Welcome Back to the Labyrinth

"We have been away far too long, my friends," Ashoka declared, his face lit by the eldritch green glow of his staff. "But we have finally returned to the labyrinth whence our adventures first began."

"Just imagine the treasures that lie within," said Yun Tai, flexing his mighty muscles. "Wealth enough to live in luxury the rest of our days."

"And arcane artifacts of great power," added Ashoka his words dripping with avarice. "All ours for the taking!"

"Umm...guys?" Nysa interrupted. "Do you hear something dripping?"

Monday, December 13, 2010

Do You Play D&D?

Last weekend was my daughter's fifth birthday and our home was invaded by a small horde of excited little girls, most of whom, like my daughter, were attending their first 'real' birthday party.  Because my daughter attends a private school most of her friends hailed from all parts of the city, many of whom had to drive 30 or 40 minutes to get to our house, so it was more practical and convenient for parents to stay for the party rather than drop their kids off then have to drive all the way back two hours later.  While my wife supervised the party activities, my job was to entertain the adults, which mostly entailed ensuring that the coffee and tea was kept flowing and the snack trays filled.

It was a bit awkward, though, having to make conversation with a group of people, mostly women, that I knew only slightly if at all, for two hours.  I'm not a particularly out-going person and once we've discussed the weather, my repertoire of small-talk is pretty much exhausted.  After about an hour, with the ladies still deeply engrossed in 'baby' talk, Jeff, the one father among the visitors suddenly blurted out: "Hey, do you play D&D?"

"Umm...yeah," I replied, uncomfortably aware that all the women were now looking at  me as if I had just been caught peeing in their flower beds.

Although I'd been careful to 'sanitize' the living room of any obvious gaming material, Jeff had seen a small corner of a piece of hex paper sticking out of a book shelf.  To a fellow gamer, that's as good as a flashing neon sign.

He and I happily chatted about gaming for the rest of the party while the women squirmed uncomfortably and tried very hard not to listen.  It was an interesting situation and it got me to thinking about how D&D has become mainstream enough that folks are comfortable enough to 'come out of the closet' and talk about gaming in various social situations, which seldom happened back in the '80's when we were vilified as demon worshipers, but it's still regarded as an odd enough hobby to get you a raised eyebrow from folks who figure you should have outgrown such childishness years ago.  Had Jeff and I been talking hockey, football, or cars we wouldn't have gotten a second glance.

Actor, Mike Meyers' Wikipedia entry states that "Mike is a Dungeons and Dragons player and was one of several celebrities who participated in the Worldwide Dungeons and Dragons Game Day in 2006."  Apparently being a Dungeons & Dragons player is an odd enough pastime to warrant mention.  I'm sure Mike has many hobbies and interests, but the only other one mentioned was soccer, and this because of notable achievements in the sport, such as playing for Hollywood United F.C. and scoring a penalty shot during a sudden death shootout during a UNICEF UK soccer match.

It appears that despite the bumper sticker I recently saw, while driving down Main Street, that read, "I was playing D&D before it was cool," we're still not quite out of the ghetto.  Sure, it's now seen as a fine pastime for young adults; BADD has packed up their bags and left town, and kids are no longer likely to get suspended from school for playing in the lunchroom, but apparently it isn't the sort of hobby that respectable middle-aged adults ought to be enjoying.  But you know what?  I'm okay with that.

One of the great things about getting older is not having to worry about what anyone else thinks and I'm perfectly happy to talk D&D with a fellow gamer in a room full of nervous women trying not to ogle the car-wreck.  This is a far cry from 30 years ago when I worried that D&D might impair my future reproductive success.  Fortunately it didn't and I have the crumbs of chocolate birthday cake I'm still picking out of the carpet to prove it.


Trey said...

Well said. Who says there aren't any winners in D&D? ;)

Shane Mangus said...

We blog about D&D and gaming. I would say that goes beyond being a hobby and borders on being an obsession. Though I prefer the word "passion". We can't hide our passion from the rest of the world, how can we ever hope to hide it from "the straights" we come in contact with everyday? Throw all caution to the wind, and fly your damn freak-flag! :-)

Adam Dickstein said...

And I always find it sad that while those in our hobby are looked upon as odd, those who discuss the minute stats and details of large men playing a child's game are part of a great national past time. Yeah! More cheers and admiration for those with superior physical ability! Apparently its still the stone age to the average American.

I like Shane Mangus's word...'passion'. Here, here. That's exactly what it is. I feel that at least sports fans have that. The people who view us as being most different from themselves do so because there is nothing they have true passion for. Of that there is no greater tragedy.

Andy Bartlett said...

'come out of the closet'

I have a friend who enjoys 'outing' me as a roleplayer and wargamer. I'm sure the embarrassment that I feel is related to the degree to which these hobbies are acceptable.

Gothridge Manor said...

"Jeff had seen a small corner of a piece of hex paper sticking out of a book shelf. To a fellow gamer, that's as good as a flashing neon sign."

That is great and yes it is. Most of the people who know me already think I am a little off, so finding out that I game they do one of those 'ahhh' like that explains it. Most people know I do and several have asked me to run them through an adventure.

Hope the birthday party was a success!

Sean Robson said...

Thanks for your comments everyone; it seems we've all felt like strangers in a strange land from time to time.

@Trey: Funny you should mention winners. At the party, Jeff's wife rolled her eyes and explained to the women that D&D was a game "where you pretend to kill monsters, but you can't win it." She missed the point. Everyone wins in D&D.

@Shane: You're right about D&D not being just a hobby. It is part of who I am, and how I define myself. I could no more stop gaming than I could stop breathing.

Pontifex said...

I am about to release a 2nd game for free under my real name. So there is no point trying to hide it at this point. I don't watch TV shows anymore, so I can't follow those kind of conversations anymore. Ditto for sports. I am also losing my video game edge because I have largely given those up too.

I guess I am pretty much all about imagination now. I only watch films and work on & play RPGs.

Sean Robson said...

Hey Greg,

I, too, have forsaken television and computer games. Most of my free time is spent painting miniatures and working on game stuff. So I know what you mean about being out of the loop in most normal conversation.

Pontifex said...

No worries, Sean.

We are not out of the loop. We are.... eccentric. Yes... eccentric!

Gavin Norman said...

Shane said: "Throw all caution to the wind, and fly your damn freak-flag! :-)"

Too right. I've been enjoying reading D&D books on the underground recently. There really is a kind of liberation from stigma kinda feeling about it! Haha.