Why I Game – Origin Stories / Calvin Dugray (Part 1)

This year is the 40th anniversary of Dungeons and Dragons. So, in celebration of that, and in light of the fact that D&D is releasing a new edition this summer, I’m going to start posting some stories I have of playing Dungeons and Dragons and other roll-playing games.

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I actually didn’t start playing Dungeons and Dragons until I was in college. The truth is, D&D was never something I’d given much thought to. I’d heard of it when I was younger, of course, but only in a very general sense, the way I’d heard of fixed mortgages or vegemite or Pearl Jam. I knew there was thing thing out there people played, and knew next to nothing about it.

Sophomore year of college, I once came back to the dorm and found my roommates and some of their friends (including one of my roommate’s brothers, and the other roommate’s girlfriend) sitting around our coffee table with paper, pencils, and dice.

“What are you guys doing?” I asked.

“Making up our characters for Dungeons and Dragons,” my roommate answered. “Wanna play?”

I scoffed. I don’t mean figuratively, I mean I very vividly remember literally scoffing at my roommate. “Nah,” I chucked with just the right amount of condescension, “I’m okay, thanks.” And I went about my night, sitting down to work on my MySpace blog or Facebook-stalking the girl down the hall or whatever else I was into at the time. 2007 Mike was kind of lame.

But as my roommates and their friends carried on, and began discussing their characters. They talked about how they were thieves or paladins or clerics, and they talked about their backstories. And I began to realize what they were doing. They weren’t sitting around comparing protractors, or whatever I thought “D&D Nerds” did. They were telling stories. Suddenly, my interest level went up significantly, and I began asking questions. And before I knew it, I found myself rolling up a level 1 human swashbuckler (we were playing 3.5, for those who are interested).

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Photo from Flickr

I eventually landed on the name “Calvin Dugray.” Those who have known me for most of my life know that, as a child, I was obsessed with the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes.” That series was my everything. And when I was designing my character, I wanted a bit of that over-confidence that Calvin had. I wanted him to be somebody that thought he was hot shit, and had no idea that nobody else in the world agreed. The last name, “Dugray,” was a reference to Tristan DuGrey, Chad Michael Murray’s character on “Gilmore Girls.” His character was sort of a roguish bad boy, and that’s another quality that I wanted Calvin to have. Or, more accurately, that I wanted him to think he had. Add to that the image of Errol Flynn (or Fandral from the Thor comics), and you had Calvin Dugray.

Once we actually started the game (which I think was actually the following week), I dove right into character. If you are curious how Calvin talked, walked, acted and thought of himself, just watch the first half hour of “Tangled,” before Flynn Rider gets any serious character growth. You’ll kind of get the idea.

And it was a hoot. To be fair, all my character managed to do that session was get drunk, throw a rock at a troll, and get knocked out on his ass (while the other players did the heavy lifting of actually fighting and killing the trolls), but I was still having a ball. I actually started keeping notes of the sessions in-character, as Calvin’s “adventure journals” (which I decided he started so he could chronicle the undoubtedly-fantastic adventures he was expecting to have).

But there was part of me that, for some reason, still thought D&D was lame. So I thought I would do something to “offset” the lameness. Namely to start drawing fan art of our characters, based on the covers of whichever Marvel comic books I happened to be reading that month.

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This is the drawing I did for the first session, based on the cover for New Avengers #34 by Leinil Yu. Remember, for some reason, I thought this would make me seem less nerdy.

Over the next few weeks, you’ll hear more stories about Calvin, as well as other characters I’ve tried my hand at playing. The important thing to take away from this story, however, is that anything can seem lame if you’ve never tried it. And because of that, it’s easy to dismiss something out of hand, without giving it a fair shot. Try it. You have absolutely nothing to lose by trying new experiences. Except for all of the money I’ve spent over the past nine years on dice, handbooks, battle-grids and miniatures. But we’ll get there.

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