#313: The Newest Group

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Starting a new Dungeons & Dragons group is always a daunting task. There’s the issue of finding an appropriately knowledgeable and qualified DM, and of course finding players that are willing to play according to the group’s expected play style. By that I mean, not letting players act like jerks or chaotic evil dirtbags. That can definitely happen from time to time, if you let players play exactly how they want to. It’s important to set standards and limitations to what players can and can’t do, as a Dungeon Master, to ensure the game progresses smoothly and without complication. I’ve had some groups end because players got frustrated with each other and weren’t able to reconcile their differences. It can be frustrating to watch unfold, as people argue with each other over what’s the appropriate way to handle a situation.

But that’s not what D&D is all about. It’s about making memories and telling stories with your friends, it’s about making new friends in the process, it’s about developing your own, originally-created character in a social role-playing world of your imagination. It’s about all of those things and a lot more that can’t fully be described in a short blog post. I owe so much of my development to this game, and to think it will only continue further with a group at work is awesome news. I’m so stoked to hear what the kids decide to do, and where they take the story we’ve been working on together.

What I’m looking forward to most about joining a group is being able to sit back and relax as a player, while also meeting new friends in the area. Since starting my job in Norwalk, I’ve still been hanging out mostly with people I know from the New Haven area. It’s not the same.

#99: The Return of D&D

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D&D made its miraculous, fantastic return over this past weekend, and I’ve been eager to write about it since it happened. What’s more monumental and exciting than an evening full of role-playing, creative writing, and friendship born through an online medium? The friends I’ve met through D&D are known primarily through D&D, and they exist just in that realm, but when we return to it, I feel like I’m returning to talk with long-term friends again. I have friendships with these people that transcends and supersedes what normal friends are like. We are

On this past Friday, I played D&D at a sleepover with friends who care about it quite a lot. They took it a bit more seriously, choosing to have a more stern and deliberate campaign than the improv-based, comedy-focused campaign I participated in on Sunday. It was interesting to see this dichotomy develop between the two separate campaigns; on the one hand, I loved having the chance to stretch my stuff in a serious story-line with actual implications to it, but on the other hand, it felt great to be loose a bit and explore the fantastical world that takes up my mind. Being a Dungeon Master is tough, but rewarding work! I love the opportunity to develop a campaign with my friends regardless, whether as a player or as a character taking part in the story. There’s so much value in having friends that are willing to role play and have fantastical experiences with. It helps me test my writing abilities while also hearing in a live setting how those abilities are manifesting.

It also provides me with an outlet for my creative writing. I don’t think that creative writing is just something that involves line breaks and stanzas in poetry; there are so many layers to being a creative writer, and preparing a Dungeons & Dragons campaign has to fit into one of them. It just so happens to also be a friendly activity, too.

My nose is feeling a bit stuffy, so I’m going to stop writing here for now. Perhaps I will return to write more of this later.

#15: The Amateur

gray wooden bridge

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I’m new to so many things. Being new, or a “noob,” can be overwhelming; so much information to take in and master, so many people to meet, and so much reading. But it is also an opportunity to learn, grow, and become something new, to add to your personality or identity. After learning how to write, design, and administer a D&D campaign, I became an amateur DM. Statuses can have a powerful effect over one’s self-perception. The life of an amateur involves going on quests to acquire titles to update your identity with.

Being an amateur is not necessarily a bad thing, and yet in so many ways, we look down upon people who seek learning in their studies. Think of all the times English language learners are joked at or made fun of in media or on the Internet because of their mistakes. Think of how popular grammatical and spelling errors are on “meme pages,” despite being such a common, average struggle. We look down upon the struggling and the average, and yet the average is, numerically speaking, where the majority of us are. A novice at something can be easily discouraged by outside factors, such as being mocked, when what they really need is encouragement, guidance, and validation.

I hate to see people laughed at, even if the intentions are harmless, when the person doing the laughing comes from a position of self-righteous privilege. We don’t usually consider how lucky we are, in the grand scheme of the world, to have been born in a first-world nation, let alone the country whose predominant language happens to be the lingua franca. Only learning one language in school (rather than learning four, if you were born Dutch) disadvantages us, but it also gives us the perception that our language is the most normal of all the rest.

Imagine how difficult it must be for people to learn English, in comparison to you learning Spanish or French or Italian in high school. There is tremendous value in learning languages (which is one reason why I’ve been doing more Duolingo recently; have to stay up on my Spanish studies!), as it puts you again in the amateur’s seat. You are back to being a student again, instead of speaking from a position of knowledge and authority. It can be refreshing to be an amateur every once in a while. Remind yourself what it is like to learn something new again.

#14: The Fantastical

tree tunnel at daytime

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In the debate between fantasy and science fiction, I’ve always leaned more towards fantasy. Magical spells, elves and half-orcs, epic quests, and limited technology are some of the hallmarks of a fantasy story, and to me, when these elements are combined in the right order and with the right attention to detail, they result in some amazing stories. Lord of the Rings, for example, remains one of the most iconic movie franchises of all time (and for good reason). World of Warcraft is still the most popular video game in its genre, 14 years after its initial release date.

Knowing all this, it probably comes as no surprise to anyone reading that I love Dungeons & Dragons. (In the future, this might seem outdated to people, but D&D has undergone a bit of a resurgence recently due to podcast storytelling. I just enjoy it, okay?) There’s something about gathering a group of like-minded people and entering a make-believe world together that feels fantastic. The camaraderie that develops, the layers of personality you unveil, the world in everyone’s creative imaginations. Working together with people to create something special, a space where all feel welcome in. No wonder D&D has found a resurgence in today’s climate; escaping from reality for a time to play with friends can be soothing, especially when the supplemented reality, the world of Faerun, requires intense concentration to follow completely.

I’ve had a few failed D&D groups, as well as a few successful ones. Some groups are destined to fail, and it sucks to see it happen. The group I’m a part of currently, in which I’m the DM during an interim campaign, is definitely on the successful side of things. It’s five people, and we gather over Roll20 to video chat and catch up on each other’s lives. It’s become an awesome way to connect with friends from across the country, whom I haven’t seen in person in years, and meet new people. You learn so much about people through how they play D&D.

An added layer of anxiety and stress comes from being the DM rather than just playing, as the game depends on your impromptu imagination, but it’s oddly exhilarating, too. Some types of stress aren’t as debilitating as they seem initially, once you’re in the thick of it. True anxiety is felt when the mind disassociates from the body, when you start thinking about how you’re thinking, but to me, with how busy things get during D&D, that feeling is impossible. You are swapping out characters, moving set pieces around in your head.