On Saturday night, I wasn’t Andy Smith, 20-something nerd. I was Wulfgar, human barbarian.
Last weekend was my first foray into the world(s) of Dungeons & Dragons. Though some may consider the classic role-playing game a rite of passage for geek culture since the game’s 1974 inception, I had always considered the arena of paper fantasy games to be too weird or silly to tackle. I was always content to just be a comic book nerd. Comic-collecting is a hobby that don’t require me to so brazenly embody a character. With “D&D,” I would have to state something like, “I, Kaweezilybub the Elven Paladin, shall fire this magic missile upon your persons,” or be told by some dungeon master that I had been ensnared in a goblin trap just because this Cheetos-scented, awkwardly-mustached tyrant felt like making it so. Or at least, that’s what I thought it meant.
Recently, a well-adjusted and reasonably hygienic friend asked me to come over and play something called “The Legend of Drizzt.” Drizzt, it turns out, isn’t some high-caffeine soda but actually a mainstay character appearing in several of the “D&D” offshoot novels. The board game we played – like several novels, comics and toys — is just another extension of the “Dungeons & Dragons” brand. It’s part of a series of board games that includes such titles as “Wrath of Ashardalon” and “Castle Ravenloft.”
The always helpful BoardGameGeek website explains the process of the playing the board game far better than I could:
“Designed for 1-5 players, this board game features multiple scenarios, challenging quests, and cooperative game play. Players explore the game world, which is built during the game by laying out tiles, using ready-made player characters and encountering enemies with corresponding miniatures. Encounters are generated by drawing cards and resolved using a D20 die. All players win together, depending on the scenario, by escaping, saving others or overcoming a threat.”
Easy enough, right? To be honest, between the two quests my party and I braved, I went from feeling very confused to only slightly confused. I credit the fact that we were successful in both endeavors to the skill of my fellow heroes. Though, my handling of Wulfgar was nothing to sneeze at — unless, of course, you were allergic to the bear fur the barbarian wears around his neck — as I bested many a pointy-eared assassin and water-based creature. And the best part? It was fun.
The weekend was a great reminder that making broad generalizations about any aspect of geek culture is never productive. Even if we had played that classic version of “D&D,” I could at least appreciate the passion and fun players have in depending on pure imagination and strategy. And, let’s not forget that amazing ability to keep accurate tally of armor class and hit points.
After all, when people think of comic book geeks, what do they think of? Something tells me that Cheetos are involved.
Photo courtesy of Wizards of the Coast.