Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Come With Me And We'll Be in a World of Pure Imagination

I've officially been playing D&D for a decade now. I've spent two and a half years running my first campaign, a two-and-a-half-year-long learning experience that pretty much hooked me from day one. After a hiatus, the next campaign likewise lasted 2.5 years, and subsequent campaigns lasted until they had to end for one reason or another.

You can't spend that long with a hobby like that without examining what it is about that hobby that keeps you interested. I mean, I've been playing D&D for 1/3 of my life now. How many other hobbies have I maintained for this long? And with such fervor? Almost nothing.

The title of this post is significant: lyrics to the song "Pure Imagination" from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, originally sung by Gene Wilder. There's a lot to love about that song, and it perfectly describes the appeal of Dungeons & Dragons. Heh, in fact, in the scene in which the song is sung (you can view it in that link) Wonka seems very much like a Dungeon Master: allowing these other people into a world of his creation, wrought by his hard work and vision. The others rush about, practically tearing the place apart. They don't necessarily use the things Wonka created in the way he intended them to be used, but that's the way it goes; he helps a few out, but generally lets them do what they want and enjoy the excess.

In the world of D&D, the characters you play are destined to have a huge impact on the world. In a well-run game, the effects of the actions of the players are apparent: the players know they're making an impact. For many people, when when they hear the word "paradise" they think or tropical beaches or places where they can live a life of luxury. D&D is a different sort of paradise: not the languishing, care-free world of a cloudy heaver, but rather like Avalon or Valhalla, a place where the mighty or influential can continue to test themselves. It's a paradise in which are more important than you seem to be in real life.

When I'm a dungeon master I don't create worlds that I think are better than our current one, and when I play a character I don't create perfect people. They're designed with flaws, because those are the things that are most interesting to explore. D&D provides an opportunity to analyze problems we otherwise may never experience. I think that the imagination we use to explore these situations helps us to grow as people.

Further, when we play characters, it's a great opportunity to try out new personality types. Not everyone can separate themselves from their characters, but I'm totally willing to try on new personalities to see how they fit within the context of our collective imaginations. Sometimes I find things that really work, and those traits might find their way into my true personality.

More than anything, though, D&D allows me to get to know the people I play with in a way I never would otherwise. How often do you really get the chance to sit down with a few good friends and, basically, talk to each other for hours on end? As an adult, it's a really rare thing. Most of the time I
work and go home, work and go home, with very little time spend getting to know other people. With an activity like D&D, I get to see my friends regularly and remember why I like them so much in the first place. That's the most magical part of the game.

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