Pictured: a drawing of a D&D party with a mix of fantasy characters

Reclaiming lost joy: D&D

My quest for joy continues and I’m happy to report that, despite some real ups and downs along the way, I’m starting to find joy in an old love: D&D.

D&D never quite made it to the list of three key things I wanted to do more of as I navigate this depressive episode, but maybe it should have. I didn’t realise how out of love I had fallen with it since my depression began worsening.

Lots of acronyms

It’s possible that many of you may not even know what D&D is, although you’ve likely heard its name in full: Dungeons and Dragons, frequently written as DnD (although I prefer the formal ‘&’ symbol). D&D is an RPG or a tabletop role-playing game, in which players assume the role of a fictional character of their own design and navigate a fantasy world and adventure determined by one key player, the DM or Dungeon Master (last acronym, I promise). Players roll dice to determine their successes and failures as they play through the adventure.

I started playing almost ten years ago when I stumbled into a group by chance, having befriended one of the long-term players in college. Because I was a new player there was very little expectation for me to play a grand role in any of the adventures. I was mainly there as the token girl, if I do say so myself. But then college commitments got in the way and I removed myself from the group until another one came along with a more flexible schedule that suited me better.

It was started by another best friend of mine, this time from secondary school. He wanted to try his hand at putting together a game and me, my wife and brother-in-law have all been playing with him ever since.

Falling in love

D&D had been one of my great loves at one point; it filled me with inspiration for fictional stories and characters. Plus, I got to hang out with so many of my best friends on a regularly basis. But then, somewhere along the way, I started to feel detached from it. As the depression grew stronger, I was having enough trouble with regularly tea-and-chats socialising, never mind throwing in character stats, imagination and improv. I just wasn’t cut out for it any more and that became apparent with each passing game.

I wasn’t able to retain information and I wasn’t able to pick up on the hints that our DM had so cleverly planted. All the creativity and enthusiasm that I had once brought to the game was suddenly gone from my being. I was no longer Summer De Light, the distrusting rogue halfling who loves a good fight; instead I was Saoirse, deep in my own head and relying on my party to do the bulk of the work because I couldn’t think fast enough.

With so many thoughts swirling aggressively in my head, I couldn’t set them aside to be Summer for a game. I was just existing in the fantasy realm that I had once escaped to. Our games have also been far and few between, due to clashing schedules, so there hasn’t been a lot of opportunity for me to claw my way back to the love I once lost.

EGX and Oxventure

But then, something changed. You may recall, I went to the EGX convention in London back in September for one of my best friends’ thirtieth birthday. That friend also happens to be our DM and he brought us along to a live game played by the Oxventure party whose entire campaign is documented on YouTube.

It was a joy to watch and brought me right back to the early days of Summer De Light, when she was character I knew as well as myself and could slip into with very little effort. Watching the Oxventure gang play in the fantasy realm reminded of the mental playground D&D used to be for me, before the depression took hold.

I had been thinking about it all wrong – or rather, I had been overthinking it. I was struggling with the rules and some self-imposed limitations. It had stopped being fun and turned into a chore because my brain wasn’t letting me take joy from it the way I used to.

But since watching Oxventure play live, I’ve been devouring their YouTube channel whenever I want something light and silly and self-contained to hush my thoughts a little. Watching them merrily adventure their way from episode to episode has taught me all over again what D&D is all about.

It’s a chance to hang out with friends, leave the real world behind, slip into an alternate version of yourself and just embrace the silliness of it all. So I owe one wholehearted thank you to my DM, Ben, and the Oxventure party for helping to reignite my love of the fantasy realm.

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