Playing an RPG character beyond your limits
Hello people. I wanted to write this piece for a few reasons and yes one of which was just to prove that I was not just a one trick review pony. Through the course of last year Joel wrote a few pieces on Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), and I thought I would tell you about my experience with Role Playing Games (RPG’s).
I used to read a lot more fantasy than I do now and consume myself in worlds. I have always wanted to run a RPG and take on the role of the DM to immerse the players in a world full of sounds, sights and smells that a world will provide. I had three main RPG influences at the time, none of which were D&D. There was the world of Warhammer Fantasy Role Play (2nd Edition) a well crafted system by Games Workshop taking place in the fantasy arm of their franchise in a world full of Skaven, Undead and so on. Then there was the world of Cyberpunk 2020, based upon the William Gibson books; set in a futuristic world that where cybernetics are at the forefront of society and the internet is something you plug yourself into. Finally there was an RPG system based around Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles set in a modern which might find you fighting a mutant rhino or being harassed by someone from Channel 6 news.
Sadly I never actually got to run one of these worlds. Most of the people I knew at school were not into these things and geek culture had a very different reputation then as it does now. I tried for many years to start something, at one point using this new fangled thing called the Internet (which my parents didn’t understand), to run a game using Usenet with an elaborate PGP (Pretty good privacy) encryption system to define languages, but that fizzled out as people were unreliable. I still would really like to create and run a small campaign, however last year I did get the chance to be a player in a D&D (5th Edition) game with a group I found via Bristol Reddit.
The game took place on a weekly basis at the DM’s flat from 19:00 on until about 23:00 depending on what the players could do. I didn’t know anyone in the group so it was an interesting way to get to know the people although I can only really recall their character names. The characters that were offered to us were pre-created with attributes that would compliment the story. I see it as my job as a player to give some life to this pile of numbers on a piece of paper and when I took on the role of The Captain I was worried I would not be able to fill their boots. The Captain, who I chose to be female was supposed to have a very strong personality, not something that I believe I am in real life at all. The notes I was given about her were simple, be bold, brash and lead without being a tyrant but have a ‘leave no man behind’ attitude. I do certainly have some similarities to my character, she was a poet, songwriter, storyteller, wordsmith and a musician. My musical skills leave a lot to be desired but I like to believe I fit quite a` few of the other criteria.
The campaign opened with an announcement that we (The Captain and crew) had been away fighting a war. During that time something had happened in our homeland which meant my characters wife had been kidnapped. (‘Wife…?’ I hear you say. Why yes in the land of fantasy why should my character marry a man, sexual diversity in D&D is something that I strongly back.) Our goal was simple, get home, kill/capture/annoy the bad guys, rescue my wife and children and put things back to normal but things are not that simple in D&D; we were a long way from home. It took us over a year (of game time) nearly three months of actual time (playing once a week) to get home involving various side quests with some tense and strange encounters. All along the route I questioned if I was living up to the legend I was playing even if she was a legend only in her own mind.
I don’t mind admitting that I have always struggled with my confidence and assertiveness. Things are better but I can still have those moments where I just want to run into a corner and hide. Over the past five years or so I have tried to do things that take me right out of my comfort zone and playing D&D with a strong character with people I don’t know is certainly one of them. I class myself as an introvert, I think more accurately I am an introverted extrovert. If I do extrovert things like interact with multiple people or perform in front of others I need to take time to be quiet and alone, recharge. Being bold and assertive really drains me physically and mentally which is why I can only do it for short periods of time. It is a tool I have learned how to use from time to time and has come in very useful in the past. At times when I am in these potentially awkward situations I can feel myself channelling a version of The Captain even before I knew about her. I can come away from these moments feeling energised, confident and to use an overused term awesome.
To some people Role Playing Games are ‘odd’ or for weirdo ‘introverts’ and to some they are the ‘work of the devil’. These people don’t get what it’s like to live and breathe an alter ego version of yourself and how that can help you as a person. They don’t understand why it’s exciting as a player or really fulfilling as a DM. I’d be very interested to hear from you if you have played an RPG and you feel that it has helped you in life. Would you be willing to talk to us about it? I have the idea for an audio series of anonymous interviews with people describing how playing an RPG may of helped them socially and/or mentally.