Gaming without Dungeons & Dragons

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I’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons before. Most core gamers act like I’m some kind of strange shadow of what a gamer should be when they hear that. It’s as though I told them I’m a huge gamer and I’ve been playing video games since I was a child, but I’ve never played a game with Mario in it or that I’ve never seen any Star Trek or Star Wars. I’ve seen core gamers struggle to comprehend these two aspects. Gamers who once had a great deal of respect for my gaming opinions suddenly question the very essence of being a gamer. It’s as though I lack one of the fundamental aspects of being part of the group and yet there I am.

For me, Dungeons & Dragons was always this thing that I understood, but only from an academic standpoint. I’m sure I know enough that if I was put into a game, I could look down upon my stat sheet and muddle through if I needed to, but I’ve never actually played a game. This has actually been bothering me for quite some time since it’s becoming more apparent that one of the greatest influences of video games and gaming culture is D&D. Once I wrote an article explaining how I tend to struggle with stats and character building in some RPGs and a friend of mine who read the article explained to me that it’s probably because I never played D&D. He told me that while I understood a great deal about D&D, I lacked the underlying experience of having to deal with those kinds of stats that most gamers picked up while playing D&D for hours at a time in their parents’ basements.

The strange thing is that I think I would really enjoy playing a game of D&D. My favorite book is The Hobbit by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien and I love The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. I tried to skip school to go see The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King the opening day in high school, but I couldn’t because I would miss basketball practice. I’ve played a few games that are based heavily on D&D including Neverwinter Nights and Baldur’s Gate. I love learning about myths and legends, specifically about dragons, of which I own several books on the subject. I am also a fairly decent swordsman after having years of training in both Aikido and Iaido. I sound like someone who would’ve stumbled into a game at some point and enjoyed myself, yet I never have.

I think the real reason for this was because I went to high school in a really small school. There were 21 people in my graduating class and 800 people in my town. This was Southwest Kansas a few miles from Dodge City and nobody played D&D. I didn’t know anyone who did until I was in college and I was way too busy with other things, including video games. I had a few friends that kept trying to bring me to play, but between Aikido, Halo, a job and my girlfriend — not to mention actual studying — I was never able to attend.

Last year, I was invited to play a tabletop card game with some friends. Actually, I was invited to play cards, which I translated into poker being from Dodge City, but found something different waiting. I remember kind of figuring out the rules and then during a practice game I made up my own goal, be the most annoying player in the game. I completely ignored the actual objective of the game and only collected cards that I could use to mess up other players. I actually felt less like an opponent and more like a villain whose only objective is to make the players shake their heads when it became my turn. I actually found that way of playing more enjoyable than trying to win.

After the recent comments from my friend about my lack of D&D experience, I decided that I wanted to try and play a game somewhere, but how do I even do that? I’ve embarked upon these little quests to try and understand some portion of gaming/geek culture before, but where do these people congregate and how do I find them? In college, I think I could’ve managed that, but how does a grown man simply find people to play a game of D&D with? I tried searching online, but there is nobody near me.

I also might run into some trouble explaining my newly discovered desire to find and play a game of Dungeons & Dragons to my wife, who struggles to understand the pure awesomeness of this weekend’s premiere of The Avengers. I guess that I have some time to explain my desire while I think about how to complete my quest to find players and play D&D. I do already have all the gear to dress like a samurai. That’s appropriate for D&D right?

2 Comments

  1. Hello,

    I must say it is unusual that you haven’t played before. The game can be fun, tho it has mutated over the years, almost back to its origins as a strategy/ war game. I have played for 25 years, most of those as a DM. Unfortunately since moving to Garden City, KS i havent been able to find a group or a game. But as to your query, you can look it up online. Also at the Wizards of the Coast, or Paizo message boards you can find gamers and games. Play By Post if nothing else, tho there are some Skype and other programs that let you play real time online. personally i have surrendered to the video age and just play DDO. i grew up in Colorado which has a large gaming community ( or did when i moved 8yrs ago.) and I even found gamers in Joplin,MO. but sinc moving here in July, nothing.
    Good luck and send me an E-mail if you have questions.
    James

    • Actually, I have tried looking it up online with a few of those sources and the closest game I can find is in Memphis. I live in Jackson, TN and there are some card-game meeting places around, but no D&D.

      It’s funny that you live in Garden since I’m actually from Spearville, 20 miles east of Dodge, so I can see how you don’t have anyplace to play. Nobody in that area of the country plays D&D and unless you head to Wichita, Topeka, Manhattan, Lawrence or Johnson County, Kansas has very little opportunities to play D&D. So, you’re probably four hours from a game.

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