Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I do enough role playing as it is

Wisconsin's most significant cultural export after Steve Meisner, the game of Dungeons & Dragons is having trouble staying relevant in the digital age. Or so I read. People want to use computer networks to rove the dungeons, it seems, and not mess around so much with the graph paper and the dodecahedrons.

The prosperity of the broader Lake Geneva region is at stake, and for that reason I hope Dungeons & Dragons pulls through. But you won't find me rolling for my charisma score anytime soon. I had my one experience with the game about 15 years ago, over the course of a week, and that was enough.

I was living with some D&D devotees at the time -- I was in college -- and their playing sessions intrigued me. Certainly I was familiar with the game. It figured prominently in the film E.T., and when I was a child I contemplated taking it up. (From the beginning, the game was denounced by various right-wing Christian groups, so I reasoned that it must have a lot going for it.) Still, I kept choosing sunshine and fresh air instead.

But I kept getting invitations to play from my housemates, especially the one who had no job and spent most of his time churning out various D&D-related maps and essays. So finally I relented. I decided it could be an act of sociological inquiry -- much like the first and only Phish concert I attended, years later.

And so we gathered around the dining room table one Friday evening. We had provisions (cigarettes, tequila), and we commenced by designing our characters. This I enjoyed. It seemed like an act of creativity, but largely amounted to filling out forms. I wish creativity were always so easy.

Then the game began. And then, 12 hours later, we were finished. It was light outside. I was pretty sure I hadn't enjoyed myself. I went to bed.

The next Friday my friends asked me to join them again. I said I wasn't willing to make that kind of time committment. "That last one was pretty long," they promised. We bought more cigarettes and tequila. We played once more.

Eight hours in, I was ready to stop. "Can I just kill myself?" I asked. No, they said. Eons later the game was done, and I renounced Dungeons & Dragons forever.

Since then I've stuck to gin rummy.

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