A strange thing happened to me in Spring 2015. My friend was giving a concert in a bar in Barcelona, and several of our mutual friends were in attendance. There was one, a notorious party animal, who I hadn’t seen for well over a year. Rumour had it that he had recently split with his girlfriend, prompting me to imagine he was raising all kinds of hell… but when I asked him what he’d been up to he looked sheepish, before he reluctantly admitted, that he had: “you know, been taking it easy…. playing a lot of Dungeons & Dragons”.
“Dungeons and Dragons???” I nearly spit my beer over him. “I f*cking love Dungeons & Dragons!” In fact I’d almost forgotten about the existence of this ancient past time that formed such an important part of my youth, but one which I’d left behind aged 18, when I left school to go to University, in the process transforming myself from nerdy gamer into urbane young hedonist. The truth was that I enjoyed my post-Dungeons & Dragons world much too much to miss it. My new lifestyle, which by virtue of extensive work-dodging stints in Poland and Spain continued right into my mid-30s, was full of wild nights out and exotic travels and with so many real world adventures, I guess I hardly needed to supplement them with imaginary ones.
But here I was, in Barcelona 2015, pretty much the hipster capital of the world, being offered a welcoming hand back to my nerdy past. Maybe it was because I’d already travelled across half the world by now; maybe it was because at 38, I was (pretty much) done with sleepless nights followed by painful hungover days; maybe it was because the sheer awesomeness of Game of Thrones had restored my faith in the genre of fantasy, and shown me a fresh potential in it, that went far beyond cheesy battles of good and evil; maybe it was none of the above, but just pure coincidence… but I took the hand and shook it firmly. The die was cast.
I must confess I was more than a little nervous about playing again. Wouldn’t it just be too naff? Would going back defile the fond memories I had of playing for nearly a decade from the late 80s to the mid 90s? Haven’t I got something better to do on a Sunday afternoon? Such thinking caused me to turn down the first invitation that came my way, especially as it was summer by now in Barcelona and beach volleyball season was in full swing. But when the second one came on a cold day in autumn I thought what the hell and turned up at my friend’s house unsure of what to expect. I was plunged into the adventure as a pretty kick ass half-elven archer (in fact, unbeknownst to any but the DM, I was the classic ‘rogue assassin in disguise’, sent to spy on my fellow players) and I was more or less hooked. A year or so later and Xenia “Night Sting” Zanetti of the White Scorpions Assassin’s Guild is still going strong (she has devoted much of her development to the arcane arts, making her a yet more formidable force) and I’ve also created my own campaign for the same group of friends in which I am the Dungeon Master, and I am now in the process of creating another. Yes Dungeons & Dragons is almost as much part of my life now as it was back in those giddy days as a first grader when we’d gather in the school cloakroom to roll dice and escape a reality of tedious assemblies, double maths classes and never-ending homework assignments.
So I’m back playing D&D… but why write a blog about it?
The Purpose of This Blog
In the end, I wanted to start a blog for a number of reasons, and one of those is to change the general perception of Dungeons & Dragons as something that is the epitome of nerdiness and reserved only for people with poor social skills, questionable fashion sense and zero sexual charisma, to something that everyone of all ages could and should (IMHO) be enjoying. In fact I’d argue the three of the best adjectives to describe D&D, and roleplaying games in general, would be: social, creative and fun. I.e. some of the very tenets of hipster culture that we’ve held up, ironically or not, as the epitome of what is cool for the last decade or so.
Expanding on point one, a second goal is to make D&D more accessible to people not already at large in the multiverse. I believe that the world of roleplaying, which exists largely in our minds (ie. is very abstract to beginners), and is usually discussed with heavy uses of acronyms, stats and jargon, is confusing and even off-putting for newcomers – who believe you need to really geek out on details to get into it. And whilst us old timers might actually enjoy geeking out on certain aspects of the game, in fact it’s really not necessary to get bogged down in all the nerdy details if you don’t want to. That’s why I’ll be addressing some really basic issues for newcomers on what Dungeons & Dragons is, and how to run a game, all without using any geek-speak. And if you’re a concerned mum reading this, no it’s not satanic.
Finally, perhaps my biggest incentive for creating this blog is to share the (5th edition) material that I create as both a player and Dungeon Master, as well as the knowledge that I gain playing and DMing. For players I will share tips on how to make the most out of your characters, both in terms of maximising their effectiveness in combat and non combat situations, but also – and more importantly – in terms of how much fun you have roleplaying them. I will also hopefully be able to share some new classes, backgrounds, feats and other resources as I go.
As a Dungeon Master I intend to share my adventures most of all, but also the worlds I create to envelop them, my tips and advice on how to run an unforgettable game for all, new rules / rule tweaks to make gameplay better and fairer and whatever else I create that might be of use to the community.
Oh yes, I’m Duncan by the way. You can reach me at: firstname.lastname@example.org