I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking Dungeons & Dragons is what socially awkward virgins with bad skin get together to play in dank parental basements. I know it’s what you’re thinking because it’s what I thought six months ago before a friend invited me to join her group. As a newly minted D&D enthusiast, I’m thrilled to tell you that it’s actually what awesome geeks with great senses of humor get together to play over delicious brunch.
Full disclosure: this game is not for everyone. When you’re talking about immersing yourself in a fictional world, and roleplaying a completely implausible character (warlock, half-elf, etc.), there are a few things you really need to consider:
- You need to find a group that lets you be yourself. Mine is delightfully laid back and accepting, which means that none of us feels intimidated or self-conscious to play our characters however we feel they should be played. It means the difference between me just saying that my tempest cleric is a drunken lech, and actually hitting on all of my friends in my best baritone because I know they’ll play along.
You need to enjoy tabletop/pen and paper games. While there are certainly digital ways to play D&D, the classic version doesn’t allow you to roleplay from the safety of your computer keyboard. You have to do it in front of actual people, armed only with your character sheet, a pencil, and a set of game dice. Mine are sparkly and pink!
- You need to channel your childhood. Remember that kid who loved playing dress-up*, and putting on stupid plays in the living room because pretending to be someone else for a while was just so damn fun? She still lives inside you somewhere, buried underneath your grown-up worries and work stress. Let her out to play! (*Princess gown and your mom’s old heels not required. I mean, unless that’s how you roll.)
You need to get a good feel for your character. It’s a fun challenge to roleplay a character who is totally different from yourself, like my drunken cleric. It means you have to really think about both your in-game actions and reactions to make sure they make sense for who you’re trying to be in the moment. I find it helpful to find some inspiring artwork and write a little backstory so that I can better visualize who they are and why they might do or not do a thing. Even distilling a character’s background down to a single sentence can be a big help. If you’re stuck for ideas, the Who the fuck is my #DND character? backstory generator might be a good place to start.
- You need to be patient. Both the fight mechanics, and the effort my group puts into designing dungeons and quest lines, means that I don’t think we’ve ever played for less than three hours. Thus, D&D-brunch was born. Not only that, the character levels are structured by Wizards of the Coast to require increasing amounts of experience points to progress to the next level. This means that my drunken cleric moved from level 1 to 2 in a single session, but has now been stuck at level 3 for over three. But if I can get him to 17 (sometime this decade) he gets to fly and rain down thundery death! So that’s something to look forward to.
All told, I’d say joining my friend’s D&D group was one of my better decisions this year. Because I took a chance on something outside of my comfort zone, I’ve made some great new friends who’ve made me laugh through some difficult moments this year. And nothing helps you forget your troubles like roleplaying a boozy playboy and hitting on everyone at the table…