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.
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.
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?
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
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.
A tan leather tote with two dice bags, a miniature vault, a pencil case, two notebooks, and three 5th Edition D&D books.
I find myself on the brink – a lot has changed since the last post on this blog, when I introduced a new character that I would play, on and off, until I could no longer find it in myself to play with that particular group. For a number of reasons, almost entirely (but not completely) unrelated to D&D, my husband and I have been divorced for a little over 18 months at this point, and the D&D group that I used to be part of went with him in the divorce.
Of course, there’s always been the online campaigns – Dar na Theria and the City of Fangs haven’t gone anywhere, and I still play D&D with them every weekend. But virtual D&D is never quite the same as sitting around a table, playing the game with actual dice, ideally becoming lifelong friends with the folks that you explore pretend worlds and slay imaginary dragons with.
For many reasons, it’s been hard to put myself out there, to try to find new friends to play this game I love with. But in the intervening time, I’ve discovered something new. Critical Role came into my life in January 2017, at the recommendation of a friend, and I was a devoted fan by the end of the first live episode I watched. With rapt attention, I watched through the end of Campaign 1, said my goodbyes to Vox Machina, purchased some fanart to decorate my new apartment with, and have avidly followed the adventure of the Mighty Nein so far as they adventure in Wildemount.
I am, in short, a critter – and a fairly devoted one at that.
And critters are pretty wonderful people. Through a group of them where I had the opportunity to make some new friends, I ran into J, who plays in a long-running campaign that meets about 30 minutes away from where I live. (That’s fairly close by Houston standards.) They’d reached level 20, defeated Orcus, and were taking a short break before starting over again at level 1, and they were looking for new players. J and I struck up a casual friendship on Facebook, and I’ve been invited to join the table for a trial run.
Being that it’s a level 1, 5E campaign, I’ve got two characters created, just in case the lethality of low-level D&D becomes a problem, but of course, I play clerics, so it’s slightly more likely that someone else will die. Still, I’m reusing bits and pieces of other Annas, and I’ll be introducing both characters over the next weeks as I perfect their stories. We’ll be playing in the Forgotten Realms, which is a new campaign setting for me (I’ve played almost exclusively in homebrew D&D), so that’s fun. How I can have played D&D this long and know so little about Faerun is pretty impressive.
And so I begin again.
Two level 1 characters. Scouring the internet for the perfect character portraits. Picking spells and setting up stats (point buy). It’s fun, and exciting, and nervous. If it doesn’t work out, I can always try again, but for now, I’m just going to try to ride the tide of anticipation.
We shall see how this goes.