Monday, June 14, 2010

The Dungeons and the Dragons

All through middle school and most of and high school, I flat-out refused to play Dungeons & Dragons. Or any other form of Role-Playing Game (RPGs to those in the know). I looked down on them like most "cool kids" looked down on me. “At least I’m not one of those losers,” I would think to myself when I saw them in the lunchroom with their dice and their character sheets and their Magic: The Gathering cards.

Part of the problem was my friends, who felt much the same way I did. At least some cool people played video games, like Halo and Super Smash Bros. But nobody who was cool had ever touched a twenty-sided die and lived to tell the tale.

Late in high school, I found out that my step-brother’s friend Paul was a D&D player. He had all the rulebooks, and he would let me read them when he wasn’t using them. Flipping through the pages, particularly those of the Monster Manual, I discovered that the illustrations were actually pretty good-looking. And once I took a gander at the pretty pictures, it wasn’t long before I was reading the descriptions, too. I didn’t understand any of the actual game mechanics, but the Monster Manual was full of interesting and intriguing possibilities. So many ideas, so many monsters, and so many ways to combine them! And some of them were brand-new monsters, not taken from any mythology or culture, but lifted straight out of the inventors’ minds. Gradually, it started to look… well, kind of fun.

If you spend long enough immersed in a foreign language, even if you don’t know any of it, after a while you’ll start to understand it. So it was with me and D&D. I asked questions, got answers, and gradually came to understand what was going on. I realized that the blurb on the back cover of the Player’s Guide was right: “Endless adventure” was actually a possibility, because you could just keep making stuff up as you went! I had finally found a game whose only real limit was my imagination.

I delved deeper, discovering other RPGs, with different systems, different rules, different characters, and new ways of expressing myself. It became clear to me that RPGs were much more than simple games: they were the perfect fusion of Cops and Robbers, pass-the-flashlight ghost stories, LEGOs, and improvisational theater. I was in my element!

It’s been a few years since then, and I’ve only just scratched the surface of what PRGs are capable of doing. I’ve seen and heard a lot of awesome and amazing things happen on those late nights around the kitchen table, surrounded by beer, happy conversation, and the clatter of dice. I never would have found any of this stuff if I’d listened to my “friends,” and let them tell me what was or wasn’t “cool.”

So if you want to try something, go ahead and do it, even if your friends would think less of you. “Nerdy” is just a word that ignorant people use to excuse themselves from enjoying things.

1 comment:

  1. A very thoughtful approach to gaming from the outside. (Yay for three posts!)