Guys, this administration sucks. I wake up every day with an immense sense of dread, wondering what the man who claims to be President has done to push us further and further away from sanity. My stomach turns every time I hear “Did you see what he tweeted?” “Did you hear what he’s doing now?” Every day, I clench my teeth wondering which marginalized group he’s going to go after next. I donate money that I’d usually spend on food or bills to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, RAICES, or whichever Democratic representative I feel will actually try to stop this man (What up Kamala Harris, Chris Murphy, and Aunt Maxine!). I am so overwhelmed by everything that it MAKES ME WANT TO SCREAM AND TAKE A BASEBALL BAT AND GO LEMONADE ALL OVER EVERY SINGLE PERSON WHO IS ENABLING THIS MONSTER.
Okay. Sorry. Taking a breath.
Everyone talks about taking steps to self-care during times like this. But it’s hard to care about your own self when innocent children are being ripped away from their parents. It’s hard to care about yourself when people of color are being shot for no other reason than their skin color. I am a privileged, white, (albeit disabled) woman. Oftentimes, I feel like my self-care shouldn’t matter. I’m not going through the trauma of being separated from my family. I’m not getting called names in the street by angry, piece of shit racists. I’m not being denied basic human rights because of how I choose to sexually identify.
But, I do feel myself getting worn down. I feel myself getting exhausted from the constant barrage of bad news. And that’s when I see the importance of “self-care”. Because the minute I, or anyone else, gets too exhausted to care is when we lose the fight. That can’t happen. So, I’m going to share with you my absolute favorite, all time greatest self care method: I get together with 5 of my friends and we all sit around a table and pretend to live in a world of fantasy for 8 hours every weekend.
Dungeons and Dragons is saving my sanity in the wake of this administration.
About a year ago, my best friend, and top 5 favorite human of all time, Chris, told me he was going to start playing Dungeons and Dragons with another friend of ours (Cullen). He asked if I wanted to come too. “Um, okay, but I have no idea what I’m doing or how to play”.
Chris reassured me that no one else really knew what they were doing and that we’d all figure it out together. He told me that D&D is basically long form improv with dice and fighting. He explained the basic mechanics of the game to me which I will now attempt to explain to you:
You pick a race you want to play. Your choices range from elf, human, dwarf, halfling, tiefling (which are basically demons), orc etc. There are more but I feel some of you getting bored already so I’m going to move on.
Next, you pick a class which is basically your occupation or what you’re good at. Want to wield magic and cast spells to crush your enemies? Why not be a sorcerer! Want to worship a mythical God and in turn, have that God grant you blessings and powers? Cleric! Want to sneak around and murder people and steal things? Go forth and be a Rogue, my friend!
And then you get a bunch of bonuses and stats depending on your class and race. So let’s say you’re a super charming Bard. Your charisma stat will probably be insanely high. So you’re probably going to be very good at persuading people to help you and give you things. But, you may not be the strongest player on your team because you want charisma to be your highest score. So maybe you have a +10 to charisma but -1 to strength. So let’s say you’re trying to convince a guard to let you talk to a Prince in some big city. The Dungeon Master will say “Make a persuasion check”. So you roll your 20-sided dice and you get a 6. That’s okay because you have a +10 to Persuasion so a total of 16! It works and the guard lets you talk to the Prince! The higher the roll, the more chance you’ll be successful at whatever you’re attempting. On the flip side, let’s say you get mad while drinking in a tavern and decide to try and flip the table. The DM will have you make a strength check. You roll a 6 again but you have a -1 to strength. So…5. You do not flip the table.
Okay Okay Okay! I feel you getting bored again! Here’s a picture of Idris Elba being attractive:
Okay. So. Then, you create your character’s personality and backstory. One of my favorite parts of the game. In the year I’ve been playing D&D, I’ve created five different characters: a Halfling Rogue named Hythwandar, a Half-Elf Ranger named Khione, an Aasimar Barbarian named Winnie, a Halfling Druid named Echo, and a Halfling Ranger named Chase (my personal favorite of the five). Some of these characters I’ve only played for a one-shot game (Khione and Winnie) and then others I played (or am currently playing) for a few months (Echo and Chase).
