Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Kübler-Ross Stages of Grief, D&D Encounters, and Me

Those of you who read this blog, may have noticed that I devoted two posts last week to my feelings about the D&D Encounters program. While I don't think my posts were as filled with internet anonymity syndrome and ranting ire as other blogs, I did notice upon reflection that my reaction seemed to match the first two stages of the Kübler-Ross stages of grief.

I normally think of myself as too reflective to be caught up in this model of behavior over something so small -- in the grand scheme -- as whether or not I can buy a copy of the D&D Encounters version of KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS. Apparently I was wrong.

The two posts are filled with Denial and Anger. "They can't do that," "This aggravates me," and other similar statements are scattered throughout the two posts. I'm really quite taken aback by how much these two posts exhibit the emotions expressed in the first two stages of grief, but did I continue through the stages?

In a word...Yes. Yes, I did. I have finally come to acceptance, but not mere "that's okay" acceptance. They got me but good...

Let me explain.

On Saturday, I began bargaining. Not the kind of bargaining that I did in the second post, which was of the "If I express disappointment in the proper tone, maybe they'll release KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS for sale at a later date." No, this was genuine "should I go to a D&D Encounters event and should I see how my schedule this fall lines up with the whole Wednesday schedule" bargaining. I was even wondering if my local store would allow D&D Encounters on Thursdays or Fridays, as one of the commenters here mentioned. I was full on negotiating.

I don't think I ever really experienced depression, at least not in any strong way -- this isn't that important after all. But I did feel a little "remorse" that I am currently not getting to game as much as I want, and that is similar.

So, I decided to do something about it. I went to a D&D Encounters event at my local store. A very nice employee, who is far more familiar with 3.5 and Pathfinder rules than with 4e rules, ran a session for me and four other gamers. The other four players -- a college aged "min/maxer" who typically plays 3.5, a 30 something man who was there to have a good time, and two tween-age girls -- had all participated in the other adventures of the season, but all were relatively new to the rules set. All of them got the concept of roleplaying and having a good time, but none had an encyclopedic knowledge of 4e's rules.

In other words, the group was exactly the audience the program aims to recruit -- one hardcore lapsed gamer, a casual gamer, and two new gamers.

For this group of players, with their level of rules knowledge and expertise, the encounter was quite challenging. Given the GM's lack of familiarity with the rules set, he could only help them in their decision making so much -- and he did his best. I quickly found myself giving small pieces of advice to the newer gamers, but not making their decisions for them (only helping when they asked what something meant and opening discussing my intentions when I acted). We finished the encounter, by the skin of our teeth, and I had a great time.

It was everything my gaming jones needed. It was one of those wonderful, clumsy, new, exploratory gaming sessions you can only have when you have new players experimenting with what they can do. It was great fun with a great group of people.

When I came home from the event, I realized something had happened. I had come to accept D&D Encounters as a vital thing. So much so that I'll be going next week and for many weeks to come -- overall attendance depends on my MBA schedule, but for this quarter Wednesdays are free.

I have not only accepted D&D Encounters, I have fully embraced them. I can't wait to play KEEP ON THE BORDERLANDS with this group. I am eager to see what it is like to witness an adventure that introduced me to the hobby through they eyes of people who have no idea what the CAVES OF CHAOS are.

I'm picking up a Red Box in anticipation.

Damn you Wizards!
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