An Introduction To Role Playing Games That Led To A Passion
It was springtime, the air was warm and the smiles were plentiful. I was innocently passing by when, suddenly, I was struck with intense excitement. There, resting casually in the shade of the massive old Oak tree was the lone, neon pink, foam spear. I approached cautiously, looking around to see if it belonged to someone nearby. There was no way that someone could have abandoned this beautiful work of art. I reached for the weapon and began to admire the fine craftsmanship of its maker. Such care and attention to detail was taken in crafting this impressive tool. As I held it in my hands, I felt a surge of energy pass through me. This toy was just begging to be played with, I could not help but oblige. I swung the spear to my left, then back to my right, took a step forward to jab, then did a 360-degree spin. A hypnotizing magic came over me as the spear and I danced gracefully through the field. My heart was swelling as I gazed lovingly upon my foam partner, breathing life into her with each motion. I had completely lost my awareness of my surroundings and was lifted into a blissful realm where nothing else mattered but swooshing sounds of my spear cutting through the fabric of my reality.
“Saaarah! Saraaah! Sarah! Put that down! It’s not yours,” my friend called to me from across the park. As I floated down from my euphoria, I felt a little embarrassed but mostly just dizzy. I respectfully placed the spear back in it’s original resting place in the shade of the Oak tree. As I walked away, I looked back heavy-hearted but knowing that I was forever changed. I must learn who made this wonderful play weapon so that they may show me how to make one for my own role playing games.
That was two years ago, I was 23 years old. And that neon pink foam spear belonged to non other than Shaggy, the creative mind behind Epic Adventurez and Epic Toys. At my first Capture the Flag game in Clark Park in West Philadelphia I was really nervous. “Are they going to accept me,” I thought. “I am too old for this? Am I going to look stupid?” I approached the field and in the distance I could see a young man, about my age, confidently wielding his sword in combat with his imaginary partner. I was hypnotized by his movements, like a choreographed dance, it was beautiful to watch. He spotted me then and ran over to introduce himself.
“Hello! My name is Stephen,” he said, slightly out of breath. He was about my height, average build with long wavy brown hair way past his shoulders, and magnetic eyes that held such magic they literally sparkled. With one welcoming hug and reassuring smile from Stephen my fears began to melt away and I felt more at ease. He started going over all the rules of all the different games they played.
“The greatest honor is to die well,” he said. He explained that if you are hit by someone’s weapon that you are to “die well” by making your death as theatrical as possible, to have fun with it. This encourages accountability on the field as well as respect for your opponents. Also, when you return to the game after your death you are to yell, “I’m alive!” This not only lets your opponents know you have returned to the game, but serves as an empowering mantra to remind one that they are indeed alive and present in the moment. Another important rule is the “Reality Check.” Sort of like a safe word, you should yell, “Reality check!” to pause the role playing games immediately if someone is scared or hurt or needs a break. I could see very clearly that just as he had put so much care and attention to detail into that pink spear that had brought me here, that Shaggy had also put just as much thought and love into designing this game. They were not just giving these kids something to do on a Saturday afternoon, but they were providing them with a strong community and instilling in them the important morals and principles it takes to be a good person in our society. I was very impressed, and absolutely hooked.
Two shadows approached the field then. It was the first player to show up that day, beside myself. A spunky young girl, no older than ten, and her Dad who carried a cane and sported an impressive beard. Stephen introduced me to the pair and the girl was excited to have a new student whom she could share her abundance of knowledge with. She told me she was especially excited that I was a girl and explained that there was only one other girl who came to Capture-The-Flag regularly. Then, taking my hand, she dragged me out onto the battlefield and began to explain the rules of the role playing games. I listened intently.
“Now we duel,” she exclaimed! With that, she took her battle stance and held her sword out in front of her. I followed suit. “Three, two, one, fight!” she counted down, and with one full swing she sliced open my torso with her blade. I looked down in horror and scrambled to keep my guts from spilling out onto the field but my efforts were futile and I collapsed with a thud at my opponents feet, who was laughing menacingly in my defeat.
“Again, again!” she demanded. This continued for sometime and needless to say I began to get the hang of the whole “die well” thing. Soon enough more children began showing up and I was surprised at the large range in age of the players. There were little dudes, maybe six or seven years old, as well as adolescents and even a few teenagers. What was even more surprising is that they all played together without any problems. When I asked Stephen whether or not he worried about the older kids being too rough with the younger players, he quickly shook his head and explained that most of the older players had been playing since they were small and so that they understood the responsibility of setting a good example for young players as well as holding their blows and not using too much strength when going up against a smaller opponent. The game began and went on for some time as we waged war on our enemies and devised strategies on how to best take the other teams flag while ensuring that our flag remained defended. Passersby from the local farmers market would often stop to enjoy our accidental guerrilla theater. Before I knew it, parents began gathering at the edge of the field and one by one the players were collected from battle and taken home for super. The game came to and end and then suddenly, as if coming out from under a spell, I realized how exhausted I was from running back and fourth across the park for the last few hours. I helped Stephen gather up the swords for the next role playing games and checked the field for any matter that may have been accidentally dropped or forgotten.
On my walk home, I reflected upon the events of the afternoon, the friends I had made, the things I had learned. I felt rejuvenated. The little girl inside me who had often felt odd and out of place was overcome with appreciation and joy for this new found family. I had been searching for a community like this one. One that accepted me fully, that I could express my creativity and silliness with, one that I could nurture and care for, and that would love me in return. I wiped away a tear that had escaped through the corner of my eye. I knew that I had found something special and I could not wait until I could return home to the battlefield to discover more, not only about the game but about myself.
Word On Role Playing Games By Sarah Seymour