Inspired by Critical Role Ep81
I love Dungeons & Dragons!
You think you know how much you
love this game, and then you play or watch one of those games that are so
freaking magical that you find a whole ‘nother level of love. I am a
salty, bitter, jaded cranky pants that usually hates the world. But this game
stirs up this immense well of love and joy that feels like it will never end
(it will, but it doesn’t feel like it will). I genuinely can’t imagine that the
strongest narcotic hijacking every pleasure center of my brain could make me
feel this good.
And it’s not because it’s pretty.
It’s because, at its finest, it’s fighting foes, and fighting serious emotional
issues, and so many forms of love, and terribly crass jokes, and awkwardness,
and dreams shattered, and gallows humor, and the best one liners of your life,
and friendships deeper than you knew could exist. Among the characters forged
in blood, among the players forged in the give and take of a tale so tall it
holds up a world. It’s everything, all of life, distilled into a few hours,
with the best friends you will ever have. They become your best friends in the
I moved a long way from home when
I was young. I didn’t know anyone. Two weeks later I started one of those
crunch-time jobs that are a flurry of action, knowledge, and camaraderie. One
of my new coworkers asked if I played D&D, and would I like to play with
her and another coworker. I said I’d only played games like Baldur’s Gate, but
I’d always wanted to learn. That was 11 years ago, and I’m still in that group.
When I said I was moving, they offered to help me move without me asking. When
one of them needed a safe place to live, I opened my door without question and
made every rent accommodation I could. She told me years later that had saved
her life. She saved mine, too, in a lot of ways. But we were strangers the
first time we played.
We picked up a few players from
that job over the years. Some of them stuck around a long time. One of our
players got sick, then sicker, then slipped into a coma for weeks. I still tear
up thinking about that empty chair. She was lucky; she came back. We sat around
the game table and made plans to visit her. The idea of visiting someone
slightly younger than me, in a hospital where she’d almost died, scared me. We
were too young for this. But hadn’t we fought through dire battles back to back
before? Together, we’d already laughed at death grasping at us. Our group
brought her food while she recovered, and made sure she had everything she
needed. Her parents remarked on what good friends she clearly had. But we were
strangers the first time we played.
My DM and I come from very
different backgrounds, different generations, and have very different beliefs. Without
D&D, we’d never have said a word to each other, certainly not a civil one. Political
debates were taboo for a long time, they were as futile as an internet
argument. But we learned to spar in subtler ways. Through the lives and stories
of characters in other worlds we lived our truths before the other. We asked
each other without words to hear the other out, and we both listened. We really
weren’t that different. We made each other just a bit less blind. We still challenge
each other on our bullshit, and we both sit at that table every week together. But
we were strangers the first time we played.
It’s the laughter that gets you
through it. You do stupid, crazy things. You live the lives of so many people
you’d never want to be. The board and the tragic. Sometimes you stab each other
in the back, and retell the tale of how your best friend enslaved your
character with powerful mental magic, cut out her tongue, and used her as a
throne. And you howl with laughter about it together while everyone who wasn’t
there looks at you like you’re deranged. So many times, you laugh and laugh at
horrible things, not in mockery, not at the thing, but you laugh at how
terrible it is. You laugh at how terrible everything is in life. Then a funny
thing happens. Your life falls apart, and everything you were reaching for
slips away. But you still sit at that game table and you laugh at how terrible
it is. Your friends still drag you along as far as they need to carry you. They
still fight every monster with you. Because you’ve been training for this
together. You chose your allies. You were strangers the first time you played,
but you became the closest comrades in life’s battle.