I have this friend we’ll call Nate.
Nate is a successful attorney who owns a home with a view of Puget Sound, has a cute girlfriend, two dogs, and volunteers for the organization Big Brothers Big Sisters. But Nate keeps a dark, ugly secret. He’s been playing D&D for years.
He’s the Dungeon Master for a group of six. He’s got more dice than all the storage rooms on the Vegas strip. His books go back to 1st edition. He still finds himself humming the theme song from the old D&D cartoon series. Yet no one, outside his group of six, knows he plays Dungeons & Dragons.
I know this about Nate only because he knows where I work and apparently feels safe divulging his secret to me. But Nate will not talk about D&D in public. If you call to ask him something about D&D and he is not alone, he will pretend you are a telemarketer and hang up on you. He keeps his D&D paraphernalia in a locked, fireproof filing cabinet. He keeps the key to said cabinet locked in another cabinet.
You might assume Nate’s non-D&D friends are reminiscent of the meathead jocks portrayed in a John Hughes movies from the ’80s. Will they give him a wedgie and scalpful of noogies if they find out his secret? Unlikely. His friends skip work to wait in line for The Dark Knight tickets. They debate (in the most gentlemanly and nonsexist way possible) the hotness factors of the women on Battlestar Galactica. They have been known to spend entire weekends “on tour” with their Rock Band. Yet, at the risk of being “exposed,” Nate once flipped an entire table over during his D&D game, sending minis, pencils and dungeon tiles soaring across his dining room and commanded everyone to “destroy the evidence!” because he thought he heard a car in the driveway.
“I don’t want anyone to know, okay?” he tells me.
Okay, I guess. But I have to ask. Which group looks weirder — the ones sitting around the dining room table talking or the ones standing on their sofas, playing plastic mini instruments, and pretending to be in Motorhead?
I know my view is skewed as I spend the bulk of my day with people who talk about, think about, and play D&D on a regular basis. At my office, people think you’re weird if don’t play D&D.
Didn’t Harry Potter make fantasy palatable to everyone? Are we not evolved enough as a society to concede Dungeons & Dragons is a perfectly acceptable hobby?
“Absolutely not!” Nate answers. “And if you’re writing about this, don’t forget I can and will sue you.”
If Nate is right, then more “Nates” are exactly what this hobby needs. Plenty of good people like Nate play D&D everyday. Tax paying, smart, socially conscious, well-mannered people! Why should what they do in their well-deserved spare time cause them embarrassment?
“What do you think will happen if someone found out you play D&D?” I asked Nate.
First he tells me to lower my voice. Then he admits, “They’ll treat me different. D&D is not a socially acceptable hobby.”
“Cannibalism, shooting cats with BB guns, and public urination are not socially acceptable,” I argued. “D&D is a game.”
But it was no use. Nate has actually broken out in hives over someone asking what he liked to do for fun. This saddens me, as Nate can’t be the only one out there experiencing game shame. But if he’s not willing to represent D&D players, someone else has to. Someone like me. That’s right. Me!
What would happen if I did all my normal activities and frequented my usual haunts while bringing my not-so-secret pastime to the people? Unlock your character sheets and dice, Nates of the world! Quit hiding in your bunkers of self-imposed shame! I will make the world a safer place for you!
I gathered up all the D&D gear I could find around the office and prepared to spend the next month literally wearing my hobby on my sleeve.
We had tons of shirts around the office, so I even sent a couple home to my parents.
“Oh honey,” Mom said, calling to thank me. “Do you really wear this? Outside?”
“I’m wearing it right now!” I told her. “I’m bringing D&D to the masses!”
This disturbs Judy a great deal, since she likes to believe I tromp around Seattle in Chanel suits and loafers.
“Couldn’t you just hand out those cute little pink dice?”
“Dragons aren’t supposed to be cute, Mom,” I tell her.
“Puff was cute,” she counters, and I concede. Puff was pretty adorable.
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