James Ohlen, famed Baldur's Gate writer, confesses that 20,000 hours of Dungeons & Dragons, directly contributed to his career triumphs and sanity maintenance.

Baldur's Gate Scribe Owes D&D His Sanity...and Job!

Here's a little secret for you; if work has got you down wondering where all those RPG games you enjoy spring from? Look no further than the hallowed grounds of Dungeons & Dragons (D&D)! A confession from James Ohlen, notable Baldur's Gate writer, serves as the latest testament to the power of D&D in shaping careers (and saving sanity).

Roll the dice and dive in, because Ohlen's account is one for the books. Known for his articulate wizardry, quite literally, across several genre-defining video games such as Anthem and the entire Baldur's Gate saga, Ohlen attributes his success to an astounding 20,000 hours of D&D practice! That's enough time to watch the Lord of the Rings Trilogy... about 4200 times.

While mere mortals were building careers and relationships in the '90s, Ohlen was amidst heroic campaigns and legendary struggles in unseen realms. He wore the crown of Dungeon Master (DM), professing no life outside D&D as he managed a comic book store and ran campaigns for different sets of players.

As fate would have it, one of these players was the programmer from BioWare, Cam Tofer, whose acquaintance with Ohlen's DM acumen landed the latter a gig with the studio. Now, you may have heard about the '10,000-hour rule', a thesis formulated by psychologists Herbert Simon and William Chase, stating that 10,000 hours of dedication to any skill can turn anyone into a master. Well, Ohlen must have thought, "Why not double it?”

So, when D&D isn't just a game, but your life, career, sanity anchor, and ticket to BioWare, it's much more than a rule—it's a lifestyle!

The wonders of Ohlen’s D&D adventures did not stop at landing him a job. They were akin to a rope of endless magical power that the BioWare co-founder urged him to tap into: the massive binders filled with character sketches and plot arcs Ohlen had meticulously accumulated over the years. While Ohlen found it “narcissistic” to incorporate his private notes, he eventually realized that it expedited his writing: "All the characters had personalities that I already knew."

And thus, from his wealth of D&D notes emerged the characters of Minsc and Boo, famously immortalised in Baldur's Gate 3 and many more.

It's hard to fathom the enormity of running three simultaneous D&D campaigns unless you’re actually, James Ohlen. His monumental commitment dwarfs our casual games, but then again, not all of us are designing seminal CRPGs now, are we?

So, the next time you roll those dice or embark on a digital adventuring spree, spare a thought for the good folks like Ohlen. For they've bled their passion into these immersive worlds we so casually explore. And who knows, the same passion could be yours, should you manage to stick a twenty-thousand-hour landing on the gripping grounds of D&D.

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John Hope

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