Dungeons and Dragons. It’s a game with a lot of connotations of nerdery, which are all likely well deserved. That doesn’t make it anything less than fun and engrossing. It’d been years since I last played, 8 hour long sessions at age 17, loaded up with snacks and the drive to turn goblins into little bleeding bonesacks. There was treasure to be found and adventure to be had. So when a friend offered me the chance to get back into it, I grabbed it and pulled it tight to my chest. There were dungeons to explore and I wanted in.
There’s a bit of a process before you start though. You’ve gotta make a character. It’s not as simple as saying “I want to do the spells thing” and having at it, there’s a bit of crafting that goes on. You pick a class (fighter, paladin, cleric, wizard, rogue, etc), then your race (human, gnome, elf, etc), gender, spells/equipment and specialisation. You roll stats to figure out what you’re good at. You give your character a background, ideals, traits and finally a name. It’s a whole ordeal. It does mean that by the time you’re ready to play you’re excited to use this character you’ve spent so long fleshing out. You’ve moulded as 3 dimensional figure who you’re gonna embody within a fantasy realm. It’s called role playing for a reason, like Ian McKellen as an actor, you become this being.
So I did it. It took about 3 hours, but I’d finally come up with someone I felt comfortable portraying. I was a wood elf druid. Guardian of the land and friend to the wild. I abhorred the senseless rich without practical thoughts, I left my clan for their inability to adapt to an ever changing world. With a taste for drink and a cynical tongue, I had a habit of rubbing people the wrong way. I wasn’t one to make friends easily. Armed with elemental magic, the power to shapeshift into animal form and an almost supernatural talent with the bo staff. I was explicitly known for my skills in shillelagh, enough so that I was renamed Shenaughnaugh (pronounced She Nay Nay). Shenaughnaugh of the shillelagh.
After missing the first session due to raging hangover, my character was to be introduced part way through the campaign. In short, the dungeon master had to concoct a reason I’d join the party. So here I was in a cave known for its goblin infestation. These were mean little blighters, organised into raiding parties to kill and loot unwary travellers. In an effort to clear the area for the good of others, I’d been cracking down on this injustice. It just so happened a party of adventurers were questing through that same cave. How convenient. I heard a commotion and goblin voices, so I followed the source of the scuffle. There was a chasm with stream and path below. All of a sudden a humanoid form launched itself aggressively over the gap. Another followed in quick succession. What the hell was going on? I called out to gauge if these folk were friendly. On hearing they were engaged in battle with the goblins, I decided to come to their aid.
Suddenly I was flanked by a small pack of wolves. 3 hounds came charging at me and I barely had time to turn around. My natural reaction saved me from the first wolf, a mass of snarling maw and gnashing teeth. I wasn’t so lucky when it came to the second one. Taking a savage bite, I was wounded pretty severely. Being no pushover myself though I reared back then summoned a massive thunderwave, causing the ground to shake and one of the wolves to be thrown back 10 feet. The beasts were hurt, but only barely. I bolted to try and gather my thoughts for a second. They counter-attacked, driving me down to the ground. I was badly hurt. I needed to get the hell out of there. Thinking quickly, I did the only thing I could do, transform into a panther and try to outrun them. As I turned my back, they attacked my retreating body. It was too much, I got slammed back to the ground and the shock reverted me back to my human form. Things weren’t looking so good for our hero. A paladin from the party heard the commotion and ran to my aid. Down on the ground the third wolf finally caught up and lunged.
Here’s a sidebar. If you’re lowered to zero life in D&D you’re usually knocked unconscious and have a couple of turns to be revived before dying permanently. Unless something crazy happens, you’ll usually live to fight another day.
Something crazy happened. The word of God inhabited our dungeon master’s dice rolls and things went batshit crazy. So the third wolf pounced, but in doing so savaged me so severely that my body exploded, raining giblets over the walls of the cave. I was dead. Permanently. Through a vicious act of God, Shenaughnaugh of the shillelagh was no more. I think we’d been playing for about 30 minutes at this point.
To put how crazy this is into retrospect, characters usually last for a whole campaign. That can take a year or several. Play sessions are often about 5-8 hours. Also time works differently within combat. A round is about 6 seconds of action. My whole combat was about 4-5 rounds, so for the party members watching me, this happened:
- A female druid called out to make contact.
- She was ambushed by wolves.
- Cast a massive earthquake.
- Turned into a panther and tried to run.
- Got hit and reverted back to her human form.
- A wolf bit her and she exploded, showering the cave in gore.
This took about 30 seconds. Everybody at the table just stared at me with a whole what the fuck just happened look. I had no idea.
So that was my first foray back into Dungeons and Dragons. I’m making a new character now. He’s Krug, the half-orc who loves axes in the same way that a cat lady loves cats. He also has a snaggle tooth that reaches down to his jaw and is a mean dancer who can kick above his own head.