DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS. Yes, I am serious. If you don’t live under a rock, you have seen Netflix’s Stranger Things, and if you have seen Stranger Things, you have watched Dnd being played, so ha. If you have not seen Stranger Things, you need to get it together. It is one of those magical instances of something being wildly popular with a widespread audience, and yet completely appropriately hyped (textbook examples of the first condition without the second include Taylor Swift, the Avengers movies, and bacon). The main characters are a group of kids (played by actual kids! PLL, I’m looking at you) and the music is 80s synthy scifi (Drive + X-files). Not only does the show open with the group playing Dnd, the Duffer brothers grew up playing (and still do) and the game is central to the show’s plot. I’m not sure if ST is what inspired our dm (that’s dungeon master, yes, I am seriously going to talk about this) to create a campaign, if he’s always wanted to and this was the straw that broke the camel’s dignity, or if it was something altogether. But I am happy to be off that camel and rolling lasciviously around in the sands of unfettered nerdiness. Dnd is a long-running game (we play v5), is crazy detailed, and this is our first campaign, so I am almost certainly going to mess this up in some way. But I will continue because it’s better to be recognized as an idiot and blather on than to sit in silence and remove all doubt that death is inevitable.
You can either choose a somewhat pre-built world or story line, or you can free-ball it. Our dm chose to mostly free-ball it with the creation of his world, characters, and plot lines, which I think is awesome. I am almost certain we messed up from the beginning with the creation of our characters. There are specific, sorta-complicated rules for building your character’s abilities so that they are statistically likely to be fairly and evenly distributed across any given party of players. And we were all pretty drunk when we did it.
You also get to pick your race and class, which is a pairing all up to you, but usually you want it to provide some sort of synergistic effect. I did not think about this and chose to be a moon-elf (obviously) barbarian (sounded cathartic). In retrospect, I see that it is an impractical choice but at this point my party-mates are so triggered by it that I am refusing their offers to let me re-class on principle. All this info goes onto a character sheet for easy reference and the ability scores + rolling a dice are what determine whether you’ll succeed at basically anything your character tries to do in the game. For example, last session we saw goat prints and I decided I really wanted to hunt it and wear its hide as a coat and over the course of hunting the goat I think we had to use our survival, dexterity, and animal handling skills. If you are still here, congratulations! You deserve this.
So ya I never pictured spending any of my twenties as a moon elf named Xyley, but here we are. Now I will tell you what I told my very confused and also highly amused IT co-worker, because most people don’t get it. Dnd is just sort of a completely made up game. I think you can buy an arbitrary game board and character pieces to move about the map as you would if you zoomed out to the map of any video game. But you don’t need it and we don’t have it. The entire game transpires through talking, with our dm narrating to us when we encounter a new person, place, or event. You just have your character sheet (we do ours online), dice set (we use an online dnd dice roller), and imagination. And internet access. The whole *there is no game we make it up* thing was difficult to grasp and embarrassingly hard for the first few sessions. But as the game has gone on and I’ve gotten more comfortable, it is really the most amazing game.
Imagining with your friends (lol, but that is what it is) is entertaining, enjoyable and educational in a way unlike anything you’ve done in a loooong time. One of our friends named his character Brenden Fraser and at this point his character actually is Brenden Fraser and is always introduced to new acquaintances in the game as “legendary actor Brenden Fraser,” and we have escaped imprisonment by having him sign autographs for guards. Another friend’s character is a raging alcoholic who our dm keeps giving these crazy prophetic alcohol nightmares to that no-one believes. He also either immediately offends or tries to kill every new character he meets, and has succeeded at quite a few of them, which is absolutely hilarious because our dm, who spent time creating the characters only to have them immediately knifed, gets so frustrated.
Our dm did a great job building a world and different characters and he does different voices for each one. A lot of the time they sort of blend into each other and he’s forced to make up an excuse as to why this might be, which is always entertaining. He also made up custom items for us to find which are way better than the actual Dnd items, and hilarious. One of them allows someone who knows a certain Dnd spell (selected when building your character) to change one letter of the spell so that it has a different effect. The player who found this item has so far used this item to change a spell called Guidance to Guydance (we stole a bunch of money off a bouncer who couldn’t stop dancing) and Augury to Sugury (turned a bunch of snow into sugar. Not spelled right, but it was too dumb to not let us do it).
So ya, I did convince three other members of my party to help me hunt that goat for an hour and Xyley now has a goat coat, so I’m feeling really good about promoting this right now. Dnd is a great way to exercise your imagination as an adult, as well as experience your friends’ (something which there honestly aren’t many opportunities to do as an adult) from the comfort of your own end of the Google hangout. 10/10 recommend putting a few hours one night a week into this activity with your friends, before your imagination dies out altogether like a Disney movie where the adult is the indirect antagonist for this very reason. (Lego Movie comes to mind but that’s not Disney……. Elf? No.)