Let’s get this Party Started: A Case for Collaborative Play

I want to share with you my profound love of Dungeons & Dragons. Furthermore, I want you to feel that love grow, deep inside you, throbbing and pulsating like an edgy tumour that has somehow gained consciousness and is compelling you to play Dungeons & Dragons with me. This is the core of my motivation when writing for Hoop, and I intend to relentlessly revisit this theme, time and time again until the whole world has rolled characters and learns of the dueling joys and horrors inherent in making a hasty persuasion check on an over-friendly, but shifty-eyed Gnome that may or may not reveal the location of her magic abacus that turns goblin dung into gold. You know you want the all mighty Abracadabacus. In fact, you need it. Ok, maybe you don’t need it: the thing, but I do believe that you need it: the sensation of seeking, of exploring, of explaining, and of playing, both with yourself and with like-minded others.

I am of the belief that everyone needs a creative outlet, or some kind of pastime whereby the imagination can be safely let out to play, both in this world and the one you live in. Doing this is essential to our respective mental healths. I rank this notion right up there with the need for supportive friends – the kind of friends that don’t stay friends with your ex after you have broken up…for example – the kind of friends that instead, include you in their indulgences and need for adventure. It is the recognition of these two mutually crucial parts of our lives: creativeness and friendship, that I am compelled to write this.

It seems to me that adults all too often ignore the power of imagination and our need to incorporate its practice in our lives. Instead, there is a trend towards downplaying ‘playing’ as something that only artists, kids, or the clinically insane do. All are routinely, unsympathetically, and pharmaceutically reproached for doing so, but I guarantee that each knows secrets that we would be better off listening to.

So listen to me now, since I already have your attention.

It’s Friday night and we are at our favourite bar, or our friend Richard’s hotboxed Corolla. The weight of the week slips off our shoulders like an ice sheet, plummeting into a steadily warming sea of local, organic, craft beer. Our tongues start to loosen and before anyone is aware, there is bullshit everywhere. It’s fun and we need this. We have waited all week for this absurd moment of sanctioned adult play. We have convinced ourselves that this kind is a legitimate and safe form of recreation. Why? Probably because we can blame the booze, or something. But the idea remains, and even if we don’t consciously know it, we have an innate understanding that we need to release some of the tension that comes with being an adult.

Clearly alcohol is the number one portal to this staggering world of ‘adults playing’. The bar is officially the unofficial adult playground (does that mean the bar tender is the lunch lady?). But aside from losing our manners, only to awaken broken and poorer, with the taste of Satan’s anus in our mouths, or dancing to songs we hate in order to impress sexy strangers who will undoubtedly teach us new understandings of the word regret, we don’t really ever create anything when we drink. Ernest Hemingway did. But you are not Ernest Hemingway are you; no matter how many women you want to punch in the face after the bullfight (see The Sun Also Rises).

Let me give an example:

After Hemingway blacked out, following some sort of anti-Semitic or homophobic rage, he woke up with a newly completed novel sticking out of his typewriter. The best thing you can hope to wake up with is not herpes.

But I digress.

More to the point, after you play Dungeons & Dragons for, say…7 hours… you might not walk away with High Art; but that’s totally okay. The actual point here is twofold and far easier to achieve. That is, to see where your creativity takes you when you let go of the wheel, AND (this part is crucial) include others in the undertaking. My appeal to your sanity doesn’t stop with me asking you to just give yourself a break. I’m also asking you to seek out accomplices in your fun-making. Because much like sex, playing Dungeons & Dragons is far more enjoyable when others are involved.

I want everyone to understand that fun is in-and-of-itself a worthy aim. That’s step one. Second, right now I’m referring to the kind of fun that can only be had when you play with others. Imagine if you will: not one hyperactive mind, but multiple hyperactive minds simultaneously stimulated, envisioning, and creating a mutual psychosocial theatrical projection that is watched, directed and starred in all at the same time! That’s some serious Timothy Leary shit right there (read The Psychedelic Experience). Go and smash your imagination into the imaginations of your friends and watch as the sparks fly off. Or just go out and get drunk again. But I’m willing to bet that it won’t come close to the transcendent experience that occurs when your creative power co-mingles, collaborates, and congeals with others during the celebration of vision manifestation that defines the D&D experience.

