For the first time, I left the evening of D&D feeling accomplished. This time, things seemed to click. The DM drew us further into our character development, and I felt more connected to the character I had essentially created as a joke, as well as a game that was still extremely foreign to me. My character now breathed. There was a specificity to the spells that he cast that resonated with me in a way they wouldn’t have if the DM would’ve continued to explain every attack and action for us. He had stopped holding our hands and telling our stories, to allow us to start cultivating our own facets to the overarching narrative. I cast fire bolt from my right arm, and it wells up from my chest, down through my veins, boiling hot, welling up on my pointer finger until it propels toward its target.
Simple, I know. Rudimentary, even. Yet, allowing me to describe my attacks has enriched what was, up to this point, a difficult play style to get into. After the DM handed the reins over to the players to think quicker and to be more decisive, the game comes across much more alive. It’s as if we’re racing a clock that doesn’t keep time, but does push the passing of time and the narrative forward. Once we took too long deliberating over our next move and, all of the sudden, incredibly jerky kobolds start chucking rocks at our heads. As *plonk* annoying *bump* as *boof* being pelted by rocks is, it is equally refreshing to feel the narrative being pushed, to have that sense of urgency and purpose. Time didn’t stand still, there is no pause button, and I deeply appreciated that!
For our second session, two new members joined our party. One permanent addition, and the other dropped in for the evening. The temporary character, my brother, was given the role of guard and a pre-made character sheet. My brother is fairly inept with D&D, not unlike myself, so there was a mite of comfort having him along for the ride. We had snacks on the table, introduced the new players, and we were quickly on our way to continue the campaign.
Having met with the leader of the town, we were tasked with liberating a group of people from a religious building that was occupied by some kobolds and cultists. D&D has a funny way about creature traits. A cultist is essentially a crazed follower. At least, that is what we have gleaned from our encounters and from the info the DM passed on to us. It has been mentioned that this is the common understanding in the D&D world. Also; kobolds are nitwits. Either way, cultists will invariably go out of their way to harm someone, even if it means their own imminent demise, and likewise kobolds rush in fairly foolishly to fights they obviously have no stake in. I guess this has to do with some sort of devotion they claim, but I will have to take the DM’s word on it.
In the cloak of night, we came upon the religious building of worship that was surrounded by a patrolling group of kobolds making rounds every 30 or so minutes, a large party of a mix of cultists and kobolds in the front of the building, and finally a few cultists guarding the rear entryway. All of this while fire was being set to the building, and townspeople were trapped within. We took our time, covertly sending in a messenger, who craftily made their way up to the roof and inside to let the people know we were coming. We also devised a plan to wipe out the back door guards as quickly as possible by throwing open the doors, surprising them, and pummeling them from both sides, all while being cognizant of the patrolling kobolds. Being successful in that task, we pressed on. Later that evening, we found ourselves at a mill with several cultists who would drop down from high above to attack us, hurting themselves in the process, which I was not expecting. Unarmed cultists were trying to harm armored party members, essentially the D&D version of tapping on someone’s right shoulder from behind, only to lean left and wait for them to look right to strike. To put it politely, it was ineffective.
Small lesson here: cultists are dumb. Don’t join a cult, especially a D&D cult. Perhaps this is a well known facet of D&D, but let’s just remind ourselves of the fact that this was my second foray into D&D, and I felt a little bit like I was swimming for a lot of the time. I was acquaintances with the DM, but we didn’t know each other well, and I never considered how getting used to his style and flavor would inhibit my ability to simply immerse myself in the fantasy role. Additionally, there was the fact that I had barely nicked the surface of what D&D could be, so I was overwhelmed by the amount of lore I didn’t bring to the table. I felt more as though I was thrust into the realm than grew up in it, and my game play proved it.
