Why I Game – The Campaign I Missed

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 role-playing games.

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For my previous entries in this series, I’ve discussed my first D&D campaign, which I clearly still remember very vividly. However, our very next campaign was “Red Hand of Doom,” and I remember almost nothing about that one, because I missed just about every session.

I was playing a dwarf fighter named Rurik Balderk, a.k.a. “Roach” (a nickname from his time in the goblin slave camps). I remember fighting goblins in the first session, and then I was in a play for school and starting missing sessions due to rehearsals. I would sometimes get back to the session in time for the last 15-30 minutes, and would never have any idea what was going on. The other players would use my character while I was away, so I came back in on one day and the other players turned and said, “We fought a dragon!”

“Oh,” I said, somewhat disappointed. “Cool.” At that point, I hadn’t actually fought a dragon before, despite playing a game called “Dungeons and Dragons” for several months.

My absence from the game also made one thing very clear – I was not great at playing my characters efficiently.

When I discussed the retirement of my first character, I mentioned that part of the reason I left him behind was that I wasn’t great at playing him, and I was trying to figure out if the issue was how I had created the character – accidentally creating a character that didn’t play very well – or just in how I was using him. But as others played Roach in my absence, it became clear that he wasn’t a badly designed character – I just wasn’t a very effective player yet. I’ve gotten better over the years, but the truth is I’m still someone who favors story and characterization over putting together the most efficient build.

If I remember correctly, I was there for the campaign finale, and I had a lot of fun despite not having any idea what was going on. And if there’s one thing to take away from this column, it’s that – the story, at the end of the day, really doesn’t matter… as long as you’re playing with friends.

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