Saturday, February 25, 2006

A Whole New World

Last night was Phil's birthday party. It was really fun, even if we never actually did get around to watching the movie we were supposed to watch. We somehow always find a way to talk the time away. I think that's a good thing.

After everyone else left, Jeremy and I stayed talking with Phil and Rachel for ages. We have two favourite topics of conversation: co-housing (seriously, lock Rachel and I in a room for a week, and we'll probably still be talking about the community we want to build when you let us out for our first meal in seven days) and, a recent addition, role-playing.

Now, I don't know about you, but I grew up with a very simplistic view of Dungeons & Dragons. It was evil, and everyone who played it was going to Hell. I didn't even know what it was, I just knew that it could make me kill myself and/or become possessed by demons. It had to be true, I read it in a tract.



I carried this belief with me into college. Then I found out that some of my very good friends played D&D. I was shocked and upset. As much as I had expanded my worldview since childhood, D&D just wasn't something I had ever opened up for discussion. How could it be anything but evil, when I was so thoroughly convinced of its evilness?

One day after I had graduated, I was visiting Jeremy at Houghton, and there was a D&D game going on in his apartment. This was my first close-up experience of D&D. I wasn't really paying much attention to them, but as far as I could tell, they were just telling a story together. A little geeky, maybe, but hardly evil. I still wasn't convinced that it was for me, though, and I still harboured a deep-set sense that maybe it wasn't evil for them, but it still might be evil in the wrong hands.

I really can't pinpoint when I finally realized that I was holding onto a foolish and unfounded prejudice against role-playing games, but I can tell you when I decided that I wanted to try it for myself. It was when I read The Big U by Neal Stephenson. It's the most bizarre, extreme, unbelievable account of university life I have ever come across, and it includes some extremely interesting role-playing scenes. There is a group on campus that does live-action role-playing (LARP), which means that they dress in costumes and carry mock weapons and they explore the sewers underneath the school with walkie-talkies so that they can communicate with the person on the computer who calculates what monsters they are supposed to be encountering and whether their attacks are successful or not. Completely ridiculous in its geekiness, but suddenly, it hit me: role-playing is acting!

That probably seems like the most obvious realization ever, like I just realized that applesauce has apples in it, but for me, it was on par with a "Darth Vader is my father" realization. I love acting, I love directing, I love theatre, I love improv. Heck, I even loved role-playing when I did it in my mediation classes. But the whole idea of D&D-style role-playing was so tainted in my mind that it never really sunk in that role-playing means you're playing a role.

So, sometime soon (when Rachel is finished with creating her fantastic world), Jeremy and I are going to be doing a tabletop role-playing game. And I'm actually really starting to get excited about it, and am having so much fun developing my character.

And I'm not worried in the least about my eternal soul. I don't doubt that there are people who take the game too far, who blur the line of fantasy and reality, who take the game so seriously that they kill themselves when their characters die. But those are the same people who blur the line between television and reality, or books and reality; the same people who scream and throw the board game across the room when they lose or kill themselves when they get cut from the cheerleading squad. But you don't hear anyone saying that Monopoly (tm) is of the Devil, or that cheerleaders are going to Hell. Well, okay, maybe the part about cheerleaders.

Honestly, what I'm the most worried about is taking the plunge into something so irrefutably geeky that the possibility of ever being cool again is eternally lost. Ah, who am I kidding, I was never cool. Bring on the T-shirt.

5 comments:

twilighttreader said...

Heh, ironically, I just spent over an hour talking with a guy about getting a new D&D game going. Good luck with your game, and by all means hit me up if you want any more character advice!

twilighttreader said...

I actually went and read through that Chick tract. Dumb rogue, I bet you thought you'd be one of the cool, stealthy types and load your skill points into Hide and Move Silently. Then, when the chips were down, you blew your Spot check and flubbed your Fortitude save. Got what you deserved.

/my rogue has max ranks in Spot

Anonymous said...

Heh, gotta admit I have the shirt already. And the shirt that says, "-1 Str/+1 Charisma" :) And a bunch others. Have fun and welcome to this world. ;)

confite said...

hehehe...I just took the plunge myself. I've decided to blame it on the fact that I'm dating a geek and he made me do it. (nevermind the fact that we were roleplaying together before we were dating) So see, you're married to one, it's not our faults, we have/will be marrying into geekdom, we're only geeky by proxy, on our own we're actually cool. (Though I fear I was never actually cool either)

EarthenForge said...

I'm not sure there's any one activity that makes you geeky to the point of no return. I think it's all about balance. I've never considered myself married to either the cool or the geeky group because my interests bridge them both, and because I've never been so hard-core into any one thing. I'm definitely more geek than cool, though (I am the Game Master/Dungeon Master after all). With the increasing importance of technology, nerds aren't the social outcasts they once were, so there's always hope for geeks. And anyway, I'm pretty sure Vin Diesal is the epitomy of cool yet he was a hard core gamer enough to get a temp tattoo of his fav character's name on his torso for a movie he was in. See how cool you could become from all this? ;)