Recollections From a First-time Dungeons & Dragons Player
My Thoughts on Dungeons & Dragons?
It was one of those things that was always a little too complicated for me to fully understand. It’s a game that deals with math, and math was never a strong suit of mine. Not since elementary school, anyway, back when equations were so much more straightforward.
And rules. Dungeons & Dragons has lots and lots of rules. So much so that it needs more than one rulebook. There’s the Player’s Handbook, the Dungeon Master’s Guide, the Monster Manual, and that’s just a few of them.
Despite occasional confusion with numbers and formulas, questions about which rulebook is for what, and dilemmas about choosing the right spell at the right moment, Dungeons & Dragons was a hobby I enjoyed immensely. I always loved the adventure and story aspects of the game, and the sheer sense of fun and imagination that came with it.
Let's Open a Window to my Past...
Back in the 2009-2010 era of my life, I knew this couple. For the sake of my article, I’ll call them Janelle and Daniel. They owned a cozy apartment in a tall building, the closest thing to a skyscraper in that part of the city. Once a week, they would host D&D at their apartment, and myself and a few others would attend.
We were a small band of friends, consisting mostly of former high school buddies. Most of us had graduated in 2007, so we were in the middle of one of those awkward life transition phases. We weren’t school kids any more, but at the same time we were still searching for our place as responsible, contributing members of society. (Although as I’ve discovered, that’s a struggle that can last well into adulthood.)
The memories are still sharp in my mind. Long evenings full of munching on snacks, rolling dice, and plotting our next moves in the middle of a tense combat session. I wrote fictional backstories for some of my characters too, something that even helped kick-start my hobby as a writer.
Daniel was a great Dungeon Master. His worlds were imaginative, vivid, and varied. Every time, it would be something different. He had a good grasp of the rules, and could explain anything and everything about the game mechanics that confused me. Thankfully for my math-challenged brain, however, he also was not a rules freak. He was skilled at planning out exciting adventures for our party, but he was also good at improvising when he needed to.
The Rise and the Fall
Our group lasted roughly a year. For all the fun we had together, if there was one thing about Janelle and Daniel that bothered me, it was their unreliability. When we first started doing D&D, they were pretty consistent about making plans and keeping them. Every now and then, though, they would cancel. Of course, it was a let-down whenever it happened, but I went with it. No big deal; we'll just try again next week.
Gradually, however, they began to do it more and more often, and usually at the last minute too. The cancellations became ever more frequent until, eventually, I was informed that Dungeons & Dragons would not be continuing. I wasn't told why. Not at the time, anyway. Just that it was over. (Years later, I found out it was because some of the members my group didn't get along that well with each other. There was a lot of behind-the-scenes drama that I won't get into, but in a nutshell, it was personality clashes that drove the group apart.)
I was quite disappointed, regardless. Disappointed, and even frustrated. But not really all that surprised. There must have been a part of me that sensed it was coming.
After the End
My next disappointment came several months later, when it turned out Janelle and Daniel had moved to a different city altogether. The move had been such an abrupt decision on their part that I didn't even find out about it until after it already happened. I was lightly conversing with Janelle online one day, when all of a sudden, she informed me that she and Daniel were already settled in their new home! If them ending D&D hadn't surprised me, leaving town sure did.
Thankfully, they hadn't moved to some absurdly far-away country. It was a few hours' drive from my hometown to where they lived, so it wasn't as if I'd never see them again. All the same, I was sad. While we still messaged each other from time to time, it was disheartening that we wouldn't be seeing each other half as often any more.
I also missed Dungeons & Dragons. I missed the wacky and weird variety of creatures we used to fight. I missed the colourful array of characters that filled out our travelling party. I missed the lush, rich, and vivid worlds; the places where Daniel had opened up his imagination and let us inside to explore. Above all, I missed my friends. Once D&D ended, the rest of us just didn't hang out so much any more.
A New Beginning?
A few months later, I discovered one of the gaming stores in my downtown hosted weekly D&D. I was still going through "D&D Withdrawal" at the time, and it didn't take me long to decide I'd love to have the chance to play again. Despite that, I can remember feeling apprehensive when I attended for the first time. I'd visited this gaming store in the past, but never as a D&D player. I also didn't know any of the people there. I was as much a stranger to them as they were to me.
All things considered, it worked out fine. The people there were friendly and welcoming, and seemed to know their stuff. The sessions were fun and relaxed, and everyone got along fine. The Dungeon Master was mellow and down-to-Earth, while also being the kind of guy who could keep a good handle on the players and on our quest. When I describe it like that, it sounds perfect in every way.
But, you know, it just wasn't the same.
It was fun at first. After several sessions passed, the novelty wore off, and I eventually stopped going. It wasn't that there was anything wrong with the group, per say. Or that anything bad happened with anyone there. The storytelling in our campaigns wasn't half as memorable as in my old group, though. Nobody could do it as well as Daniel, it seemed.
In hindsight, I wonder if perhaps I should have given the gaming store group more of a chance. Maybe if I'd stuck it out longer, it would've grown on me. Yet, at the time, my heart just wasn't into it any more. That was when I realized what it really was about D&D that made it special to me. It was less about the game itself, and more about the time it gave me to spend with my friends.
Despite the bittersweet note things ended on, it's still an experience I look back on with fondness. It was a lot of fun, and it came with many great memories.
What Happened Next?
That was it for me and Dungeons & Dragons for a good long while. It wasn’t the last time I ever played D&D in my life, however. Years later, I was given a chance to play again. But that’s a story for another time.
Do you have any D&D experiences you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below.
Thanks for reading.
© 2017 Ian Rideout