First Game Post-Mortem

Monday night, from around 8 (I had some trouble finding the place, oops) until around 12:30, I got to hang with the new D&D table and see what that would be like. In reality, I only got to meet one new person – J I’d met before (we’ve been on a few dates), but K is their usual DM but taking a break, so he joined me as a player. J2 (yes, in a group of four players, we have two guys with the same name) had a flat tire and wasn’t able to make it last-minute.

So we spent a few hours shooting the shit, getting to know each other and nerding out together, which was fun and encouraging. I love being around other nerds, because nerds unabashedly, unashamedly LOVE things. (Sometimes this leads to gatekeeping, but these nerds are not like that, and gatekeeping can suck it.) We nerded out about D&D, about druidry and paganism, about the Astros. It was all around a good time.

And then we sat down and rolled some dice. K’s character was a bit of a douchebag, but Annie Mae took him right in stride and – quite frankly – saved him from being a victim of human trafficking, so she figures someday he’ll at least give her some credit. Being an urban ranger is fun too – all sneaky in back alleys and pass without a trace to get away from the bad guys.

Overall, it was grand fun, and I look forward to next week’s continuation.

Things I did notice – this is both an alcohol and a 420 friendly table, which is 100% new to me. I’ve played D&D slightly tipsy, but never with drunk or high people, and it did change the timbre of the game slightly. Not in a bad way, and in fact, it slowed the game down a little, which meant I had more time to think (and meant my quick thinking got us out of some scrapes). Nobody was pushy or anything, and they were all super polite (and due to both politeness and good ventilation I did not go home smelling of cigarettes or MJ).

The table is gorgeous and hand-made – but currently lives in an un-airconditioned garage. They have lights, full music and sound, everything you’d ever want to play D&D… just no A/C. So my planned outfit, which included a pashmina headwrap made of black wool and silk, was a little too warm. Thankfully the night was pretty mild – only about 85 outside – and they have fans running so there’s good circulation.

I will hopefully meet J2 on Monday, but so far the two guys I have met are super excited to have me there – which is flattering. I’m an experienced player, but I’m nothing compared to the folks who stream professionally. Still, I felt warmly welcomed, encouraged to roleplay and take risks with my character, and rewarded for rolling well and thinking quickly.

So yeah. I’m happy with how this turned out. I’m thankful for Critical Role, which brought me to this group, and which has given me so much to learn as a player and even inspired me to think about sitting behind the DM screen sometime in the future.

Here’s hoping things continue to go well.

First Game Jitters and a Dice Blessing

I play my first D&D game with the new group tonight. We’re not jumping right away into campaign 2 for them, instead taking a month to do some one-shots or short 2-3 game campaigns. The first actual game will be the first Monday of October.

Tonight though, I get to meet these guys (and they are all guys – I’ll be the only woman at the table) for the first time, and I’m honestly pretty nervous.

The one-shot we’re playing is being DMed by my current crush and possible new beau, J. (He’s usually a player, but is DMing for September to give the usual DM a break.) It’ll be urban D&D in a Forgotten Realms-ish port city. I’ve decided to bring back Annie Mae Spursparkle for this stint, because she’s fun, funny, easy to roleplay, and I have a friend in the City of Fangs campaign who has a level 5 urban ranger that I can just lift her character sheet and not have to worry about rolling up a character from scratch.

Annie Mae is a halfling ranger, a country girl at heart, living in the city to make ends-meet, with her pony Meg, her giant dog (unnamed as yet), her shotgun, and her Very Fine Hat.

HORSEGUN GNOMEPOWER

I think she’ll translate well into D&D, and I’ll get to stretch my roleplaying muscles just a little. Wish me luck – I’m turning over a new leaf in life right now, in a lot of ways, and I’m really hoping that this game will be part of that turnover. So far everyone I’ve met has been really chill, and I hope the table chemistry is as good as J says it is.

Here’s hoping this is the start of something really cool. I’ve needed more real life friends, and these guys are Critters, so there’s a good chance we’ll get along just fine. I’m trying not to be too nervous, because I know I can’t control this, but I really do want it to work. It’s been too long since I sat around a physical table, rolling dice and shooting the shit with friends.

And in that vein, a blessing for your dice. What good is a priest if she can’t write a blessing for good rolls and good times?

