Never in a million years did I think I would write a blog post about Dungeons and Dragons. I’ve never played. No one I know plays (or has played). And until last week everything I knew about D&D I learned from watching The Big Bang Theory.
But when Austin Bat Cave sent a request for volunteers for a one-week writing camp centered around D&D, I raised my hand – with the caveat that I knew nothing about D&D.
As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, and on Instagram, I was really excited.
I was also really nervous my first day.
I wasn’t sure if I would relate to the kids – or the adults for that matter. Plus, kids can be adorable, but they can also be ruthless. I remember working at a dance camp when I was in high school and, during lunch, one of the campers took it upon herself to decree which counselors were pretty and which ones weren’t. As the acne-riddled, frizzy-haired counselor, I wasn’t one of the pretty ones. But I digress.
After changing my outfit three times, I finally headed off to the Dragon’s Lair (yes, literally).
That first day was chaotic, but I was intrigued. Within the first hour I realized I was in way over my head when it came to understanding and playing the game. But the kids were enthusiastic and engaged, which was infectious. I also loved that there were more girls than boys, and that all of the girls created strong, female characters.
Day two was more organized and I had an opportunity to really observe the game instead of trying to remember names and understand how I could add value to the rest of the week.
What I learned is Dungeons and Dragons is difficult. Very difficult.
The characters (players?) have so much depth. Even with the modified character sheet the young campers used, character development was intense. These kids fabricated everything from the names, races, and classes of their characters, to their backstories and weaponry.
Then their characters had to enter whatever world the Dungeon Master designed. I wasn’t even playing and found myself captivated by the multi-faceted, detailed stories – complete with villains, quests, and obstacles – the DMs were weaving. One storyline involved a witch and an invisible pastry cart filled with pastries made with monster parts. Another involved zombies, a magical cat, and a stolen baby. And the third storyline included a Kraken. Dungeon Masters evolved and adapted each story on the fly as the characters made decisions about how to address each situation or rolled high/low numbers with their d20 (look at me using the most basic lingo!).
Watching the DMs and characters live in this fictional world for a week was inspiring. It also made me a little sad. I never use my imagination to go to the fantastic place where these worlds and characters exist. I think most adults can probably say that. But as I silently mulled what action I would take if I were playing Tinka, or what would happen next if I were DM, I realized I never really went to that place as a kid either. Fantasy – with its magic and supernatural elements – was never really my thing. I’ve always been grounded in reality, fantasizing about conversations I could have or paths I could take or situations I may find myself in.
And while that’s a version of creativity, it seems less inspired than the kids who were able to seamlessly transition between, “Can you ask the cat if she has seen a book of spells anywhere?” and “May I go use the bathroom?” In every world I’ve created in my head, cats don’t talk.
But maybe I should occassionaly see if they can…