Tag Archives: Dungeons & Dragons

Writers: Play Some D&D

It’s been pretty well established by this point in my life that I am a nerd of many sorts. Theatre, sci-fi, fantasy, board games, video games, math, logic, philosophy, mythology, religion… there’s a lot of nerdy in me. So it shouldn’t come even remotely as a surprise that I have played a LOT of Dungeons & Dragons in my day.

My first introduction to the game, though it was ultimately not an accurate representation at all, was back in the summer after my 7th grade year when I was 12 years old. It was, I believe, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition… I don’t remember much of it at all, but again. Not very accurate. Still, somewhere in my room right now is the first character sheet I ever had.

Since then, I’ve played 3e, 3.5e, 4e and am currently in a group playing the D&D Next edition. I’ve been the Dungeon Master for two different (ultimately falling apart) 3.5 campaigns. I’ve played Pathfinder, Iron Kingdoms and even a d20 system a friend of mine created. I’ve done some role-playing online and have oodles and oodles of ridiculous stories to tell about the various campaigns.

Most people find the game to be instantly associated with the nerdiest of the nerdy. I suppose that’s a little fair… while high fantasy and the like have been becoming more and more acceptable over the years (just look at the successes of Peter Jackson’s interpretation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” books, as well as HBO’s “Game of Thrones”), it’s more acceptable to observe fantasy, not attempt to live it out. D&D and other role-playing tabletop games are predicated on the notion that one designs a character with a story and interjects themselves, via that character, into a fantasy world. Granted, not every tabletop RPG is set in fantasy, but that’s where D&D began.

Even so, despite it being “super nerdy,” it has seeped into our culture just a bit. You have the people that seem to think D&D is something where people learn witchcraft and are members of the occult… As well as the people that know how laughable that is and like to point out how sessions of D&D usually go. Season 2 of the absolutely wonderful TV show “Community” has a fantastic, hilarious and kinda accurate episode titled “Advanced Dungeons and Dragons” that is well worth the watch (you need Hulu Plus for that link, sadly).

The point is, though, whether you think it’s crazy nerdy and has some ridiculous stigma on it or not, if you’re a writer… I think you would do well to play this game.

I realized the other day, when writing the background for my character in the current campaign I’m playing, I’ve written more detailed character story and background for some of my D&D characters than I have for some of my characters in my stories and scripts. That’s not to say that I don’t have good backgrounds for the non-D&D characters… I just don’t tend to write them out and consider all the aspects of their previous lives. However, in D&D, I tend to tell very detailed stories about their pasts and how they came to where they are now.

It’s a really good writing exercise, especially when you limit yourself. As someone that tends to prefer the classics of poetry and art, where the product must conform to a certain style or limitation, I feel that talent, skill, creativity and thought are more thoroughly applied and utilized than in styles where slapping anything together counts. Anyone can buy three blank canvases and call it art or take random paragraphs from random books, tape them together on a page and call it poetry. But how many people can write something truly heartbreaking and moving with only 140 syllables in 14 lines of iambic pentameter and a rhyming scheme of ABAB CDCD EFEF GG? I refer of course to the sonnet, of which some guy named Shakespeare wrote several.

It’s not easy to make something conform to limitations. But it is certainly an exercise worth trying, especially if you find your characters lack depth. Here’s my suggestion, as these are the ways I’ve found the most character work: Find some people to play D&D with. Find other writers or friends that know what they’re doing. You can do a preset campaign or let yourself/another writer write a story/world for you all to play in. But when you’re making your character, give yourself restrictions. In most versions of D&D, you can give your character flaws, which detriment your character but allow for extra benefits to balance it out. A lot of people will do this to make ridiculously powerful characters, but don’t focus on the game play so much as the character. People are flawed. How does that affect your character? Alternatively, ask your DM if you can bend certain rules, so long as you get a good story out of it.

For example, the current campaign I’m playing is in D&D Next, which is still basically in beta, so there’s a lot missing. My favorite class, the cleric, only has three domains to choose from at the moment… and none of the gods of Faerun in the domain I want to use have the right alignment for my character. I could have just changed my character’s alignment, but I decided to write a story behind it. Why would someone that disagrees with a certain deity’s way of life be a priest for that deity? And so, my story was written.

You don’t necessarily have to play D&D or any tabletop RPG to pull off this exercise. But I think D&D is a good template with a lot of creative options you may not consider… and playing the game will let you see how honest you can be to your character and keeping him or her consistent in certain situations. Plus… D&D with the right people can be LOADS of fun. 🙂 Give it a try some day.

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I’m Such A Nerd, It’s Not Even Funny

I’m also doing really badly at this whole “posting anything that is an actual commentary on pertinent socioeconomic issues” thing as of late. Sorry.

Anyway, after doing a quick reading of “Twelfth Night” for The Rude Mechanicals’ next play earlier today, I came back home to start work on the character for the second of the three RPGs I’m currently a part of.

That’s right. I’m part of three RPGs. Total nerd.

