I’ve been playing tabletop pencil-and-paper dice-rolling fantasy games off and on since the 1970s, but I didn’t really get into it on an intense, regular basis until about 10 years ago. At first it was a way to connect with my kids, grown up and moved out, who learned their love of the games from me and played a lot. How could we get them to come over regularly and hang out with their old parents? We got them to come over and play games. I was the first GM (game master), running some canned Pathfinder games from books I bought at our local gaming store, and we really loved doing it. Then things got complicated in our various lives and for a while we couldn’t play. I missed it a lot and mentioned this to a friend who was in a regular game, and she invited me to join them. So for half a dozen years now I’ve been playing every Friday night with friends until at least midnight, even as our family games are back on track once a week (with the kids taking turns as GM). And loving it.
I’ve played games in many systems: classic Dungeons and Dragons (3.5, of course) and the Pathfinder variation, World of Darkness (old and new), Aberrant (that game sadly died out very quickly), and a couple of home-brew systems my kids developed. All are fun, because they all have the same core. You dream up a person who exists in an imaginary world and, for a few hours a week, become that person, acting as he or she would act. In just the last few years I’ve been a rebellious teenage ranger, a bitter and haughty ex-artist, a disillusioned itinerant pastor, a wary street thief, a sneaky guardian of trapped and abused women, a cocky pint-sized rogue, and a bubbly bouncy vampire. It is liberating, and also challenging, to think about who I’m being now and how he or she would react to the events unfolding in the game.
Mostly, though, I love the interactions between the players as we work together to bring the story to life. We make terrible jokes and even worse puns. We throw movie references around like confetti. In-jokes are thick on the ground. There is always a great deal of laughter. Sharing this with my family uplifts my soul. At the end of a long week, getting together with my friends to move into a fantasy world is a balm that unkinks my spirit.
I could write a lot about how fantasy gaming relates to writing (creating rounded characters who behave consistently as they face important threats in a complex world), but come on. These relationships are obvious. Today, I just want to talk about how much I appreciate having these games to retreat to. Thank you, gaming world. Thank you, Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, for creating this happy place that I and millions of others escape to on a regular basis.
In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Happy Place.”