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?