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Why I’m Thankful for D&D

Written by Ace - Published on November 27, 2015
The only elevenses I've had was on a die.

The only elevenses I’ve had was on a die.

This is a very special year for me. A few weeks (or less) after Thanksgiving is fast we will be welcoming our daughter into the world. Naturally I have been more reflective. So being asked by DungeonMastering.com why I am thankful for D&D- which they’ve asked other contributors is not as easy an answer as I first thought.  But here we go.

There are many reasons for me to be thankful for D&D! I have a circle of friends at my house one Sunday a month.  Admittedly they didn’t all start as friends but friends they are now. And it’s this community of the table that I love most, since for those 4-6 hours nothing else exists but the Keepers of the Keep: Vincent the almost famous scholar turned warlock with a thirsty blade and erratic behavior. Bobert Clan Bobert the elf fighter, chosen by the god Denir to rebuild a long destroyed church between adventures. Lorilla the small but fierce forest gnome Princess, who longs to search for missing love but instead protects her kingdom with sorceress powers. Alhanna and Eravan the elf wizards that are as powerful as they are detached from the world around them… Every month we build our little world and ever month as it grows so do we. I’ve had work friends turn into full friends, friends of friends become friends of the family, and some pretty cool Meetup members turn into friends.  There is something pure about D&D when it is done right. How I describe D&D to people who are new to this geeky side of me has always been impossible until I found the words from an unexpected source.

“For when the One Great Scorer comes

To mark against your name,

He writes – not that you won or lost –

But how you played the Game.”

-Alumunus Football by Grantland Rice

Come on! That IS Dungeons & Dragons, the apex of nerd culture summed up by the man who made athletes into legends. I love it; this is why D&D gets inside everybody. When you have friends over for Settlers of Cataan or to watch the Superbowl: there are always winners and losers.  In D&D your entire party can get removed from existence and everyone still has fun. We build these characters mixing in parts of our soul with our hopes and dreams.  We try to make them heroes in a way that is pure Hemingway; “Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.”  This is the memories I love in D&D. Those moments which show the character of the PC’s and the quality of the world they live in. As a DM we have a job to respect these instances, to avoid making them cliches. To craft them, not force them. To give PC’s reasonable chance versus the risk yet when the sacrifice becomes inevitable we become the viking clan preparing the pyre for our ailing chieftain.

However the path must become worthy of a sacrifice, it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes your players pull one out and thwart it all, intentionally or otherwise. I just finished that last session with the Keepers of the Keep of this year (taking December off for holidays and baby), and one of the Good Guys was supposed to die. You see, Aramil the Fallen was a PC months ago who became a NPC and had been shaping things for behind the scenes for months before the PC’s clued in. Ruerik the ancient dwarf druid (a PC turned NPC last session) was Aramil’s best friend and snuck away to face him one on one when the rest of the group was captured.  I was going to kill him, not because I wanted too, but because it’s what Aramil would have done.  Killed him at the top of the very Keep they swore to defend. But my players managed a victory, and it was a thing of beauty. I had drawn out a tree of 46ish actions and of those 46ish, there was only 1 path that led to Ruerik surviving.  They had to be smart and they had to be lucky to do it. What would happen?

Well, the party almost all died.  In fact they should have died, but they were both smart and lucky. They remembered from their very first session (months ago) about a hidden shortcut up the mountain, so two of them risked climbing up the side of the keep. This allowed them to arrive 1 turn right before Aramil was to kill Ruerik. The idea was that Aramil was going to kill him as they reached the top of the stairs but a 24  and a 12 on initiative put Granite Smasher and Bobert Clan Bobert ahead of Aramil. Bobert helped Granite who used his whip to restrain Aramil’s hand as he was bringing down the death blow. Meanwhile the rest of the party arrived and tried to be reinforcements. The battle got ugly quickly but they had told the paladin half-Drow earlier that Aramil had tortured her mother (information gathered from a fantastic dagger-in-the-kidneys pub table interrogation). Insert my horrible vocal skills as the 4’10” pure strength paladin gave a Kingpin inspired soliloquy about why you don’t mess with her mother, before throwing him off the side of the Keep. My players were acting like they saved the day because technically they had. That moment is why I am thankful for D&D because it always gives back as much or more than to you then all of us put into it.

As the holidays creep up, if you are sitting at my table or another; always remember that it’s not my story (even if I wrote it), or your story (even though you are playing it), it’s everyone’s story. So make it a great one.


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Written by Ace

I’ve been gaming for about 20 years now. I run a monthly 5E game at my house. When I’m not trying to think like an Owlbear, I run a Teen Travel Camp for the JCC and substitute teach to cover the newest order of minis. I focus mostly on creating a table that is open for everyone. Oh and my mom says I’m cool.

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