 

maggie and milly and molly and may

maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)

and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

— e.e. cummings

Gay Tieflings are the Best Kind

In Which Anvari Zarthus, Warlock of the Undying Light, makes doe eyes at her new girlfriend, Leyl Tyranas, Trickster Paladin of the Goddess of Song and Secrets. Anvari and Leyl have thus far kept their relationship a secret from the other players. For how long that lasts, your guess is as good as mine. Personally, I highly doubt it’s going to survive whatever the end of the current campaign arc is bringing, which includes a giant Met-like Gala onboard a new ship in the City of Fangs.

Art by Jenn St. Onge

Ramblings on Madness

I lived a lot of my life on 4 hours or less of sleep, for weeks on end. I would go months in a hypomanic binge, then crash into depression and force of will myself to keep over functioning. High school was bad, college was a mess. I got through because I’m fucking smart, and good at taking notes, remembering lectures, taking tests, and charismatic and personable so if I needed extra help I could get it. I also took a degree in something I am both passionate about and good at, so when I needed to coast I could, but I didn’t need to coast very often. And I only had a couple of panic attacks so who’s counting. The nightmares about failing were just part of college, right?

After college though… I floundered about, jobless except for teaching and freelancing, for four years. Playing competitive video games to take the edge off.

Then I went crazy. It’s better now.

though I do kind of miss it sometimes

The endless energy.
I got So. Much. Done.

People marvel at me now? I got nothing on 20 year old me in terms of productivity. I took 18-21 hours every semester of undergrad, graduated with a 3.998 (fuck you too, piano performance grade) and still was a competitive athlete. Worked two internships or went to school over the summers. But the depression was so bad when it WOULD hit. Weeks getting out of bed only because I couldn’t bear to write my professors and tell them I wasn’t coming to class. (Which I felt I owed them. Probably a coping thing. If I had to tell someone I wasn’t going, I had to say out loud that I was depressed.)

It’s kind of amazing I survived

No, it’s not worth it or healthy. But it was a high. A fun one. I could do anything I set my mind to. I’m dumber now, and slower. I have a more mature wit, but the meds dull me noticeably. The trade off is that I’m not cripplingly suicidal, in an institution, dead, homeless, jobless. I have a savings account and a small financial safety net. I put money into a 401K. I don’t have panic attacks anymore, or at least not very often.

So it’s worth it. I have to keep telling myself that. It’s worth it. My life is worth it. I’m a reasonably functional adult, with a high stress job, a high stress unpaid second job, a hobby that demands creativity and competence, two cats, an apartment. Bills that I pay on time.

But I feel it every time I go pick up a refill.

Every time I get a new pharmacy tech, and she looks at my rap sheet and patiently counts out the 3-5 bottles, depending on what needs refilling. Asks me if I have any questions about my meds. Asked me every refill last year if I was sure I wanted the one that costs more than my rent every month, without insurance.

Nah, I’m okay. It’ll be fine. I want to say.

It’s like a backwards sort of addiction. My mind remembers the highs of not being on the meds. Sings siren songs about how I don’t need them. How much writing I could get done. How I’d be fearless in the face of D&D improvisation. Knit an entire lace shawl in 4 days. (It conveniently leaves out how bad the depression gets. Siren songs are only good when they’re about the deepest desires of your heart, after all.)

How many people do you know that have bipolar that take the meds for awhile, only to decide they’re “better” now? It’s super common, almost to the point of being part of the pathology of bipolar, because it cycles, for people to take the meds until they even out, declare themselves better, and stop taking their meds. And they do okay for awhile, and then they crash again. Lather, rinse, repeat. My doctor won’t let me go more than 3 months without seeing me, just to help reinforce that I need to take the meds. Same with my therapist, who double checks that I’m still taking my meds every few weeks.

I’m not crazy anymore, but there are mornings where I can see it from here.

My life now is sitting here, fully caught up on my work at my paying job, AND having written so far almost 1800 words before 11am, and wondering if I just got a little close to the fire-in-the-head, or if I should be stepping away to meditate, to slow my brain down, to maybe take something to take the edge off the drive to be writing. Is it productivity or hypomania? Is it a creative spark or hypographia? Does it even matter?

I’m not crazy anymore, but there are mornings where I can see it from here.

