The whole torrid affair started way back when I was a youngster (Okay, I’m still a youngster. Just humour me). My brother and I begged our mom to buy us what I recollect as either a module of AD&D or the starter set for it. We had next to no idea what it was, we’d heard it was a game of imagination you can play with your friends. To be honest, it was the artwork on the cover that captured us, we needed it.
We got home and cracked it open, pre-made characters and a scenario spilled out and we were enraptured. I don’t remember us ever getting beyond that, it was super complicated for young kids like us and we didn’t have anyone to guide us through it so I was content just reading the backstory of the pre-made characters. One was a half-ogre or half-giant gladiator as I recall.
It was years from when we first discovered it until I played my first tabletop game.
In 2007 my best friend was working at a book store called Borders. I’d visit him pretty often to hang out while he was working and it was during one of these visits that we stumbled on D&D 4th Edition.
Immediately we were excited.
Both of us were humongous nerds but neither of us really had much experience with the game. We split the cost of the DM Guide and decided we needed to get a group together. Unfortunately it took a couple months or so to wrangle up people for a group but we got there. We had our session zero and everyone made their characters. Making your character is something magical, and Wizards certainly knows that. In 4th edition they were slightly more clinical about it but in the 5th edition guide they show you how to go about making your character and even give you an example of another character as you move along, a well-known and beloved character of the Forgotten Realms setting.
They know that a character you craft is one that will leave a mark. On both you and those at your table.
I love all of D&D so when I say that Session 0 is my favorite session I need you to know it’s not that I love it more than the rest necessarily, it’s that the uniqueness of the session is what draws me to it.
Everyone is learning together, some are new players who are delving in to this for the very first time with the help of the more veteran players. Everyone is learning what the DM has envisioned for the group, usually with some basic details about the campaign world and how your party may have met. The players are learning about each other’s characters, and learning about their own!
I love the feeling of open-eyed excitement that comes with embarking on a new campaign. The possibilities for your character and your party are before you. It’s the wide-view that you begin to lose as you dive in to the game.
As you get in to the campaign your vision narrows to the immediate. Your character, your party, the battle at hand, the drink at the tavern at the crossroads. It’s a different kind of feeling as the DM lays his story out before you and you add your own flair to it.
As you get deeper in to the campaign, you learn more about your character. Traits and backstory you’d never even thought of in session 0 begin to emerge and immerse you further. You learn more about your party and their stories and flaws as well.
You become attached.
You may have unexpected emotional sessions where your character has a heart-to-heart with another player’s. Or you’ll have to say goodbye as the campaign comes to a close.
Last weekend I spent my Saturday evening tuned in to a stream of a D&D game for a group called the “For Science Crew”. It was the swan song for their campaign. I’m not quite sure how long it had been going on but this was their last session and it was obvious how invested they were in their characters. As a group they wrapped up a few loose ends but the masterstroke was what happened after. The DM had epilogues prepared for each character. It sounded like the players each gave the DM an idea of what they wanted their character’s ride in to the sunset to look like and then she made it in to a loving farewell. Even though this was my first time catching their stream I was rapt. It was a four hour stream of emotion.
These are the things that draw me to D&D over everything else. I love killing the bad guy and getting loot, experience, and gold as much as everyone else but.. there is something about seeing the story unfold in front of you and watching your character take steps in to a wide world of possibility and become the hero (or villain if that’s your thing!) that is just unmatched by any other medium.
Nothing else out there allows you to completely live in the skin of a character of your own making like this.
Or to craft a story for others to romp through and delight you with their attachments, or infuriate you with their peccadillos.
D&D is pretty great.