I began Dungeons & Dragons at a young age. I was six. My older brother, Steve, at eight, wanted to follow in the steps of our babysitter, Chris Lock's, footsteps as he regaled us with stories of his campaigns. This was D & D. No "Advanced." No form 3 or 4. No Call of Cthulu or Star Wars or any other role playing game. Just bare bones D & D. The Dungeon Master--usually my brother--didn't use modules (pre set up adventures) because as we understood it, only lazy and non advanced people did that.
We were far enough back that the media touted D & D as a devil game that caused the players to commit suicide or walk through sewers to San Juan. Lucky for us, our parents saw this as the bull that it was.
Later, we advanced to different generations of D & D and different games with different players as we got to junior high and high school and we played late into the night with Mountain Dew, Nachos, Pizza, and painted figurines as our friends.
However, it started with us at a table with some dice, some books, a DM screen, and a shitload of imagination.
Here is the point I am trying to make: Role playing is a primer for writing or acting. Player characters scribble all over their sheets. The long character histories, secrets, quirks almost eclipse those die rolled scores. The DM abandons all modules and suggested worlds to create a universe and multiple stories for characters to follow.
So, wait, let's run that again. Player characters have just created characters. They will make those characters face all sorts of twists, turns and challenges while both staying true to themselves and co-operating with the other characters, even the really annoying ones. Didn't we just create a character in a book?
The DM creates a world. Flip the words, and the DM world builds. The DM sets up scenarios for us to go through. So characters and DM are both forging an impromptu plot.
Our role playing was an oral medium--on line wasn't a blip on our radar. So everyone thinks on their feet. It is imagination impromptu and a lot harder than it sounds if you are really working your characters and worlds. I'm focusing on writing, because that is what we do here, but my brother acts, and so does our friend Todd Babcock. Both have said the creation of character and impromptu role play formed some of the first basis in their acting.
Of course, there were some setbacks. Especially starting at six and always playing with your older brother and older friends. I was always a priest. Eventually druids came along and I got the excitement of having a slightly different role that involved collecting animals, as any little girl would love. My brother is fond of, in prime social occasions, of telling how I once only agreed to play with him if I was allowed to have a unicorn ostrich that was black with a gold stripe down it. Don't you love older brothers? He never mentions he was strong arming a seven-year-old to play.
But I continued with druids. All the way to high school. Did I love druids that much? Eh. They weren't bad, exactly. They were more interesting than a plan old priest. So why did I keep with it?
Sean: "My thief's name is Rathbone."
Steve (as DM): "And Matt is a--"
Me, spinning a twelve sided die (Steve could even spin a four sider): My drow elf assassin is named Eldroush."
Matt: "You can't play an assassin."
Sean: "Come on, Bets. We need healing spells."
Me (sinking into my seat): My woodland elf druid is named Eldroush."
This conversation, and about a thousand permutations of it framed my coming-of-age. But hey. I still played that druid in style.
I'm going to tell you something and you aren't going to believe it: My brother and his friends were the second most popular clique in high school. Yeah. It's true. People even knew they role played. It was the nineties. Weird things happened. I was always just that weird girl, anyway. But I got to impress the hell out of the boys in my classes that started role playing when they were eleven or twelve. "Oh, D & D. Yeah. I've played for six years. You really use modules? Lame."
Let's recap: Games built almost entirely on imagination kick ass. Role playing is tailor made to scaffold you into creating complex characters and original worlds. I highly suggest buying yourself a few manuals and getting to it. Try to keep it as simple as possible. Old school. As few rules and as non-specific a world as you can get. That leaves you more room to create. Start a campaign with your writing group.
I promise you will not end up living in your mothers' basement. Steve lives in Tribecca with his fiancé Evette Rios and has produced an indie movie "Tattoo: A Love Story." Todd Babcock is an actor in L.A. Chris Lock, in his usual mysterious ways, is currently wandering the U.S.
I may have been a druid in a former life.
Do not allow your older sibling to tell you you have to be a priest.
You will not be possessed by the devil. Probably not, anyway.