Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Level Up Blogfest: D&D
Today is the day of the Level Up Blogfest, hosted by Jamie Gibbs of Mithril Wisdom and Allison *hrphemumble* of Geek Banter. The 'Fest celebrates the joy of gaming in all its forms--board, video, card, mind, wicked, recess, reindeer, etc. As a consummate lover of all these different forms and blogger on this very subject, I felt it was my solemn duty to join in the festivities.
Of course, I have chosen to talk about Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) as the subject for my Level Up post. I am certain that I am not the only person in the Blogfest to do so, but because it is the main topic of discourse here on ROFLInitiative, I feel it is only appropriate.
The Level Up fest actually comes at a significant moment in my history with D&D. This month marks the (counts on fingers) fourth anniversary of the start of my current campaign, and the first game I have ever run--with the exception of some awkward experimentation in high school.
So, what is D&D? In essence, it is interactive storytelling set by default in a high fantasy world and using dice to instill an element of chance in the flow of the story. Unlike many board or card games, D&D is cooperative in nature and does not have a set win/end condition. One player takes on the role of the storyteller, called the Dungeon Master, or Game Master. He or she is responsible for developing and implementing the story, supporting characters and acting as a sort of referee. The other players take on the role of the heroes in the story, each typically assuming a single character role.
Originally published back in 1974, the game has gone through several official editions over the years and has spawned countless spin-offs, copycats, rules variants and game materials of various associations. All of this creative procreation (is that redundant?) makes it very difficult to peg down the essence of D&D. It's like jazz. Nobody plays it exactly the same as anyone else, and that's what makes it beautiful.
For the past four years, I have run a game for several friends of mine. When we started, I was new to the role of DM, and only my girlfriend-now-fiancee had played before. Our initial group of four players and myself, eventually grew to a total of eight individuals, having added another newcomer and a couple experienced dice rollers. My players all look for different things out of the game. Some love the thrill of blowing stuff up and smashing faces in dice-driven combat. Some love planning tactical infiltrations, or solving puzzles, or devising complex psychological interrogation regimes involving smelly foods. Others like to hang out with the group and quote Futurama. Beneath all this variety, however, we all have one thing in common. We like each other, and we like playing the game. That's why we've been playing pretty steadily every couple of weeks since 2009.
The long run definitely leaves me feeling worn out sometimes. As the GM, I spend more time preparing the adventures than we do actually playing. But building the adventures scratches its own itch. Ever since I was a kid, I have loved dreaming up worlds and strange imaginings. In grade school, I came up with the world of Boink, which featured a hodgepodge of classic fantasy elements, late 80s consumer culture references and weird 8 year-old logic. A couple years later, I created another universe around a Whovian Lego personality named the Intergalactic Hood. What can I say? It's in my blood, man! So, as time-consuming as it can be, I can't help but get giddy as I did last night planning for my next game as the muses on my shoulders spun epic visions from the ether of my imagination. Tonight, I get to share those visions with my friends, drinking beer, eating good food, rolling dice and telling stories. That is why I play.