Flowchart: How D&D is a gateway drug to every flavor of nerdiness

Wired's Adam Rogers wrote a lovely, sweeping obit for Dungeons and Dragons creator Gary Gygax in this weekend's New York Times that included this flowchart showing how D&D was a gateway drug into every kind of nerd-dom:

We live in Gary Gygax’s world. The most popular books on earth are fantasy novels about wizards and magic swords. The most popular movies are about characters from superhero comic books. The most popular TV shows look like elaborate role-playing games: intricate, hidden-clue-laden science fiction stories connected to impossibly mathematical games that live both online and in the real world. And you, the viewer, can play only if you’ve sufficiently mastered your home-entertainment command center so that it can download a snippet of audio to your iPhone, process it backward with beluga whale harmonic sequences and then podcast the results to the members of your Yahoo group...

Geeks like algorithms. We like sets of rules that guide future behavior. But people, normal people, consistently act outside rule sets. People are messy and unpredictable, until you have something like the Dungeons & Dragons character sheet. Once you’ve broken down the elements of an invented personality into numbers generated from dice, paper and pencil, you can do the same for your real self.

Link (Thanks, Ethan!)

Update: Alan sez, "that great D&D geek flowchart from the Times should really be credited to Sam Potts, who also happens to be the designer of John Hodgman's The Areas of My Expertise."



  1. My favorite part in the diagram is how one gets close to girls via chat rooms, but never quite gets there.

  2. Awesome! I love all the jokes, and the succinct flowchart delivery just makes them funnier. For me, the gateway RPG was Traveller, but the results were much the same.

  3. One of the most annoying things to happen on an increasing basis is for someone to come out of a film proclaiming it was ‘The most original twist ever!!!’ when I know for a fact that it happened in X-Men the animated series (R.I.P. morph!). I know, there’s no such thing as originality… blah blah blah, but the truth is that I was dealing with more complex storylines aged 10 reading Clone saga spidey than I’ve been able to in the last five years as an adult.

    Some notable exceptions include Lost, but that’s just because Abrams’s trying to mess with me.

    Oh and if I hear someone say they didn’t really understand Ocean’s 11, there might be trouble.


  4. AFRO> follow the link at the bottom of the post and there’s a small magnifining glass icon on that page, next to Enlarge.

  5. Someone needs to make a version of this for geek GIRLS… D&D at an early age because you were a tomboy? D&D because of a boyfriend (still with the boyfriend? Yes/No)? D&D because you’re married to a gamer? ;-)

  6. L337? FAIL!

    btw, I fail too, because I’ve never had the chance of playing D&D; none of my fellow students were into it.

  7. It’s funny how if you’ve never really done D&D or the internet on the flow chart, you end up at both girls and Microsoft Office.

  8. “People are messy and unpredictable, until you have something like the Dungeons & Dragons character sheet.”

    Interesting. It just occurred to me that this is probably why there are so many geeks who follow the finer points of astrology and casting star charts.

  9. Hmmmm…

    The chart works for me a little, but not doesn’t completely. For one thing, I’ve always known women who played D&D. I tried it and didn’t like it.

    And Asimov and Vin Diesel on the same part of the flow chart? What the hell is that all about? It seems unlikely that people who like Asimov would also go for Vin Diesel Asimov is more of the “anti-Diesel.”

  10. i will smite all you heretics with my sword of nebucon and yes, we shall rule the 5th protocol.

  11. This would have been great had it been actually clever rather than merely trying to be.
    Anyone who liked this flow chart is not actually ‘in’ the geek crowd and just knows the memes but not the connection, like the author.

  12. I am very surprised that no one has pointed out how similar the flowchart is to Chris Onstad’s Achewood flowcharts, right down to the typeface.

  13. You left something out. Something was not added. “The Community.”

    FastSeduction.com is the D&D version of it. Thousands of men, all “keyboard jockeys” who don’t get laid.

    I cannot publicly offer links, since the people involved are very small self-published types. But if you are in Europe, go to:

    Or in the USA:

    Hint: “chat rooms” ain’t it. Girls at grocery stores and Meetup.com singles meet parties are much much better.

  14. I skipped D&D, yet managed to hit most of the rest of the flowchart. Maybe I’m even more antisocial than I thought.

    Especially because I’m in all 7 of the No’s on Furcon.

