Sometimes when the political environment gets too toxic, when Facebook gets too nauseating, when Twitter gets too trolly – all of which seems to be the case all the time these days – you must have somewhere to retreat. Sanity demands it.
For James Taylor, that place was up on the roof. For the Flock of Seagulls, it was just a matter of running away, running so far away. For me, that place is Dungeons and Dragons.
Of course, D&D is not a physical place, it’s a game. And it’s not a “regular” game where there is a defined objective with winners and losers, it’s a role-playing adventure game. D&D is more of a shared story-telling experience, set in a fantasy genre, than it is a game with boards, pieces, and moves.
I have a regular group of players that I play D&D with and each of us takes a turn “running” the game. The person who runs the game is affectionately known as the Dungeon Master or DM for short. A “game” can last anywhere between a single session of a few hours (called a one-shot) to an entire campaign which might last months, or even years! I’ve been the DM on this current campaign since early December.
Here’s what I’ve discovered after picking up D&D again, several editions and about thirty years since I last played. There are different kinds of players out there. There are the psychos: people who play evil characters who just want to roll dice and kill things. There are the grid lovers: people who spend an hour arguing over whether the shape of a particular spell hits a certain person because of the location and distance of all the stalactites and stalagmites in a cave. There are the rule hounds: people who keep their player handbooks open so that they can quickly question, check, and recheck every decision the Dungeon Master makes to ensure it comports with the rules.
And then there are guys like the guys I found. The role players.
For my money, this is where the game turns in to the retreat you want it to be. The role players create dynamic, flawed, interesting characters and play true to their character’s strengths and weaknesses. But more than that, they breathe life into the characters they have created. They give them accents. They create interesting back-stories for their characters and play them according to what baggage they might be carrying with them – figuratively and literally. They let the dice determine the outcomes – for better or worse. They trust the DM to sculpt the story in such a way that they are surprised, motivated, frightened, and above all, entertained.
The more immersive one is with the characters that he or she plays, the more fun everyone has.
If you enjoyed this change of pace, stay tuned because I’ll be writing more on D&D in future posts. I’m also working on some Dungeon and Dragons inspired fiction which I may share some snippets of here as well.