Friday, October 8, 2010

Embracing My Inner Nerd

So last night I was once again at the Baranof playing B/X Dungeons & Dragons...this time just me and three complete strangers.

The Baranof people themselves have become accustomed to me. "Is it okay if we use that central table and add a couple extra chairs?" "You're just going to be drinking and playing as usual, right? Go right ahead." When I went to cash out my card at the end of the night, the bartender commented, "wow, your game group is growing, huh?" She told me they liked having me in there as we were so it's more paying customers for the Big B.

Anyhoo...Steve-O, my good friend of many years and obvious Partner In Crime was NOT present. Steve works evenings as a care provider and has a new client whose shift starts in the middle of our Thursday night game. This for me is fairly tragic, as I totally dig on Steve's random role-playing style and wide-eyed approach to the game. He tried to talk me into Friday afternoon games, but unfortunately he and I are the only ones with Fridays off...maybe I'll have to start a little solo thang a la Oddysey and Trollsmyth.

Meanwhile, my brother...who has been gaming with me lo these many weeks (ever since my abortive attempt at running a game with the Emerald City Gamefest led to me moving my dice to Baranof's) completely flaked. Which, admittedly, has been AB's M.O. in years past (about a great many things, not just gaming)...but he'd been so damn diligent about getting to the game sessions the last couple months I really expected him to be there. No such luck...he got home a little after myself (AB's currently living with me) after working all night for The Man and not getting paid. Ugh. That cat needs a real gig.

But I digress.

It really didn't matter. Luke showed up toting two work buddies, Matt and Matt (yes, this would be interesting) both of whom are pretty much my age (36) and neither of whom had much recent experience with Old School D&D. Or RPGs in general, for that matter (Matt #1 told me he played some GURPS Supers back in college circa 1994, Matt #2 played as a kid, but his introduction to D&D was Baldur's Gate; he did have some experience playing 3rd edition with Luke when it first came out...10 years ago). On the other hand, it appears they all read my blog.


So, hi guys! if you're reading...oh, and happy birthday, Luke! (it was Luke's birthday yesterday...he's a '72 Libra which interestingly puts him in the same basic astrological mold as my childhood friend, Jocelyn, and my college iconoclast buddy, Joel, both of whom spent a bit of time in the DM chair, just like Luke!).

Back to the here I was with three fairly complete strangers, all of whom looked like normal, rational, sane members of society. All looking for a D&D game with Yours Truly. At the Baranof's, in Greenwood.

That's a bit surreal folks.

Let me tell you all a bit about myself. In case you haven't figured it out, I'm a Big Fat Nerd. Make no bones about it...anyone who writes a goddamn follow-up to an out-of-print edition of Dungeons & Dragons from 1981 and sells it on-line (to some fairly glowing reviews of the niche-niche demographic he's aiming at), is a GIGANTIC nerd. No, I don't wear glasses. No, I'm not morbidly obese. No, I don't have a ponytail or goatee (anymore...check me out in the '90s). No, I don't wear cheesy-ass t-shirts like "Chess Players Like to Mate" (they sell those at Gary's, by the way). And in general I bathe every day and can carry on a normal conversation with members of either gender without being socially awkward.

But make no mistake, I am a nerd. I was certainly called a nerd in middle school AND high school on occasion...though generally it was for being a little "too smart" for my own good (and probably for not playing enough "flyers up" at recess). Sometime around the age of 17 or so, I'd had enough of that, and locked all my nerd-liness deep in a dark, dark closet. Comic books, role playing games, Star Wars fandom...all that stuff got chucked or secreted away from my normal day-to-day life so that I could masquerade as one of the functioning drones of society (and pull chicks, of course), only coming out when I was in safe surroundings (i.e. amongst like-minded geeks). I never went the 180 way that you sometimes see (i.e. I never took to denigrating or abusing folks who were "out" about their know, the way a lot of homophobes/Republicans are secretly in the closet?). But I hid my own light under a bushel...I refused to wear my own geekiness on my sleeve.

And, oh-by-the-way, I stayed that way for ALMOST TWENTY YEARS.

