Monday, September 21, 2015

On A Nerd To Know Basis: Dungeons and Dragons

I started a new campaign of D&D this Saturday. I am the DM, there is no module, it's all from my head and the decisions of the players. The players are my lovely girlfriend, and several of her friends from seminary where she is getting her masters. It was a fun beginner session. The players are all newish to D&D and I have limited experience as a DM. I haven't played the fifth edition as much as I would have liked, but we all had a good time and I look forward to our next session. Thus, I wanted to take this occasion to post about my short, but meaningful relationship with D&D.

I first played D&D during my sophomore year at Hendrix College, spring of 2012. I wish I had played it earlier in my life as I think it would have been good for me in high school. I've always been interested in nerdy things, but in childhood and adolescence it can be hard to learn how to embrace that. I took the defensive route, placing myself in the middle, putting down certain activities as dumb, despite how fun they looked. D&D was one of these activities and I had no context for my distaste other than the handful of nerd stereotypes I saw on TV.

This view on tabletop RPGs led to some dumb situations down the road. When I contacted my freshmen roommate for college we had a brief Skype chat to introduce ourselves. I described myself as fairly nerdy but not "Too Nerdy" my justification being that I didn't play D&D or anything like that. My roommate, who went on to become one of my best friends chuckled and didn't reveal at that time that he played D&D fairly regularly. When I got settled in at college, I found that many of my friends had either played before or were very interested in trying it out. By fall of sophomore year, my friends had a campaign going and once week for a few hours I found that my closest friends were having fun with an activity that I had avoided for the most juvenile reason.

During Spring semester I was able to finagle my way into the campaign, it took a little convince-begging since the group was already pretty large, but they let me in. I had no prior experience with tabletop games, we were playing 3.5E, and the DM basically had to hand-hold me through all of the character creation and game mechanics. I was in, and I was obnoxious. After repressing my desire to play something like this, I got a little overeager and ended up making a character who everyone hated because of his personality (Read: I tried to be too funny). I got better though and during junior year I switched up characters and made one that fit a bit better and I became less abrasive as a player.

D&D helped me come to terms with a lot of my misgivings about being a nerd. I felt more relaxed when identifying with my hobbies, and it helped me realize that nerd archetypes are silly. I could play myself as a half-orc pirate, think that it's a little silly, then not care and have a good time. I kept playing with the same group for the rest of college, and I miss our Sunday night sessions all the time. I think I have a lot more D&D in me, and whether or not I'm playing with those folks, I owe them a lot.

Gratefully yours,
-Peter