Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Plus Six Arcana : Why All Fantasy Readers Should Join a D&D Party

[Note: This post was totally written and scheduled to go up tomorrow... until I saw the trending hashtag #GygaxDay on Twitter this afternoon! So, in honor of Gary Gygax himself, happy playing, and here's a new post for you!]

Earlier this year, I was absolutely blessed to join some of the most hilarious, smart, and savvy women I know to form a kick-ass Dungeons and Dragons party... and to be perfectly honest, I think you should join one, too! 

the origin story

In part, I have to blame my amazing younger sister, Delaney. Beyond being the "Ex-Cheerleader" - and current Sorority President of her chapter - she also did a stint last summer over in Yellowstone National Park, serving as a housekeeper at Roosevelt Lodge, willingly forgoing wifi and cell reception for days on end as trade for being surrounded by nature 24/7. Because of the Revenant-like technological conditions, her fellow housekeepers had taken up an inclusive game of Dungeons and Dragons as a means of passing the time, and invited her to join. Needless to say, she loved it.

Thus, one of the reasons she and I were factored into our current party. After so much time expressing admiration for Delaney's new hobby, I had been asked along for this new ride by my friends, and I requested a spot for her, as well. We soon became our party's healer and tank, which fits pretty well with our personalities, anyways. So many sessions later, I am constantly reminded of the dedication of my fellow players, the intense friendship we've formed, and the zany adventures I've loved being a part of.

[Side note:  I cannot tell you the unique and incredible perspective that I have in playing with a party made up entirely of women. Not just women, but sisters: everyone in our group is a Sigma Kappa - two of whom were also in my RC groups the two years I served with Panhellenic - with the only outlier being my own biological sister. While our characters are not all exclusively gendered, we are, and so we've been able to avoid a lot of different stereotyping or sexism that can sometimes cloud the game's presence elsewhere.]

As a group, we are by no means experts... I'm pretty sure for most of us, this is the first encounter we've had with the game. However, it hasn't impacted game play at all: figuring everything out together has been half the fun!

for fantasy fanatics

Now, for the real reason this topic made it's way into a blog post instead of just a ton of aesthetic posts on my Tumblr: a huge part of my gaming ability is also guided by the fact that I love to read! I know how story lines work best, I have practice both constructing and understanding characters based on the kinds of fantasy characters I've read in the past, and it's really like playing your own part in the construction of an epic story.

My fellow players - especially Delaney - have also poked fun at me for the fact that my character speaks so well (despite having a Charisma of +0) or that I can supply the perfect line for use in a situation. The reality is, I've already consumed so much snappy dialogue in my life, that it's gotten to be pretty easy to follow the framework!

In fact, there's plenty of reasons as to why fantasy readers should pick up a Player's Handbook

  • You already love reading about these kinds of settings, characters, creatures, and more, only this time, it's immersive. The fact is, you're a fan of fantasy, and that's already going to go a long ways in how much you get out of Dungeons and Dragons experiences (and yes, there's more to it than just dungeons or dragons). 
  • You get the chance to make the characters and stories yourself. Ever run into a narrator or love interest you didn't like, who soured the whole book for you? With D&D that's a non-issue... and if anyone ever makes you that annoyed, chances are you have a much better chance of killing them off in this arena. (My sister's character has already stabbed my character twice... in one game!) 
  • You probably have a lot of talent to contribute. Whether it's providing hilarious commentary, adding flair to your attack moves, or dreaming up just the perfect look or description, you've got a lot of history here. 
  • You might even have real-world talents to provide, too! For instance, one of the best things about our party is the fact that our DM also loves to draw, and illustrates our characters in various posts she adds to our party's Tumblr. A couple of random aesthetic posts I made for my sister and my characters earlier this Spring also got rave reviews from the group, and another friend recently made a post matching up our characters to headlines from The Onion that had me laughing until I cried. 
  • You thought your favorite fandom was cool? Wait until you start playing D&D. You have the global Dungeons and Dragons community, who are incredibly supportive and fun, not to mention enthusiastic about helping you pick your next dice set (shout out to the very cute boy who works at Golden Age Collectables in Pike Place). Even besides the people you meet out in the real world, the friendships that you form within your own party are so unique, it's like having an incredibly intense fandom with, like, eight people in it. 

Have I convinced you yet? Even if I haven't, here are some resources you can check out to determine if Dungeons and Dragons is right for you: 
  • Critical Role. An online live stream of D&D party sessions over on Geek and Sundry, this group of outgoing and enthusiastic players would already make for an interesting bunch to watch, even if they weren't all professional voice actors
  • Rat Queens comics. Following four badly-behaved, well-drawn female characters as they wreak havok across a fantasy realm, this comic book series already has a cult following, and even featured the characters from Critical Role as a cameo in a recent issue! 
  • Shit My Players Say and Out of Context D&D are hilarious Tumblrs which chronicle the silly, sordid, and downright stupid shenanigans players from around the Internet get into in their own sessions. For anyone who thinks D&D might be too intense or intimidating, there are plenty of quotes like "All departed souls go to Denny's" or "Roll a will save to ignore the chicken" to change your perspective. 
  • Honestly? Pinterest! I know it sounds nutty, but there's plenty of fun and interesting content on the world's biggest crafting and recipe receptacle, especially if you know what you're looking for. Browse through some of S. J. Maas' inspiration boards for a little inspiration of your own, or try a general search for funny memes or printable character sheets you can use yourself.

{a selection of the illustrations I use as headers for my gameplay session notes; a handful of us at a sorority event earlier this year!}

Despite the fact that I still consider myself a beginner, I can already tell that this is a hobby that's going to stick with me for a while. And it turns out that it's not just nerdy kids in a basement - or sorority girls in a well-lit, airy apartment - that play D&D, but celebrities, too: Vin Diesel, James Franco, Drew Barrymore, Stephen Colbert, and even Dame Judi Dench are all fans of the role-playing game. 

So, as you can tell by the length of this post, there's not only plenty of reasons for fantasy readers to start playing D&D, but plenty who already do! Because, let's face it: not everyone's cut out for Book Club. 

Have you played Dungeons and Dragons before, or do you do so currently? Would you want to hear more about my D&D experiences? Let me know, in the comments below!


  1. This. Is. So. Neat!!! I've always wanted to play D&D, but I've never had a group of people to play with. I mean, none of my friends were even vaguely interested in the idea.

    1. Thank you!! :) And honestly, I totally get it. What brought us all together was just telling random people about how interested I was in the idea, and soon enough, we'd found plenty who wanted to join up! If you had told me a year ago I'd be spending five hours of my Sundays with my sorority sisters playing D&D, I wouldn't have believed you... now we've got a rotating guest list and plenty more who are trying to join! It might take a little serendipity on your side, but once you get the ball rolling, there's no stopping you. :)