First, a 4th Edition-based Dungeons and Dragons campaign called Zeitgeist, wherein I play a half-elf Gunslinger cleric (meaning he carries two pistols) named Kiev Svbodny. You will see that name again. That’s who I pretty much always play as. And it fits this campaign, since he’s from the northern continent where the dwarves live, and they’re flavored as Russians in the world.

Second, a Lord of the Rings RPG. That’s the one I’ve been working on all day. Since about 5:30. We’re still not done making characters. Yaaaaaaaaay noobs and not enough books. I’ll be playing a dwarven loremaster (who will eventually become a wizard). I don’t know the name, but I rolled CRAZY well, and also have a rival named Garreth Oak, who keeps checking the books I need out of the library before me. Hate that guy.

Third, a 3.5 Edition Dungeons and Dragon game… my solid rock… where I will be playing a half-drow Favored Soul named Kiev Svbodny. Same name, similar flavor. I may stick with Favored Soul the entire time, or move toward getting a Loremaster prestige class. Depends on how things go. Got to roll him up tomorrow.

On top of all that, I’m working and stage managing a Shakespearean show.

And I thought I gave myself a full plate in college… Boy was I wrong.

Anyway, those that were unaware, I am a nerd. Those unable to understand what the heck I just said… …sorry. I’ll come up with a better, less nerdly post later.

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Dungeons & Dragons & Guns… Oh My?

So, people that know me personally, and know the extents of my nerdiness, know that I’m fond of the Dungeons & Dragons game. I have played many a game involving dice with more than 6 sides, some D&D, some not. I’ve played, I’ve been the dungeon master/creator of the story, I’ve even beta’d a new d20 game a friend of mine created. Ever since high school, I’ve been sucked in to the 3.5 Edition of D&D and I haven’t looked back.

Of course, as time goes on, editions tend to continue being made. Recently, within the past few years, they made a 4th Edition of D&D. And boy did that cause a lot of controversy, especially at its initial stages. It seemed almost like a complete overhaul, especially in the Forgotten Realms storyline, dumbing down D&D to make it easier for the casual gamer. The Wii of D&D. It’s the edition that you don’t necessarily mind playing because it has some familiar stuff, but you can’t really get too serious about.

Well, I haven’t had a campaign to be a part of lately, unfortunately. Gaming has always been a nice release, and tabletop games don’t necessarily potentially crash on you when your hard drive is over-full and your computer is running too hot too long. Plus, tabletop role playing games allow for camaraderie and some acting, and I do enjoy acting.

So, a friend of mine is DMing a 4.0 campaign with some people I know. I was teasing him about it, and about how 4.0 sucks, 3.5 is better. He asked if I wanted to join. …since I’m not doing any campaigns now, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try it out.

Now, I’ve played essentially the same character for a long time. Kiev Svbodny, the chaotic neutral half-elf cleric who carries homemade Molotov cocktails, a quarterstaff and two steel punching katars with a strip of flint down the center (for lighting the cocktails) and slide on like brass knuckles. I’ve had different games where his story is tweaked, like games where I was exiled from my village for my cockiness versus games where I’m looking for my half-brother. I’ve given him a prestige class in Loremaster before, to slake his desire for knowledge, as well as professions as librarian and bartender to get access to knowledge and earn some cash. He’s a cleric with a fondness for fighting in the front, alongside some nasty summons, but one that plans for contingencies and scenarios first (hence the long-, mid- and short-range weaponry).

Translating that character into the Zeitgeist world living in D&D 4.0 was… difficult. Things had to change.

Now, instead of punching katars, Kiev has two pistols. Which he can fire several times in a row without wasting time reloading. And can shoot while moving, if I understand correctly. To a pretty good accuracy. Also, he has a few knives.

The system is one that will take some getting used to. Magic is totally different in 4.0, and it’s even MORE different in the Zeitgeist setting. But I suppose I’m willing to try it out. It could be fun.

Just know that whenever I DM, it’s going to be 3.5 or nothing.

(Today’s post brought to you by my spending all day character creating, playing a Game of Thrones card game despite my knowing almost nothing on the series and stage managing rehearsal for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”)

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Some Dungeons, Some Dragons, Some Excuses

While politics continues to chug along in its venomous idiocy, I find I am getting rather… apathetic about it. In its current GOP clusterbomb of idiocy and “Which rat will exit the race first?” form at least. And I found myself mostly going to church, eating, and rolling up a new Dungeons & Dragons character. Don’t worry, it’s for 3.5, not 4. (That’s right, I said it. What.)

Anyway… if you weren’t sure I’m a nerd, be certain. Kiev Svbodny, the level 9 Cleric, level 1 Loremaster will rise again today, shaking his quarterstaff, punching katars, homemade bombs and magicks in furious nonchalance.


So, for now, ignore my dithering. Or yell at me about how 4th Edition D&D is better than 3.5. I’m willing to take on contenders on that front. Might be a fun and wholly nerdy debate. That I will ultimately win.

Come at me, I dare you.

Also, still working on that review of “The Muppets,” but look for it and my commentary on “Muppets From Space” to appear sometime this week on this blog and The Dome UA. And go see “The Muppets” while you’re at it.

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