“In the distance, you see a looming figure emerge from the sandstorm: a minotaur, easily ten feet tall, riding atop a monstrous black rhino. He’s charging right at you.”
It was finally happening. What started as a simple whodunit mystery intended only to span a few sessions quickly grew into a conflict that took almost a year to resolve, and now, at long last, the players were face to face with the Big Bad I had been teasing for months. I brought the lights down, turned up the music, and let loose the gravelly roar I had been practicing for weeks:
“I am Woebringer, master of a thousand beasts! I will tear the armor from your flesh, and hang it as a trophy in my halls… and your weapons, I will give to my slaves!”
I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons in earnest for ten years; starting in high school and trying to convince literally every friend group I’ve orbited into to play ever since. However despite my enthusiasm, not everyone I know is as gung-ho to play as I am. It took a while to find enough people to play with at Ellation; my team members didn’t have much interest, so I reached out to other branches of the company, until finally we had six players. Now I was meeting people from all over the company, people who I would otherwise have never gotten to know.
We had players of all skill levels, some who provided me with five page backstories about their character upon the first session, some who were modeled after pop culture figures, and some who didn’t have much more definition than a name. But it wasn’t the sorcerers and druids in our party that made our game so magical.
To me, D&D isn’t just about slaying dragons and solving riddles, it’s about creating a world together, and exploring facets of yourself in a collaborative space. Characters are intrinsically a reflection of oneself; be they an exaggerated self-caricature, or a completely original character, they are the avatars we choose to step into another world as. As GM, it was true for me as well; the world was a reflection of myself, and I was letting the players in.
When most people imagine the tabletop fantasy, I think they think of Lord of the Rings, but the reality is so much better than that. The randomness of the dice and improvisational nature of the game create awkward moments and clumsy characters; it forces you to be more creative because not everything goes as cleanly as you would expect. Nothing goes according to plan, making for a truly authentic experience.
So after months of preamble, and weeks of prep, I shut my eyes and let loose that roar, and when I finally looked up to see the reaction, the players were cheering, just as invested as I was in the story we were creating together. And a month or so later, they surprised me with memory of their favorite session:
If you’ve never played a tabletop role playing game before, I heartily encourage you to try it at least once. It’s because of these games that I’ve made lifelong friends with whom I share meaningful memories of adventures past. Together we’ve created epic stories that are better than any Marvel movie, a secret mythology for us to treasure.
So close your eyes and roar. You never know what might happen.
Sam Wolfe is an Ellation employee. The D&D group still plays in the office after work on Mondays every week. The header image for this post is a piece of fanart of the character Woebringer by Yutaka Toguchi. You can find Toguchi’s other artwork here.