Saturday, July 6, 2013

New Girl at the Table

 Danielle is a new player in a game with Anthony and Jeremy.
 I'm the one that got away—almost.

    I never got involved in roleplaying games when I was a teenager, though it would have been right up my alley.  Obsessed with fantasy since I was a kid, I gobbled up every book on wizards and dragons that I could find.  Then, when I was 13 and looking through the bargain bin at my local library's yard sale, a huge event for a sleepy rural town, I scored bigtime.  I found Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis &Tracy Hickman.  From the first scene where the guards burst into the inn, I was hooked.  I devoured it, finding everything a tween could hope for, a band of unlikely heroes, magic, dragons and bad guys aplenty, dungeons and mysteries, all waiting for me to discover them.   Adding to the appeal of the series, it was suitably, tantalizingly racy.  I remember this scene with an elf bathing in the moonlight...  Anyway, I wanted more.

   I learned gradually that there was not just three or twelve books set in the Dragonlance universe, but over 190 volumes.  It vaguely occurred to me that these were interrelated, and I had some notion that the people involved in writing the series all knew each other, but it took me a long time to put it together that the books were based on a series of Dungeons & Dragons campaigns.  The Dungeons & Dragons rulebook was more expensive and daunting than pulp paperbacks, and my teenage self wanted instant gratification, so I was surprisingly slow on the uptake, even when one of my high school friends showed me dungeon maps he had drawn up in math class (putting his graph paper to good use).  To me, fantasy was something that happened on the page, and I was a huge fan, and I sympathized with the characters and came along for the ride.  Aside from choose-your-own-adventures, though, I would always be a passenger, and the people who wrote and participated in such stories were impossibly far removed from me.

   Fast forward to this year.  My appreciation for stories has deepened and matured, and that gulf between me and the exalted class of magicians and storytellers has narrowed to a gap I might easily cross in one step.  I find myself thinking, “I would have done it this way,” or “that villain is more interesting than the heroes,” and watching from the wings, itching to try out each character's part.  So when Jeremy invited me to a game he was starting I was thrilled, not just because it's great to watch his face light up when he's doing something he loves, but also at the opportunity to share a fantasy world as a group experience and participate in a living, breathing story.   I've come to roleplaying the long way around, but it is just as satisfying for me to manhandle and steamroller the GM's encounters, to laugh at the alchemist chef's antics and flee in terror from giant scorpions that will kill us at Level 1, to learn the seductive nature of powergaming and the delicate balance of roleplaying.  I'm new to roleplaying and the Pathfinder system, but I am not new to fantasy, and it's a pleasure to discover the mechanics behind the stories that have always fascinated me.  At some point we were all new players, and as That New Player, I'd like to say thanks to the people who stop what they are doing long enough to explain things to us at the table. 

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