Thursday, January 19, 2012

Dale reminisces about the D&D glory days and finds pointless, wasteful uses for wondrous technology

I used to play role-playing games a lot. In high school and during university it wasn't uncommon for me and a group of friends to run late night sessions of Dungeons and Dragons or GURPS, crash until noon, and then continue where we left off. I don't recall very many shower breaks for the boys on these weekends. Come to think about it, if we did this for a whole weekend the room would start to smell like some kind of exotic, unrefrigerated meat.

During my adult years, like most of my more nerdish pastimes, rpgs became a less and less frequent activity. These days I still dabble occasionally, but some of my friends have kept it up and continue to run regular weekend sessions, though since they are old like me, these sessions never become gaming marathons like the old days. In fact they rarely make it past 11:00.

On the plus side the room usually smells great.

Part of me is jealous that they've kept up with it while I have not, but they play on Saturday nights and since my wife is not a gamer, I am left with a choice: do things with my wife and family on the one night we generally are all free, or leave them and sit around a table, roll dice, drink soda, and eventually get slain by an elf.

Sometimes this choice is not as easy as it sounds.

Once in a while (a longer and longer while as time goes by) I find myself being invited to start up a regular session with these friends on a non-Saturday night, or as we refer to it, Friday. Fridays are a bit better for me. Karen is usually tired and doesn't care if we do anything. Also, she seems quite happy to get to bed early. My kids have reached the point that they no longer notice if I'm not at home. I have literally left town for days and come back to find out that at least one of them didn't realize I had been gone.

One of the directives of this new project I've begun (you know, the one where I attempt to put all the nerdy things I love into a higher-prioriy area of my life? And decided to devote a blog to? Keep up) was based on the realization that I was not watching anywhere near the amount of movies I used to (I have literally been buying more DVDs than I've been watching, so that now, next to my unread book pile there is a sad unwatched disc pile). I decided to set Friday night as movie night. Every Friday I must watch at least one movie, from any source. Anyone is welcome to join me, but for about a month and a half now I have spent at least two hours in my basement, watching movies. Alone.

The point is, I don't feel as much guilt going out on Fridays. So we've tried to set up rpg campaigns to run every second Friday night, a schedule that I can commit to, excepting the occasional Friday where I'm out of town for work. For some reason, these campaigns always seem to crash and burn, and every time this happens, there's a longer wait period before I get invited to another.

Early last year, I got a call from my friend Dave, who is not in my usual gaming group. A writer, Dave was working on creating a campaign world for the Dungeons and Dragons universe that he hoped to submit, or at the very least get a novel out of. So to get in the mind-set and to work out some world and story ideas, he wanted to get a group together to play Dungeons and Dragons. I agreed and about once every month, we've gotten together to play. And it's not just D&D, it's 1st Edition D&D. For non-Rpers, this is the equivalent of a Halo player suddenly deciding to devote himself to his old copy of Doom. If you're not gamer enough to understand that comparison, I will break it down into total non-gaming terms: it would be like going from Wii Tennis to Pong.

But it's fun. We've all pulled out our old rulebooks, some of which haven't seen the light of day since the early 80s. And unlike my other group, most of these guys haven't played D&D since the early 80s, so I feel like a bigshot.

We were supposed to play last Wednesday night. I, unfortunately, had to be in Dryden that night, but gave my blessing to run the game without me, since this group is tough to pull together, and I was the only one unavailable. I joked about Skyping them to check how things were going and left it at that.

The night of the game, I finished my business in Dryden just after 10:00 and texted Dave to see how things were going, and asked if there happened to be a Skype-enabled laptop at the gaming table. As it happened, there actually was, and a few moments later I was sitting at the table, my disembodied face glowing out at the guys from my accustomed spot at the table.

I had planned on visiting for a few moments but instead found the game progressing and becoming involved. I even had Bob, the guy with the biggest hands, roll dice for me at an angle that created the illusion that it was my hands sticking through the screen and rolling them onto their table. It was awesome, even though my rolls that night sucked for some reason. And for an hour and a half I sat at that table, not feeling like I was missing out, joking with the guys, and playing D&D. We truly are living in a world of wonders when such amazing technology can be utilized for a purpose that ridiculous, aren't we?

The only down side was that I was also forced to watch them gorging themselves on salty snacks of which I could not partake. However, since they were unaware of this particular cruelty, I decided not to take them to task on it or hold a grudge.

As for my solo Friday movie nights, I'm trying something different. This Friday I have invited actual friends to join me. Troy and Warren will be coming over and we're having a double feature of “movies Troy needs to see”. In reality I only expect to get one movie down, since Troy isn't a double-feature kind of guy. I know this because, while discussing which movies to watch, he expressed his “strenuous opposition” to watching two movies. So I expect we'll watch Shaun of the Dead and call it a night. Which is fine with me, as long as we can push things past 11:00.


  1. I saw Hot Fuzz first, and prefer it to Shaun, believeitornot. :-)

  2. Nothing wrong with Hot Fuzz my man. Edgar Wright is my personal deity. If it weren't against God's own law I'd make him my wife.

  3. I'm glad you mentioned our 1st edition D&D nights because those are, for me, very much about what this blog is about - getting back to enjoyment of some of those more "nerdly" pursuits that adult life leaves us little time for, but that bring us so much joy. I very much look forward to these nights, and not just for the chance to pull out my D&D books and rock the 20-sided die. They've filled a hole for me in providing an opportunity and reason to get together once a month with people who enjoy many of the same nerdly interests that I do, and whose company I enjoy, and to talk about movies and joke and interact, rather than just sitting in front of the TV (not that there's anything wrong with THAT). I have a blast every time we get together, and I think my love of these nights speaks to what is most important about nerdom to me: community - having some folks to talk to about all of my nerdly passions, retro 80s D&D included. They offset the Fridays that I spend by myself working through my own growing pile of unwatched DVDs (or with my wife, who invariably is paying very little attention to what I am watching, and therefore doesn't have many clever bon mots to offer), and give me someone to talk to about them after I've watched. I wouldn't trade those nights for the world, even if my character is usually unconscious within the first five minutes of any encounter!

  4. You bring up so many great points, Kelly. We have much in common, and yet you have your own unique experiences and your own spin on things. We should definitely spend more time talking about this stuff. Perhaps even is some kind of public forum.

  5. Hmmmmm - I think that's an excellent idea. I've sent a couple of messages about accessing facilities, but haven't gotten any love - I will follow up and keep you posted!