I was skeptical at first when they asked me to play. It was freshman year, and I didn't know these people, or myself, or what this year would hold. Dungeons & Dragons? Sure, I'd heard of it, but I had always assumed it was a few steps above where I stood on the nerd pyramid.
But then again, I had no friends. So I said yes.
But before we get into that, I should rewind a little bit. As the daughter of a man who saw Star Wars five times in theaters in 1977, I was destined to be at least a little bit nerdy. I spent my first few years of life watching my dad play Myst and Doom on PC, until I was old enough to sit at the keyboard and play by myself.
My greatest passion was in reading, though, and I don't think there was ever a night that I didn't sleep with a book under my pillow. If it had wizards, dragons, elves, or trolls, I read the heck out of it.
I was teased and I was bullied. I was the weird girl who pretended to be Sailor Moon and Harry Potter on the playground. It didn't stop after eight grade; in high school, I was the weird girl who'd never had a boyfriend.
So I locked away my nerdiness, hid the key close to my heart, and tried to be "normal." It worked, sort of. I even had a boyfriend for a while. But the day my parents dropped my newly-single self off at college, I couldn't help but feel like I had hit the reset button on life.
Through a series of serendipitous meetings and accidents, I found myself going out for milkshakes with a complete group of strangers. They were all older guys, and throughout that first encounter, I listened to them rattle on about Star Trek and The Lord of the Rings and Dungeons & Dragons. They didn't care who heard them. Nobody seemed perturbed by their Batman t-shirts.
Here was a chance to be myself.
So when they asked me to play D&D, I said yes, despite my reservations. They coached me through character creation (I made a Halfling Bard) and through learning the many, many, many rules. And we started playing.
I dated a party member. We broke up. I kept playing.
I changed my major to creative writing. I kept playing.
I was diagnosed with depression. I wanted to go home. But I couldn't, because I had to keep playing.
Party members graduated. We kept playing.
I moved across the world. I came back. We started playing again.
Dungeons & Dragons became more than just a game. I hate to even call it a lifestyle, because its effects ran deeper than that. I bought Star Wars t-shirts. I cosplayed at New York Comic Con. My party members elected me president of the campus Science-Fiction Club.
My party members became more than people I spent every Saturday afternoon or Sunday evening with. They became my awesomely weird adopted family. They taught me that you should never be ashamed when your interests don't align with the popular ideal, and that depression can be combated with a few dice rolls — and a few good friends.
As cheesy as it may sound, I definitely rolled a nat-20 when I found them.