I should have been in bed. I was tired and it was late, and by late I mean it was 12+1 o’clock in the ante meridian. For that record, that’s how I’ve decided to address hours beyond midnight these days. Because when you write a post about how you were up watching YouTube videos at 1 AM, everyone’s just going to nod and give you that “knowing look”. Which is to say, they’ll just assume you were trolling the internets for naked pictures of celebutantes, or worse, My LIttle Pony fan-fiction.
I swear I wasn’t doing anything like that.
Instead, I was watching Wil Wheaton. Not him personally, because, well, watching individual people in the wee hours is apparently frowned upon by the constabulary pretty much everywhere. At least, that’s what the restraining order is supposed to help me remember. Whatever! I accidentally fell into those bushes, I swear.
The whole endeavor is a pretty good fit for me, since I’m a geek and all, plus I like, the, um, sundry things? You know what I mean. It’s a collection of these creative, eccentric shows made for people with my kind of interests. They’re a little bit like those cheesy home VHS movies you and the neighborhood kids filmed back in late grade school over your mom’s as-yet-unseen recording of the previous night’s episode of St. Elsewhere. You know, seven minute films like The Adventures of Han Solo and Indiana Jones. What? Shut up. It doesn’t matter that they were played by the same actor and were separated by a vast gulf in time and place. It would have been awesome.
The point is, the Geek & Sundry crew make stuff that your grade school self would have made, but, you know, with infinitely better production values and concepts that aren’t utterly lame. If you’re the geek-type Puddin says you should Subscribe!
Getting back to Wil Wheaton, so I was up watching the latest episode of Tabletop with one eye on the clock, knowing I should go to bed. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t press stop, I couldn’t turn it off, I couldn’t look away. Because in the latest episode, he and his guests—people I assume he’s known for years—were playing Dragon Age, a pen-and-paper RPG. That’s Role-Playing Game to you and me, Russ. Basically, it’s not unlike the Dungeons and Dragons of my youth, where you create a character represented by a stat sheet that lives only in your imagination, and then spend the game bringing that character to life with your buddies.
Playing D & D was a wintertime staple when I was a late-elementary school lad. It would fill the long, empty hours of Christmas vacation that otherwise would have been consumed by bickering with my siblings or causing the kind of trouble that might give Santa enough evidence to indict one, prompting the dreaded transfer over to the “Naughty” side of the parchment.
And digging out the myriad of polygonal dice and character sheets was part of the standard January/February snow-day routine. First you’d go out and freeze your fingers and toes to within an inch of hypothermia. Then, you’d come in and dump snow all over your mom’s clean floors while peeling off the 18 layers of wet clothing clinging to your clammy skin like a fruit roll-up to a wrapper. Next came the inevitable brewing of hot chocolate (often accompanied by a serving of Campbell’s soup of either bean, chicken noodle, or vegetable beef varieties). Finally, then, rosy-cheeked and with fingers once again able to flex (a key component of rolling dice), we’d get out the Player’s Handbook* and the Monster Manual** and settle in for a bit of imaginative business until dinner.
If you recall, I’ve written about the glory and wonder of the snow day before, and I stand by every word of that post even three years later. But for some reason, I don’t frequently stop to reminisce about the many hours spent those days with my family and neighborhood friends huddled around character sheets, rolling a 1d6 for initiative. Of all the cherished memories of my childhood, I just don’t often really think about the times I’d conjure up a character—invariably an elf or half-elf of some hybrid class—or worse, concoct yet another dungeon with a hidden doppleganger (one of my favorites).
I don’t know why I don’t consider those experiences more often. Possibly because there’s simply nothing like them in my life today to strike the chord. And, oh, what I wouldn’t give to take a day out of the hectic charge of family-rearing middle age to do it again, just once, to see if the magic was still there.
Which is why, last night, when I should have been in bed, I was up watching Wil Wheaton (who, incidentally, totally seems like the kind of guy I’d like to have a beer with), and his friends sitting around a table, rolling dice for combat damage.
When it was over, I finally turned in, surrounded by the warm, cozy comfort of nostalgia.
Sometimes the you find the best things on the internet in the wee hours of the morning.
*Yes, I still have my Player’s Handbook
**Yes, the Monster Manual*** too
***Yes, the original 1st Edition versions. No, you can’t have them. I’m thinking of framing them to decorate my basement.