I’m a nerd. I love lots of different nerdy things: video games, science, Lord of the Rings, Drizzt, math… so many things. However, there’s always been one item on the checklist of nerddom that I have never been able to cross off: playing Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). Sure, I’ve played D&D-based RPG video games. (For my non-nerd readers, “RPG” stands for “Role Playing Game.”) I have read plenty of the Forgotten Realms books; I love Tolkien; But when it came to actually sitting down and playing a game, it just never happened.
Growing up, my mom thought it was “evil,” so that was out. As I got older, I tried, but no one wanted to show me. I asked a few folks if I could sit and watch a game so I could understand it better. No one wanted to let me into their secret lair. One friend tried, once, but it wasn’t actually a campaign, so it didn’t really help me much. Ah well. Perhaps I just wasn’t meant to play. Perhaps I was meant to stay at a Level 1 Nerd forever, and not move beyond the sewers and giant rats of my nerdiness adventure. Or so I thought.
Fast forward to a month or so ago, when I went to a barbecue at my boyfriend’s friend’s house. The guests there were equally as nerdy, and we quickly started chatting about all sorts of fantasy-related, video-game related, and science-related nerdery. It was awesome. The boyfriend and I were then invited to a game night at the same friend’s house. As we sat around laughing, chatting, and playing “A million dollars, but…,” the topic of playing D&D came up. My boyfriend and I mentioned that we had never played, but always wanted to. I mentioned how I’d asked others to teach me before and no one wanted to take the time. Friend was aghast. After all, how can nerddom recruit new members if no one is willing to teach?
And so the ball started rolling. Friend lent us the players guide, helped us create characters, and invited us to play in a campaign they were just starting – a low-level campaign with other newbies. If you’re interested, I’m a half-elf ranger with an urchin background and the main personality trait of being blunt and sarcastic (I got that by chance, but it makes my character SO MUCH easier to play, since it’s basically me). He’s also badass – with a ton of skills, proficiencies, and special abilities. Heck yes.
Well, after all these years, it finally happened. Last Saturday, I got to play in my very first D&D game, and it was SO MUCH FREAKING FUN! Friend was the Dungeon Master (DM) and most of us were n00bs, but luckily there was one other person who was a seasoned pro. He helped move the game along and gave us hints when we were all like “WTF do we do now??” Everyone was patient and there to have a good time. All questions were answered without judgment. No one made us feel like we were dumb or clueless. It was fun, just how it was supposed to be. It was warm and welcoming and simply awesome. I was so excited.
It was one of the best times I’ve had in recent memory. I felt like I belonged. I felt like I was finally leveling up my nerdity. Granted, I’m still relatively clueless when it comes to all the intricacies of gameplay, but that’s to be expected. There’s a lot to learn and know in order to play the game well. That will come in time. For now, I’m just in seventh heaven finally being able to immerse myself in the world I love so much. To travel to the Underdark and talk to characters from Waterdeep… or Neverwinter… or Baldur’s Gate…
My character isn’t the only one who’s on an adventure, I am, too. I’m learning to be the person I’ve always wanted to be. And while this silly, geeky thing might seem small to some – for me, it was huge. It was one of those moments in my life that I won’t soon forget.
We are planning our next meeting to continue the campaign and try to escape the Underdark… it’s scary down there. There’s danger around every corner and the light never reaches. It’s depressing – and hopeless. Sometimes, though, when you’ve been under there for too long, it becomes comfortable. It feels safe – like that’s all you know. But in the game, and in life, you need the light to survive – to thrive. I know that first hand. You need to find the surface.
For so long all I knew was my own Underdark. The sunlight feels pretty damn good.