Nerdful Things – Dungeons & Dragons
For a long time now, I have been trying to get into Dungeons and Dragons. It’s something I wish I had played as a kid but it was never really a thing (that I am aware of, anyway) where I grew up. As I’ve written before, I was fairly geeky (before that was really a word in our vocabulary) and had to kinda push that to the background as it wasn’t cool.
During my late teens and mid-20s my geekiness was allowed to creep back out because pop culture blew up in a big bad way thanks to comic book movies hitting the big screen and comic books becoming commonplace. But still, D&D eluded me because it wasn’t really something in the small circles I moved in. Since Shining Force II on the Megadrive II and, at the age of 13, Final Fantasy VII and Suikoden on the PlayStation, I have loved role-playing games (RPGs). I’m a frequent player on The Elder Scrolls Online (I’ve played it since it came out on the PlayStation 4 but only recently taken it seriously enough to start learning about gear, trial mechanics and more of the endgame stuff – mainly thanks to joining some good and helpful guilds). Still, I am no expert and I don’t think I ever will be.
Since a young age, I always wanted to be a storyteller but, somewhere along the way into adulthood, my imagination just vanished and my minimalist approach meant that my dream of becoming an author and a creator of worlds became nothing more than just that: a dream. I’ve been an on and off blogger, hoping that by writing something, anything, I would rekindle my love and ability to write something. To complete a piece of work. I have been slowly, almost glacially, working on a project based on my main character on The Elder Scrolls Online. I , again, hoped that this would ignite the imagination and it worked. For a short while, at least.
I had developed a bit of a backstory, I had laid out a short idea in my head as to where I wanted to go with it, I took notes (which I find hard to do) but I stopped writing. Again. What to do?
I’ve had a couple of Dungeons and Dragons board games for a while but I have merely opened the boxes and read the instructions and closed them as my brain couldn’t process the new information. This has been another problem for me. Reading. As a child and into my late teens, I loved reading. I’d pick up a book and struggle to put it down. I’d find myself looking at the time and negotiating with myself: I’ll read to the next chapter or I’ll finish on the nearest ten (page 150, or 160 etc.) only to find that I’ve surpassed the goal and go back to negotiating again as I had school or, later on, work in the morning. But my ability to remain focused on what I was reading also packed its bags and left me. I would find myself having to read and re-read pages as I wasn’t registering what was on the page. From reading up to ten books a month, if not more, to reading none in a year, it was an eye-opener. This goes hand-in-hand with the lack of imagination as many good writers say you have to read others’ material to fuel your own creativity.
And so I looked at Dungeons and Dragons once more. Perhaps the various pre-made quests and stories will inspire me and, maybe the adventures I go on to create or elaborate upon myself will inspire my own fiction for short stories and novels. But the only people I can play with are my two eldest daughters. My wife has no interest in videogames (except for maybe Sonic the Hedgehog or Crash Bandicoot) and Georgia, our youngest, is too young. Even Talia (our middle child) may struggle with this as her attention span wanes rapidly – even playing party games like Jackbox or Knowledge is Power can be a struggle as she’ll quit mid-match. So it may just be Seren and myself. A Dungeon Master also acting as a player and a player may not work, I thought. So I took to Google and, namely reddit, to find it’s doable but the issue seemed to be experience. Of which, I have none. Having never played it at all in my life, it seems like a daunting task to take on.
I’ve watched countless YouTube videos with celebs and experienced players. None of which seemed to help as everyone seems so knowledgeable that they seemed to alienate me as I need a from the ground up approach. I’ve read blog posts, reddit posts, Facebook posts and any other account of starting D&D I could find.
On top of my notion that you can’t teach this dog new tricks, I had the niggling thought that Seren (and Talia, potentially) may not buy into it and it’s not worth taking the time. How can I convince them to take part and, hopefully love the experience, when I have no fucking clue what I’m doing? That’s like trying to sell a product that you have zero knowledge on. So, I took the plunge and bought the Starter Set. I’ve even pre-ordered the Essentials Kit. I also purchased a few sets of polyhedral dice thinking that this might be a good incentive, they can pick out their favourite set with a cool dice bag to claim as theirs and theirs alone. I also created characters on D&D Beyond for myself and them. We’re almost ready.
I’ve also subscribed to a number of podcasts and YouTube channels to bolster my knowledge and provide me with a variety of inspiration. I’ve set up my Chromebook to act as my Dungeon Master (DM) screen – pinned tabs with the various books and helpful pages as well as character sheets and a few other useful bits I have cobbled together from various people’s suggestions on forums, reddit and so on.
I came out of my comfort zone by going to my local comic/game shop and sat in on a D&D session. I felt like a fish out of water – I’m not a social butterfly by any stretch of the imagination and being amongst people who are all familiar with not only each other but the game itself, I was out of my depth. I poicked up a couple of things but the group were running a homebrew/bootleg game so it didn’t teach me what I felt I needed to know.
So, I’ve decided the best way to progress is to just start. It won’t be perfect. It will be messy. But as long as it’s fun for all of us, we can work on it and tweak it and make it what we want and need it to be. Even an archmage starts off as a lowly apprentice.
I have three weeks off work so I’m hoping to cram a few sessions in before the kids go back to school. Wish us luck!
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