  15. The Hand of Vecna applauds!

    Also missing from the flowchart D&D->music industry. Sitting alone 8 hrs a day practicing and then sitting in windowless rooms late at night making records with 5-8 other dudes *IS* D&D.

  16. I noticed that the chart skipped the Holy Trinity of Geekdom: fandom, computers, and Paganism. They got the Renfaire/SCA part right, but they left out the Pagans! (Yeah, some of us wanted to know more about the spells in the dungeonmasters books, and wound up getting more learnin’ than we bargained for…)

    And they forgot Star Trek! And USENET. (the original Geek Clubhouse!)

    And BoingBoing!

    This mutant is not happy.

  17. I feel completely vindicated that comics are not included. Proves what I’ve always believed – gaming and comics do not mix.

  18. Thanks to BB and everyone here for noticing the chart. I agree there is indeed tons of stuff that I didn’t get in, due largely to my own ignorance and ability to work on a deadline. But I can’t help myself in explaining 2 items:

    Vin Diesel is included because he’s a self-avowed (-confessed?) D&Der. His connection to Asimov is that “Pitch Black” was based loosely on Asimov’s story “Nightfall.”

    And there is a Star Trek ref! “The Enemy Within” which connects to Cons of all kinds by way of a Saturday Night Live Shatner sketch.

    I am sorry that women would feel left out — that was not my intention. Let’s just say that the basic concept of one’s D&D activities occluding one’s romantic agenda was based on, uh, personal experience (aka high school).

    Thanks for all the comments — it’s truly gratifying.

  19. And I occupy almost none of them. I had a handmade Flying Nun costume when I was in the fifth grade. Does that count?

  20. Antinous, where did you wear it?

    Stefan, you’re not the only one who immediately thought of Lore Sjöberg’s Geek Hierarchy flowchart. Here’s a non-.pdf version of it.

    Inboulder (18), nice try at oneupmanship, but the geeks in this thread are finding the flowchart funny and recognizable. Same goes for the article.

    But perhaps you’re trying to say is that you’re the only person here who’s really part of the geek in-crowd? I’d have thought that was an essentially ungeekish idea; but then, what would I know? I haven’t played a D&D-type game since I helped playtest Tunnels and Trolls.

    NikfromNYC, could you please try not to post comments that look like thinly disguised spam? It makes my inbox fill up with lookitthat messages.

  21. Trick or treating, Hallowe’en, 1967. Clearly a harbinger of things to come. I was in drag two years before Stonewall.

  22. He’s apparently too modest to really stand up and take credit for it (just a tiny thanks and P.S. above, in the comments), so I’ll yell out that the chart is the work of Sam Potts, not Wired’s Mr. Rogers.

    Surprised Cory didn’t pick up on this, especially since Potts is the super secret ninja assassin designer of BB hero John Hodgman’s painfully hilarious book The Areas of My Expertise, and also other fantastically cool examples of typographic design.

  23. As soon as I saw this graphic yesterday in the paper, I knew it would end up on BB. Favorite bit: “Blogging About Diagrams”.

  24. The fetish map is great, but shouldn’t ‘bears’ have a bigger section than ‘cars stuck in mud’?

  25. I don’t think the area is meant to reflect popularity. If it did I think the “cars stuck in mud” would be too small to read.

  26. Committing one more online blunder and not taking the time to avail myself of the larger context (no time, too much work this week), I am just logging in to link to this article on Salon (might have been linked before/later/somewhere in the vicinity), and to join the crowd of left-out girls. Actually, Sam, I didn’t feel left out, I felt downright excluded, in the worst white-male-oppresses-you kind of way. sry 2say!

    /social blunder

  27. “For us, the character sheet and the rules for adventuring in an imaginary world became a manual for how people are put together.”


    For example, it still amazes how many people don’t realize someone can be chaotic and good, or lawful and evil.

    Btw, the link to sign in appears to be broken at the moment.

  28. the chart failed for me… i found lots of boxes that fit me and none of them seemed to be on the same string… i was introdused to d&d at age 12 and i love it… i love to coz and role play and viedo games and i did grow an obsesion with science fiction and fanticy and yet no matter what your chart says i have had girls chasing after me most my life… so there i win… i get the awesomness of d&d and girls >^.^<

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