I dig tabletop RPGs. More specifically, I dig the tabletop RPG: Dungeons and Dragons. Yeah. So? I like D&D. Don’t look at me that way. Unless you want a fight on your hands. Brah.
Honestly, most people are more curious than dismissive when I mention playing D&D. I always explain it as an interactive story that you tell with your friends, but with rules for combat. And when your friends are actors, or improv comedians, or writers, you can tell a pretty neat story.
Recently, Wizards of the Coast released their newest iteration of the rules (called D&D Next) for public playtesting. Over the years, countless Nerds have attempted to court Nerdesses while using this ever-evolving social game as a backdrop. Last weekend, I joined those hallowed ranks. Jealous? Cause you, uh, totally should be. Seriously though: I will fight you.
After the jump, an explanation
It wasn’t my only plan. Just… let the record state that this was a fortunate coincidence which I tried to use to my advantage. It wasn’t a oh-she’s-pretty-I-wonder-if-she-likes-D&D-as-that’s-the-only-way-I-feel-comfortable-talking-to-girls-OH-GOD-SO-VERY-LONELY kind of thing. I mentioned it in passing, Audrey expressed interest, I figured out everything else. Two weeks later, five of us were gathered around a Mountain Dew-adorned table in our basement. Yeah, our basement – did I mention she’s a new housemate?
My regular Dungeon Master – and close college buddy – does not just mention D&D in passing. It’s more like he brings it up so he can talk about it to you (no, not with you, to you). A hardcore RPG’er since his youngling days, when James moved away from his home friends, he actually went to random gamestores and played with strangers. As in, people he never even met. So when WotC announced a new D&D, James was elated. I received a frantic phone call at work – I have no idea why he used my work number – explaining all the initial details that had been released and the reactions from the community. My co-workers thought a customer was chewing me out for an invoicing discrepancy. I did not say anything to stop them from thinking that.
“It’s less like an MMO now!” he exclaimed.
When WoTC made the rules for D&D 4th Edition (the current version of the game), it was clear that they were trying to appeal to some of that World of Warcraft audience to get them off the mice and on the dice. Every class has multiple abilities with (what MMOers call) cooldowns – you get several weaker attacks that you can use at any time, a few stronger powers you can only use once per fight, and one or two big bombs that are only once-per-day (you have to go to sleep in-game before you can use them again). There’s almost no more “I hit him with my sword” – why just hit a goblin for plain old weapon damage when you can use an ability that will do the same amount, mark him, and slide him two squares? And as you level, you gain new attacks that do more damage and cause more debilitating effects – just like your Orc Warriors or Tauren Shamans or whatever other wacky WoW characters there are these days would.
Role-playing streamlined as well (for those who may have difficulty with creativity and fast talking). Now you can roll a d20 and add your modifiers to succeed in a “skill challenge.” So, for example, let’s say I wanted to get into a castle, but a guard is standing in my way and won’t let me through. The DM can declare that this was now a skill challenge, and he will (secretly) set a number that I have to outroll to succeed. I, along with my party, then use certain skills (like Intimidate or Bluff or Diplomacy) and use those as means of succeeding or failing instead of just, you know, convincing him. A certain number of successes means we get by; a certain number of failures means he tells us to go away. A little easier for those who don’t like funny voices, but a little less interesting for those of us who do.
But that’s gone now. Skill challenges are, at the moment, a thing of the past. D&D Next! Whoo! Just me, Audrey, my brother Alex, and our other friend Vegas, taking on DM James. I love the role-playing aspect of it, Audrey is excited to jump in and try everything out, Alex is all about the tactical combat, and Vegas… well, I’m actually little worried about Vegas. Not In-Game Vegas – he’s been playing D&D just as long as I have and is a fun guy to have around. I’m more worried that Out-of-Game Vegas will annoy Audrey.
Vegas is a big fan of those how-to-pick-up-girls guides. He let me borrow one once, and they’re pretty ridiculous; it’s basically a collection of common sense tips. Whoa, I should do things like make eye contact, actively listen, and express genuine interest? That can lead to taking a lady back to my place? Yes, please take my money for teaching me these well kept secrets!
Still, reading them has given him an extreme (almost delusional) confidence in approaching women, something the rest of us dorks can’t deny is admirable. Whenever he sees a girl he thinks is “hot,” he makes a big show of flipping an imaginary switch on the back of his head. That’s so we all know we’re not hanging out with Regular Vegas anymore – now he’s Playa’ Vegas.
Playa’ Vegas, though, is not exactly batting 1.000. We always make a big show of turning off that imaginary switch when he walks back to us, alone and phone number-less. Maybe next time, playa’.
But when I first introduced Audrey to everyone, I saw him give me a stupid grin and start to reach behind his head.
Maybe he’s just taking his Phillies hat off from behind, I thought. I’m pretty sure that’s how Europeans take baseball caps off.
Nope. Playa’ Vegas is waiting at the ready.
Game on, playa’.
Tomorrow: Pick your class
Rudy Basso, an accountant with an English degree, is living proof that your major really doesn’t matter that much. You can read his previous series, Farming Vader, starting here.