Tuesday, May 30, 2017

D&D: A Family Affair

You know how sometimes you stop doing something fun because you think it's stopping you from doing something important?

Like, maybe you used to sculpt scale models of, uh . . . models . . . like from America's Next Top Model, season 3, but then you somehow got it into your thick melon that you should instead be intently watching the night sky for any signs of an asteroid (or is it a meteor?), juuuuust in case your skills in late-night, naked-eye civilian astronomy might just be the deciding factor in whether or not humanity existed for another 10,000 years or went up in a fiery explosion so epic that even the coolest guys would be compelled to look at it, you know, if they weren't so busy being burned to a crisp by it.

Well, friend, I was like you once. I mean, I never felt the need to stop sculpting the cast of A.N.T.M. . . . I could never! At least not because of the threat of a meteor (or is it an asteroid?). I mean, our race is far more likely to obliterate ourselves than we are to be obliterated by something else. It's just plain statistics.

Anyway, I used to play Dungeons and Dragons . . . and Rifts, and T.M.N.T., and other tabletop roleplaying games, but then I thought maybe there was something more important I could be doing with my time.

Something like dating. Something like working more than full time. Something like going to Denny's in the middle of the night and criticizing that pretentious bunch of pre-hipster hipsters, the Superman Crew (or so we called them), for being lame enough to all have Superman tattoos and all wear tight shirts with his symbol on them, even as they were all so emo that the mega-moody members of My Chemical Romance would have probably told them to lay off the grayscale just a bit and maybe try incorporating some warm yellows and bright greens into their wardrobe.

As it turned out, most of those things weren't all that important. I didn't meet my wife until well into my 30's; neither my current career nor the one I'm transitioning into have anything to do with the work I was doing in my early 20's when I had two jobs; and the Superman Crew are probably all dead by now (at least they are if they continued to eat Meat Lover's Skillets and Moons Over My Hammys at one in the morning). 

So, what that means is that I quit something fun for no good reason at all.

Now, over twenty years later, I'm getting back into tabletop RPG's. I'm teaching my wife and teenage son to play Dungeons & Dragons, and guess what? They love it. They were both skeptical, but now they're both suggesting multiple sessions per week. Sure, they're not the epic 6-hour marathon sessions my geek pals and I had as younger men. We usually play for 1-2 hours, and sometimes up to 3 hours. But it's always fun.

The Gaming Table (a.k.a. repurposed dining room table)

Even if my wife and I were arguing like the Odd Couple (the original, not the new one) beforehand. D&D breaks down all barriers. It transcends age gaps and gender biases. It has been a great way for my family to spend time together not looking at screens, but actually interacting with one another. Joking, laughing, and yes, even roleplaying.

The moral of this story is this: don't be stupid, pal. If you're playing D&D (or any other tabletop RPG), don't stop. Find some time every week to get in a session. It's one of the last bastions of meaningful recreational human interaction. No phones or tablets or televisions required*. Just some paper, pencils, geeky books, and weird dice. Oh, and don't forget the imaginations, humor, and snacks!

And I'll tell you what, man to man or woman or entity that self-identifies as something other than male/female/human, alcohol never hurts (when playing RPG's, dummy, not in life, generally speaking. The abuse of alcohol has hurt a great many people, so take this is my PSA against alcohol abuse and don't be an alcoholic).

Now, if you don't play currently, or never have, I hope you'll give it a shot. Try to find a local game that's friendly to n00bz. They're out there. If you can't find one in your area, start one! Get the basic rules for free online (see below), study them, and then bribe your friends to play with you (free food and booze are great for this). 
Wizards of the Coast provides their basic rules free via the Open Gaming License (basic rules - basic rules for dungeon masters), and there are other games that do the same, most notably, the brand new Open Legend system, which I have heard is a lot of fun.
If you can't find a local game and are intimidated by running one, you can always hop onto roll20.net and find an online game that's looking for players. Yes, it means adding a screen, and I said we should leave those behind. Online gaming is not as personable and exciting as face-to-face gaming, true, but it can still be a lot of fun.
Be the Dungeon Master!

Once you've cut your teeth online, and you feel comfortable enough, you can take that experience and confidence and start running a game in your dining room. If you can't manage lure your friends with beer and pizza, then post an invitation for your game on the D&D Beyond forums, and interview people to be a part of your game. There are lots of players looking for games (remember, future you, you were one before you decided to run one!)

Well, what are you waiting for?! Get gaming! And check back soon for my next entry which is, I believe, a really great tip to easily personalize premade modules, which is a great way to get that same level of home-crafted story without all the time it normally takes to CREATE AN ENTIRE FREAKING FANTASY WORLD.

EDIT: That post is up and can be found ~here~

*I use a television hooked to my laptop running Roll20 for maps, my tablet for rules and encounter tracking, and my phone hooked to a Bluetooth speaker for ambiance, but no one is checking Facebook or tweeting during play sessions.

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