The other day, two guys working at the  local Jimmy Johns started talking D&D with their manager caught in the middle. The manager made my sandwich as they geeked out.

They were talking about their latest adventure in the city of Waterdeep in the Forgotten Realms.

As I picked up my sandwich I said: Guys! Can’t you hear yourselves? You sound like nerds! 

See? One of them said to the manager as he pointed at me. He knows what I’m talking about. 

As it turns out, that adventure in Waterdeep was their very first time they’d played D&D, ever. And these guys looked like they were in their mid-to-late 20s. Not only that, it was the first time one of them had DMed!

Maybe I shouldn’t have told them Waterdeep needed to be burned down.

Meanwhile, the manager nodded politely like I do when people around me talk about sports.

Encounters like this have increased, for me anyway, in the last couple of years: strangers in non-D&D situations talking about D&D. I believe its a sign that the hobby has become more popular, or at the very least gamers aren’t as shy or ashamed to speak up.

Meanwhile, friends and acquaintances whom I’ve known for years announce on their social media how they’ve started played D&D and love it.

And I’m like: Where were you back when we went to college together? I would have loved to have you in my group!

I don’t know what to make of all this. It’s like suddenly what I’ve been doing for years is now more socially acceptable than it ever has been.

And yet…

I object to the direction these games have taken. The hobby I knew and the hobby these newcomers have come to know are two different beasts, with different expectations and approaches to rules and creativity.

The gamers at Jimmy Johns were looking at the game with fresh eyes. They were excited. They couldn’t wait to play again. When I was their age (and it doesn’t seem that long ago), I’d already been exposed to the hobby for at least 20 years. I’d become jaded.

I still am jaded.

In retrospect, its a good thing those gamers at Jimmy Johns and my friends from college discovered D&D during this Golden Age. They missed out on rules bloat of D&D Third Edition and Pathfinder, the abomination of D&D Fourth Edition, and all the sordid history in between.

Let them read their adventures from Boxed Text describing cardboard characters from the Forgotten Realms. Let them cling to every little tidbit from the next storyline Wizards of the Coast drops for them to eat. Let them experience Dragon in a pdf format, and D&D Beyond and whatever.

At least they seem to be excited; they got the fire.

The only thing worse than D&D Fourth Edition is some jaded grognard extinguishing that flame.