Friday, January 14, 2011

On the Wings of Evil (otherwise entitled Grade 5 Sexism, Dragons, and Inside Pursuits)

Doesn't the busty chick on the front mean that girls
are most ESPECIALLY supposed to play?
At least that's how I'm interpreting it.
During the winters here in the Great White North, the temperatures sometimes plunge to dangerous lows and the kids can't go outside to play for days or weeks. At school they have what are affectionately referred to as inside recesses (referred to affectionately by the kids who don't want to be shoved out into the cold, not the poor teachers with migraines and nervous disorders, including but not limited to, thinning hair and ulcers). The kids stay happily in their classrooms, all cosy and warm, playing various games and generally being as loud and outdoorsy when indoors as possible, and the beleaguered teachers get no break at all. A way back when I was in grade 5, during indoor recess the boys would commandeer the tables at the back of the classroom and spread out an assortment of tantalizing looking books, graph paper, maps and oddly shaped dice. I would hear them saying strange and thrilling things like, "That's a critical hit! The dragon takes 2D10 + 5 damage!!" or "My rogue does a thievery check to open the golden chest." Be still my nerdy little heart! It sounded and looked fascinating. But if I or any of the other girls went over to see what they were playing, or heaven forbid try to join in, we were met with a "Go away, we're playing D&D!".  Apparently D&D, whatever it was, was not for girls.  I also soon found out, straight from the pulpit, that D&D, or Dungeons and Dragons as it is called, was a Very Evil game, full of witchcraft and devil worship, that would drive children mad as they lost their grip on what was reality and what was the insidiously satanic fantasy world they were delving into (much like Harry Potter does, or so I've heard...). So even if those mean, little devil worshipping boys had given me a chance to play there was no way in H. E. double hockey stick that my parents would have let me anywhere near it.

I did play a bit in my late teens. I jumped at the chance to join a game that some of my friends had going, figuring at that point I was already a lost cause as far as avoiding satanic influences was concerned. We had a few intense, uproarious adventures fueled by the copious amounts of legal and illegal substances being consumed during our Sunday night sessions (Sunday because that was the night the bars were closed, of course). But before I'd even really figured out what I was doing or why (from a gameplay POV, it took me many, many more years to figure out what I was doing from a life POV) the group fell apart.

Fast forward a lifetime or two, and I am a law abiding, mild mannered mother of two gorgeous and challenging almost 11yo boys, and we are looking for something to do as a family that will engage them socially, have nothing to do with a computer screen, maybe even exercise some educational muscles, and that is most importantly equally fun for every single member of the family. Tall order, non? But I remembered my old yen for D&D. Social component -check, you sit at a table engaged in cooperative play with a group. Educational component -double check, this is some seriously complicated sh*t and there is math, reading, story telling and  major organizational skills required. We all love adventure/fantasy stories, and D&D is basically collaborating on your own adventure story with a group, so fun for the whole family -a big giant check.

Being the dungeon master has fallen to my lot. The DH used to play D&D as a properly nerdy, and obviously extremely malevolently influenced young man (seriously he played D&D and read comics! it's amazing he didn't grow up to habitually bite the heads off chickens!), but he does not have the time to do the prep work required to DM, and has forgotten almost everything he used to know about the game anyway. So I thumb my nose in the general direction of those Grade 5 boys, not only am I playing, but I am the one in charge! The DM is responsible for planning the encounters, choosing or creating NPC's (non player characters), designing the environments, and acting as a referee between The Rules and the players... basically creating a structure in which the characters act and make the story happen, and keeping the action flowing freely and fairly. It is a big job, and for someone who has never really even played D&D before, a steep learning curve. But me, huge project? scope for creativity? no possible practical or marketable value? adventure/fantasy/fun?

*my ears perk up like a retriever who hears his master at the door, my nostrils flare, my pupils dilate*

I am in.

So we've been playing and learning, and I've been spending most of my free time studying and preparing. We are enjoying it immensely! My boys who sometimes have trouble engaging with other people for more than a few minutes will sit at the table talking, brainstorming, collaborating and compromising for a couple of hours at a time. This is huge! We played almost every day on their winter break, and have now settled into a once a week Friday night game time (the poor overworked DM just can't keep up with more than that). You should hear the stories we are weaving! Right now we are searching for bronze discs with obscure Eladrin scripts on them, that may or may not act as keys or activators of some sort in this ancient stone circle that we stumbled upon in the dark and dangerous forest...and there is a girl, a mighty fighter named Morgana (no weak and wobbly princesses for us, thank you very much) who has gone missing as she led a group of dwarven monks on a quest to recover a powerful artifact from an evil wizard...what has become of her? Will we find her?

So there you have it. No winter blues as of yet, we are too busy slaying dragons and exploring ancient ruins to mind being stuck inside.


  1. if you start wearing a black trenchcoat and grow a van dyke, we'll have to have a chat.

  2. LOL Nope, I solemnly swear mom jeans and hippie hair are as bad as it will get.

  3. Thanks for the thoroughly enjoyable read this frosty Saturday afternoon. As usual, I have no idea what you're talking about - and I thought D&D was a computer game - but I laughed out loud twice, no, three times.


    And Craig, Van Dyke. HAHAHA!

  4. Wow! Fabulous. This sound incredibly fun. I know nothing about D&D except the aforementioned "if you play it backwards Paul's dead" stuff. I may have to investigate finally. It's been on my list for years! Have fun DM! deb


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