Welcome To Baldur’s Gate: Thoughts On Writing and RPGs

Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate #1 arrives in comic shops (and digitally via comiXology) today! Here’s a preview of the issue.


IDW allowed me to wax gaming nostalgic with a little essay in the back of the issue, reprinted here:


Without Dungeons & Dragons, I wouldn’t be here.

I guess that sounds fairly obvious on the surface. If there was no Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game, then obviously there’d be no Forgotten Realms, no best-selling Baldur’s Gate video game series, and no Dungeons & Dragons: Legends of Baldur’s Gate comic book 40 years later…but that’s not what I’m talking about.

I mean me, the writer.

Jim Zub the storyteller exists because of Dungeons & Dragons, the game.

When I was 8 years old, my older brother Joe and cousins Kevin and Mark introduced me to D&D. Even though the Dungeons & Dragons Basic red box set was clearly labeled “ages 10 and up”, I convinced them I was mature enough to be a part of their adventuring group (and, by that, I mean I whimpered and whined until they let me join).

Right from the start, I could tell this wasn’t like any other game I’d ever played before. No cards, no board, no limits. No matter how young or small I was in real life I could create a character just as capable as the adults I was playing with. The Dungeon Master asked us what we were doing and my decisions, along with nerve-wracking rolls of the dice, had as much value as anyone else’s at the table.

After that first taste of adventure, I was absolutely hooked.

Our party delved into strange lairs, slew horrifying creatures, and gathered fabulous treasures. Every choice we made had unforeseen ramifications and not even the DM knew how it would all turn out.

Each turn I’d get a chance to make my mark on our exciting collaborative story. If I did something memorable, the group would laugh and I got to feel like one of the grown-ups. Unexpected banter, battle cries, one-liners – I wanted to entertain everyone and make sure my character left an impression.

As the years went by, I grew up and roleplaying games grew with me. I moved behind the DM screen and started building grand adventures for my friends to quest through. Drama, plot, dialogue, pacing – All those core creative skills were honed by sitting around the gaming table using my imagination.

My writing career is, in many ways, my most ambitious ‘RPG campaign’ yet. It’s new and exciting but, at the same time, I’m still playing the game – Creating characters, coming up with scenarios…doing everything I can to engage an audience. In my head I’m playing through the character interactions and figuring out what comes next.

Roleplaying games are the best entertainment money can buy. They create lifelong bonds between friends and spark our creativity with a framework that encourages the unexpected.

Getting the chance to tell a Dungeons & Dragons story as part of the game’s 40th anniversary, carving out a new chapter in the fabled city of Baldur’s Gate…It’s wonderful, ridiculous, and surreal all at the same time. Somewhere inside of me there’s an 8 year old Li’l Zub screaming with joy as he runs around the house pretending he’s kicking skeletons in the face.

My thanks to Ted Adams, John Barber, Mike Mearls, Greg Bilsland, and the rest of the crew at IDW and Wizards of the Coast for giving me this incredible opportunity. Max Dunbar is a stellar collaborator and I’m honored to see my words brought to life by his appealing designs and confident page art.

As I write the Legends of Baldur’s Gate comic, I try to channel the joyous adventuring spirit ignited in me many years ago by my favorite game. I hope you read our story and feel that excitement coming through.

Roll initiative…Let’s do this!

Jim Zub
September 1, 2014

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