So, you get to create this character and give them any sort of personality traits you want. And then you get to play them!!! As an actress, I’m in god damned heaven when I sit down and get to pretend to be Chase for six hours. But I feel like anyone could enjoy this aspect of D&D. For example, Chase doesn’t know about November 2016! Chase doesn’t have an electricity bill! Chase has a pet panther named Nox! Chase is LIVING MY DREAM. Is your dream to be a very confident human who hates authority but is also a master martial artist?? You can do that!!
And this is why Dungeons and Dragons is a great way to self-care. It’s extremely freeing to spend hours pretending to have completely different problems. And not only different problems, but different strengths. If Chase is sad, she can literally cast a spell called “Speak with Animals” and talk to her pet panther. Do you know what I would do to be able to talk with my dog and have him talk back when I’m sad?!! Do you know what I would do to have a pet PANTHER?! I would not speak to 90% of you ever again to get a pet panther. Don’t tempt me!!
Dungeons and Dragons is all about coming together with a group of people and doing whatever the hell you want. You could go around the “world” and simply try to help people. You can go around and simply just try and collect as much gold as possible and buy yourself so much cool shit.
D&D gives you such a sense of control and freedom when you might otherwise feel helpless in real life. One of my favorite things that happened during a game of ours is when we freed an entire population from enslavement. Our Tiefling Barbarian, Hell’ena (played by Roxy), discovered that an entire town was being held prisoner and traded as slaves. She informed the rest of us and do you know what we did? My Halfling Druid, Echo, freed the people as our Sorcerer and Bard (James and Chris, respectively) ABSOLUTELY OBLITERATED the bad guys. We left a town better than we found it. For a moment in our lives, good triumphed over evil! It felt fantastic even if it was just a moment of pretend in a fantasy world.
D&D also helps keep my personal demons at bay. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for reasons I won’t get into here. But since I started playing, I’ve noticed my demons have slightly quieted down. Not totally, but they don’t come around as often. I’ve taken some of my own issues and slightly given them to my characters: Echo, and more so, Chase. It kind of tricks my brain in a way. Instead of my brain saying “oh, *I* have this problem”, my brain says “Okay, Chase has this issue, how can she get through it?” And then I’m figuring out how to help Chase through it without overtly realizing that I’m helping myself through it.
And, to be honest, the greatest thing D&D has given me is a new family. I already considered Chris family, but I got a bonus of even more time with my friend. And I got to discover a new and hobby and game with him. I knew our Dungeon Master, Cullen, and his fiancée, Brooke, through friends and work. I’d see them at parties and gatherings but, until D&D, it never really went beyond that. Then we started playing and now they graciously let me spill things in their apartment every weekend. And, let’s be real, none of this would exist without Cullen. He puts together a story for us to play every weekend. He takes time to create a world for us to live in. I will be eternally grateful to him for gifting us this game. Unless he kills one of our characters, then ALL BETS ARE OFF, PAL. After we had been playing for about a month, Cullen invited his friends, James and Roxy, to play with us. I was SO nervous the first time I met them. I was so protective of our little game and outsiders made me want to wrap our game in a little bubble for no one to see. After the first night of playing with them, I remember Chris and I saying on the drive home “they were really nice!! I like them!!”. Now the six of us have played 34 sessions together. Roxy has become my D&D (sorority) sister. And James is one of my favorite people to interact with in game. He’s my buddy, Larry. We’ve all laughed together, cried together (my fault, sorry, Rox), and slayed monsters together. My life is infinitely richer having them in it.
I could honestly write 4,000 more words about what D&D means to me. I mean, I could write 2,000 words alone on how good it feels to buy new dice. And then I could write another 5,000 words on the show “Critical Role” and how that has changed my life. Critical Role is a show where a bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors play Dungeons and Dragons and the first campaign is all on YouTube if you have 400 hours to spare. We recently started streaming our games on Twitch if you’d like to check them out.
(This blog post was not at all meant to be a plug for our channel. To be honest, I forgot about it until about 40 words ago).
Anyway, I hope you have something keeping you sane during these frightening times. And if you don’t, I recommend getting together with a few friends, order some pizza, drink some beer, and pretend to fight a cloud giant for a few hours. You’ll feel better after you do.