What I reminisced about this week: TTRPG

Monday Eric sent me a text with a meme from a DnD group on Facebook (I think it was Facebook) with a cat sitting in front of a character sheet. The DM is saying that the adventurers have encountered a wizard, who has placed a chalice of some bubbling, smoking liquid on the table. And of course the cat says “I knock it over.”

Obviously I laughed about that for a half hour.

And then I got a little fixated on something: the character sheet in the picture. It was not a DnD character sheet. It was a White Wolf character sheet (or World of Darkness, I suppose – look, I can barely keep up).

This led to a day of hyper-fixating on WHAT FREAKING GAME IS THIS FROM.

It’s been YEARS, I mean over a decade, since I played any White Wolf game that wasn’t VtMB.

Things I remembered very vividly, right off the bat:

  • The different games had different borders – Vampire had a sort of gothic, wrought-iron looking border; Mage had a sort of geometric fade-out thing with the various symbols associated with the types of magic floating around; Werewolf was a relatively simple border with slashes through it.
  • Mr. Gone’s website was THE resource for character sheets
  • The character sheets and systems changed after I stopped playing
  • Every detail of some of my longest-played characters, playing their stories in my head like a movie,
  • Dr. Pepper
  • Faygo for a while there
  • The Combat Mix
  • Some other things that I’m not about to unpack for a bunch of people on the internet

Could not remember the specifics of this sheet, however. So I let it go.

For a couple of hours, during which I was still chugging the waters of Mnemosyne.

Obviously I love video games, and that love springs from my origins with pen, paper, and ten-sided dice. I love stories – hearing them, watching them, reading them, telling them – and it doesn’t get much better than building a story with friends.

What I liked (and still like) about the White Wolf World of Darkness games was that they always felt so character-driven to me. It was ridiculously easy to play a game with only one storyteller and one player or a very small group. The stakes always felt personal in some way, or if they weren’t, there was usually (with a good storyteller anyway) a very compelling, personal reason that your character was in the midst of whatever was happening.

DnD lacks some of that to me.

DnD also lacks the epic dice rolls. Listen, I like the simplicity of the D20. But there was something about putting points into my attributes and abilities and then rolling some crazy number of D10s that was just very satisfying. It’s like playing Warhammer and getting like 15 attacks and just chucking dice all over the table while laughing maniacally. It just feels good.

I spent years playing White Wolf, collecting lore about my characters, carefully taking notes, and organizing all of the matériel that came with lovingly playing those roles.

And it took me years before I was able to really start playing again. I play DnD now on Monday nights with a small group; we play online, and we have two people who are new to the game, and I find that the, let’s call it practice, that I got all those years ago comes in handy.

I still miss White Wolf sometimes. I still miss some of my old game group. But like anything else in life, I find that change is good, and while the mechanics may have changed, and the faces around the table, the core of it is still there, and that’s what matters.

It was an Exalted character sheet – a White Wolf system I never played, but boy was it fun to fall into the rabbit hole because of something so familiar.

And to solidify this as a week of thinkin’ ’bout old times, I later saw an internet friend post a picture of their OWN Exalted character sheet just before starting a game.

It all comes full circle. Play on, friends.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

This question.

I have nightmares about this question.

Not because I think the world will end in that time frame (although, ask me again after the election, maybe). And it’s not because I don’t imagine what I can do or that I don’t have ambition.

People change, though. Sometimes slowly, over time. Sometimes surprisingly fast.

When I make a plan, I need to stick to that plan. I don’t like deviation. I like routine, and if I know I have to break that routine, I have to know what I have to do. I break things down: get to point A, do X, then get to point B and do Y. Why do you think I like video games so much? That’s exactly what they do. NPC hands you quest, you follow the steps of the quest, experience points and reward!

Real life doesn’t respect the laws of video games.

Planning too far ahead invites too many unknown variables. You go from a linear equation to a matrix in no time at all. It invites error and failure – not the iterative kind, either, where you fail fast. Like the…I spent four years getting this degree, and it turns out I don’t want to be a book editor kind.

But it’s not just that.

5 years. That’s a lot of time to learn, to grow, to become. So you say “man, what do you think you’ll be doing in 5 years?”, and I start thinking of all of the things I could do in 5 years. Certifications earned, books written, games played, conferences attended, experiences. 5 years can hold a whole lot.

I become paralyzed by possibility.

The last time I was asked this question, it was framed with “what is the endgame of being a polymath?” That just seemed so contradictory to me.

What makes me a polymath is curiosity. If something interests me, then I dive in, and I will retain some of the knowledge I gain for longer than is strictly necessary. It’s why I’ll spout out random facts and find every tangent possible. (Did you know that cats most likely domesticated themselves? In Egypt, they learned to mimic the frequency of an infant crying in order to be fed. They don’t generally meow to communicate with one another. So cool!)

Most things don’t hold my interest for very long; I’m not wired to become fixated on one thing forever. I become fixated for a short time, absorb a ton of stuff, and then I move on. It’s not because I don’t WANT to be summarily consumed by a single passion.

My dad used to tell me that I go from 0 to 100 too fast, that people have a hard time keeping up with that. He’s right. And I’ve tried to tone it down. At least, you know, the manifestation of it. I don’t *fangirl* the way I used to. Externally. Inside, I might be screaming, jumping, and pointing, but on the outside, I am sarcastic and super chill.

So, anyway, I’ve been thinking about the question and where I see myself in 5 years, what it means to be a polymath, how the word endgame kind of freaks me out, what I want to be when I grow up, and stuff like that.

And I decided…I’m going to go have a tattoo consultation on Sunday. I haven’t gotten any ink in over 2 years, and I have a few ideas. So that’s pretty cool.