"They keep pulling me back IN!"

This weekend, as part of a housemate-bonding experience, I participated in…


Oh crap, it’s just too embarassing.

Oh yeah, I have no shame. Never mind.

Anyhow, it was a…sigh…Dungeons and Dragons game.

I can’t remember which one of my housemates suggested the game, but if it’s a way to get Kenji to participate more in house stuff, why not? Prior to living here, he lived in shared-accomodation arrangements where he was just occupying a room and paying rent. We don’t do that here in Big Trouble in Little China; I prefer a more family-like setting rather than being people who’ve just grouped under one roof to cut down expenses. So D&D it was.

D&D has undergone some changes since last I played it, and I’m not talking about the rules of the game. I’m talking about the demographic fo the players. In my day, it was strictly the province of the boys from the AV squad and computer room at school; these days, people from grade school to senior citizens play it, and a surprising number of women do. My ex-girlfriend, among them, and she wasn’t your stereotypical geek girl. At a party held by my hippie-chick friend Margaret, a number of comely twenty-something women were discussing their characters, and I think Paul was getting aroused by the conversation. I guess it shouldn’t come off as too surprising — just take a look at the Silver Snail, Toronto’s premier comic book store (and falling distance from my house) and you’ll find a healthy number of women among the customers.

But enough justification. This was full-on geek central.

The original plan was for the house crew — me, Kenji and Paul — and a couple of Kenji’s friends to play, with Paul as DM, but as soon as Chris and Rob — heard, they wanted in. Rob ended up not being able to make it, but Chris showed, with a bag full of D&D dice.

“They have 30-sided dice now?” I said, marveling at his green crystal plastic polyhedron. Damn, I’ve been seriously Rip van Winkled.

Kenji’s friends Will and Simon brought their own dice too. Simon brought his copy of the Player’s Handbook, third edition. Paul owns the core set of books, the Dungeon Master’s Guide, Player’s Handbook and Monster Manual. All third edition, with a number of siginificant changes to the rules since my days of the first edition.

I pulled out my original copy of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, first edition, its cover showing the cheesily painted demon battling the hapless adventure party. “This is the real shit, yo!” I told them. “Old school, boyeeeee!”

Kenji played a fighter/rogue (a “rogue” is what a “thief” is now called), Simon and Will were rangers, Chris was a wizard, and I played a cleric named Gregor Samsa. If any of them got the Kafka reference, they didn’t say anything. Illiterate barabrians. I tried to use my Jesus figure (“with gliding action!”) as a game token, but he was a bit too big. I ended up using a button that read “Overthrow the DJ”.

The party ended up being robbed by a highwayman, mind-controlled by a high-level wizard, and nearly killed off twice by some pretty well-armed gnolls. Gregor Samsa did a lot of ass-kicking and ass-saving — he’s the padre who’s one bad madre. We’d have had an easier time if some of us — no names — hadn’t decided to run off in the other direction, thinking “I can take these guys myself!” Kenji’s character always got critically wounded in the first round of battle; a lot of the time we’d tease him by asking if he could do something a little more useful than just lie there and bleed. At the end of the session, the party barely survived, but netted enough experience to go up to the next level. Eat your heart out, Frodo Baggins!

I think I can live with the stigma of playing this infernal game every now and again. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?

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