Why I’m truly thankful for Dungeons & Dragons
All this month we’re going to see if our various Dungeonmastering.com contributors can talk about what D&D means to them, whether its delving into their Geek past, looking at how the game currently manifests itself in their lives, or wondering what the future with it holds. Here’s mine. (cue wavy flashback sequence)
Long, long ago when I was in 3rd grade, my family moved from the Endor-like warmth of Louisville, KY to the Hoth-like winters of Rochester, NY. (This was pre-Chaos Weather when there actually used to be plowfuls of snow around Lake Ontario) Needless to say my Southern drawl and hickster ways did not help with the resulting culture and climate shock. Being a stranger in a strange land, making friends was harder than an Iron Golem. Eventually I was able to pair up with another oddball from Kirk Road Elementary. How odd? Our 1st time hanging out at my house we used Crayola markers, pipecleaners, and magnets to try and design a small time machine. Spoiler alert: we failed, despite having Encyclopedia Brtitanicas as references.
Luckily a few Levels in Kid later (circa 6th grade) there would be a gathering place for social misfits such as myself: Chess club. Here the the team grew to Avengers-size grew as we added 3 other outcasts to the ranks. Our parents had us all do ‘normal things’ like baseball and boy Scouts, but ultimately we were looking for something to tap into what made us weird to begin with. And then someone got a copy of the Hobbit, so we all ended up reading about Dwarves & a Dragon. From there the trails to fantasy gaming were inevitably laid out, and one by one we picked up funny-shaped dice thanks to the Basic red box which came from Christmas or birthdays. This of course brought on the Expert blue box, then the lighter blue Companion box. We then progressed into AD&D with its cooler hardcover books without ever trying the black Immortal set, which we still bought and read because that admittedly looked bad ass.
The haven for all this fledgling roleplaying was the afterschool classroom of a teacher named Ms. Edwards who let us stomp Orcs for gold pieces while she graded papers. To this day I wonder if her advising this informal club was because she just enjoyed watching some kids have genuine fun or whether she had once been a bit of outcast herself. In any event, it was around these pushed-together desks that an introvert gradually grew out of his shell. I won’t speak for my fellow nerds who became life-long friends that I talk to this day (mostly through a a headset over Xbox Live), but it was definitely D&D that I allowed me to put into clear words what was going on inside a confused head.
And ultimately, this was the greatest treasure I ever discovered while adventuring. Not only companions who’d descend into the Underdark with me, but the ability for a terribly shy loner to develop some skill in Diplomacy and be able to communicate with people. By talking to an imaginary girl (an Elven Queen sheepishly played by a buddy) I was eventually able to summon enough courage to talk to a genuine girl- one who sat next to me in Study Hall and whom I had a Colossal-sized crush on. Literally twenty years later we’d connect enough on FaceSpace for her to fly out and re-visit Hoth. Because I wanted her to know the real me, I let her see the 6th grade version. So she came over to the Thursday night game, where new misfits had replaced old. She tried her had at playing a Dwarf healer, and had enough fun that she truly wants to do it again. And because of my once wooing an Elven Queen, I’m now flying out to Tatooine for Thanksgiving dinner with that girl’s family. (Jennifer, I Love you.)
Isn’t it amazing what Dwarves, dice, and an occasional Dragon can do?
Thank you D&D.