interview the developers to ask them about their game.

After I’ve gone quiet for a few seconds, he finally responds. “It sounds like a neat game. But the minotaurs don’t actually talk or anything, right? They’re just pictures on the screen like the others in the party you mentioned.”

“They’re not just pictures though. It’s the idea behind them. Minotaurs.”


I get excited about the simplest of things. Although, “fixated” might be better word. In my group of friends, I’m the creative one. I’m always writing strange stories about ancient gods being caged under subway stations or trying to convince them to help me with my next game project. Dungeons & Dragons has become, to me, more than the board game engine and rules, but an idea of how groups tell stories and interact together.

It’s the dream I have of  us all playing games together again, something we haven’t done since high school coming up on nine years ago now. We’ve all gone down our separate paths, but still manage to discuss video games every now and then. It’s become the glue that still connects us as friends. We get together sometimes over coffee and drinks and talk about our lives, yet it always comes back to video games with us.

I pressed one friend on why he didn’t want to play Dungeons & Dragons with me, despite us still talking about video game we first played together many year later. It wasn’t that he was in his late-twenties now, or couldn’t spare the time. “I’m just not much of a writer,” he admitted. “I play games to experience a story, not to write one myself. I want it told to me and to make some decisions about it, not have to do the work myself.”


I restarted Legend of Grimrock the other day. It was starting to get tough for me and I wanted to start over. Faced with the character selection screen once again, I decided to make another party of minotaurs, but this time name them after my friends. For each one, I paired them with what I imagined their statistics and skills would be in this fictional world. In my mind, I wrote our story and began to pretend this was our campaign.

Even though it isn’t really adventuring with them, I like to think it is. That maybe, somehow, we were finally able to take this journey to discover the mystery of Grimrock. That all I have to do is load that session again and there we all are, standing around in the darkness trying to find our way forward together.


  1. Tabletop roleplaying games are a lot of fun, with a good group. Especially when things start to go off the rails (“You, evil overlord wizard, want us to work for you? … ok, but we keep any treasure we find.”) and the group just goes with it. PC games are usually much more limited.

    D&D is kind of a crummy system if you’re looking for fun narrative, storytelling stuff. It has a lot of rules that get in the way more than they encourage creative stories.

  2. Did personifying your fellow minotaurs as your real life friends effect the way you quested? Did you notice a difference in how you weighed risk versus reward for yourself and your friendly minotaurs?

    • The most notably change in how I played was who held things in which inventory. Since, at least in my mind, these were versions of my friends, I ended up giving them items and gear I associated with them. One person held the torches, another the extra clothes. Things like that. Since Grimrock has a front and a back row too, I did also arrange people accordingly. It ended up being the classic fighters in the front and casters in the back, but that was only because I designed their characters that way too.

      As for taking more risks for myself versus that of the group, I’m not sure. Even though it is a party in Grimrock, they also move as a single unit too. I ended up being the “first” character, but that is only because I typed my own name in before I got to my friends’ names. Because of that setup though, I do get hit more often.

      An answer might be, then, that I have settled into a “tank” role, even if I didn’t directly plan it that way, taking the damage and letting my friends do the fighting back.

      • Thank you for your timely response and you’re welcome for my procrastinated reply. I think I would do the same , put myself in the riskiest position. I think our responses show the benefit and risk involved in modeling behavior within a video game.

      • Dan Every

        This, but XCOM!
        When your housemate/veteran sniper makes a bad call and bites the dust. That is a stinger…

        I am currently playing and enjoying Grimrock also.

        • I’ve heard that about XCOM: that if you name the characters after your friends, you might get mad at them in person for some fictional mistake their character did. “Chad! You didn’t shoot the last alien and I died! It was the final battle, hours in, and I had to start over again! Why did you do that, Chad!?”

          Dans’ tend to like Legend of Grimrock. It’s not a rule or anything, but I’ve seen a few data points and drawn a connection between you and another Dan I know. It’s probably a thing.

  3. Haha, I can so relate to this. I’ve tried for years to get my friends to play D&D with me too – the worst thing is, most of them even are interested in it, but since all of us are so busy we never found the time to meet up as a group and sit down and play for a night. As much fun as they are P&P games are very time consuming, whereas sitting down for a round of a traditional board game will only cost you two hours or three. (And just sitting down in front of the console to play something makes things even easier…)

    When I started playing FTL: Faster Than Light last week, I named my crew after my best friends as well. I also gave them roles that suited them, one of them is good at fixing stuff, so of course I sent her to repair the ship whenever anything got damaged. 8) But if you’re playing by yourself and have to think up the whole story on your own, have all the conversations in your head by yourself – it’s just not the same as thinking it up together with friends. That’s a whole lot more fun, so I still hope that some day I’ll get a group of friends together to play some D&D or Shadowrun or the likes.

    Actually, said friend who’s good at fixing just told me last weekend about this card game that is in a kinda similar fashion to P&P games, but much simpler and easy to get into and not too long, called “Aye, Dark Overlord!” I’ll definitely try getting a couple of friends together to try it out, maybe you could convince your friends to do the same.. :> http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/18723/aye-dark-overlord

  4. I just want to give this whole article a hug. I would totally play D&D with you. I always wanted to play D&D but never have. Alas…