Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Geek Speaking while Dungeoning the Dragons of Madness

Geek Speak: Next in the Mines of Madness

If this one looks a little rougher than my usual finished work, there's a good reason for that; it's not done. This is a much larger and more ambitious page than I usually attempt, and there is a lot of stuff going on that I want to try to get right. I'm not going to try to get it "just right." That could drive a person crazy. I'm aiming for "just right enough." 

I played Dungeons and Dragons over the holiday weekend. Tea Leaf had downloaded a module to play test the upcoming new edition of the Dungeons and Dragons core rules. I shit you not the cartoon above was what happened in the first five minutes of the game. Character death is a hazard everyone who plays these games has to deal with. Some people treat it like now big deal, others get really attached to their characters and can become...irritated...when their characters are killed. I'd like to say that I just roll with it. Alas, I fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum.

It was my character that was swallowed by a reject from "Dune" while taking a shit in the first ten minutes of actual game play. I've never lost a character that quickly.

It was hilarious. 

Background: Droppin' some context

For years I have played tabletop role playing games (RPGs if you're cool) with friends. The games have ranged in style and genre from dark and brooding science fiction, to tense and frightening supernatural western, to frivolous sword and sorcery. Some games take themselves too seriously by half, some not at all, but either way it goes somewhat beyond being an enjoyable hobby. It's a kind of constructive escapism. Problem solving with friends and playing out heroic fantasies in a way that lets the player decompress from the stress and strife of the world they occupy every day.

One of the biggest downsides to tabletop role playing games is they do take some time to play out. For the most part the adventures aren't like board games that can be played out in an evening. Very often the stories are complex with multiple threads that need to be resolved by the players, which means that playing out the entire story, usually called a campaign, can take weeks, months, even years. It all depends on how often the players can get together, and how much they stay on story and don't get either mired down in role-playing their characters or sidetracked into doing something unrelated to the major quest.

The ongoing nature of these games means that I don't get much opportunity to play anymore. My family needs me around to do various daddy things, like play "horsey." I don't mind. I want to be there for my daughter, and for my son when he arrives. My only real complaint is the bridle chaffes and my daughter throws a fit if she doesn't get to wear the spurs. 

Therefore it was pretty special when Mildly Sensational agreed to let me get in some game time over Labor Day weekend. I must have asked my wife a hundred times if she was absolutely sure that it was ok for me to go and spend a day gaming with our friends, instead of spending the weekend with her and our daughter, and that was only in the morning the day of the game. It's possible she let me go because she was tired of my asking if she was really, really, extra sure it was ok, and reminding her that it's ok to call if she needs me I can really just leave and come home. 

Confident that I had the blessing of my other half to go and get my geek on I got a ride with my friend ZeroPoint, and together we ventured forth on a harrowing trek of nearly five minutes to join Tea Leaf, his wife Celluloid Girl, and our friends Lendell Prime and Redbeard McFancyPants. I'm not disparaging that last person at all. He has the most amazing denim pants I have ever seen. Americans really don't appreciate how versatile denim can be.

Anyway, after a brief rundown of the rules we'd be using (this is a play test of the beta release of fifth edition, after all) we dove into the fray using pre-generated characters. The first five minutes were great, then my character was swallowed by a giant purple worm. Things pretty much got hilarious from there. That was not the last of my characters to die in the course of playing the game, nor were my characters the only ones. I want to elaborate more, but some of that will be content for upcoming comics like the one above. 

For the first time in I don't know how many years I was able to get my geek on for an entire day, and well into the night. It really felt good to delve into being a character in a fantasy setting for a day, and spend that time pretending to be someone other than me. Escapism is a funny thing. There's no getting away from who you are every day. Sooner or later you have to return to being the person you see in the mirror every day. Sometimes, just sometimes it's getting away and being someone else for a little while that can make being  yourself bearable.