Years ago, a few more than I would like to admit, I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons by an ex of mine. I have always had a fixation with stories, I loved doing improv theatre and I was a massive nerd who loved fantasy. When the game was described to me as being a character in a story who can make decisions to influence where it goes, thinking fast to solve problems and of course solving fighting monsters I knew this would be a hobby I would adore.
The next evening we went over a friends, I created a character, with a little assistance, and we started playing. I only have vague memories of that game, I think I was a ranger, I cannot even remember what happened, I just know I was hooked.
Tabletop has a different feel to LARP and is often the gateway to LARP itself, but tabletop has a charm all of its own that keeps me playing to this day. In a LARP, you are being your character as much as you can with costume, make up and acting, set dressing, other characters and foam weapons help to build the atmosphere create immersion, with table top all you have a character sheet, someone describing something to you and maybe a sketch or a map, the rest, like LARP is filled in with your imagination, but there is so much more to fill in.
Role play is a game of imagination, and as scenarios are described you can visualise them like a book, but unlike a book you are helping to tell the story.
I love that it gives me a chance to think on my feet to work out a solution, bad guy too tough to fight, can we trap it? Caught by the guards, can we talk our way out? A lot of role-players I know are natural problem solvers, this ability to think fast and work under pressure to solve a problem often means that we relish the chance to do this in real life scenarios. The problems you get at work never seem as tough when the fate of the world is not at stake.
Another skill it helps you tune is teamwork, working out peoples strengths and weaknesses and how best to utilise these as a group helped me to be a better leader at work. It helped me and my team to achieve better and it also helped to teach me to understand that everyone thrives differently in situations, but there is always a place where they shine.
I also adored the games because of how social they were. I love parties, don’t get me wrong but, unless there is a lot of dancing, I eventually get bored with just taking about stuff, I need something to do. This was a great way for me to go out and be social, have a laugh, a chat eat junk food, but also be doing something. We could chat normally before hand, take a break and have a gossip, break character to tease someone. There was always a lot of laughing and the idea of the socially inept nerd, playing D&D with a bunch of friends not knowing how to talk to others made no sense to me. Here was a bunch of fun people, with a huge crowd of other friends, who would still hang out round a mates house and down beers with them, it would just be once a week we would be an elf fighting the darkness, or a rogue sneaking through dungeons.
That group didn’t run for very long, so I ended up finding the local game store and got to know the owner and joined his game, it was silly and fun and a great bonding time. 22 years later and we are still friends, we are on the other side of the world from each other but we still stay in touch.
Through D&D I found LARP, a local World of Darkness Vampire game. A whole new world of gaming was open to me. Werewolves, Fae, Mages and Vampires. Playing politics in Vampire, working magics as a witch and heading off into a land of Dreams as fae. Over the years I found more and more games, from playing an airship pilot to the captain of a fleet, from a mechanically enhanced super hero to a halfling thief that developed a phobia of spiders.
The joy of the games was not only the social side of things and the fun, or the thinking on your feet, but it was things it lead me too. New hobbies, lovely partners and friends, contacts with people in all walks of life, new interests and a great way to make friends when we left the country to move to New Zealand.
I have no doubt that my life is better thanks to that one conversation and gaining a new hobby.