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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

#LVup - How I'm Taking My Nerdiness to the Next Level



Hello my fellow Magicians! Or in this case, my fellow Clerics and half-elves.
I'm an otaku and I'm really proud of being one. Thanks to this part of my living, I've been able to make good friends, enjoy interesting content, have fun adventures, and to do many things I wouldn't have dared (broadcasting and blogging to name a couple). This year, I've been thirsty to take my nerdom a step further. I admit though - I didn't think D&D was going to be the next deep dive.

For those who don't know what D&D is, it's an acronym for the popular tabletop RPG Dungeons & Dragons. An easy image of a D&D session is a group of players carrying sacks of polyhedral dice and painstakingly crafted figurines, making complicated calculations and rolling those same dice around a dim-lit dining table in one of the player's parents' basements, and immersing themselves to what society perceives as a highly introverted activity with players channeling their best Shakespearean England voices often coming off as discount Kenneth Branagh impressions. Add the maps and limiting terminology and it's an easy target for stereotypes. (A/N - There was one period during my Costa Rica trip where a couple of my group mates and I were planning an impromptu session and it made a few people cringe. Yep! Prejudice still alive and well folks! In case you're wondering about the results, we were all too exhausted to play so we never got around to it.)

Even though I'm a gamer and an avid book worm - both titles that have their share of marginalization, I've also had this image of D&D in my mind at some point. What? DJ MK judging her 2D cousins when she preaches equality? J'accuse! Yep, I'm fallible just like the rest of us... mortals. But hey, at least I'm not Superman! (Sorry DC. Love your costumes though.) D&D also has its own struggles in creation and in gameplay, with the game heavily inspired by LOTR lore and the direct association reduced in subsequent editions, lack of diversity despite the game clearly encouraging it, polarizing opinions of the game boosting their careers or a waste of youth, and the few famous examples of players are action stars, political players, or (in the case of some female players) associated with the porn industry.

The bigger question is - how did I fight all of those complex associations to be a part of one of the most elaborate gaming campaigns of all time? Answer - good publicity. That and my personal vested interest in the genre.
My first exposure to D&D was actually through a parody - Monsters and Mazes. It's from a Dexter's Laboratory episode D&DD. (Yeah... They were not being subtle on that one.) What attracted me was the camaraderie and the chill environment that lets the group use their imagination to project themselves in various powerful characters and they're self-created within the rules of the world. You could even have your character get basic training from another class!
Most of my positive publicity of D&D came in more in my college years, specifically when I met Wired Magazine writer Ethan Gilsdorf. He just released his geek memoir/autobiography Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks (one book I highly recommend you get on your reading lists.)

Click on the picture to go get a copy!
This pretty much cemented for me that I had to get in on the sensation. Granted I'm not the best at math (save for high school algebra, geometry, and statistics), but at least this will teach me the basics. Plus being an awkward former extrovert may give me a slight advantage when it comes to the tricky parts in negotiations both in-game and in real life. Also, since I write fiction on the side of playing games, it would certainly give me a lot to work with when it comes to creativity. In fact a lot of popular entertainers, artists, and writers (like Ethan Gilsdorf, Stephen Colbert, and Ta-Nehisi Coates - yes. the creator of Marvel's Black Panther) have cited D&D as their biggest influences over their creativity.

So I didn't get a chance to jump into the craze until 3 years after I discovered Ethan's book. I transferred schools, was far away from the friends I originally would've tried this out with, and - to quote Cmdr. Riker - I got snapped back so hard I wished I was an ensign again. The Anime Club format was completely different from what I was used to, Video Game Club was late at night (later became non-existent save for the competitive clubs. I wasn't really good at any of the titles they listed.), and I couldn't stay on campus for very long due to living off-campus so I felt very out of touch. After I got my job, I've been able to stay longer on campus and I saw that the Board Game Club meets every Monday after my shift ends. I decided to take a chance and go for a few meetings.

Midway through the year, I found out that one of the club co-presidents is a resident DM and he was looking for a new group to start a campaign in a world he recently created. I jumped into a rag-tag group of seven people and spent an intense amount of time creating my character and the environment she lives in.

My character is a half-moon elf and a life cleric. Her elven name is Maylin Reymenor and her human name is Mataari Shran (for those who follow me on Steam, that's a name I created via a D&D generator). She wants to go on this journey to find her human father and to give the half-elves a better status in their lives since they've been looked upon as third-class citizens by the high elf council. The goddess choosing Maylin to be a cleric came as a surprise to her community and her mother but as a shock to high elf society. So to prove her worth, she goes on a journey with six other adventurers to save the continent from relentless strife and bring honor back to the Reymenor name.

Because I missed my first session, I ended up in a situation that I personally hate being in - a damsel-in-distress in a dungeon. But I guess that's what I get when I don't look at my schedule carefully enough. My DM says that a cleric is desperately needed in the next campaign so at least I'm not going to be useless next campaign. ;)

I'll put my progress up here after I finally get playing. I know it'll take some time getting the mechanics but I know I'll have a fun challenge ahead. Until the next game, to glory!

<3 DJ MK

PS - even if you're not a D&D player or an intense gamer, Ethan's book is a good read. He covers a lot from a Lord of the Rings pilgrimage & LARP to video games & disability awareness. If you're curious about Ethan's other work, check out his website and his articles on Wired, The Boston Globe, and Geek Dad.
PPS - I just joined Amazon Affiliate to help improve the content of the site and make it easier to recommend content on this site. Hope you find some more interesting items to try out! :D 

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