I’ve always loved video games, movies and other hobbies centric to nerd culture, but before last week I’d never even played the nerdiest game of all, Dungeons and Dragons. Despite loving fantasy and even owning a number of forgotten realms and dragonlance books, D&D has always intimidated me.
Why you ask? Ever since high school – when I felt my hobbies and interests start to matter and fluctuate depending on the social status of each one – I’ve been a closeted nerd. Pop culture was certainly becoming more acceptant of superhero movies and video games, but was still nowhere close to the level of openness that nerd culture is today, thus is still contained a certain stigma.
I played soccer all four years, never amounting to much success, and associated with a lot of the other kids that played sports too. On weekends I’d usually go home and play Halo or Gears of War with kids from Arizona I didn’t even know, and I had a blast.
As a result of this behavior, I fell into a middle ground of not good enough at sports to have standing in that social circle, but simultaneously not feeling nerdy or smart enough to want to associate with the kids around who would want to play Dungeons and Dragons.
Obviously looking back on it younger me had a stupid mindset when it came to doing things I enjoy as opposed to things that society deems popular, but hindsight is 20/20. Now a days I’m a lot more open with my hobbies and interests, and maybe it’s because everyone else has matured too, but society certainly seems to encourage nerdiness then when I was in school.
But even now that I am more confident and open about my nerdy side, it still took me a while to want to play Dungeons and Dragons because of the fact that I might not be as nerdy as others, an elite nerd if you will. I can vividly remember a conversation I had with a co-worker and my eagerness to play D&D.
This was someone who I had established a good friendship with that was founded upon nerdy things like video games, movies and comics. When I brought the topic up about maybe playing with him his response was simply, “Nah man you wouldn’t like it, it’s a little too complex and out there for you.”
I’m paraphrasing but the jist of what he was saying is that just because I like some nerdy things, doesn’t mean I’m going to enjoy Dungeons and Dragons. As a result I didn’t ask again.
Eventually, I met a couple of people at the gym after hearing them chat about an update in Overwatch, and joined the conversation and eventually swapped gamertags. Fast forward a couple months and a lot of games of Overwatch and the Dungeon Master invited me to play with them on a site called Roll20.
The wonders of the internet allowed the DM to create an entire campaign – played on a intractable grid map – online for us to play in with an unlimited amount of people. The site (Roll20) was also simple to use for a beginner like myself and was made up of fully furnished action dice, character sheets – with sheets requiring players to fill in the blanks – and a side chat that showed the group resulting rolls.
While I was a bit nervous going into the first session, Max (Dungeon Master) walked me through everything before hand and helped me create my Mecha Human character that thought he was a Dwarf. Though the first few turns took a couple of questions and sifting through tabs, it wasn’t long before I got the hang of the sites layout.
The six of us – a Mecha Human, a talking Jukebox, a Magician, a catlike dwarf, a Pixie and the DM – stayed up till around three in the morning playing the campaign, and what a wondrous, hectic journey it was. Highlights of the journey include;Fighting a Fog Monster and a Red priest; Watching the Magician roll below a five for multiple turns in a row – resulting in being dropped into a swamp of alligators by his flying scandinavian assistance Helga (Guten Tag) – and eventually dying after the affirmation Magician flipped a 50/50 life or death coin to either kill all of us or all of the enemies in the area, when in reality all he had to do was place a coin on a pedestal in the right place.
Despite the terrible rolls, the worst magician and magician’s assistant (Guten Tag) in the world, and even most of the parties eventual death, I had some of the most fun and laugh harder than I ever had in my life. While a lot of it depends on having a good group to do it with (especially a DM) the experience makes me wish I had started playing Dungeons and Dragons far sooner.
I encourage anyone who’s interested to play Dungeons and Dragons – whether its the board game, the old video game or even online – despite how intimidating it might seem to a casual nerd. I certainly look forward to many more campaigns and rolling 20 many more times, as I’ve got my Clown character Bubbles all geared up for the campaign this weekend(hop in the clown car, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride).