by Mike Shea on 3 August 2015
The older we get the harder it is for us to fall back into our dreams and really go there. As children we seem to be free to let our imaginations run wild. A cardboard box can become the palace from Frozen. Fingers and thumbs can become a pair of 1890 era Colt 45 revolvers. Beds can become spaceships soaring through the universe.
Then decades of institutionalization breaks it all down. We're left with mortgages, medical insurance concerns, and PTA meetings. Our imaginations have long left us. It was kid stuff.
For many of us, this is why we play D&D. It lets us tap back into the realm of make believe and share in deep stories of high adventure. And, unlike when we were kids, these stories can be incredibly vivid and detailed and intricate. As adults, the worlds of our imaginations can be incredible.
Our imaginations can build from the best of both worlds, as imaginative as a child's fantasty and as intricate as our years of experience living in the real world with real people.
If we only let them.
Even when we play D&D. Even when we run the games. We're still afraid to "go there". We write out our maps and we calculate our attack scores, but do we ever really put ourselves into the minds and bodies of our characters? Do we see the city of Hillsfar the way they do? Do we know what it's really like to let a volley of magic missiles soar from our fingers?
It's hard to let go. We've had years, often decades, of experiences that tell us that we need to grow up. We're afraid of getting made fun of. Even at a D&D game surrounded by our friends we might be too self conscious to really get into our characters and just let go of ourselves to fall into the story. It's scary.
With mechanics-heavy games it can be even harder. Many of us know and love Dungeons and Dragons but it has a lot of rules, a lot of character tweaks, and a lot of material that isn't helping us fall into the worlds we create between our ears. Traits, bonds, and flaws push us in the right direction but we really have to be willing to step out and understand our character, not just by which race will give us a +2 bonus to the right stat score, but from what our charater wants and how they will react to the world.
What does the world smell like? What does it feel like? How did that guard get all the scars on the leather straps of her armor? What does the roasted duck taste like at the Yawning Portal?
When we're playing D&D, we can give ourselves permission to fall away from the real world for a little while and let ourselves experience the world. We can close our own eyes and visualize what we're hearing from our DM's narrative. As a DM, we can build incredible and rich views of the world for our players as long as we're willing to fall into it ourselves.
We have the best virtual reality equipment in the world right in our heads. We were born with it. We used to love it as a child before we stuck it in a drawer just about the time we started to worry about our SAT scores. It's time to open that drawer, put it back on, and step through the door.
There are other worlds than these.
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