Dungeons And Dragons

 Or: How I Learned To Stop Being An Asshole And Love D&D

I have always been hesitant to play Dungeons and Dragons. This is NOT because I was poisoned by the court of public opinion. I wasn’t worried that I would become some cliché caricature of a nerd complete with thick glasses and pocket protector. I also wasn’t worried that I would be swallowed up by the long inky black tendrils of 1980s level satanic panic. The truth is, I was poisoned by my own irrational adherence to the law of first impressions.

 For good or for ill, first impressions mean a lot to me. I would even go one step further and say, I am a prisoner locked in a jail built by the expectation that if the first time I encounter something, I don’t like an aspect of it, it’s probably not going to grow on me. This may sound like a ridiculous barrier to entry but bear with me. In the late 90s, I was introduced to Nickelback by a man with a fresh tribal tattoo. I did not like it and have no regrets about never once purchasing anything from that powerhouse of cringeworthy Canadian Butt Rock. Similarly, in the early 2000s, I was encouraged to watch a new show about a group of friends from New Jersey who were enjoying a summer on the coast. That person was a 38-year-old man who almost exclusively wore affliction denim. I have still yet to watch an episode of Jersey Shore. Again, I have no regrets.

What does any of this have to do with D&D, you might be asking? Well, let me tell you about Kevin (names have been changed to protect the weird). Going all the way back to the earliest instance of my regimented snobbery, we find ourselves in the halcyon days of my freshman year in high school. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t have a lot of friends in High School. I was ignorant, annoying, loud, and an insufferable know-it-all. If I am being honest, not much has changed. 

My friends, all 4 of them, were right out of central casting if you were to make a film about high school boys destined to remain virgins until they were old enough to rent a car. We had Steve; the metalhead, Mike; the quiet one, Fred; the chaos machine, and then there was Kevin. 

I’ll never understand why Kevin was there. I don’t remember anyone liking him. In fact, I remember everyone making fun of him to his face every day, for four years. Kevin was weird, even for us. He always wore a blue denim shirt and black jeans. In the winter, he wore a cape to school. He claimed to be a practicing wiccan. Now, far be it from me to judge anyone’s religious beliefs but Kevin claimed that through his powers of witchcraft he was able to heal his girlfriend’s chronic back pain… over the phone because she “lived in Canada”. Kevin was loud, self-important, pretentious, and now that I think about it, very similar to me in high school… wait, is this a Fight Club thing? Is he my Tyler Durden? Goddamn, I need to stop taking muscle relaxers when I write.

Anyway, Kevin loved to talk about D&D. I don’t remember if anyone in our friend group played with him but given the zeal with which he talked about it, I was certain of one thing, if Kevin played it and he was this into it, I was 100% certain that I would hate it. Run on sentences aside, this negative impression of Kevin buried D&D under a mountain of undeserved scorn in my mind. 

I hadn’t given the game much thought after I graduated high school. As the years went on, I slowly grew out of my youthful ignorance* (*citation needed). Then last year, I was asked to play D&D online. There was a group of people from all over who got together on Zoom and played 3-hour sessions every Sunday. Being the far more enlightened man that I am* (*claims not backed by science), I agreed to give it a shot. Soon our DM, would send me a message explaining how to set up my character. I downloaded D&D Beyond on my phone and was immediately overwhelmed by the choices. I began peppering our DM with questions and somewhat self-consciously unloaded a torrent of follow-up questions because his answers broke my primitive, cave-man brain. Finally, I settled on a Ranger I called Lothar Moonblood. He was armed with a bow and specialized in forest terrain. I was ready.

That Sunday, the Zoom link dropped in our shared group chat and I clicked, unsure of what to expect. The gang I was playing with had already established their characters. We had a dark and mysterious tiefling warrior, a giant chaotic orc who approached every situation with a Wiley Coyote mentality, a huge barbarian who killed a number of people by sitting on their heads, an elf who was really hesitant to kill things even if we had already established that they were definitely going to kill us, and a bard who kept asking every NPC we encountered if they had heard of him. Everyone interacted fluidly, except for me. I kept asking my DM if I could do stuff. Finally, he stopped me and just said, “don’t say can I? Just do it.”

Photo source: DeviantArt

Something about his advice stuck with me. For a long time, I think I was asking myself permission to do things. Can I listen to Nickelback even when the guy who told me about it had the Chinese Character for “Crabs” encircled by meaningless jagged lines tattooed on his bicep? No, I will never listen to Nickelback on purpose, but you get my point. Just because Kevin had built his life as a shrine to terrible ideas doesn’t mean that all of his ideas are terrible, just most of them. 

I have been playing D&D for about a year now and I am firmly converted. I have been through a few different characters on this campaign through various acts of god and DM but it has never not been fun and challenging. Sure, our group has problems. We spend a lot of time arguing about what to do in certain situations. Our bard became a villain who we had to kill…twice. Our barbarian had to kill our orc with her butt because he went on a killing spree. I even accidentally brought our Barbarian (the harbinger of ass-death) very close to her own demise. However, when the game is over for the day, I already start thinking about what is going to happen next week, not because it was presented the right way but because I got over my own judgmental bullshit.

Sarge – Level 17 Tortle Bard

[This post was originally published at Otherverse Games & Hobbies]


C.W. “Sarge” Kennedy is a weird, portly war veteran living in southeastern Massachusetts. He has some kind of degree from an accredited university but you wouldn’t know it by looking at his gaping maw as he tries to operate simple technological devices. Room temperature IQ aside, Sarge is a cohost of The Citizen’s Guide to the Supernormal podcast, collaborator on the YouTube Channel Sarge the Destroyer, obnoxious Tweeter known as @bastardprophet, and part-time Instagram train-wreck. If you like short stories with questionable grammar, you can buy two of them at Amazon. He has no other valuable qualities according to people who know him.

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