Tuesday, June 22, 2010


There can be no question that I am some kind of monster … a cheating, monomaniacal power-hungry ogre of a DM who ruthlessly manipulates his players, friends and family members for the sake of ‘winning.’ But even I have a heart, and it broke a little when I read this comment from the blog, Loud and Clear and Garbled, written by Illumina:

“I love D&D. I haven't been able to play a tabletop campaign since I was a teenager. I've a rather traumatic memory in which my father, running a campaign for my brother and a few of our friends from a store-bought adventure, allowed my character to fall in love with an NPC sailor. Then he killed him off in a kraken attack and sucked our party through a whirlpool into Ravenloft. I cried.”

For all the players out there who play with a sort of detached puritanism, there are players who allow themselves to become so immersed into their characters as to feel them life and breathe, and yes, even love, with all the intensity that the imagination can muster. I have had characters like this, long ago, who lived for years in a single campaign, who rose in levels and power and who began to feel real for me. I know there are some who would mock the above passage, but that would not be me.

I know how much my players love their characters; some more than others, true enough, but for many players the living character provides more than just a vehicle on game nights. The character becomes a thing to ponder in early mornings waiting for the bus, or long afternoons when work seems it will never end, or late at night when the house is quiet, and one is out on the back deck after the sun has gone down. What will Rupert do about the mage-assassin that pursues him? Has he lost any chance at winning the attentions of the king’s daughter? Where will he find the scroll that will at last get this cursed ring off his finger? A player’s mind drifts off to that world, those questions, providing a little more flavor to the quiet moments, something a bit more personal than wondering if the Rangers will have a decent team this year.

No, we don’t want our characters to die, and we have grown attached to certain features of a world … because that world has lasted this long, and become this real for us, real enough to become lost in it.

Isn’t it strange that an old cynic like me would understand that, and not condemn it? For I don’t … I don’t posture and take the attitude that too much fantasy is a bad thing and that we ought to ‘grow up’ and realize that it's just a fucking game. It is NOT a game … it is a second life. It is a happiness, and sometimes a sadness, that provides some of us with the chance to live out of ourselves, and in that way become greater than just this thing that drags its way to work and then drags its way back home.

I am sorry for your loss, Illumina. I truly am.


Anonymous said...

A friend of mine once described jazz music, comic books and RPGs as the three original American artforms. I'm not here to be parochial about origins, just pointing out that some do see the capacity for transcendence in D&D. And isn't that what we're really trying to define when we grope around for a adequate definition for "art"? A thing's having transcended itself to become something more? Thanks for sharing Alexis.

Oddysey said...

Very well put. And not strange at all, I think.