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Apr 02

Nerd Curious #1: Dungeons & Dragons

Here’s an interesting one.  At The A.V. Club, Todd VanDerWerff is exploring some of the nerdy things he didn’t do as a child.  And number one?  Roleplaying:

It’s when I’m facing down a lich whose evil spirit has been imprisoned inside of an accursed gemstone that I finally “get it.”

My name, for the session, at least, is Lenore. I’m a cleric whose abbey was overrun by the undead horde at some point in my recent past. I was one of the few survivors, and I still bear a burning desire for revenge. That desire has carried me here, to a city built of bone, filled with evil spirits, dark shadows, rats that turn into men, and vice versa. Earlier, I nearly died when facing off against a giant spider. I grabbed hold of a book filled with evil spells. And now I’m at the lowest levels of the dungeon, where the lich who holds me prisoner has offered me a choice: Stay imprisoned in here with him until my companions find a way to release me, or be freed, only to have my alignment turned toward pure evil.

I’m not going to lie. The idea of starting out as kind of an irritating goody two-shoes—indeed, playing a character I designed myself to be specifically that—and ending up as a traitor to my own god and a dark terror whose thirst for revenge warped her beyond recognition appeals to me. But at the same time, I think “No, Lenore wouldn’t do that.” Lenore is both me and not me. She has a lot of the same qualities I have—that goody-two-shoes thing, namely—but she’s also a woman and a cleric and adept at all manner of things, while I’m sitting here, clutching a die I’ve only recently learned how to interpret, and trying to place myself in her headspace.

It’s possible, I realize, to put myself in two different places. Todd thinks it would be cool to see what happened if she turns evil. Lenore knows she’d never take that deal. And in that instant, I can see what this whole role-playing thing is about, why it holds so many in its expensive thrall: For an instant, you aren’t seeing with your eyes. You’re seeing with someone else’s eyes. And it’s intoxicating.

I say no, and hope for the best.

It’s a fascinating journey, from ’80’s “BADD” hysteria to finally having a go, and I think it illustrates the good – and some of the bad – of our little hobby.

I recommend you read the rest at the A.V. club.

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