My last post got a little sidetracked. I somehow got caught up in explaining the “why” I decided to try out this role playing game called Dungeons and Dragons rather than just describing the experience of it. Sometimes I do that. I get lost in my own mind, and there is a whole “why” backstory to that too, but I will spare you further ramblings on that subject. Let me just get this freight train back on the rails and see if I can salvage what’s left of my audience and/or dearest friendships.
The group coordinator, who I will call D, told everyone to meet at the comic book store at 1pm. I tentatively committed to being there and spent the time leading up to that Saturday in a constant flux between excited anticipation and morbid dread. The night before, I was so nervous, you’d have thought I was having major surgery in the morning or something. But with a little bit of moral support from my equally socially aversive online friends and having already made arrangements for my boys, I boldly made my way to the store.
I purposely left a little late because I did not want to be the first one there. I am always awkward when I am out in public alone. It was only about ten after when I arrived, but I think D was already irritated by the poor turn out. The store was fairly crowded with several groups playing various other games. I scanned the room with the nervous realization that I had no idea who I was looking for. Finally, I spotted a couple likely D&Ders close to the back of the store and headed that way. Luckily, they were the ones I was looking for, and as I approached D recognized me from my Facebook profile picture.
He greeted me in his gruff booming voice with, “You must be that girl from Facebook whose name starts with a ‘T’?”
I smiled, “Yes. I’m Tela.”
D laughed. “Oh! Like He-Man! But I bet you’ve gotten that your whole life.”
I sat down at the table between D and another guy who I will call The Engineer. Both of these guys are very experienced D&D players, and both of them immediately started explaining the game and how this particular set up works.
I’m not going to lie, this was kind of an intense experience. D&D is a complicated game. It is basically story telling with active participation. D is a very blunt individual, and he was not shy about explaining his own expectations of the group itself along with the rules of the game.
Like I mentioned before, D was a little irritated that nobody else was there yet, so after the opening pleasantries and basic rule explanations, he asked The Engineer to continue teaching me about the game while he went off to post inquiries on Facebook and get the “equipment” for the game. The Engineer started explaining the characters and classes, how spell casting works, and showing me how all this translates on the character sheets.
Basically, D&D is story telling with active participation. Each player creates a character based on categories called “classes.” Classes are the basic description of a character’s ability and play style. The very basic ones are Wizard, Cleric, Bard, Barbarian, and Rogue. Classes are the most important defining element of character creation, but once that is established, players are free to personalize their characters in countless ways. Each player decides the gender, race, name, and even backstory of his or her character, and the more involved this process is, the more interesting the game becomes.
Like any story, D&D requires a narrator. A voice outside of the action that moves the story along. In D&D that voice is called the Dungeon Master (DM). The DM’s job is to describe each scene, keep track of where all the monsters, dangers, and characters are, clarify situations and rules, help determine if actions by players are possible or successful, play all of the monsters, and basically hold everything together. The DM is the most important player in the game.
I sat there for an hour as these two guys bombarded me with all of this information, but not just the broad strokes. The Engineer is a detail oriented guy, and he got lost in telling how D&D is played on a national level and the nuances of spell casting versus rituals. While D just continually railed about how we weren’t there to “be friends” and everybody is going to have to step up and DM if this Saturday group was going to work. To be honest, the shear amount of information being thrown at me coupled with D’s anti-socializing but pull-your-weight attitude was overwhelming me before we even got started. I mean, part of the reason I was there was to hopefully make a few friends and how am I supposed to DM when I don’t even know the difference between a “constitution check” and a “death save roll”?!
Sheesh! Calm down, fellas!
Thankfully, two other guys showed up. J, a very “Big Bang Theory” kind of guy, and R who looked like Al from “Tool Time” and sounded like the Jolly Green Giant. Once everyone picked their character and got their score sheets, we actually started a game.
Our party consisted of:
R-Fighter-like a Barbarian
The game itself was tons of fun. D is a good DM, if not a little impatient, and The Engineer was very helpful in explaining what was going on, which die to roll, and how to apply all the modifiers. I still don’t know how or when to do all of those things, but I think I was starting to get the hang of the flow by the end. I mean, I managed to kill an ogre by jumping on it’s back and stabbing it through the eye, and as Jeff so graciously pointed out after I got home later that evening, I was still alive at the end of the session, so it was a good day!
Hey, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while!
All in all, I had a really good time playing D&D, and despite still feeling a little apprehensive about it, I am going to keep going back. I don’t know if this will be my next new all-consuming hobby or just a phase that’s grown out of loneliness, but either way, I intend to enjoy the adventure.