Why I Game – You’re Nothing Without Allies (Part 3)

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 posting some stories I have of playing Dungeons and Dragons and other roll-playing games.

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For the last few installments of this series, I’ve spoken about my own first character quite a bit. However, the whole point of a game like Dungeons and Dragons is that you’re not the only one playing – you’re one of several players, all working together to tell a story collaboratively. That’s why, for today’s story, I’m focusing on the other players I’ve fought alongside.

More after the jump.

I’ve been playing with the same group, off and on, ever since I started playing in college almost 7 years ago. Players come and players go, but it’s always a fairly large group, at least 7 players (not including Daniel, our DM). In our first session, this was the line-up:

Kalan Lightfingers (halfling rogue) – Your classic thief, Kalan would steal the pants right off of you if he thought they could make him some cash. Or if they were magical. Or if he thought he could do it without you noticing. Or if he was bored. He was a talented liar, but also quite a troublemaker, and got us into almost (but not quite) as much trouble as he got us out of. At the end of the day, though, he ended up very literally pulling our asses out of the fire… but more on that later.

Xann Bravesword (human paladin) – All paladins are virtues of righteousness, and our paladin was no different (except that he was a bit more lenient about torture and murder). For reasons that should be obvious, he and Kalan did not see eye to eye on just about anything.

Roth (gnome mage) – Roth was our magic user, and was obsessed with copying spells into his book. Every scroll or ritual we found would go straight into his hands. He was often more interested in the ideas of what magic could accomplish than the morality behind it, but we’ll get into that next time. He also had a familiar, a pet monkey named “Nanners” (short for “Bananas,” I guess?). Man, we loved that monkey…

Gorg (half-orc barbarian) – Gorg was dumber than a bag full of bricks, but he had a good heart and was a beast in a fight, but his brain was a sack full of rocks. At least, that was the idea behind the character’s creation. In truth, thanks to the player controlling him, Gorg ended up being more observant than the rest of the party put together. At one point we were in a haunted monastery, standing around in the kitchen, looking at the remains of a meal interrupted by the untimely deaths of the monks, and trying to count how many monks could have been turned into ghosts, and thus waiting to collect our souls. Gorg looked around and said, “There are six chairs. Wouldn’t there be six monks?” There were six other players who had completely missed that detail.

Ceos (dwarf cleric) – Ceos was the opposite of Kalan in a lot of ways. While Kalan stuck to the shadows and scouted ahead, Ceos often charged blindly into rooms without thinking. While Kalan planned and weighed the options, Ceos reacted and acted impulsively. While we joked that Kalan would backstab one of us if paid to do so, he was actually intensely loyal; Ceos, on the other hand, once force-fed another character a magic seed because a plant from the future told him to do it, and had no other reason. Ceos wasn’t very smart, is what I’m getting at here.

Teya (elf fighter) – Little was known of Teya… because the girl playing as her never really got around to providing any backstory for her. While she would usually sit back and let the rest of us bicker amongst ourselves (a byproduct of rarely being able to get a word in edgewise – we were, and are, a boisterous lot, especially in college), she thrived on puzzles. We’ll get into the specifics in a later post, but one of our adventures was basically back-to-back riddles in a race against the clock, and she was so good she forced the DM to cheat to try to throw us off.

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Based on the cover for Avengers: The Initiative #5, by Jim Cheung. Clockwise from top left: Roth, Xann, Teya, Ceos, and Gorg. Not pictured: Kalan, Calvin Dugray (me).

It’s been 7 years, and I still remember these characters and their personalities. I remember the bickering and arguing (you can look at these descriptions and guess some of those arguments), and I remember the cheers of triumph. I remember where everyone sat around the table in that first group, and which side of the table usually ended up with the best snacks.

Last time, when I talked about the adventure in the necromancer’s tower, I mostly focused on what my own character was doing. I didn’t explain that Roth was building bombs to bring down the entire tower to cover our escape. I didn’t talk about how Kalan was bluffing about our forces from the top of the tower, and how Gorg and Xann defended the door and forced the goblins into a bottleneck by using the corpses of the fallen as cover. At one point, they took down a bugbear (if a hobgoblin is a super-goblin, a bugbear is a super-hobgoblin), then cut its head off and tossed it outside, forcing many of the goblins to dramatically rethink their life choices up to that point.

When you’re playing a collaborative roll-playing game like Dungeons and Dragons, you have to trust your fellow adventurers… otherwise it’s all moot. True, there weren’t technically any stakes, and we all knew that if we stopped fighting the bad guys the game would end, but you still get sucked into the world of a game, and the story you work together to tell. The group’s victories become personal to you, and your character’s failures become the group’s burden to share. When my character planned to leave the group, the other characters tried to talk him out of it and understand why he was leaving, even though I, as a player, wasn’t technically going anywhere.

I still game with a few of these players, but I remember these characters, my first adventuring party, like fond friends.

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