by Marie Goodwin
My kids spent the day yesterday creating finely crafted imaginary characters from scratch. From the time they woke up until dinner, they poured over books with names like "The Monster Manual" and rolled oddly shaped die to determine the various characteristics of who they were to become. They rolled also to determine magical objects that they would carry with them on their journey. Important stuff.
And, of course, they argued. They are siblings, after all. Older brother, as a DM ("dungeon master" for those of you lacking initiation), holds wayyyyy too much power over little sister, and little sister is honor-bound to rebel. Little sister also has a control fetish that she gets from both of her parents. She wants all of her personality traits to be powerful and strong. She wants to be everything: charasmatic, magical, cunning. She want to have all the best magical spells and objects at her disposal. But it is all up the roll of the dice, and sometimes she rolls numbers that make her "less than." And her brother won't let her roll again. And he's being kindof mean about it, so eventually she storms off in frustration.
After the arguing got to this fever pitch out there in the kitchen, I asked them to bring their books and papers into the living room for a chat. We talked about inequal power, in games and life; how that feels to both parties. How problems might be solved when unequal power is at play and how language and emotion can either exacerbate this particular problem or ease tensions with others. There is a skill to avoiding conflict in these types of situations, and it is important to learn how to navigate this because sometimes you will hold the power and sometimes you will fall under someone else's power. How do you choose to walk in the world?
We talked about how no one is perfect; sometimes your charisma score just isn't that high and you have to make due with intelligence and cunning, and maybe a magical item in your bag. What you lack in yourself is usually made up by your gang of other creatures and beings that make up your tribe. Their strength covers for your weakness, and vice versa. We don't have to be strong in every facet of our lives. We just have to surround ourselves with good friends who know our weaknesses and are willing to step into the fray when we can't help ourselves. And we too must be willing to accept and hold up our friends and allies when the time comes. There is no other path to completing the journey ahead.
They went back to their imaginary world and finished the character sheets before dinner. The table is still strewn over with books, markers, and paper as well as the candles they burned for ambiance on a dreary late-November day. Now, the next morning, they are sleeping and most likely dreaming of elves, magicians, paladins, and dragon-born because this is where their creative energies sit right now, learning from games what it took many years for me to learn from life and never learned in school. If only I had taken D&D more seriously in 8th grade...