05 March 2008

put the dice away before I take them away

I can't say I would know his name if it weren't for Futurama; I never really considered myself a nerd of sufficient caliber, one that could get down with the Dungeons & the Dragons on a regular basis. I'm more of a science fiction/science fantasy person than a true, straight-ahead fantasy person, anyway.

Doesn't mean I'm not saddened at the passing of one of the greatest nerds of this, or any age: Gary Gygax, known in parents' basements the world over as the creator of Dungeons & Dragons, which is still probably the most purely nerdy activity that any human being can engage in (with the possible exception of Star Wars-based sexual roleplay, but lacking much experience in either area, I can't really give the edge to one or another).

What's more pure than sitting around an unfurnished, subterranean space while you listen to the nerdiest one among you, the thickest-lensed of the glasses wearers, the Nutty Professor of Jerry Lewises, describe, in exquisite detail, the fire-dunes of some Purgatory-inspired alternate plane of existence, or the labyrinthine corridors underneath a pearlescent, perfect city that, as luck would have it, isn't? Rolling dice to figure out whether or not your chaotic-good half-elf ranger pierced the eye of the great oppressive capitalist dragon, bartering with a shopkeeper to save a few coins on a batch of healing potions, or hefting (metaphorically, of course) a sword and shield for the ages, the sort that would've made Mordred and his mother quake in their boots and run away crying...

Okay, so maybe I played some D&D. But until it made its way onto the computer, I wasn't ever much good at it. It's far easier to boot up Neverwinter Nights for half an hour and run around with my sorcerer and his elf paladin sidekick than it will ever be to get six or seven or eight people together for most of a day to play the game in person. I still get the giddy thrill of yelling "Magic Missile!" every single time my character casts that fantastically ridiculously named spell; I can still take out my piddling daily frustrations out on a legion of dipshit goblins or trolls.

The problem, though, is obvious: Neverwinter means me in front of my computer, by myself. Still in the basement, but no friends. No storytelling, no joking around, no banter with people that happily accept you for you; while they might mock you for misquoting the Bridge of Death scene from Holy Grail, you're not going to get items or, god forbid, a level docked from your character. You're still part of the group; hell, you might even be happy that your friends care enough about you to teach you the right way to perform a one-man version of a Monty Python routine. People that enjoy this type of social gathering, at least in middle/junior high/high school (when it really matters), seem to spend too much time alone as it is.

Maybe that's what Gary's true legacy's going to be, showing nerds that they can have a community. That it's okay to skip going to the homecoming dance for a Weird Al show, because you're having far more fun singing along to "The Saga Begins" than you'd ever have standing awkwardly off to the side while your more conventionally socially adept, less self-conscious friends enjoy themselves on the dance floor.

I'm still not down with LARPing, though. That shit weirds me out.

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