I have a confession to make. I never played “Dungeons and Dragons” when I was younger. Meeting me as an adult, you might suspect otherwise – I own or have owned nearly every video game system back to about 1984, own a growing collection of comic books and graphic novels, and have always found complicated things interesting. These character traits, facets, or failings probably elevate me to the top of the “geek” tree among my peers.
The “never played D&D” thing came back to haunt me while we were walking around the shops one night years ago. I was perusing a remaindered book store, and came across a beginners set of “Dungeons and Dragons” – the fantasy role playing board game. It was too good an offer to pass up. I played it with the children two or three times, but they were probably a little young, and eventually lost interest. Games such as Settlers of Catan, Carcassonne, and Labyrinth overtook everything else during rainy afternoons and early Saturday mornings in the months that followed. The box was eventually put away, and forgotten about.
And then last weekend I found myself looking through board games at a local bookshop once again – wondering if I might find something interesting to play with the children while I’m off work over Christmas. I stumbled upon the starter set for the full Dungeons and Dragons game. Given that our eldest has been obsessed with the TV show “Stranger Things”, that the younger children love playing any board games (and are now older), and knowing that the real point of fantasy role playing games is to play quests with your own characters, I almost bought it there and then.
The next day – while ordering bits and pieces from Amazon for Christmas stockings, I came across the same box set once again – and impulsively clicked the “Add to basket” button.
I keep telling myself that I’ve bought it for the children – that I will be their Dungeon Master, and that it will just be a bit of fun for a rainy day now and again. Of course the truth is that it’s for me. It’s my Christmas present to myself. I’ve always loved board games, and D&D is kind of the top of a pyramid.
I can’t help wondering though – it’s Dungeons and Dragons, isn’t it… Will I grow a beard? Will I suddenly start to like the idea of black t-shirts with heavy-metal band logos? Will I become obsessed with death? Will I feel a yearning to forge small figures out of lead and spend hours painting them?
I’m hoping I am old enough to escape the slide into the gaming culture I’ve seen whenever I pass a “Games Workshop” store. I have only walked into one once – with my other half at my side for moral support – to find out if they had a “starter set” or something (it was a rainy day, and we felt like buying a board game). The shop was populated by young men with a certain lack of social skills. I sensed that my other half was the first woman that had set foot in the shop in quite some time, given the nervous disposition of the teenage assistant that talked to us. I don’t think he had brushed his hair that morning either, and was regretting it.
I can’t imagine myself going down the table-top board game route somehow. It seems to be more about making scenery and painting figures than playing a game based on your imagination – and if our children have anything, it’s imagination. If I tell them a 30ft tall dragon is charging down a dungeon towards them, snorting fire from it’s nostrils, they’re not going to need a 3″ tall lead sculpture of a dragon sliding across the table towards them.
There is some more back story to my brushes with role playing games that I should probably share.
We were in a computer store several years ago, and wandered over to check if there were any interesting games available (this was back in the day when people bought games from stores, instead of downloading them from the internet). I picked up the Dungeons and Dragons computer game, and read the back of the box. I started involuntarily snorting, and walked towards my other half, pointing at the box, unable to communicate what was causing such hilarity. Apparently this very special edition of the game came with free “Boots of Infinite Striding”.
While walking through a railway station a few days later in London, a girl burst past me with knee length boots on, and the thought popped into my head… “ah – that’ll be those Boots of Infinite Striding then.”