It is only in the last year, with the blog and the book writing and the (now) out-of-the-closet role-playing amongst complete strangers that all this is changing for me. I mean, it's really stupid to keep secrets from my normal, non-gaming friends. When they ask, "what are you up to?" am I supposed to deny the fact that I've been writing, publishing and selling a book? I mean, they're my good friends, right? This isn't high school anymore, we're all adults, if they can't take the fact that I'm weird, then so what, right?

And you know what? They can take it.

Not only that but they are cool and supportive and want to know how the gaming thing is going every time I hang out with them. I make no apologies for what I do (well, fairly little), and once I've explained the whole gaming/Old School/power-of-imagination thing, they get it. They don't see what I do as juvenile...hell, they think it's pretty cool AND inspiring. And they still invite me out to dinner and want me to be in their fantasy football leagues.

Here's the real deal folks: even if they did NOT get it, I don't care. Life is too short. My wife loves me for who I am, as does my family. And I love who I am. And I happen to be a Big Fat Nerd. Not even a rich nerd like those Google or Facebook guys who can afford private jets and all the coke and whores they can handle. No, I'm a broke-ass nerd...and it doesn't matter to anyone in particular. Not even to me.

'Cause I'm f'ing liberated folks. And it feels great.

So, here I was last night, and here are these three guys, one of whom I've met one time (three weeks and half-a-world of travel ago), all standing around the Baranof, looking for a game of D&D from Yours Truly. And me, trying to make a first impression with these complete strangers, all of whom seemed like pretty normal, nice guys.

'Cause of course, playing the game is what it's all about. If I didn't want to actually play, I wouldn't be the gigantic nerd that I am. And that, my friends, is the pure and simple truth.

I hope they didn't mind getting killed off by a big nerd.
; )


  1. Good for you JB. I understand how you feel. The teens are a hard age to be considered "different" and a nerd. I think many of us D&D players in our mid thirties were in the same boat; liking something the only added to our nerd rep. . I know it's only been recently that I myself started being more comfortable with opening up about the private nerdy parts of my life.
    I applaud the playing at a bar too; I don't know if I'd be brave enough to play in such a public place, so good on you. I hope the games continue and kepp us posted.

  2. Good for you, man. Life's too short for Gamer Shame. I'm open about the fact that I'm a bookworm and a gamer, and if people don't like it, they don't have to hang out with me. :)

    I do take some good-natured ribbing about it, but everyone in my small group of friends gets ragged on about everything we can think of, so it's not a source of butt-hurt.

    And as far as girls are concerned, I can't remember a better time to be a bookish eccentric. I can pass for "normal" if I have to, but it's much harder for the average person to pass for smart. :)

  3. Out and proud, though my own closet period must have started around 15 and last about a year or two longer. It's liberating just to play again. I spent two decades only writing (and mostly thinking) about Very Serious Matters and I can only say that if you only stay there that is where madness lies.

    Better to spend our time debating how best to play a Elf on a Sunday in our basement ha.

  4. After receiving my B/X Companion in the mail a couple of days ago, I'm glad indeed that you're one of us!

  5. Twelve million people play World of Warcraft. Fantasy gaming is mainstream again, it's just on the computer.

  6. Hey Big Fat Nerd, don't worry...we'll get you some coke and whores. Ha ha! JK. Nice to hear more about you that I didn't know. Btw, your followers are SKYROCKETING!!!

  7. Yeah, I've always struggled with my nerd part. It probably started when I began playing D&D in '79 and my older brother kept telling me:

    "Only fags play D&D."

    In my ignorance that was a devastating insult, particularly from someone I looked up to. It didn't mitigate things much that he later gamed some with me.

  8. @ Everyone (except Kris, you BFN!): Thanks for your support. I only hope that other game enthusiasts that are currently IN the closet will quit wasting time and get OUT and about. Might as well make it mainstream ain't like Harry Potter isn't the highest grossing book set of all time or anything (and isn't that cat like the biggest nerd to dress in a cape and tape his glasses?).
    : )

  9. Hehe...I think everyone knows I'm a nerd.

    They just don't know I'm a gamer!

  10. I'm with you. Ever since I (self) published my book on Lulu, I've been posting about it on FB and all kinds of people who didn't know I was a gamer have talked to me about it. In fact, a co-worker who isn't a gamer and has absolutely NO USE for my book, bought a copy and had me sign it. Just because she thought it was so cool that I'd written a book. :)