Amidst hours of play, the DM abruptly derailed what was happening to ask me who was speaking, and I was caught in the brights. To bring you up to speed, my friend plays a bard. He is also Deaf and uses American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate. I am his interpreter in game, which has made for some interesting interactions (one involving a dragon) and some early on confusion, as I used my normal speaking voice for both characters. So, when the DM inquired as to who was speaking, I knew right away that I had erred. The mantle of creating a voice for the bard was set squarely upon me. The bard’s last name is Tempesté so I thought an Italian American “accent” would be suitable. To be transparent, my Italian American accent may or may not have strong semblances to Mario and Luigi from the Mario Bros games. I have learned that I am not good at the aforementioned accent (or probably any accent, for that matter), and to top it off, a few times it seems to slip into an obnoxiously stereotypical French accent a la Monty Python and the Holy Grail. So, with that in mind, “I faht en your general direction. Now go a-way, or I shall taunt you a second time-eh.”
See you all-eh en Tales of a D&Degenerate-uh, Volume-eh uh-three-uh!
Volume 1: Are you sure you don’t want to be a Bard?
Did you know that the soldiers at Jesus crucifixion were avid anglers? Yep, they spent their time casting lots. I know, I know. Please, slowly remove your palm from your forehead and forgive me for that one. Generally, I can’t help myself but to make puns, jokes, and groaners. Before I was married, I was joking with my wife (girlfriend at the time) and she commented that I was funny. I responded, “I’m sorry to hear you say that. This is my ‘A’ material, it doesn’t get any better.” Perhaps she thought I was still joking back then, but after 8 years of marriage, I think she has long since realized I was not. All that to say, I love dad jokes.
Even before I knew they were called dad jokes I was hooked on them! Puns, long form jokes, stories, short 1-2 punch-line Rodney Dangerfield style jokes—love them all! I’ll never forget Dangerfield’s “I own a two story house. Before I bought the house, the realtor gave me one story. After I bought it she gave me another story.” Even at church, I would inevitably get off task every time the pastor said, “Lettuce pray.” I couldn’t help myself; I heard puns all the time. I was pun-intentionally making things into puns, and I’m pretty unapologetic when it comes to groaners.
So, when my friend mentioned interest in Dungeons & Dragons, I said I had created a skateboarding wizard (which I was told was “technically” possible using levitation and sundry other workarounds to simulate riding a plank of wood) on an app called Role, and we began to develop D&D specific characters. My friend’s roommate had experience as a Dungeon Master and was more than elated to initiate a new crew of fledgling, um, D&Der’s? Dungeoneers? Adventurers? Engaged story inter-actors? Choose-your-own-adventurers? I never thought about what a D&D player calls themselves, but whatever it is, I am that. Or, I am, at best, a ghost of that right now. See, I love the concept of D&D, but… I am a miserable player. Read more
I’m coming to realize that I don’t reflect on the past enough.
If I stop and take a minute to reminisce, I do remember my grandfather—Roy—fondly. He lived what seemed like forever away to a young boy, but his home always smelled warm, inviting, and scented with whatever potpourris my grandmother had laid out, often times with a fire going in a small nook fireplace, annexed to his dining room. My grandfather would greet our family, but I always felt like I was the one he was waiting for, and he would take me onto his knee, bony as it was, and we would talk about everything my younger self found important. Though many specific conversations have faded, there are still a few memories that remain vivid: watching him work on his fully functioning model train set that took up half of the basement, playing Lode Runner, Jack Sprat, and Olympics on his Apple (with the huge floppy disks), and, lastly, board games.
My grandfather loved words and language, which has played a significant role in who I’ve become. I can recall reading the dictionary for leisure while learning and applying new words, and even today I work as an American Sign Language Interpreter. So, in a way, I’m in the word business. The lazy-Susan Scrabble game with the plastic gridded board was his game of choice, and a Scrabble dictionary was always handy. I’m sure I was constantly and soundly beaten, but I don’t remember ever losing, as the steady rolling of the well-worn ball bearings kept me entertained from turn to turn. Wssh wssh! However, I DO recall Grandpa having a “newer” computer that had a Scrabble game and a computer opponent named Mavin. Mavin was a word wiz, and would constantly challenge Grandpa’s mettle. Even so, he would sit me on his lap, and we would work together to beat Mavin, often times looking up his words to hopefully use them against him at a later time. Thinking back on Mavin, I still feel heat rising up in my chest, while consternation is starting to knit my brows into a full on furrow. MAAAVIN! Phew, okay… Breathe in, breathe out… Read more