“Dwarves and Elves and Me, Oh My!” Why Dungeons and Dragons Doesn’t Have to Scare You

Me: "I am going to shoot the eye with my longbow." DM: "You miss, and have alerted all the temple guards. You all die." Me: "Ohhhh, my bad."

Me: "I am going to shoot the eye with my longbow." DM: "You miss, and have alerted all the temple guards. You all die." Me: "Ohhhh, my bad."

If you had told me at any point in my life that I would be playing Dungeons and Dragons I wouldn’t have believed you. I grew up under the very well-known social norm that D&D was for really weird people.

Wait! Seriously, don’t shoot.

Or zap. Or whatever it is you got in your hand there. I’m not done yet. At least let me finish my tale before you decide to smite me in retaliation of that statement.

It’s not like I haven’t played equally geeky games before. Sure, I have played console and PC games since I’ve been able to speak, but in high school I started playing MUDs and MMOs–the most geeky of those being text based MUDS. I dove wholeheartedly into the world of Iron Realm games. I tried a few other companies, but nothing seemed to compare to the quality and ease of their systems. I started with their world of Achaea, and eventually included Lusternia (though I have played in each of their games). I created characters that defended name and nation. Characters who had families (these are actual other player’s characters) including mothers and fathers. Brothers and sisters. Husbands and children. I became knights, thieves, warriors, and evil vampires.  I met amazing people and enjoyed some really fun role playing and gameplay. All with just some letters flowing on the screen.

So I guess in the end, it really is silly to think that after playing something like that, I would look at D&D and only picture a game where people speak funny, and wave around imaginary weapons.

Except, it’s not really like what I thought at all.

I think sometimes in life we get wrapped up around these perceptions of things. D&D is this really fun role playing game that can be anything you want it to be. Sure, there are rules and scripts to follow. However, whatever you want to change you can.

At PAX East in Boston I stood in line with a group of six other friends to learn how to play. After a little line confusion, we sat down with a DM who I immediately liked. Right away she explained that at any moment we can ask her anything we’d like, and we didn’t have to worry about not knowing what to do.

I immediately stole the coolest sounding of all the characters: Elf Ranger. I’m kind of a fan of that race, so I doubt I’d play any other (maybe human).

It was really fun going through the storyline, and talking amongst my friends to decide what we would do. 

It was also challenging to deal with your character’s strengths and weaknesses–all in a way that felt much more first hand and real than a video game. Although we had plenty of silly moments where we all laughed and argued on decisions or actions, learning how to deal with things was something that I was doing myself instead of just pushing a button that connected to a virtual action on-screen. 

For instance, my character had weak charisma, but strong senses in observation. As a result she couldn’t easily convince people or get information from them. Story of my life, right? Well, when we approached other people (in general humans), this became an issue. Should I stay in the background, lurking around in the shadows of my comrades as I observe their reactions and words? 

Before I knew it, two hours went by very quickly, and we were forced to leave. However, it was not before I had managed to shoot an arrow into an eye of a pyramid that contained a crowd of evil temple worshippers, and proceeded to get us all killed.

Elf Ranger (Jamie): “Listen, let’s just shoot that crazy looking eye in the pyramid and get it over with. They don’t know we are here. That thing looks pretty evil to me. Once they know we’re here, we might never get the chance.”

Comrades: *silence*

Elf Ranger (Jamie): “I’m just doing it.” *Shoots arrow*

DM: “You miss, and have alerted all the guards.”

Elf Ranger (Jamie): “Ohhhh, my bad.”

Yes, I look back at that decision and think, to hell if I wouldn’t do it all over again!

My failings at being successful at exuding charisma or military strategy aside, I walked away from that table a completely different person. I can now say with absolute certainty that D&D is not a big, scary, dragon that forces you to appear slightly insane to watchers nearby. It’s a perfectly fun, slightly geeky (but hey, that’s in these days), and strangely satisfying way to game.

About the author

Jamie K

I'm a 29 year old Jersey girl who loves games. I currently work full time, volunteer part time at this awesome non-profit called Amman Imman, and go to school part time. I also train in jiu jitsu. So time isn't quite on my side (unlike that song says). I have been trying unsuccessfully for years to clone myself so I can devote one of me to boring stuff like working and laundry - thus allowing more time for gaming. I'm willing to offer large sums of imaginary money to any who can make this happen.