I enjoyed playing the fantasy role playing game (RPG) when I was a kid, and I was intrigued to learn actor Joe Manganiello of “True Blood” and “Magic Mike” fame did, as well. He still plays, in fact, now appearing on "Force Grey: Lost City of Omu," a D&D quest played on Twitch.tv. Manganiello was recently interviewed by “The Hollywood Reporter,” and he said one of the benefits of the pastime is it connects him to like-minded people: "You meet your own kind.”
What is D&D? The official website offers this overview: “The core of D&D is storytelling. You and your friends tell a story together, guiding your heroes through quests for treasure, battles with deadly foes, daring rescues, courtly intrigue, and much more.”
The folks I steered included Bob Zobar, an elf fighter, Martin Greenstone, a human cleric, and Ogie, a magic user who was also human. (I have no idea where I came up with these names.) The character that I most related to was Bob because, at the time, I thought of elves as diminutive and I’ve always been on the small side. But, as I later learned from “Lord of the Rings,” elves like can also be tall and graceful.
Our dungeon master (DM) was Ned, a fellow in his 20s who was hired by the rec center. Who is the DM? David M. Ewalt in “Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It” describes him/her as “author, director, and referee. A good DM must be creative, designing a world from scratch and spinning it into narrative. But they must also possess an ordered, logical mind, capable of recalling and understanding hundreds of pages worth of rules.”
Ned created an air of mystery and suspense by propping up his loose leaf binders and game manuals to create a wall between himself and the players. We never knew what he was planning and the challenges he might send our way. Ned also had a flare for the dramatic, donning the personas of the beings and creatures we encountered. He especially delighted in frustrating us by playing adversaries that were none too bright. (“What’s that? Who are you? Got any food?”)
One of our conquests involved successfully dispatching a demon in a homeowner’s basement. How it got there was never explained. Our characters were rewarded with treasure and experience points (more points = more abilities). Another time, we fled a castle after unsuccessfully battling its inhabitants, a horde of giants. They were big and strong, and we were far outnumbered. And, on another expedition, we explored a dungeon with several rooms. The entrance was in a restroom tavern, and it could only be seen once a member of our party ate the soup du jour. One of the folks we encountered in the subterranean world was a piano player who took requests. (Ned had an interesting sense of humor, eh?)
Manganiello and friends play D&D.
I completely agree with Manganiello, and some of what he said occurred to me about 10 years ago. That was when Ned and I reconnected through Facebook, and he asked: “Is this the same Eli whose life changed when he started playing D&D?” What an interesting thing to say! I thought about it, and I realized he was right. The game did alter my world in that it provided a social and creative outlet when I was still trying to figure out the type of people with whom I wanted to surround myself, as well as my own talents and interests.