Being submerged in nerd culture since birth (my mother and father would often quote Star Trek and Star Wars even before I’d ever seen either one), the existence of Dungeons and Dragons was something I always kind of knew about. Did I know what it was? Hell no. But I knew it was out there.
Somewhere in high school, my sophomore year I think, my friend Shadoe talked to me about it. He sat beside me on the bus, smushed me into the window, and asked “Hey, wanna play Dungeons and Dragons?”
The gears in my head turned. Dungeons and Dragons. I had never really thought much about what it actually was. Apparently, from the context of his statement, it was a game. So how did you play? What was it?
I was taking too long to answer. “Do you know what it is?”
No. I didn’t. Feeling stupid, I told him as much. He explained it, and pulled the books out of his backpack. Like this is what he’d been doing all day. Recruiting Dungeons and Dragons virgins. We pretty much began rolling a character right there on the bus; an elven druid. He did this to several of my friends on the bus, and soon enough we had enough for a session that he’d DM.
It fell through, of course. It never happened. That summer, he texted me. “Hey, D&D? We can do it over Skype. My friend Kyle wants to join in.”
Kyle had made an impression on me before this point, and it wasn’t exactly a great one, but I really wanted to play. So I sucked it up and said yeah, sure, why not. I had to recreate my character because Kyle wanted to play 4.0, not 3.5 (which was what I was accustomed to,) because he thought it was better.
We got through one session of a campaign and never played again.
A year later, my sister went to a comic book shop sort of near our house and came back and handed me a calender of events. “They play Dungeons and Dragons every Wednesday,” she reported. Next Wednesday, I was there. It was D&D Encounters, meaning every so many weeks, we’d made new level 1 characters and start a new campaign. It was a 4.0 setting.
At this point in time, I guess I should explain the difference between 3.5 and 4.0.
3.5 is considered to be more difficult, but more fun. There is more roleplaying involved, more dice roles, and generally more sillyness. 4.0 is actually really dumbed down. A lot of skills are rolled into one skill, making it easier to play, and making less roleplay scenarios. 4.0 is basically “shoot to kill,” 3.5 is “let’s poke it and see what happens.”
My DM, the store manager, and John (who was the “training wheels” of the group) all agreed on this but the DM was getting paid to do Encounters 4.0 style and the store manager had a contract with Wizards so he couldn’t just say “Hey, take some time to transpose it into 3.5.”
Still, it was fun, and it was a good first experience for me. I told my boyfriend about it, seeing as he was a nerd, he’d probably appreciate it.
He was less than thrilled. He was actually really concerned for me.
“Senna, are you sure this is a good idea? Are you safe?”
He was picturing me in a dimly lit back room of a comic book shop with a bunch of stereotypical nerds who were drooling over the fact a skinny minnie girl was playing Dungeons and Dragons with them. I’m pretty sure he was expecting me to get raped.
“Brandon. It’s in the middle of the store, two girls play with me, and while the guys can be assholes, they’re not that kind of asshole.”
I really don’t think he believed me. He got twitchy any time I went to go play. Never once did he say “please stop going,” though, which I appreciated. Because I would have had to say “no” and that probably wouldn’t have gone over well. Anyway, Tuesday, I turned to him in the school atrium and said “Tomorrow. Ride my bus home and come to D&D with me.” He hesitated. “That way you can protect me from all the ‘scary men.'” He rolled his eyes, but after some more pestering, he agreed to come along.
My DM looked him up and down, turned to me, and said “You brought a plus one.”
“Yeah, he wants to watch.”
“He’s not gonna play?”
“No, I had to kind of drag him to come watch to convince him you weren’t involved with black magic.”
“…Define ‘black magic,'” my friend Nancy said from the end of the table, which made us all laugh a bit. Brandon sat down and we began to play. At the end of the night, the store manager asked him if he was gonna play.
“Maybe,” he replied.
He came to watch the week after that, too, without much pestering at all. He was stopped by the store manager before we left. “Next week, you make a character or you don’t come.” Brandon, unphased, went “Sure, why not?”
“This is so backwards,” I said several weeks later as he rode my bus home so he could come, as he always did. “The boy is supposed to get the girl hooked on this game. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work?”
“Yeah, yeah, shut up,” he said playfully.
I don’t play anymore, simply because my college doesn’t have a tabletop group, and the people who want to play tabletop games are interested in games that are strictly a narrow genre, such as a Star Wars one, Vampire at the Masquerade, and the like. No one can really agree on one game.
Brandon is a part of a group that routinely plays Pathfinder, Dungeons and Dragons, and Traveler. He plays the comic relief characters who also somehow manage to do the most in any session. (Seriously, ask him about his endeavors as Billius, Dimitri, Wade, or his space pirate.) The boy who thought it was actually a really lame game played by scary people.
I think about this sometimes and laugh loudly.