The Forgotten Realms have been uncovered. Those who were shunned and tortured before are now like kings and queens – regal and powerful beings who look perishingly down on the common folk. The foolish folk who struggle in vain to learn the intricacies of a game from ages past.
I’m of course talking about Dungeons and Dragons. The game everyone’s heard of but few have played. The game created by our nerdy ancestry to be played in basements and libraries by networks of underground gamers.
As with everything, I bided my time. I waited until I could safely adopt the hobby without being judged. I waited till the reign of the nerd did cometh.
Don’t you feel the changing of the wind? (It’s notably more stale.)
…but after all that time I started off my D & D carrier with a terrible mistake…
Welcome to the Jungle
We’re all set. Pizza stacked on plates, character sheets half read and the hum of excited voices drowns out the hesitant narration of the dungeon master (DM). He squints in the dim evening light, declares our destination of “Phandalin” then asks us to partake in a short ice-breaker exercise.
Salazar (second of his name) sits up straight, he’s a human fighter with more courage than brains but enough charisma to hide that fact from strangers.
Beside him in an oxen drawn wagon sits the dwarf Kildrak. A good 2ft shorter, he has to crane his sinewed neck to look Salazar in the eye.
Walking with the wagon, and clearly pulling the short straws are Annawrath the fighter, Euphemia the halfling rogue and Xanaroth the fucking kickass high elf wizard. He has a glazed look about him, as if not quite there…
First things first we roll dice to determine our health points. We take turns and most seem happy, probably because we have no idea what we’re doing. Then it’s my turn and I roll a 2, instantly putting my high elf at a monumental disadvantage for the foreseeable future.
That’s 4 health points. A small trip over a loose branch could send me catapulting into an early grave…
Before I can have a full-on tantrum a mysterious disembodied voice announces a pair of dead horses blocking the path – they’re bristling with black arrows. We fear the worst and begin to natter among ourselves to the rustling of pages.
Seemingly from nowhere we are surprise attacked by goblins! Ooohhh!!!
(we try to act surprised as the generic level 1 enemies ambush us in what could only be described as “a perfect place for an ambush” – George Sambrook… ehem, I mean Salazar.)
Their attacks are pitiful, and the arrows fired from the treeline seem to hit everywhere BUT our party.
Roya the rogue sat atop a tree pulling a box of popcorn from thin air whilst the two fighters and their stout dwarven friend started to fight back. Curiously the elf remains hidden behind the carriage, no doubt preparing to unleash fiery destruction on the attackers.
Our fighters make short work of the goblins and Euphimia, having finished her popcorn, identifies the source of the poorly aimed projectiles. Still nothing from Xanaroth. Annawrath calls out just to be answered by another furious rustling of pages.
Finally Xanaroth bursts forth from behind the wagon, raises the palm of his hand to cast a devastating ray of frost and is immediately shut down by the DM. Turns out I couldn’t see them in their hiding place.
A split-second later an arrow pierces my shoulder, sorry… the arrow pierces Xanaroth’s shoulder who utters a shrill cry of agony. It’s minutes before the others can calm him down and explain the situation.
Let’s stop there a minute…
Making a short story long
I’m not going to insult your intelligence by spelling out exactly what D&D is. Most know it’s a role playing game which takes place in the players’ collective imagination.
From what I’ve found it’s like telling a story, but as a group.
Dad took the DM role and studied for hours to provide the world, like a canvas for us to paint our picture on.
In reality, the picture looked a bit like this:
However despite this we were inspired to begin unraveling secrets and exploring this new foreign land for ourselves.
We used graph paper to map areas and draw out battle plans, we told jokes and shared banter in imaginary taverns and gradually we began to immerse ourselves in a world which was (for all intensive purposes) make-believe.
Even with multiple (well excused) distractions, we still managed to keep the world alive. Thanks largely to Tom and George.
…and all the while the DM narrated, used farmers accents which varied in pitch for townsfolk and calculated odds of our ambitious actions, most of which failed.
To be continued?
We began at 8pm and almost made it to midnight before everyone had to head home. In 2 days of game-time exploration we barely scraped the surface of what’s possible.
Even now in our made up world our characters are grappling against overwhelming odds in the goblin hive. Annawrath has already looked death in the eye once, Euphemia is drenched from head to toe for absolutely no reason, and Xanaroth the scholar still has much to learn if he’s ever going to conquer “The Lost Mine of Phandelver”.
Seriously… Everything seems to be lost in this game…
The question of: Will we ever play D & D again is easy enough to answer, because I’ve never introduced a game to my friends which has enthused them more than this did.
It’s a huge investment. In time, in money, in energy and in patience. But what you get from even the starter pack is an almost unlimited opportunity for creative storytelling.
Could not recommend more.
PS: If you enjoyed the story, I can tell the rest of it. I got offered a job at an orchard, tried to kick a child and decided to meditate whilst everyone else got drunk on Ale.
That’s just a preview. I wanted to keep this short though just in case it’s dull as hell to read!