I must start with a confession: this holiday I was initiated into the world of D&D.
To be even more honest (gosh, this is painful!), I did dabble with it when I was a teenager, bullying my way into a game that my cousin and his friend were playing. It was probably a happy couple of hours, although my main memory is of being told in no uncertain terms that it wasn’t a game you could just come in and play; it took a long time, days indeed. Still, I played, and only for that wet Saturday afternoon.
But this holiday I really, truly played it. Just a beginner’s game, along with a bunch of other beginners and with my husband taking on the role of Dungeon Master.
For the uninitiated, D&D is Dungeons and Dragons: the game of teenage geeks (boys) in my childhood. It turns out that (a) my husband was one and (b) my son is becoming one. My evidence for these weaknesses is that when my son heard of D&D he looked it up, found some instructions and sent them to the printer. Unfortunately, it was 87 pages long, plus appendices of similar length. A week later the printer spewed out the final sheets. Thus evidence of my son’s interest, and my husband’s tolerance as he kept changing the ink cartridges and topping up the paper. (I would have switched the whole thing off!)
But this last week we holidayed with friends who have children of a similar age to mine, and it turned out that they too were interested in trying D&D. So a starter pack was purchased and, on a wet day (there were plenty of those!) we landed in a cafe and commenced our adventure.
(And yes, a motley collection of six adventurers + DM caused much hilarity among the other customers.)
Here is the link to writing. The first thing we did was to take a sheet of A4 and create our alter-ego. We could be human (where’s the fun in that?), halflings (or hobbits, I understand), dwarves or elves. There are probably other options, but we were a select bunch. I was the sole dwarf. What I enjoyed was describing what I was like (short), what I liked doing (hitting things), what my aim was (revenge on the people who had destroyed my father’s mine), and what my weakness was (OCD). It turns out that when I was allowed to go shopping with my Gold Pieces I was able to buy soap! I spent a lot of time washing green goblin goop from my hands after I had smashed them to death with my Great Axe.
To date I haven’t written a novel, although ideas bubble up every so often. Writing about my own experiences in my Zambian memoirs has the ease of the characters being already created: I can picture them in my mind, know their quirks and characteristics. But in a novel, everyone is made up. There can be a lengthy process describing their looks, their life-history, their abilities and failings. For a multitude of people in the story, this takes time to create.
D&D gave me the chance to create a new persona with simple boxes to complete, ensuring a motivated character with flaws. Really: Kathra Ironfist was a well-rounded dwarf (in more ways than one) that defended her heritage and stood by her friends.
My only problem is that none of my ideas for a novel involve a dwarf with OCD. Perhaps I need to re-think my writing future…