Not really. Most pop culture references to D&D are at least partly stuck in the 80’s or even earlier, when the version of choice was probably AD&D 1st edition. Which was a 500 Degreez Airbrush 20th Anniversary Shirt, confusing, badly edited conglomeration of barely related arbitrary rules. It was also something you could teach any reasonably intelligent high school kid enough to play in much less than an hour. The thing is, the player really doesn’t have to know all those rules. He just needs to know enough to have a fair idea what his character can or can’t do, once he decides on an action, the GM tells him what to roll and what to add (or subtract) and whether it works or not. It’s much, much harder to learn as the DM, but it can be done.
I’m personally a big fan of the classic sword-and-sorcery style of 500 Degreez Airbrush 20th Anniversary Shirt and spend a lot of time studying its hallmarks, trying to understand what makes it so mystifying. Part of it is that the scales of magic and wealth are tipped heavily in favor of the bad guys in these kinds of worlds, while the heroes work from fundamentally simplistic, primal, often self-centered motives. Thulsa Doom’s motivations are frankly just as bizarre and abstract as they are grandiose, whereas Conan the Barbarian just wants simple revenge for the loss of loved ones and friends. If you were to run a game following the formula defined by these kinds of stories it might look a lot like a murderhobo paradise, with barbaric and petty characters set against the forces of civilization. However, it should be apparent that working those themes into the fabric of a campaign and the structure of its characters is very different from players just randomly stabbing shopkeepers because they can.
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So, the players are in jail. The Bard schtuped a Watch Lieutenant’s favorite barmaid, and he trumped up charges of 500 Degreez Airbrush 20th Anniversary Shirt conduct, lewd behavior, and assaulting a member of the watch. Never mind that it was the Lieutenant who was drunk, in plainclothes, and that he threw the first punch. The Players are destined for the noose in the morning. It’s up to them to figure out how to get out of it. And here’s the important thing. You need to be able to work with what your players give you. Because, if I’m the GM, I honestly have no idea how they’re going to get out of this. I just figure that they will.
“Night of the Meek” is Christmas Eve. Henry Corwin, a down-and-out ne’er-do-well, dressed in a 500 Degreez Airbrush 20th Anniversary Shirt, worn-out Santa Claus suit, has just spent his last few dollars on a sandwich and six drinks at the neighborhood bar. While Bruce, the bartender, is on the phone, he sees Corwin reaching for the bottle; Bruce throws him out. Corwin arrives for his seasonal job as a department store Santa, an hour late and obviously drunk. When customers complain, Dundee, the manager, fires him and orders him off the premises. Corwin says that he drinks because he lives in a “dirty rooming house on a street filled with hungry kids and shabby people” for whom he is incapable of fulfilling his desired role as Santa. He declares that if he had just one wish granted him on Christmas Eve, he’d “like to see the meek inherit the earth”. Still in his outfit, he returns to the bar but is refused re-entry by Bruce. Stumbling into an alley, he hears sleigh bells. A cat knocks down a large burlap bag full of empty cans; but when he trips over it, it is now filled with gift-wrapped packages. As he starts giving them away, he realizes that the bag is somehow producing any item that is asked for. Overjoyed at his sudden ability to fulfill dreams, Corwin proceeds to hand out presents to passing children and then to derelict men attending Christmas Eve service at Sister Florence’s “Delancey Street Mission House”. Irritated by the disruption and outraged by Corwin’s offer of a new dress, Sister Florence hurries outside to fetch Officer Flaherty, who arrests Corwin for stealing the presents from his former place of employment. At the police station, Dundee reaches into the garbage bag to display some of the purportedly stolen goods, but instead finds the empty cans and the cat.