Hold onto your seats, because it’s about to be a nerd-fest up in here.
This past Sunday I said goodbye to a world that I’d been creating for nearly four months. After a brutal 6 hours of playing, my dungeons and dragons team solved the mystery, saved the world, and got the girl. Or grumpy, four-armed mechanical dwarf, as it were.
It’s always a little embarrassing for me to tell people that I play DnD. Probably left-over survival instincts from high school, where anything that I deemed as nerdy (which were most things I enjoyed) needed to be hidden as much as possible. I’ve gotten better about embracing things I used to cringe about talking openly, but it’s still a hard time for me to admit that I really enjoy reading fan-theories, or fiction, or that I like to pretend for three hours on Friday nights that I’m an elvish fighter who is on a quest to avenge her dead husband.
For the summer, I asked if I could lead the DnD group. Most of the original members would be around my apartment, and it seemed easy to make up a short campaign that would fit into two or three months. It didn’t have the same amount of stress that a longer semester campaign would, and I was eager to see what it would be like to lead and craft the story, as opposed to simply participating in it. By that point, I’d only been playing for around two months, but I’d gotten the bug. As I try to explain to my friends who don’t play (and who listen to me natter on with an air of gracious bemusement), that you have to actually play to understand why people like DnD so much. It’s everything I love – story-telling, acting, hanging out with friends. It’s not a surprise by the second session I was sucking it up and admitting to the DM ( a close friend of mine who was kind enough to run the first part) that yes, I got it. DnD was super – freaking – fun. Only I didn’t use freaking.
Planning a campaign was infinitely different from only playing. I had to create a satisfying story, enough mystery to keep them engaged and thinking, and also run and remember a whole host of different characters – each with their own voices. I admit, I did eventually get tired and nearly every other NPC was just vaguely serene-toned. It was super fun getting to create the world – and incredibly nerve-wracking every time I DM’ed, hoping that the party was having a good time and trying to split my attention evenly between players. By the time Sunday rolled around, I was incredibly nervous for the final chapter. I wanted everyone who’d been kind enough to play with me (and suffer through my bumbling on stats) to leave feeling like they’d heard a good story and it was worth their time. In that way, DnD’s a lot like writing. The only thing you can do is hope people like it.
As we wrapped up, I was hit by a sense of melancholy. It would be the last time that we played in that particular sandbox – although plans are already being made for the next story and characters. Still, saying goodbye to my NPC’s was surprisingly hard. As their creator, it sucks that I won’t get to talk or interact as them anymore. In a weird way, it was like saying goodbye to friends who have been with the group for nearly two months.
Or maybe I’m just being a giant nerd about it. It’s odd how DnD can draw you in. But then again, humans have always loved telling stories.
Also – I owe a huge thank you to my friend Allegra, who helped guide me through the process and also created the amazing sets of photos in this post. I couldn’t have done it without you!
I’m so glad I got the opportunity to DM. I’d be surprised if I did it again, but it was a treat to create an interactive story and try to keep things interesting. Luckily, I have a wonderful party and their support and kindness were integral as we journey into the world I’d built together. I think over the process I’ve grown as a collaborator and a storyteller. It’s definitely opened up news ways and opportunities than I had before playing DnD, and honestly y’all? DnD is the nerdiest thing I’ve ever done, and I love it to pieces. I’m so excited to start playing again and seeing where the next story takes me.