I have a confession to make.
Every couple of weeks or so, a few of my male friends and I gather around in a tight circle, elbows almost touching, at our friend's house (we'll call him "Mongo"). Our special gatherings provide us with enormous pleasure. We giggle childishly. We slap each other with jocularity and tenderness. And sometimes we even whoop with delight. Sure, it may seem weird that grown men indulge in such activities, and of course we all feel some embarrassment after the fact... but the enjoyment of the afternoon's rendezvous is undeniable. I always look forward to more clandestine activities chez Mongo. And I certainly can't see myself giving them up any time soon. I am, of course, talking about Dungeons and Dragons, affectionately dubbed "D and D" by players across the globe.
For the uninitiated, D and D is a role-playing game that involves creating a variety of characters from different races (e.g., elf, gnome, human) and classes (e.g., wizard, ranger, barbarian). The Dungeon Master creates scenarios for the players, with different puzzles to solve and enemies to vanquish. As players fulfill various quests, they gain experience that allows them to improve their character's abilities.
For example, I play a character named Brother Harmonious Rain. He is five-foot-four, bald, green-eyed and a level five half-elf monk. His skills include calligraphy and escapism, and he is immune to magic sleep. His dexterity modifier is +4, making him a difficult target to hit, and his strength modifier is +2, so he packs a punch, especially when he uses his Stunning Attack. I even have an eight-page biography which describes his life in detail, if you'd care to see it. I thought not.
Anyway, you have probably concluded that D and D is a game only played by geeks. "Geeks," you think, "who like to do nothing else but sit on their asses and talk about fairies and magic missiles all day. Geeks who drink a lot of beer, stuff themselves with junk food, crack cheesy jokes and spend their Sunday using their limited imaginations. Geeks who would rather live in a fantasy world as fictional characters with superhuman abilities than face the world outside as the meek people they really are."
If you were to think this, you would be right on every count. And that's why D and D is so much fun.
You get drunk. You eat whatever you want. You create an alter ego capable of extraordinary, but physically impossible feats. You live vicariously through your formidable creation, and with each victory, you become stronger, just like your character. The people you meet and the problems thrown at you by the Dungeon Master allow you to gain insight into how you think. You are rewarded more for getting out of difficult situations than for slashing your way through hordes of baddies.
There's no one on earth who wouldn't love the chance to live another life, a life outside our worldly conventions and limitations. I immerse myself in the geography of our synthetic realm, and we always have a blast exploring new puzzles and enemies. Once the adventure is over, we can't wait until the next begins. But never do we lose contact with the real world; hell, that's where all the beer is.
So this is a message to all the people who need an escape. Get some friends, buy yourself a Players' Handbook and DM Guide, pick up some cheap dice and let the adventure begin. Not simply because it is less destructive and expensive than other hobbies. Not just because it pays for the salaries of thousands of liquor and potato chip industry workers. And not just because it's one of the few games that allows anyone, regardless of gender or educational level or racial background, to play. I want you all to come out of the closet, to rise out of the basement of MacEwan Hall and play out in the open, where all can learn to let their imaginations run free and their inhibitions fall away.
Yes, D and D is for geeks, but who cares? After all, geeks shall inherit the earth. And once they're gathered around the celestial table in the afterlife, unleashing flaming scorchers and ki strikes, you'll wish you'd invested in the game.