Being a Good ???

Before I launch into my own spiel about this, know that today’s mumblings about D&D are inspired by Matthew Colville, who posted a Youtube video in the last few days about being a good player at a D&D table. Colville is an inspiration to new DM’s everywhere – so much so that he has ME thinking about running a Waterdeep: Dragon Heist game when that module comes out next month. The video isn’t long – about 17 minutes – and it’s worth a listen.

This is a departure for Colville, who has talked about how to be a good DM for different KINDS of players, but who hasn’t really talked too much (beyond one “why do we even play this whole D&D thing anyway” video – which is also great, you should watch that too) about approaching it from the players side of the table.

Full admission: If you hadn’t caught on – I’ve never sat behind a DM screen except in jest.

But what he talks about here – the lessons he’s learned as a player of D&D (and he even alludes to this at the end) are things that are just generally good ways to be a good human. He doesn’t tell you what kind of player to be – a strategist, a roleplayer, a mathematician, a maximiser. He tells you how to be yourself within the boundaries of a cooperative game in which somwhere between 3 and 8 other humans are all ALSO attempting to have a good time.

And that’s important.

D&D is not a game with winners and losers. Or more accurately, D&D is a game where everyone wins or everyone loses, together, and you roll with it as best you can. Because D&D is, at its core, a complex set of rules that are attempting to mimic the most complex thing in the world – reality. A fantasy version of reality, yes, but reality nonetheless. A quarterstaff does less damage than a greatsword, but a greatsword takes more strength to use. A simple spell might be more reliable, but the risk-reward payoff from a larger spell is sometimes worth it. Problems always arise because there’s no way for any ruleset to truly perfect upon reality, and so there are disagreements about particulars sometimes, but – as a good player – you learn to hash it out, make a “table rule” that applies at the table you’re at, note it down, and move on.

But the thing that got me thinking about this last night when I watched the video, and again this morning when I had a little time to extrapolate, is that the things that make people “good players” in D&D, are the things that generally make people “good humans” in real life. Respect the game you’re playing. Be prepared. Know how your stuff works. Find your fun within the fun that everyone else is also having. A conversation is not a competition. Know how to lose gracefully.

The D&D revival has been extreme, and I’ve loved and rollicked and frolicked in the new opportunities to revel in this game that I love more than any of the other hobbies that I have. But one of the things that I hope that it is showing us – and that I think most of the live streamed games that you can watch on Twitch and YouTube also show us – is that being a good person, a good player, means the fun is different. Whether you’re showing up to bash your head against a meat-grinder of a dungeon or play through a long-range adventure that tells a greater narrative, with D&D, when everyone is having fun, you’re winning, and being a good person goes a long way toward making sure that we’re all having fun here.

I thought of this, in particular, in contrast with another group that I am part of, that is more serious and not a game.

And I realized that while I could work with them, and could get things done with them, I didn’t want to play D&D with them. I couldn’t trust them to be willing to put the group first. To let everyone have their own spotlight in turn, to let the table as a whole determine the fun. For them, maybe, like Colville suggests, they’re looking for a different kind of validation than you can truly get from D&D. Maybe a different game – one with clear winners and losers – would make them happier. Because one or two players that enter into D&D with the mindset that they have to win every encounter, personally; that they have to have the last word, the fastest zinger, the slickest burn; that their character should get the killing blow on every enemy… can destroy not only the fun of the other people at the table, but eventually the fun they’re trying to have for themself.

That’s a slightly deeper layer for me, as well, because I am at heart a roleplayer, and that requires a place where I feel safe, that I can trust the other players to let me have a reaction that is true to my character, regardless of what that reaction is. A place where I can be vulnerable – and hopefully where others at the table can be vulnerable too.

I don’t know if I really have a point to this ramble, but it’s been percolating in my brain since last night and I thought it worth writing down, since I have this here blog thinger and that’s what blogs are for. But if I have one takeaway, it’s that the same things that make me want to sit and play D&D with someone are the kinds of things that make me want to be involved with someone on another project. That the breakdown between “being a good player” and “being a good person” is a lot smaller than I probably ever would have thought it was.

So thanks Matt for inspiring that train of thought.

And for giving me some new ways to aspire to be the kind of person that my friends want to sit at the D&D table alongside of.