To the Tower
16 February 2022
The East Tower was the scariest, the one that only high level players would be able to assault. The Troll was there, and I was excited to see how my group would deal with him. I was the dungeon master, and preparing for our role play sessions was a place of power for me.
I’ve always found power in creating story. From a 6th grade stop-action film to a fully-realized musical film score, everything I have written has had a narrative behind it, a story to be told. It’s my way of creating the space I wish to inhabit. I would spend hours painting miniatures and designing terrain maps, creating character back stories while I did. A psychologist might say that this is a retreat, a way of creating power in my worlds where I could not find it on my own. But I think of it this way: it is a practice field for the real world.
Oh, I know what everyone says about role play games: geeky, nerdy, weird. But also, interactive storytelling, rich problem solving, purpose-driven action, diverse thinking, sociable, fun. In this sense, my abandonment of afternoon softball games and kitchen-cleaning chores was for the cause of creation. Playing roles to explore lateral thinking, collaborating with others, good-spirited competition . . . all these became the skills I use in my adult life.
Call of Cthulhu, Empire of the Petal Throne, Chivalry and Sorcery, Traveler, The Morrow Project, Diplomacy, Nuclear Risk, . . .
That my friends and I found solace in each other’s company when our hobby was slandered by satan worshipper rumors and James Egbert III scandals also demonstrates that there were very few people in those pre-internet days who understood us; so, for the longest time we turned to one another for challenge and inspiration. Then one day I ran across the work of Yu Kai-Chou who said something laughable: “Roleplay your life.”
We are the heroes of our own stories. We recruit allies to defeat obstacles at work, we find ways to outwit enemies who wish to thwart our ambitions. The boss battle might be a mortgage application but, put that way, it’s a helluva troll and congratulations on defeating him. And secretly, we’re all RPGing, anyway: we win points for our Starbucks cards, issue secret codes for Amazon discounts, “hack” our way through life’s tricks, even compete for a lair on a higher floor or for larger treasures/salaries. If I’m the nerd, then . . . .
“And secretly, we’re all RPGing, anyway: we win points for our Starbucks cards, issue secret codes for Amazon discounts.“
But here’s the biggest thing: what must it be like not to live your life as a story? I simply cannot imagine it. Do you see yourself as a film extra? A victim? Lost? Like the noblest characters I played in the past, I have both purpose and principles, and no matter what life designs for me, it will never be as devious or treacherous as my East Tower.
Insinuating itself beneath all we do . . .