Roll those dice: An ode to Dungeons & Dragons

I’ve been too busy for a lot of things lately, things that I used to love and do regularly. Things like staying caught up on anime series and new video games (my friend Shannon keeps reminding me that all three parts of Starcraft 2 have been out for ages now, and I’ve yet to play either the Zerg or Protoss campaigns). But one of the things that I miss doing the most, and which I’m swearing to you (oh, Great and Powerful Blogosphere) that I will start doing again, is to play Dungeons & Dragons.

D&D has a very special place in my heart. I started playing it the same summer that I started hanging out with the man I’d eventually marry. In fact, I began playing it expressly because he played it, and I wanted to take every opportunity to be near him so I could bat my eyelashes and stare into his deep blue eyes.

I first heard about D&D when I was 18. On that fateful summer afternoon, I was sitting on the grass in my friend Chris’ backyard, lounging in a circle with a bunch of his other friends. We were talking about everything from politics to why Heart was the lamest Planteer, and then I entered the Twilight Zone.

“Remember that time we slew that dragon?” someone said.

Instead of just laughing at the outrageous non-sequitur, everyone began reminiscing fondly about the time they narrowly avoided a fiery death at the hands of a giant dragon. I stared at the people around me, checking for signs of a stroke. Everyone looked healthy and sound of mind but the words coming out of their mouths made zero sense to me. I raised my hands to my face and rapped them against my cheeks. Had something in my brain just popped? Was I the crazy one in the circle?

I feel like this a lot, to be honest.

I feel like this a lot, to be honest.

Just as I was about to stand up, leave the yard, and drive myself to the hospital, Chris leaned over and whispered to me, “It’s Dungeons & Dragons. We all play together. Want to join us next week?”

“Does Kelly play?” I whispered back, nodding across the circle at the curly-haired kid who was laughing at a joke about a troll.

Chris nodded. Thus, it began.

I fell almost as in love with role playing as I did with the guy I started playing it to chase. My first character was an elven druid named Fey Sidhe (I was pretty literal back then, but give me a break, I’ve had thirteen years to get more creative), because I wanted to be able to communicate with animals. Fey could do anything. Well, anything the dice allowed. She had waist-length white hair, would never get lost in a forest, and could even cast certain spells. As Fey, I could get away with being way snarkier and flirtatious then I could be as Caryn.

When Fey was killed on a quest, I couldn’t bring myself to destroy the character sheet. It felt like saying goodbye to a very dear friend, and I wasn’t ready to let her go. So she gained a permanent home at the back of my role playing binder, where she lives to this day.

It's true. I never throw anything away. "But my fourth cousin gave me that birthday card when I was six!"

It's true. I never throw anything away. "But my fourth cousin gave me that birthday card when I was six!"

After a year or so playing various characters, I wanted a chance to run a campaign of my own. I wanted to be the Dungeon Master, or DM. I borrowed the Dungeon Master’s Guide and Monster Manual from my friend Jason, wrote a quest, and talked small group of my fellow nerds into letting me DM for them. I’m sure that first adventure was a train wreck in the eyes of the vastly more experienced players who had to endure it, but all I remember was rush it gave me to see the imaginary town I created getting saved from an imaginary threat. My addiction to role playing intensified by the power of fifty.

Maybe it’s because I’m power-mad and I adore being in charge, but damn do I love to run a campaign.

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I firmly believe that playing D&D is a good exercise for writers, whether you’re just trying to play a character and stay true to your alignment and motivation, or whether you’re creating a campaign and trying to make sure your players feel invested in their quest. (This is how I’m justifying filing this blog post under ‘Writing,’ BTW.) If you’ve never played before, head down to your local board game store and join a group, even for just one session. There’s bound to be a DM there who loves introducing new people to the game, and they’ll walk you through the basics.

As for my own D&D group…I’m coming for you. It’s on.