Monday, April 6, 2009

We Killed One Very Bad Guy and Many Slightly Less Bad Guys

A while back, when we began our weekly adventures, the Dungeon Master warned us that the sewers would be full of all kinds of enemies--including a few that, if we saw them, we should just run 'cause we'd have no hope of defeating them.

Our lovely druid was swept down a sewer and right into the tentacled clutches of a carrion creeper. The rest of our party rushed to her assistance and started wailing on the abominable, poison-spewing jerk. And we won! We totally beat it up! And it was level 7! We were each level 2, but we won! That was one of the creatures our DM had warned us about. But we won!

Then we pounded a roomful of kobolds into a fine, bloody porridge. Oh, it was good times.

Things that still confuse me: action points, standard actions and minor actions and movements etc, and...other stuff.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On Being Surprised

The many errands I had to run on Monday gave me an excuse to crack open 30 Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons and Dragons while waiting in various doctors' offices or treating myself to a ludicrously tasty lunch at Maggie Rita's. It's a heck of a fun read with lots of history of D&D from its creation up until around the time TSR was purchased by Wizards of the Coast. It also includes short essays by various luminaries in which they detail how they first encountered D&D and what it meant to them when they were young--and continues to mean to them as adults. Just finished reading it during my lunch break at work yesterday (Friday) and it got me good and anxious to keep up my exploration of weird and fantastic worlds.

One moment really struck me and I’ve pondered it throughout the week. Ed Greenwood, who actually created the Forgotten Realms setting, writes extensively about the experience of providing TSR with his decades'-worth of materials about Faerun. What I found particularly interesting was Greenwood’s insights about the process of seeing his private imaginative landscape expanded and transformed by collaborations with other talented people:

The one thing the Realms couldn’t do as long as it was just ‘my world’ was surprise me, and both game and fiction writers (like Jeff and Kate Grubb, Elaine Cunningham, and Bob Salvatore) gave me pleasant surprises and added new Realms characters that I wanted to meet. […]
My greatest delight in the unfolding Realms was watching other creators race off madly in all directions across the misty gaps n the landscape I’d handed to Jeff.

The capacity to be surprised by a world you helped create: that’s a beautiful thing to have. I especially love the image of game developers as adventurers rushing “off madly in all directions” to bring an (almost) fully-realized Faerun to the players and readers who would inhabit it. (None of this excuses the crappiness of the one R.A. Salvatore novel I read a couple years ago, of course. But I think I'm ready to forgive and let the healing begin.)

When we went to Asgard on Tuesday for our second night of D&D my half-orc barbarian Naja spent a good chunk of the night swinging and missing at a massive crocodile, getting swept down various sewers, and not killing kobolds. It was kind of lame (stupid, malevolent dice) but also kind of fun. And wholly satisfying.

Decisions I make for my character have consequences—so do the random rolls of the dice. So do the no-doubt deeply evil behind-the-screen machinations of our godlike Dungeon Master.
It’s that potent alchemical reaction between intention, imagination, and the mysteries of the dice that gives Dungeons & Dragons the power to surprise. I still love me some World of Warcraft but no computer game can really replicate D&D's capacity for suspense and reward (or mind-numbing disappointment, which is almost as good in its own perverse way.)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"In a fit of crying and flap-wetting..."

Jay and I took the opportunity to practice our D&D skills tonight. He planned a brief (and satisfyingly blood-splattered) encounter for Iannan and Naja, the cleric 'n' barbarian comedy duo we rolled at Asgard last Tuesday. We both got a chance to revisit the mechanics of the game and I am pleased to report that things are starting to Make More Sense to my liberal-arts-addled brain. The slower pace helped since I could stop and ask questions without feeling like I was slowing down the pros. (Not that the folks we played with at Asgard weren't 100% stupendous and patient when it came to my questions...I just hate being the one who doesn't know the rules, and playing with just Jay let me see, step-by-step, what we were rolling for and why. And hell, he's a beginner too. So there was less shame.)

(Less shame, but still some. Puppy does not approve of these shenanigans. Clearly she thinks we should be spending our time grinding rep with the Sons of Hodir and preparing to raid Naxx or something. Silly puppy!)

Jay is the coolest person ever because he actually took the time to craft delightful figurines out of polymer clay. He made both Naja and Iannan. They are very fierce, and by fierce I mean "adorable."

Two bold adventurers
(Naja L, Iannan R. This picture turned out murkier than I realized.) If your eyes are good you'll notice Iannan's shield is decorated with a raven and Naja's greataxe is...shaped like a raven. Glee.

The premise was that Iannan and Naja were wandering around (probably talking about how cool the Raven Queen is) when they were approached by villagers. Unknown beasties had been rummaging through peoples' belongings and the townsfolk assumed the thieves were holed up in the mysterious old mausoleum just outside town. They asked Naja and Iannan to investigate so off we went.

When we'd entered the mausoleum and could finally perceive our enemies...Jay revealed that he'd sculpted a nice little band of naughty goblins for Naja and Iannan to fight.


The chief goblin was a formidable foe, videlicet:

The Flap-Wearer Himself

Yes, that's a loincloth he's sporting. His minions refer to him, in tones of hushed awe, as the Flap-Wearer.

Eventually the Flap-Wearer was reduced to a rust-colored smear on the mausoleum floor.

...hey, it's a skull.

Iannan and Naja skipped merrily back to town to celebrate, probably with flagons of Red Bull and trenchers of po'boy sammiches. Huzzah!

Getting to use my excruciatingly fancy dice was so much more exciting than I ought to let on. They're SO PRETTY.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

First Time!

So my husband took the initiative to seek out some other people who might be willing to teach us some D&D and, lo and behold, found a lovely couple planning some 4th-edition mayhem at Asgard Games on Tuesday nights. We showed up yesterday evening with our cute little starter dice securely zipped into a plastic sandwich bag and got down to business.

Oh my goodness, it was so much fun.

But! Oh my goodness, it was so much math.

Fortunately these folks (a boyfriend-girlfriend pair plus another dude and, of course, my huz) have the brains that can math. I do not. I have vague plans for an angsty screed about my Tremendous Math Anxiety at some point in the future (it will be scintillating) but for now I'll just say that arithmetic gives me the cold shakes. Plus I often had no idea why we were rolling dice.

But! It was fun. Everyone held my little hand (metaphorically) so I didn't slow everything down too much with my liberal-artsy inability to add 6 and 9 in my head.

J rolled a fantastic Half-Elf Cleric he named Iannan. Me? Half-Orc Barbarian named Naja.

Because J loves me he stopped by Nan's games & Comics Too and got me a little pile of gorgeous Chessex dice. ...and some for himself.

Shiny New Dice!

Time to start sewin' some fancy pouches, am I right?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Acquisition of Things

Acquired tonight: Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook and a D&D starter set. Purchased at Asgard Games on Kirby and Border's, respectively.

I am goofily excited about our very first dice.

First Dice

Oh, this is only the beginning.

I might have spent most of my afternoon drawing a picture of an orc. I might also have hidden it whenever someone walked by my desk. Shreds of dignity: I retain them.