Our guest blogger this month is Dave Atkinson. Dave is a children's author and writer, along with many other roles, including communications officer, broadcaster, husband, father and Dungeon Master. You can check out his Wereduck Trilogy - Wereduck, Cure For Wereduck and The Wereduck Code at Nimbus Publishing or locally in Charlottetown at Bookmark.
By Dave Atkinson
The Christmas I was 12, I was pretty sure I knew what the last present under the tree was. It was last, because I left it for last. By shape and weight, I could tell it was a board game. I didn’t really like board games.
I unwrapped it and found a black box with a red dragon on it. I set it aside and forgot about it.
The game I got. Now lovingly called "the black box" by the D&D community.
I found it a few days later after I’d gotten bored with the rest of my new stuff. I read the title. Dungeons & Dragons. It sounded familiar. I opened it and started reading.
It was… amazing. A game where I could pretend to be anything I wanted. A sneaky thief. A brawny knight. A brilliant mage.
I drew maps. I built characters. I dreamed of epic worlds. I had finally found My Thing.
Only… no one would play with me.
I spent hundreds of hours in my teenage years with my D&D games, characters, and books, but I don’t think I ever played. I eventually put it aside. Not much use putting energy into a game for just one person.
Twenty years later, as my kids and I sat on the back porch making wooden swords, I remembered D&D.
“Hey, you guys want to play a game?”
Of course they did.
I stopped in at our local game shop and picked up a set of dice. I still had my old books, but they were too advanced for my little ones. So I hobbled together my own set of simplified rules and we started to play.
I sat behind my cardboard screen with a notepad and my dice. I set out the world and villains for the kids to interact with. We never let the rules get in the way of a good time. If Alice’s fairy wanted to have the magic ability to grow 20 times her normal size to become Jumbo Shrimp, so be it.
We’d been playing a few hours one Sunday afternoon when my wife asked if anyone needed anything.
“You know what’d be great?” I said. My throat was dry and raspy from voicing the villain: an evil wizard named Kybo. “I’d love a tea.”
D&D set up, including a cup of Cream Earl Grey
Tea has been a mainstay of my game ever since.
As the years went by, our game became more sophisticated. We bought the newest books and set aside my home-made rules. I ran a campaign for my kids and their friends that met every Wednesday evening for almost three years.
I’ve loved every minute of it.
My girls have strayed from the table, but my son is still knee-deep in D&D. He plays in three games a week, including my game.
We still meet on Wednesdays. It’s me, Henry, and a gang of folks in their 20s and 30s.
Over the years, the tools I keep behind my Dungeon Master screen have become pretty consistent. I’ve got my rule books. I’ve got my notebook. I’ve got my dice. I’ve got my pencil.
And I’ve got my cup of tea.
I’ve played hundreds of hours of D&D over the years. I often wonder about how many books I could have written using the time and creativity I’ve poured into that game. Probably more than a few. But I doubt I would have had nearly as much fun.
Tea fuels my game, but it’s also made its way into the game itself. Every new town has a new pub or inn where the adventurers can stop for a mug of ale (and maybe a bar brawl or two). But when I want to convey safety or a sense of home, I put a pot of tea into the story.
Even misfit adventurers deserve a rest every now and again.