DAY 357: Being blooded into Dungeons & Dragons

23 Aug

I AM the half-elf druid Mentholius. I am a chaotic neutral. This distinguishes me from a chaotic evil, in that I may choose to slit your throat in your sleep, but it probably wouldn’t be a malicious gesture. Dungeons & Dragons disciple Clem Bastow chose this character for me, but I think it sums up my own ‘how on earth did that happen, I was merely…’ demeanour.

Even though it feels like it’s been around since Middle Earth times, Dungeons & Dragons was actually conceived in 1974 by role-playing games designer Gary Gygax, who enjoyed playing Medieval wargames in his basement with other nerds.

Fast forward to the 2000s and Clem developed an interest after finding a prize haul of early ’80s paraphernalia in an op shop. She’s flummoxed as to how the manuals might have got there, as a D&D-er would have to fall from grace considerably to want to get rid of such a bounty. Perhaps, she hypothesises, his mother threw them out unbidden when he left home, or his wife insisted it was them or her. The latter’s quite likely: when Gary Gygax’s business partner died, the wife unceremoniously dumped all the Tactical Studies Rules on his front porch. Either way, Clem’s on a quest to track the previous owner down and find out.

I have a flick through the manuals and recoil. While the covers look like the fantasy paint jobs you’ll find on any discerning panel van, inside they’re crammed with facts, figures and stats, like your worst memory of physics and maths books combined. There isn’t even a D&D set stuffed with orcs and mountains, as it turns out – just grid paper.

Today, in a Carlton café, Clem takes the role of Dungeon Master, although she wouldn’t usually – DMs tend to develop a god complex, if they didn’t have one already. She sets up a scenario: I’ve run into a confrontational cluster of Kobolds, and they’re booming “Halt! Who goes there?” kind of things. With some rolls of the dice – the numbers of which determine my battle strength – I am soon defeated.

Unsurprisingly, there are some epic fall-outs within D&D brethren, particularly when someone acts unethically or nurses an almighty grudge. It is, Clem, muses, psychological warfare. With capes. It’s comparable to Alcoholics Anonymous or having some incurable disease, in that there’s a whole ’nother universe behind an ordinary looking door, with its own rules, issues and lexicon – that most people have no idea exists.

Is it for you?

Your fantasies tend to involve dwarves.

You work in IT.

You have a pedantic streak a civil servant would balk at.

You have a tendency to over-intellectualise life.

The passage from childhood to puberty was one marked with sorrow.

If you answered yes to any of the above, it is for you.

Keeper? No – no immediate gratification here.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: