I recently started watching iZombie (iZombie: The Complete First Season (Blu-ray)) on Netflix. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a show about zombies that is currently starting its fifth season. Now, this isn’t some depressing ‘Walking Dead’ (The Walking Dead: Complete Series) type show (although I also love that…). It’s more like a funny cop/murder mystery show. Except if one of the main characters was a zombie who needed to feast on brains in order to retain her humanity. Oh, and she works in a morgue. It’s loosely based on the comics (iZombie Volume 1: Dead to the World) that were written by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred, and published by Vertigo.
My husband and both thoroughly enjoy it, and are currently nearing the end of the third season. Anyway, we were watching last night and suddenly came upon an episode entitled “Twenty-Sided, Die” wherein our beloved zombie heroine devours the brains of a dungeon master in order to help solve his murder. It was a hilarious episode, and completely absurd, but halfway through she convinces her friends to play a session with her, in order to help stimulate memories of the deceased. So there they are, sitting at the table: four people attempting to humour their friend. One secretly wants to play, one’s there to give it a shot, and the other two would rather be doing anything else. By the end of their session nearly everyone has had a blast, and gotten right into it. At the end the episode one of the serious cop characters tells the zombie girl that she should run a game every week. It was just SO refreshingly entertaining.
Which got me thinking.
It’s rare you get to see d20 games featured in popular media. I adored this episode of iZombie, and of course, there’s plenty of wonderful Dungeons and Dragons cameos and references in Stranger Things (Stranger Things (Season 1: Collector’s Edition))). But where else have I seen good d20 references? I know there’s others out there, but I couldn’t recall any specific instances.
More than that, though, it brought back memories.
The first time you played a d20 game.
Trying to figure out the rules while you make your first character? Being a little nervous at first, as you figure out what you can and can’t do? Finding your voice? The laughter?The nerves?
The first time I made a character for Dungeons and Dragons I was in high school. A friend had insisted a big group of us make characters and get together to play. Most of my friends said no, but I was one of the few who said I would. A few years before that I had stumbled across a copy of the Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook (3.5) in a bookstore and flipped through it. I wanted the book so bad, but had no idea what it was. I must have looked at it over the next twenty trips. Passing by, browsing, but never buying. Flash forward a few years and I suddenly went ‘A-ha! That’s how you use that book!’ I made myself a dual-wielding elven ranger with long red hair named Meloriel. We went to the store and browsed minis until I found the perfect one. And then…. Nothing. We never played.
It wasn’t until many, MANY years later that I finally had the opportunity to play again. This time I made a half-elven bard named Lorelei. My husband (we had just started dating at the time) played her boyfriend, a gnome illusionist named Blount who worked as her stage-hand. My brother played a fierce minotaur warrior, while co-workers of my brother and husband played a lizardfolk and a half-orc monk. It was DMed enthusiastically by another co-worker of my brother’s. The game wasn’t very long-lived, but it sure was fun. We immediately began buying the rulebooks and campaign settings. I got addicted to Dungeon Magazine. We went out and bought pewter miniatures, only to paint them ourselves with whatever we had on hand. I even cracked out my pencil crayons and drew my own character art. Sadly, the campaign came to an abrupt end when my husband and I went on a vacation, but we never lost our love of the game. We were hooked from that first roll of the dice!
In the years since we must have remade our characters at least three times. But, each time, they never get further than a few sessions into their tales. Maybe we’ll make them again one day. Perhaps as Pathfinder Society characters, or in a home game with my kids.
It’s funny, I suppose, that something as simple as playing a game for the first time can change your life so completely. But, here we are.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Have any stories to tell me about your first characters or first experiences playing a d20 game? Know any awesome shows or films that reference d20 gaming? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear what you have to say.