Many of you know that I manage the Dungeons & Dragons organized play program for my local gaming store (where I’m also employed). I’ve been playing at this store for maybe 5-6 years now, so a good chunk of my time has always been spent there. Recently, my mother (likely in an attempt to connect with her nearby kids more since my brother just moved cross-country) asked if she could try it out.
Now this was a very interesting moment for me. While my mom was my introduction into the world of geek culture (she took me to my first Star Trek convention, and was such a fan of the LOTR books that she would speak Tolkien Elvish with her college friends), I hadn’t really talked geeky stuff with her since I had left for college, and that was maybe 20 years ago.
At the same time, I was a little apprehensive. Mom is the choir director at her church. She’s a respected business leader. And she might have heard some of those old notions that D&D was “the devil’s game” or something similar. I wanted her to get the right experience (roleplaying, camaraderie, heroism) and not the wrong one (rules arguments, annoying people at the table, poorly written story). It was a daunting task, but it was a worthwhile one.
Step one was creating her a character. I knew she liked elves, and I knew that general ideas of righteousness tended to resonate with her, so I built her a half-elf paladin. Knowing that she is relatively set in her religious views, I had her character worship not a specific god, but something generic like the “Pure Light of the Forest” (path of the Ancients). I decked her out with some starting gear and we were good to go.
I’ve already talked about the extra efforts I put into D&D Encounters at our store to make the storylines more coherent and meaningful. That extra effort really paid off, as the DM was able to give my mom a clear synopsis of the story so far, and she was easily able to integrate herself into the party. I even got her a Bones mini and had painted it for her.
At the table (which I didn’t run, but which I overheard plenty of), it was fascinating to listen to my mother working with other long-term gamers. She brought a freshness to the table with her descriptions of her character, and other folks who’d grown complacent in their plug-and-play mentalities followed suit. Debriefing with the DM afterward, he said that my mom was a great new perspective at the table, and that she seemed to be aware of all her character options (she’d studied-up on her character sheet [3 Paladin HElf Cassandra] beforehand, so she’d look like she knew what she was talking about).
I talked to Mom afterwards about the experience, and while she did notice many of the downsides of public play (a loud person at another table, a smelly person sitting near her, a general railroad-iness to the plot), she still said she really enjoyed it, and immediately started telling me things her character was doing in downtime. She won’t be able to come every week, but she wants to keep it up if she can.
So to any of you who feel like you’re in a gaming rut, or who feel that folks in your life just don’t understand that D&D thing you do, I’d encourage you to reach out to those people. You can find awesome new D&D players in the unlikeliest of places, and they can bring awesome new perspectives to your gaming tables.