My Dungeons and Dragons Story

My Dungeons and Dragons Story

My first introduction to Dungeons and Dragons took place in Middle School. A group of us were at a friend’s house one day and he pulled out a set of books – Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and the Monster Manual. He had more, I’m sure, but those are the three I remember. They make up what is considered the core rulebooks.

I knew almost nothing about Dungeons and Dragons the first time those books were set in my hand. Except that my mother had watched some made-for-TV movie based on the premise that Dungeons and Dragons was actually the realm of the occult. The movie suggested that the dungeon master compelled their players to kill in the real world. And if you died in the game, you were next on the murder block.

I neglected to mention my intention to play Dungeons and Dragons while I was at home.

Our initial attempts to play the game were crude at best. We were teenagers. Our idea of cool was immature to say the least. Our rulebooks were Third Edition. (I wasn’t introduced to the joys of THAC0 until much later). We never played more than a handful of sessions, and almost never with the same characters. But Dungeons and Dragons scratched a creative itch. Not to mention informing me that there was a world full of other people as eager to create and collaborate on stories as my thirsty young self.

The Early Years

My first serious campaign was played entirely between myself and my now husband. (He was my fiancé at the time.) At the time, we lived quite far from all our other table-top oriented friends. So he GMed and played a pair of characters, while I also played two characters in the campaign.

This was the first time I really seriously delved into the actual mechanics of Dungeons and Dragons. Up to that point, the friend with all the books had done most of the grunt work of preparing our characters and sessions. We got about half the rules wrong, but we played that game for most of a year. We even took notes on what we did so that we could use the story later.

I still have those notebooks.

Back then, I had little appreciation for the mathematical aspects of the game. It was the collaborative storytelling aspect that appealed most to me. And for many years after we grew too busy to trifle with that abandoned D&D campaign, I participated in online writing forums where I wrote buckets full of various role playing posts.

Role playing, be it in written or table top form, has been a big part of my life for a long time. It might seem odd for a writer to be so drawn to something I basically spend my entire life doing. But there’s a distinct difference between RP and crafting a manuscript. Mainly that, when I write a novel, I know everything that’s going to happen. I’m in control. Even when my characters throw me for a loop, I still have full knowledge of where I’m ultimately going.

Why I love Dungeons and Dragons

When you play a game with other people, they have as much control over the story as you do. Sometimes even more in the case of the game master.

I like that. It’s nice to be surprised. Even better if I suddenly have to decide how my character would act in an unexpected situation.

Table top RPGs are games of instant gratification. As soon as you roll the dice or speak a line of dialogue, you get to find out how people react. (Unless it’s the end of a session.) It’s like getting all the beta reader feedback you could ever want without any of the delay.

Even serving as game master isn’t quite the same as writing a novel. When I write my own stories, I get to decide how all of my characters react in any given situation. But when I’m setting up an adventure for a group of friends, I can only guess how they might react instead. This means that I have to leave things more open than I would normally, not to mention adapting a lot on the fly. (GMing requires a lot of improvisation.)

But one of the most rewarding aspects of GMing – at least for me – is seeing how my friends react to the elements I’ve designed for them. When I help a person tell a story they’re interested in, it’s extremely rewarding. Even more so because I could never have crated that story all on my own. Character-oriented fiction has always been my favorite. And since the core way that players interact with a TTRPG world is via the characters they create, TTRPGs are the perfect way to craft character-oriented stories.

My Evil Plans

My love for TTRPGs re-ignited while we were living in England. The friends we made there invited us to join their long-running RPG campaign. It wasn’t Dungeons and Dragons, and the system was unfamiliar to me. Still, we enjoyed every second we spent interacting with that group. So much so that we moved the game to Skype when we came back to Canada so that we could keep playing.

Thanks to shows like TableTop, I also discovered several other role playing systems I enjoy even more than Dungeons and Dragons. Such as Fate and Dungeon World. I didn’t play another actual Dungeons and Dragons game until my husband started streaming Winds of Chaos and I guested as the woods witch “Yfema” (a pact of the archfey warlock).

I didn’t play much Dungeons and Dragons Fourth Edition, but I really like the way they’ve streamlined Fifth Edition. It seems now like every class has many options for customization, but the process of creating and managing a character is much simpler. Ironically they even implemented some spell management changes that we had home-brewed for previous games just to make things simpler.

Of course, along with rekindling my love for TTRPGs, I have resumed expanding my dice collection. Because while digital dice rollers and tabletop arenas like Roll20 are fantastic for digital game management, there’s something so wonderfully visceral and delightful about rolling physical dice. (I could probably write an entire post about my dice sets… so I’ll save that for later.)

I’ve never managed to run a long-term campaign, but I’ve spent the last several months laying plans for one. In August, my players will participate in Session 0, and I hope to launch them into a fantastically mind-blowing world and story. (We’re using a completely homebrewed setting!)

There are too many time-zones and logistics involved in this particular campaign to try streaming it. But I do hope to provide updates here on the blog, including a look at the world I built and how my players ultimately choose to interact with it. So stay tuned for that!

2 Replies to “My Dungeons and Dragons Story”

  1. Role playing games like D&D sound like so much FUN! I’ve never gotten to play, sadly. My BIL has played and he has a role play game he plays with some friends every month (at least, I think he’s still doing that.)

    1. The hardest part of a D&D campaign is always finding a party and a time when they can all play. I really hope you get a chance to try it someday though! It’s so much fun!

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