What’s the single most important lesson you’ve learned from DnD?
As I just said, I’ve taken a lot from DnD. My teaching style is profoundly influenced by my growth as a DM, which is how I can walk into a classroom where there are three of seven students present, only two of whom have done the homework, and turn their combined 11-minutes of presentation into a two-and-a-half-hour class, incorporating both a visit from my boss and one student’s decision to use a massive picture of “blue waffle” as part of her presentation.
If you don’t know blue waffle, don’t look up blue waffle. Just trust that it was something you don’t want to see–you know the internet, you know I know the internet, and you know you can trust me that you don’t want to see it. Of course, if you didn’t click the cut first, then you’ve suffered already; look before you leap in the future!
So while I could talk about a variety of things, and my chest burns with the hunger to do so, I’d say the primary lesson I learned from DnD is confident improvisation. In high school I was an extemporaneous speaker and monstrously good at it. I went to Nationals twice and genuinely stopped even trying to manage my trophy collection, and the key thing is this: I didn’t know shit. I was a smart kid, sure, but I was profoundly ignorant about huge swathes of international and domestic politics, history, and even geography. However, I had a big afro and a bright orange V-neck sweater and a voice that cracked, and I’d come into a round and talk about Godzilla for five solid minutes. I’d cram two minutes of vague references to Augusto Pinochet or Putin or the consequences of NATO involvement in Bosnia around the edges of my Godzilla story, or my Dracula story, or this one time I painted this weird-ass Bridge to Terabethia story about kids finding a mine as a way to explain resource exploitation in South America. I’d do these things, and I would destroy. My senior year I beat a dude who had newspapers in about a half-dozen foreign languages delivered to his house solely so he could stay fully abreast of current events; I beat him often, but in this case I beat him for a National tourney berth that he wanted so badly he ended up flying out to the tournament on his own dime just to…I dunno, breathe the tournament air I guess? That was my second year out there and I didn’t actually care about my performance, but confident improvisation!
I’ve obtained probably six times as many jobs from conversations I struck up with strangers than I’ve ever gained from sending in a resume or responding to a posting. I parlayed asking my wife if I could help her find a book into the thing where she’s my wife now. I once gave a toast to all 26 members of my graduate program at the pre-graduation dinner, unplanned, unprepared, and despite the fact that I really can’t fucking stand about a third of those people. It was sweet, and warm, and included nods to the guys in the other program and their faculty despite my not knowing any of them.
I get nervous around people, I’m constantly amazed that I still know how to make a car go from a place to another place (and yesterday drove out of the house with a dropcloth from painting still sitting on the back of my car and my side mirror popped flush with the window, because I’ve driven maybe eight times in the last fifteen months). I can’t change a tire, know how to cook roughly three entrees, and without Stacey organization and financial skills (and assistance, frankly) I wouldn’t even know how much my student loans are, let alone how I could pay them.
But you walk me into a room of strangers, give me a topic and maybe a cocktail, and I can fill my bellows-lungs and talk for twenty entertaining, warm, charming minutes. All because I picked up two books (minus a page or two) twenty-damn-years-ago and never looked back. Shit, I just dropped about 2700 words in the last two hours while playing video games, because I had prompts and felt like typing.
So thanks, DnD. You’ve made me the man I am today, the men I’ve been getting to this point, and whomever I end up being tomorrow. I love you.
Also, special thanks to David at The RPG Corner for inadvertently putting me on this blog-hop. It was a great piece of motivation for getting me writing semi-regularly, and I’ve had a lot of fun doing it. I’ll probably piggyback onto the next thing thanks to dude as well, though on my own timetable of course. Thanks also to D20 Dark Ages for doing this thing too, because otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this thing!