I’m not an extrovert. I don’t like to get up on stage to perform. I do not like to be the center of attention. Role-playing has never been something I’ve wanted to do.
I’m also super busy — building a house, raising two kids, helping out family members — and if I have any extra free time I think I’d rather just play more boardgames.
I believe it is important for my own self improvement to start saying yes to some things and to occasionally resist my first reaction of declining an invitation.
I also believe it’s a good character trait to play the games other people like to play, to at least try it a few times, and to put on a happy face because it will make them happy. After all, I ask them to play a dozen or more (who am I kidding, dozens or more) strategy games. The least I can do is hang out and roll some dice while drinking wine. (Maybe a little extra wine to take the edge off?)
So Collin invited us to play D&D for an intro campaign in a world he created. We’ll start off making new characters at level 1 and go from there.
I say yes.
But I don’t want to learn all the intricate details of how to play D&D right now. I don’t want to invest in another hobby and this is just a trial run anyway, right? Let’s not get too crazy. But I also don’t want to phone it in and ruin other people’s fun.
Step 1: Create a Character. Don’t overthink it.
“I want to be short. Short seems fun.” Gnome, 3 feet tall.
“A lot of these classes are too serious. I want something looser.” Wild Magic Sorcerer, lots of chaos and random dice rolls, anything could happen.
Step 2: Write a Backstory
Alright, so let’s say my character is just learning that he has these magical powers. He has no idea what he’s doing — just like me. I have no idea how to play D&D and I’m choosing not to memorize the Player’s Handbook. Let’s say he has to figure it out as he goes along — again, just like me.
Now there’s no pressure on me the player, and when I don’t know something or make a “suboptimal” choice, there’s a thematic reason for it. Perfect!
Step 3: Meet at the Tavern
Both me and my character start drinking more heavily. My character acts nervous and shy because he’s new in town and doesn’t know anybody (also because I’m new to role-playing games and would rather other people take the first few social steps). If I try something and it comes out awkward, I can just blame the booze. *hic!*
Step 4: Double-down on your character not being confident and not knowing what he’s doing.
This almost feels like I’m cheating because I’m not actually role-playing anymore.
At a certain point, though, I felt it start to get its hooks into me. Collin probably doesn’t even realize how he forced the shift, but all of a sudden I started caring about and identifying with my character.
He threw a mimic at me in our first session and almost killed me — notice how I said me.
End result, I don’t trust Collin at all. I’m constantly on the lookout for more traps or subplots and schemes and second-guess every conversation. When the innkeeper says they’re all out of stew I want to know if that’s code for something. When big birds are seen in the distance flying our way, I run and tell everybody to “Duck and cover!”
Then I start seeing my character as part of a bigger story and the world is starting to take shape a bit. I have some personal interest in seeing how his story plays out. I get to direct him a little bit in a choose your own adventure sort of way, only less scripted and more like musical improvisation. During off days I find myself wondering how my character will react in the next session.
Slowly, my social barriers start to erode and I make more decisions based on what my character would do, and not because I’d be more comfortable with it. Sometimes Collin tries to make me act out a persuasion roll, “What do you say in your attempt to persuade the vendor to give you a better price?” and that’s not super comfortable, but I try. Sometimes I abandon ship and just let the dice communicate what happened. Serves me right for making a character with high charisma.
It’s been a weird ride. We’re nearing the end of our intro campaign and I actually feel tense for my character. He’s starting to lose control over himself and it’s really starting to get to him. His magical powers are surging and it’s all he can do to not kill everybody around him. The magic just gets stronger with each level. He has nightmares about fire and burning and then when he’s in battle the fire struggles to get out. He tries to hide, to hang back, to stay far away, but it’s too strong and he can’t hold it in. He’s a 3-foot-tall nuclear reactor going into meltdown and I can’t wait to see what happens next!
On the one hand, yes, I still want to play more boardgames, but the variety that D&D adds is kinda nice. And if the group as a whole feels like we’re getting to do what we each want to do more often or with more balance across our interests, then I say that’s probably a more sustainable, respectful, and healthy way to have a game group anyway.
I believe our next session is the climax for our intro campaign and I think I want to keep playing. I met two new cool people from the D&D group and meeting people is hard with me being introverted. They have interesting characters with interesting stories we haven’t even explored yet. It’s like I’m 5 chapters into a new book and it hooked me. It’s hard to just stop reading at this point.
So maybe just one more chapter…