A lot of people have come up to me and asked me how I used to spend my summers growing up. Well, actually no one really has but I feel like telling you about it anyway.
While most youthful teenagers of the 1980’s were spending warm sun filled days going to camp, listening to some guy named Michael Jackson or going to Dip-N-Dances at the Palmer Community Pool I was hard at work with my friends creating characters on sheets of paper, rolling dice and saving the world from utter annihilation playing Dungeons & Dragons.
For those of you who’ve never donned the helmet of a Paladin or put on a Cloak of Invisibility let me explain. Dungeons and Dragons (or D&D) is a role-playing game where players enter realms where monsters and magic are real. Without boring you with too much detail and taking away the heart of this blog post think of it this way: You get to pretend to be a character from Lord of The Rings.
My friends and I used to play D&D for hours. Starting usually around mid-afternoon and going deep into the night gorging ourselves on greasy pizza and Coke. We were so into it.
My brother and all of his friends all thought I was a dork for playing but that didn’t bother me. They didn’t understand that I didn’t need my Atari 2600, M-TV or Madonna. All I needed were my “boys”, some stale pepperoni pizza and my 20-sided dice.
I still remember the frustration we would feel when nature called and we had to take a leak during an important encounter. No one wanted to leave the table and I think if there were Depends lying around, we might actually have considered using them on more than one occasion.
But the one thing I always remember the most from those gaming sessions wasn’t the food or the battles we had against Goblins, Trolls and Giants. Although those things were very important, the thing that always sticks out for me were the conflicts we used to have with each other.
For without fail, in almost EVERY game session two or more players would start arguing with each other over the course of play and sometimes almost coming to blows. We should have called it D&D Fight Club. And woe to any one when the argument included the Dungeon Master.
The Dungeon Master (DM), is the one chosen to control the world the players adventure into and was a job each of us alternated doing. The DM’s world is based upon a module, a book that has the entire adventure outlined including every creature encountered.
It’s the DM’s job to keep the game flowing based on what the module dictates and controls everything from describing the surroundings to random monster encounters. Essentially, the DM is God. And this appointment to deity status usually posed a problem if the DM held a grudge against fellow players.
Maybe his Mom didn’t give him his allowance that week. Or maybe it was because he had his Underoos on too tight that day. In any event, whatever it was that caused someone to pi$$ on his cornflakes that particular day, it wasn’t going to be good.
The start of the arguments always began the same way: accusations of cheating on dice rolls. A quick hand to cover the results before the DM could verify was always seen as the primary cause. “You didn’t roll that!”….”Yes I did”….”You LIAR”….(do you see where I’m going with this?).
Most of our DM’s could keep it together. Kind of a hard thing to do considering it was always the players against YOU. The players all had characters and were on the same team. The DM pretty much role-played every thing else in the world from the monsters to the townsfolk.
It was easy to see how battles could ensue. A DM who came into the game session with a chip on his shoulder and having already made accusations of cheating would inevitably lose his cool when his Frost Giant got walloped by a bunch of rogues on the first roll of the dice. Something that was very hard to do.
You could see his blood pressure rise as the players each gave each other high fives. It was kind of like a slap in the face. For most it was just a game but our DMs always seemed to take it personally and use his God-like ability to make things difficult for everyone. What would start out as a quest for treasure and glory quickly turned into the DM’s desire to wipe out the players as quickly as possible.
So before too long that single Frost Giant was somehow able to “magically” summon a half-dozen of his brothers and sisters to join the fray before dying. Ones that I highly doubt were part of the module. That’s when the gloves came off and the dice rolls became more intense.
In the end, the players were victorious most of the time. Tears were shed and on more than one occasion friendships were lost as disgruntled warriors gathered up their Coca-Cola stained sheets of paper and stormed out.
But youth was a wonderful thing and even Dungeons and Dragons couldn’t ruin friendships for long. Usually by the next day all was forgiven and not another word was spoken. Not to siblings or parents. Because when you role-played with us there was only one thing you needed to know: The first rule of D&D Fight Club was, you do not talk about D&D Fight Club.
As seasons change so did my affection for D&D. And it wasn’t long before girls and guitars took the place of giants and dice and D&D became a thing of the past.
Today the game is still as popular as ever. You can even play online with people from across the street or around the world. For a die hard D&Der like I was, you’d think I’d be all over that right? But truth be told, I haven’t so much as rolled the dice in almost 25 years and have no plans to.
I treasure my friendships too much.