My son is pissed.
“MOM. I tried for YEARS to get you to play D&D, and you wait until I move to New York to start playing?!”
“Well,” I explained. “I thought it was math. All those dice and hit points and stuff just didn’t sound like fun.” (Look, I’m a super lib flaming feminist, but I do not like math. Not in a game, not in a frame, not even aflame.) “But then my brother explained that it’s collaborative storytelling. And so I gave it a shot, and I LOOOOOOVE it.”
No one is more surprised than I am to be playing a weekly game of Dungeons & Dragons. I like comics, video games, science, tech gadgets, Star Wars and Legos. My nerd cred is solid, I was just missing one of the final slices of the Nerd Pie: role playing games. (I still hate Lord of the Rings. Deal with it.)
After my dad died, I guess I just became more open to trying new things. Life was never going to be the same without him in it, so why not, right? I had to create a new normal.
My husband brought home the D&D Starter Pack, and we gave it a whirl one Thursday night in March. The pack comes with pre-made characters and I chose a Human Fighter that I named Appleseed. Like Cher, she had but one name, though after our first big battle I gave her the surname Goblinkiller.
Our party consisted of my brother, my husband, a friend, my daughter (then 9) and me. We had an AMAZING time. We decided then and there that we weren’t going to finish the starter pack module–we were going all in. And oh lawdy did we go all in: there’s so much cool shit you can buy: dice of every color, spell cards, dice towers (My kid got a pink one), players manuals, modules, mini figures, terrain maps, and on an on.
We turned our dining room into a D&D palace. We’re even considering pooling our money and investing in one of those kickass custom game tables. My husband bought a 3D printer on Prime Day and has been turning out figurines, cave tiles, a dragon, and is currently working on custom mugs.
My first character was Ara Moonwhisper, a high elf warlock with the Morrigan as her Elder Fey patron. She was lethal with her Eldritch Blast cantrip, and though I intended to play her sort of academic and detached, she turned out to try to help every time it was an option. I think the rest of the party got annoyed with me talking our way out of battle. But hey, if you can get the cloud giant and his army of ogres on your side when you’re about to battle two red wizards and a white dragon….
We finished our Horde of the Dragon Queen module and decided to take a break from our powerful level-8 characters and start a new campaign with a party we call The Uglies. The rule was we couldn’t create a character as human, elf, half-elf, halfling or gnome. Basically, nothing too human. We ended up with the following in our new party:
- Desdemona the Tiefling Bard
- Nala Dragoncloak the Dragonborn Wizard
- Dench the Half-Orc Ranger
- Jittik the Winged Kobold Monk
- Zek the Kobold Paladin
On our first outing we were also joined by Scrawk of the Highlands, an Aracokra Barbarian played by my visiting son who was finally getting his chance to nerd it up with the fam.
My brother is the DM and is having a magnificent time creating the story and it’s especially fun because he can change the story based on the weird things we do in-game; not just based on pre-set outcomes. For instance, our party killed a bunch of zombies that were locked in a turnip and pig farmer’s barn. He didn’t have any money, so we took payment in turnips and I, being a bard, charmed him into giving me a piglet, which I carried in my pack with her head out so she (I named her Petunia) could see. Scrawk and Zek were constantly trying to eat her.
The next week, Petunia caught the eye of an Ogre Druid in a small town. She said she could talk to animals and reported that Petunia missed her mommy. I gave her to the Ogre to return. My brother laughed and said “I didn’t think you were going to give up the piglet–you were going to have to fight the ogre!”
Now while Ara Moonwhisper was quiet and diplomatic, Desdemona is decidedly not. She is loud and brash and, well, kind of a bitch. I’m having a great time playing her, and I can’t wait to see where the story will take us.
Here are my top five benefits of D&D
- Spending time with my brother. Before our dad died we probably saw each other a dozen times a year and now we’re as close as we were as kids (though I’ve stopped beating him up and he no longer follows me and my friends around).
- Sparring with my husband. We’re engaged with one another without phones or TV or anything to distract us. Plus when his character teases mine or vice-versa it kind of vents any pent-up annoyance in a good way.
- My daughter is getting smarter. Adding modifiers to attack rolls is exercising her brain, as is making strategic decisions about which weapon or spell to use.
- Her confidence is growing. Inspired by my Appleseed Goblinkiller character, she named her Human Fighter in our first campaign Apricot Hairflipper. And every time she kicked ass (which was often–that girl was TOUGH) she’d grin and flip her hair. Or when a party member asked, “Do you think you can take out that giant spider?” She’d reply, “OF COURSE I CAN, I’m Apricot Hairflipper *flip*”
- Family time. Imaginative play. Creativity. It’s all good.
This is the most fun I’ve had in years. And Scrawk of the Highlands will be back at Christmas.