But don’t do it for me. Do it for your withering soul. Do it for your friends who are too afraid to take the first step. Do it for the poor Dungeon Masters out there who have needs that you can’t possibly understand. Like the need to get those creatures out of their heads before they do permanent mental damage to their host. No doubt, when the lights go out and everyone else is asleep, our poor and lonely DM is left to the incessant whispers of an over-friendly Gnome with a magical abacus, whose illicit appeals grows ever more persuasive. Or, do it for me. Whatever works.

What next? How do you proceed from here? Part of the mystery inherent to Dungeons & Dragons is it’s apparent underground status. Whether it is underground because that’s where dungeons naturally tend to be, or because fearful, angry villagers bearing torches and pitchforks chased us there, the fact remains the same: penetrating the invisible and unspoken barrier and getting into a D&D session isn’t always easy. There is an apparent stigma that doesn’t help either. I’m working on overcoming that. Join us, and you can help fight the good fight. Let’s begin with some strategies on how we can overcome the first two rules of _____ Club so that we can start one of our own.

I suggest discretely asking around. I said DISCRETELY! Don’t start by asking your secret crush. Unless that person also carries a bag of dice around with them and makes reference to Hyrule on a regular basis. Just hold off on that for now. In time you might be able to ask them to play with you. You know what I mean. If you have never played D&D before it’s probably best to join a game with people who know what they are doing. Get them to help you. That’s where the collaboration begins. Also, be prepared to read. Get a hold of the relevant manuals and learn about the game. That part might have to happen in isolation. It’s a nerdy baptism that should not be overlooked. Also, there are some fantastic podcasts that helped me. Once you have whetted yourself with this introductory knowledge and got a few games under your belt, you can start to recruit others. It took me about 3 months before I was confident enough to branch out from my first group. I took the initiative to start a weekly game with other friends who had never played before. It took off. Before we knew it we were playing weekly and a year had passed. Throughout that time people started approaching each of us, asking about our new obsession and how they could get involved. We didn’t realize how hungry so many people were for this kind of entertainment.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. You need collaborators. Think of this as your first quest. Learn to identify potential players and assemble a party. Keep an eye out for people that you think are likely to know something about Dungeons & Dragons and practice the following tried and tested Dungeons and Dragons pick up lines. Just remember to write to me and let me know how it went.

Anyone wearing an Adventure Time shirt who is above the age of 25 should be asked the following question: Excuse me, but do you go gridless?

When you identify someone with a level 12 neckbeard, casually walk up to them and ask: Hey, what’s your initiative?

When someone in the bar drops and breaks a glass, lean over to your subject and knowingly say: THAT’s a Critical Fail. Followed by a mimed roll of the dice while making your best grumpy cat face.

If you are feeling desperate, go to your local games store. My method is to hang around for a while until I find someone that I can’t smell, but that’s just personal preference. Then say: Sometimes when I look around me all I see are NPCs, know what I mean? Then wink slowly and deliberately.

Spotting a DM might be harder because they are probably at home right now practicing their overfriendly Gnome voice, but if you do happen to see a person who emanates that special radiance that all DMs seem to have, stealthily approach and whisper: Is that monster in your pocket or is this a surprise attack? And if that works, follow up with: What’s the DC of getting you to run a game for me?

That one works like a charm every time.

What are you waiting for? You have my blessing. Go now, find others, and play.

2 thoughts on “Let’s get this Party Started: A Case for Collaborative Play

  1. Gonna to have to use you DnD chat up lines, would love to get back into pen n paper gaming…
    I also have a whole Dungeon project hidden in my head that needs sharing (I started building in 1988!) so need to find willing suckers to test it out on…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Recruiting new people to your campaigns can be a challenge, for sure. Few want to reveal their awesome nerdiness to “norms” for fear of being hissed at and having holy water thrown on us. It burns. But when you mention tabletop gaming to the right person, it is well worth it. The sly smile that creeps onto the faces of outtted players is something like a scene from Fight Club. A few eager and bold friends of mine have taken started to subtly put our feelers out and have had surprising success. If the success of PAX, Tabletop, and-so-on, are any indication of the state of things, we are actually in good company. So, if you have story ideas and are brave enough to run a game, you are actually in a good position to be a hero and to drag others along with you. People need this kind of fun. Go find them and give it to them.


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