Sep 5, 2017

Dungeons and Dragons

9/05/2017 — cori
My old self would have cringed even writing the words in the title. In our religious tradition growing up we were taught that playing that game could send you to hell. Best just to avoid it altogether, leave it alone and not even look at it just to play it safe. Anyone who didn't...well, they must not really care about their eternal destination since this game was obviously satanic. 

Obviously my experience, world-view, and opinion of the game has changed over time. In Gavin's U of M Composition class last year, he was required to do an ethnography study. It is ultimately a study of a culture group. D&D is definitely a subculture. Gavin's friends were playing this game. He was interested since he'd never played it before. So he decided to make their weekly D&D game his ethnography study. He took lots of notes, got an A on the assignment, and was thenceforth a D&D gamer. He played practically every week for the entire school year.

He definitely has missed the camaraderie of this group of people that others have sworn to hell. Let me tell you why. It is ultimately just a role-playing game. I know this because Gavin thought it would be a good idea to share this game with his family. He wanted us to all experience the fun of the game. When he first suggested it, we reluctantly agreed knowing that at minimum we would be at it for at least 3 to 4 hours. He's played games that have lasted all day.

By playing this game for myself I learned several things: 1) it is a highly interactive game  2) it appeals to those people who love the fantasy genre of literature 3) you have to role-play your character, thus bringing out a ton of imagination and creativity 4) it's a bonding game for the people you play it with. The picture above shows how many dice are involved. That is also alluring to math-minded people (like Gavin and his friends) because they love the challenge of odds presented in the dice. You also have a board where the game takes place. Gavin created our simple board, graph paper with messy lines representing our location. Usually, you also have a character piece as in Monopoly. Since we had no D&D character pieces, Gavin let us use his Lego guys.

This is what a real board looks like. We didn't know any better and had fun with our graph paper board.

The game has a Dungeon Master. Essentially, he's the guy who makes up the story line that the rest of the people are supposed to follow. He spent the entire past week, preparing this story line for us. It's like writing a mini-novel with a "create your own ending" type of outcome. I was awed by how creative it was. For every choice we made, he had an outcome. I realized I had wrongly judged this game and the people who play it. 

One of the first things he had us do was pick a computer-generated character. True D&D players create their own characters. I can't imagine the hours of work that go into that. He had printed up at least 12 options for us to look through and choose. I chose mine solely on the quote under the title. I am Human Fighter 1. He kept calling me "The Tanky One". I learned that meant it was because I had a lot of weapons and armor. You have to learn the background of your character so you know what choices to make in the game. It lists your faults, your strengths, what motivates you, your's fascinating. My Human Fighter 1 reminded me of Russel Crowe's character in "The Gladiator", so I chose his name as my character's name. It's really uncanny how the characters we chose were very similar to our own personalities. Albeit, I don't actually fight or carry any weapons, but it was the essence of the character I related to: he fights for those who have no one to fight for them.

Chuck chose Elf Ranger 1 - suited him perfectly! We called him Soren.

Bennet was a Halfling Rogue 1 named Jaquan. As usual, his character cracked us up constantly.

Chloe was Elf Wizard 1. She changed her name at least 4 times throughout the 4 hour game, ultimately landing on Adria. She reminded me of the Elf Princes in "Fellowship of the Ring." This is where I can see why people might have a problem with the game. Some characters have the ability to use magic or summon certain things. This is offensive to some people, I understand. But this is all just fantasy, make-believe. For people who love the world of make-believe, it's an escape, a way to do and be something or someone you aren't in real life. Gavin has been doing this since he was 3. He would always escape to "Gavin World." I never knew which superhero he was going to be and what his powers were. He couldn't wait to share those things with me. He always loved sharing his fantasy worlds with me. So it makes perfect sense that he would find others who love imagining new worlds and make whole games around these pretend places. 

I'm so glad Gavin invited us into this special world and shared what he loves with us. He actually showed a lot of vulnerability in doing so. People easily mock this game and those who play it labeling them all sorts of names. When in reality, it's just a bunch of grown up kids still playing make-believe and role-playing characters. It's a highly relational game too. You have to talk to your other teammates constantly to see who would be better suited for a particular activity or role based on their background. 

Gavin and his friends played this game once at our house once. I didn't pay it much attention at the time - I just kept the food coming. But I did hear 5 boys loud talking, laughing, arguing, convincing, eating and eating some more for hours and hours on end. There was no evil spirit in our house. There was no witchcraft going on; just a bunch of creative kids who were in essence "acting out" a fantasy novel. Something my boys have done since they were tiny. Every time they watched a "Rescue Heroes" movie, they immediately had to be the Rescue Hero and act out what they saw. Same idea, different age. 

I guess the moral of the story is, we can't let things we don't understand or know much about scare us. We can't assume to know about something we've only judged and not learned about or experienced. 

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