Thursday, September 20, 2007

Dungeons and Dragons fan, and (proud?) of it

I'm a huge fan of Dungeons & Dragons and of role-playing games in general. I've been playing D&D since roughly age 10 when my parents, after some begging, bought me the Tom Moldvay box set (you D&D historians know the one--it has the fighter and the fireball-flinging female mage about to battle a green dragon on the cover). Despite a long break with the game in the 1990's, D&D has always been a big part of my life and my chief hobby.

There, I've said it!!!

So why is it that only my immediate family and a few close friends know about my favorite pastime? Why do I keep my keen interest in RPGs a carefully-protected secret at work, at family functions, and from society at large?

Let's not kid ourselves--there's still a huge stigma attached to these games, that's why.

No, I'm not talking about the devil-worshipping, underground steam tunnel/black magic stigma associated with D&D that had parents panicking for the souls of their children in the 1980's. I'm talking about the stigma of nerdiness.

Extreme nerdiness.

Despite the fact that the Harry Potter novels are selling through the roof, that millions of "normal" people flocked to the theatres from 2001-2004 to watch Lord of the Rings, and that no one bats an eye when husbands and wives play computer role playing games like the crazily-popular World of Warcraft, D&D is different. It and other pen-and-pencil, table-top RPGs remain a subject of derision, and its players the object of skepticism. In my own experience, at least, the myth persists that D&D players are fundamentally flawed, out of touch, overweight, cat-piss smelling freaks hovering at the edge of society--and it probably always will.

Never mind the fact that I'm a middle-aged, happily married man with a loving wife and two children. I have a decent paying job in a publishing company. Despite my recent growth of beard, I'm well-kept and in reasonably good shape. At work and elsewhere I'm regarded as an (semi) intelligent, run-of-the-mill, family man. The good folks I play with are all successful, hard-working, great people with lives and families.

Nevertheless, I fear that this veneer of normality would be irreparably shattered into a thousand fragments were I reveal that on some Saturdays I assume the role of Kos Vilmirian, a hard-drinking, wealth-mongering fighter/rogue from the seaside city of Marsember in the Forgotten Realms. I quail at the thought of letting slip the fact that I enjoy rolling 20-sided dice and pushing around painted minatures on maps of sprawling underground dungeons with other grown men (and women) once or twice a month.

I can imagine the conversation at work:

(Me): "So Steve, what did you do this weekend?"
(Steve): "Watched the Pats game with my buddies, went out drinking Saturday night. "You?"
(Me): "Well, we slew the archmage Antarax and his undead minions who were planning to overrun the village of Rithwic. And I scored an awesome +3 Frostband longsword!"
(Steve): *Dies on spot*

You get the picture.

Perhaps my thinking is wrong, and that my friends and co-workers would accept my hobby. Maybe someday I'll grow a backbone and declare to the world that I like slaying pretend orcs, tramping through imaginary dungeons, and searching for make-believe treasure hordes.

But for now, baring my soul to cyberspace will have to suffice.


Falze said...

King Selfish removes the pudding from his belt and puts it in his packpack before slaying a Lurker Above with his lead sword (automatically hits, automatically kills). Oh look, he is rewarded with 100000000000000000000000000 gold and a Deck of Many Things that only contains good things!

Brian Murphy said...

Heh, those were fun times.

Remember when Danny Ruth had so much gold he stopped counting, and would just erase an occasional '0' when he bought something? And he had like four pages of equipment that he managed to carry around in his backpack.