Dungeons & Dragons is a game played almost entirely in your imagination. The Dungeon Master (DM) creates and controls a mythical world. The DM is a master story-teller and referee. He “speaks for” the characters in the world, describes its mountains, valleys, and dungeons, controls the monsters, and decides whether your actions succeed or fail. The DM is not the only one telling the story. Players create heroes who go on a quest. Together, the players and the DM engage in interactive story-telling.
These days, our group consists of a paladin (a teacher in real life), a mage (an insurance broker), a soldier (a 3D freelancer), and a bard (a programmer). And me. I am an analyst in real life—a person to whom rules and systems are of utmost importance. My character is a rogue with a questionable past.
My husband got me interested in Dungeons & Dragons. Whenever he told me about his childhood, Dungeons & Dragons crept into the tale. There was the time he and his friends battled a vampire; the many occasions he had to find a way to resurrect one of the characters. He was the DM and one of his friends’ character kept getting killed. Instead of making a new character, his friend insisted that really his character had not died. My husband would give in and come up with some way-no matter how implausible-to either keep the character alive or resurrect him. I was entranced. I wanted to play. Problem was we didn’t know anyone near us who was in a D&D group. I went online to see if the Internet had any advice.
The Internet told me to go to our local comic store and see if a group was seeking players. That seemed cumbersome. Thankfully, there was an alternative. A Dungeons & Dragons club had just started in our area. We joined.
We met Anne (our first Dungeon Master) the first time we went to a Dungeons & Dragons meeting. She was a born storyteller. I still remember her villagers leaping over barrels, trying to get away from monsters and (worse) fire. She knew the rules too (a blessing since I had bought a D&D for Dummies hoping I could master the game that way). She was too good. The people she told about became too real. I cared what the village elder thought of my character. I cared what happened to all the villagers. When a young soldier who accompanied our characters on adventures was killed I didn’t want to play anymore.
But here’s the thing about D&D. Once you start, it’s really hard to stop. Maybe it’s just because stories are irresistible. Before long we were at it again with a different Dungeon Master. Russell wasn’t the story-teller Anne was. He was, however, very good at world building. He built models of the environments where his adventures took place. When our characters went into the dungeons we could see our surroundings. And his games were filled with a whacky sense of humor. For example, a farmer in a medieval world once gifted our team with an elephant. We decided the poor beast would accompany us as we fled an army of goblins. Never mind that we had to take refuge in suspicious looking caverns. We used up all the magic our group had just keeping the elephant alive. The goblin armies were very much a secondary concern.
That was a fun game but when Russell left the state, we went back to the D&D Club, looking for a group once again. This time, we found a Dungeon Master who wrote in his spare time. Jim conducted a fascinating story in a world inhabited by various draconic races. The story was loosely based on the Pirates of the Caribbean but there was a mystery at the heart of Jim’s tale. The creatures in his world, legend had it, fled a long time ago. Fled from whom, fled from where no-one knew. (Our adventurers found clues.) I loved the tale but my character just didn’t feel right. She was a bard and a cleric. She tried to follow rules; she sang. I couldn’t quite picture her.
We met our current Dungeon Master at Denny’s. That restaurant allowed us to play so long as we ordered at least one full meal so games did not come cheap. Still, as we were “between groups” it was worth spending the money. Our Dungeon Master that day was a college kid who was learning how to be a Dungeon Master. My husband’s character was a ranger and I decided to try out a rogue. I didn’t think a rogue would work for me but I had tried cleric, bard and druid and none of those quite “fit” so why not?
John’s character was a tough warrior. Since we were facing off against a lizard people who are not terribly nice but also not a terrible threat—this should have been a short game. Trouble is, none of us could roll that day. In Dungeons & Dragons you roll a twenty-sided dice to determine if you hit your opponent. And according to our rolls, we were not exactly heroes personified.
Imagine, if you will, an invincible looking warrior wearing plate armor facing a lizard man about a quarter his size. The warrior swings his mace and misses wildly. The lizard man swipes a mean-looking sword and misses. Their allies aim, fire and miss. Again and again and again. That’s how the game went that day. As we played, we learned a lot about the man who decided on a ferocious warrior as his character. He was easy going, had a great sense of humor, didn’t mind Denny’s food, and (best of all) he was a Dungeon Master looking for players. Would we like to join his game?