On the surface, pretending to be someone else for four hours a week may not seem like an activity that you could participate in that would help you connect with yourself better. However, the similarities and differences between character and player can help you define yourself. I have had a lot of issues over the years with finding myself. With finding a way to state who I am clearly. D&D provided a way for me to explore who I am.
I started playing D&D when I was six years old. My father (a grognard) introduced me to the game with second edition intermingled with AD&D. At that age, it was really just closer to make believe. Just pretend. It also means that I’m probably the only modern D&D player I know who knows what the hell a THAC0 is. I played with my dad for another two or three years before things started to get hard in my family.
The oil crisis hit, and my dad was working up north at the time. He got laid off. My family used to sit pretty comfortably, but before long, we had to sell the house and move into a trailer, where we still live. My dad ended up depressed and he put on more weight. An issue he had been struggling with for a long time at this point. I’m talking since he was ten. I remembered at this point how happy my dad was when we were playing that game, and I brought it up again, about two years after we had moved. We went to the warehouse within the week and rounded up the old books.
At this point, the game represented a world where I had power. Where I had control over something; felt like I was progressing in some way. It was around this time in my life where I was really starting to struggle academically. I had to retake my fifth grade math course right before we moved simply because I didn’t do any of the work. I wasn’t very social either.
My sixth grade year was when I started to show promise with something - writing. I had such a flare for making up worlds and scenarios. Looking back, I know the reason was my experience with the fantastical worlds of D&D. However at the time it was chalked up to an active imagination and the fact that I read a lot, and quickly. This, quite obviously, is still a hobby of mine to this day. Another thing that sparked around the time of this reintroduction of the game into my life was my newfound love for medieval history and historical martial arts.
The year afterward, I started to play with people other than just my father. His depression was starting to get a little bit better because it had been diagnosed and he was on medication for it. He was still working minor jobs while my mother continued working two jobs. I was playing with two close friends of mine in particular, who I’ll call E and A. E was a little bit of a pain in the ass and can be a rules lawyer sometimes, but his unique characters usually means he’s got something to add to the group. A was twice as shy as I was, but he was incredibly creative. His characters were killer. My father usually DM’d for us when he had the time.
Academically I started to flourish. I saw my work as a way to increase my stats and gain new proficiencies. My life was pretty much defined by games and pretend. I was still writing and rocking a 90% or more in my english classes. However something wasn’t quite right during all this time. It all felt off. I felt these characters I was playing were more fleshed out than I was. More real than me. I had made them, yet they had a hundred things more going for them than me. As absurd as it sounds, I got jealous of my characters and for awhile I didn’t want to touch the game.
This marks a bit of a dry spell when it comes to gaming in my life and bit of a very unique time developmentally for me. I started looking around myself and seeing adventure in a different light. Adventure wasn’t just something that could happen for and shape my characters, it could happen for me and change me. I became outgoing. I wanted to do and try as much as I could, and I still do to this day. I like to refer to this point in my life as “The Great Exploration” and I feel that it is an integral part of every person development.
It took awhile of me messing around but I started to settle again close to the begining of highschool. Not that I wasn’t still ready to have fun, but I looked at myself and knew that I was in fact a character, and I had to develop my skills.
It was at the beginning of this year where I started to fall in love with D&D all over again, and I created a character I still play to this day with my dad - Aramil “Lupus” Lupintine. Lupus was just supposed to be a kinda strong one shot character. He started at level 5 with a little bit of backstory and a few magic items. But above all he had personality in spades. He was charming, dashing, and clever and he knew it. This man exuded confidence and made sure everyone was aware of this. As I played Lupus, I noticed that I felt more at home pretending to be him than actually being myself. Instead of scaring me off, I took this into consideration and started to try and act more like him. (At least his better qualities, I didn’t want to become a douchebag and a show off.)
It’s crucial to note that this was a character only I and my dad played. It was a one on one campaign. My father told me he was seeing Lupus in me more and more and that it’s not really a bad thing. It’s also worth noting that this was around the time I started writing for this site. My passion for the game at this point was unparalleled. I can still find exact pages in the 5e books without even having to check because of how much time I spent pouring over those books for me and my friends.
I’m a completely different person now in my life. I’ve seen a lot of change in a very short period of time, some good, some bad. But a lot of the better stuff was thanks to D&D and it allowing me to explore myself in a unique, safe way.
To this day, every now and then, when things get tough I look myself in the mirror and ask, what would Lupus do?
The answer is more often than not, “insult someone in a position of power, walk away scott free and take a piss in the shrubbery on the way out.” However when that isn’t an option, the answer is “just keep fighting.” Which is what I think we should all take out of our D&D characters. When faced with insurmountable odds, our adventurers don’t sit back and say “Well… shit.” They spit in the face of adversity, stomp on its foot and then beat the crap out of it while it’s still reeling. Sometimes you need to push through in the way best for you. That’s why there’s different classes, because we all have different plans for how to win. That’s the story of every D&D character, and that’s the story of everyone who is trying to make a place for themselves in this world.
Jarod Lalonde is a young roleplayer and writer whose passion for both lead him here. He’s often sarcastic and has a +5 to insult. Dungeons and Dragons is his favorite platform. Although he’s not quite sure if it’s Cthulhu whispering to him in the small hours of the night, or just persistent flashbacks to the Far Realm.
Picture Reference: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/303993043583155351/
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.