Monday, February 09, 2015

Dungeons & Daddy Issues

What happens in the dark? Not physically, but mentally. What monstrous realities do we imagine into the reflectionless moments of the world, like those of basements without electricity? In order to find out, let's add a couple of torches, and observe the whispers between the shadows. This is how every proper game of D&D should be played. That's how we used to do it, at least.

We did it hardcore: we used continuously refined house rules, went into endless negotiations with the DM in order to exercise the limits of possibilities that the multiverses of role-playing bring, listened to relevant ambient epic stoner, and quite often got lost between the boundaries of whatever is between our everyday personae and fantasy-flesh alter egos. (All this in a basement filled with dripping stalactites/stalagmites, of course.) Yes, we did it to pass the time and have fun. It's just a peculiar definition of fun. We did it to exercise our imagination and see how far we can go, when we bear the divine power of metamorphosis to take on roles of entities in worlds with yet undreamed qualities. How would we actually act if we could read minds? Or slit throats one after another in order to increase our reputation? If we lived among a gene pool of self-aware creatures so vast that with practically every adventure we could meet previously unseen races? What would our philosophy be; and which factually existing gods would we bow to? Would we decide against pursuing magic? And why?

As it turns out, leaving our own unconscious tendencies out of the picture is easier imagined than actually done. I had several characters throughout the years, of whom I'll mention the two I actually designed completely on my own. These characters lived, and they eventually died or went on quests to which our all-seeing powers had no interest in paying attention. When one of these two things happen, a player simply creates a new being to follow the rest of the adventuring party, who are destined to be played with by Their actual gods.

Some personality traits, teaks and interests might appear to be familiar throughout our reincarnations. What I'm saying is that it happened to me. Let me introduce You to Tukur and Skie. They both have daddy issues.

dungeons and dragons characters
Tukur Storm & Skie Lian

I aim to make this post as contextually independent from the world of D&D as possible, for the sake of any readers who might have no familiarity with its role-playing systems. So, a bit of an explanation in terms which do not originate from the rule books: Tukur is what You could call a weretiger, while Skie is half-dragon. One of the parents of each is not a human. You may have guessed it already that I'm talking about Their fathers.

They feel abandoned and betrayed by Their padres. While not actually hating Their direct male ancestors, They undoubtedly have certain issues revolving around these figures. Both fathers left the mothers of the characters (Skie's dad killed the mother in the process; while the mother of Tukur died by actions caused indirectly by the existence of Her husband). They remain inaccessible to any kind of satisfying retribution. Both Tukur and Skie roam throughout Their own lives in search of a way to be better men (in Their own respective ways, since one of Them is evil), but not without a constant pressure in the back of Their minds that, in some incommunicable way, They were betrayed by Their creator÷. Since both characters are male, They learned the secrets of the club from many, including non-biological fatherly figures. To finalize, Their heritage is freedom and longing after a unique and exotic figure, which they reject and want to disclose at the same time. They feel cursed.

This is important because this invented abstraction of my own unconscious reality rather makes sense after some self-analysis. Far from that my father is a monster of any kind, but He is somewhat of an unrealized genius, an intellectual freak. Him being my dad only adds to my perception about His extravagant nature. For years now, I tend to unlock the secrets of the modeling I received from my parents. I got the useful and admirable as well as the obstructive and rotten habits, including the gray zones of behavior carved into me. Just like we all did. So, I'm trying not to let the legacy of what He represents hit me the same way he got struck by His own "karma". Just the fact that I like role-playing shows that accepting reality for me at times represents a challenge. I'm doing my best to turn my "curse" into a blessing. Facing reality, whatever that may mean in varied contexts, is a way to stop my life being consumed by my sometimes uncompromising view of the world.

Let's not go into full depth here. What I described is only one of the many insights and analogies I gained from reflecting on our D&D adventures. I'll let You imagine the rest as You wish. ;) The therapeutic and educational significance of role-playing board games is definitely something to be considered beyond pure gaming. This is not a novel idea. Games provide a way to observe and even develop our personality constructs while having fun and creative pass-time with our friends. For those scared away by the complexity of the rules, there is a huge base of role-playing systems out there (my recent favorite being Numenera), which can provide a more casual experience. Recommended for all self-seekers out there.

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