Punters and Dragons: Because Stereotypes are Make-Believe

By JJ Kim.

Two dying bodies lay in front of Soveliss.

The Half-Elven Cleric, panicked and worn from battle, was faced with a choice. He had only enough power within his beaten body for one spell to save either Khalir, the headstrong 6’11 Dragonborn Paladin, or Sahrut, the brooding Half-Elf Warlock that brutally stabbed his hand earlier that day. The good in his heart, fortified by his religious teachings, begged him to save both — but the magic mana he needed he did not have. The clock was ticking. The Redbrands were coming… and so was death.

“You have 6 seconds,” came a deep booming voice, “6, 5, 4, 3…”

In one swift motion, Soveliss darted towards Khalir and lay his hands across his unconscious body. His eyes went to the back of his head as he spoke the words of the spell. Slowly, the seeds of death came pouring out of the giant Dragonborn, and Soveliss cast them aside like drops of water from his hands. Khalir would not know this until later into the day, but he was no longer approaching death.

Sahrut’s body, now almost a corpse, was left to fend off the darkness on his own.

“Roll.” James, who counted down earlier, demands without remorse.

“Ah sh*t.” I whisper under my breath, hoping I wouldn’t roll under a 10.

“I really hope you don’t die.” Nick, Khalir’s player, says over the table.

“I’m going to slap the sh*t out of you when I come back!” I declare to Harrie. Nick laughs.

Harrie Bantick, Matt Hargreaves, Nick Ward, Nick’s friend Sarah and I have recently started playing Dungeons & Dragons (‘DnD’). Our resident Dungeon Master, James Hogan, has kindly agreed to teach us the mechanics of the game and guide our campaign. We gather round every second Sunday, pizza and beer on the table, and live out our quest in our imagination – with only our character sheets and a handful of dice. And my goodness gracious is it fun.

Back in my high school days, I thought this stuff was TOO nerdy for me. Whenever my self-conscious self thought of DnD, he envisioned a bunch of acne-laden teenage boys – with glasses and junners to boot – sitting around a table shouting at each other in their best impressions of war-hungry barbarians with pubescent nasal voices. It wasn’t my thing. I thought it was gross. But then again, the high school version of me was a bit of an idiot that only cared about music and girls. He wasn’t really open to trying anything else. He himself was acne-laden and certainly had his fair share of dumb voices and impressions (especially when he was trying to sound like Axl Rose on the mic, ahhh those were the days).

One day, I was talking to James and asked him what he did in his spare time. He said that he plays DnD. For the first time in my life, without hesitation, I actually asked how to play. He indulged me, and I thought, why not? And the rest is history.

Stereotypes, pre-cut moulds of hobbies and interests based on personality, race, class and gender, exist. There’s no denying that. But what these notions entail – namely, that a particular kind of person can only hang out and do certain things with a specific group of people that they, by society’s standards, belong to – is bullshit. What we do or don’t do doesn’t have to define who we connect with, let alone who we hang out with. You can hang out with whoever you want and do whatever you damn well please, and that’s for real.

In the cult-classic film ‘The Breakfast Club’, a nerd, a jock, a princess, an outcast and a rebel are stuck together in full-day detention. Initially, their stereotypes get the better of them and divide them beyond the everyday social avoidance they’ve become accustomed to. But as the day goes by and the students converse, walls begin to fall, eventually leading them to understand that they’re not all that different to each other. They’re all teenagers feeling the same things: self-doubt, self-hatred, the need to be loved and understood and the desire to have fun. They band together, friendships are made and they leave detention ready to traverse through that big thing called life together.

So long as we have 5 senses and a brain, we’re going to categorise people. But relying on all these pre-conceived expectations limits our human experience and deprives us of exploring a broader, common human understanding. I know for sure that if I did, I’d never have gotten to experience the fun in playing DnD. We’re all humans with our own self-doubt and self-hatred, looking for love and joy.  We’re all just trying to get by, whether it be in detention for a day, or life itself.

Soveliss stood, barely, in front of the dying flames. The Sleeping Giant tavern was now in ruins, its structural integrity wrecked by the fire from Soveliss’ torch. Phar Lap, his new stallion, began to relax as the screams from inside became quieter and less frequent. The battle seemed to be over, and the whole room sighed in relief.

“Oh, thank god!”

“I was so sure we wouldn’t make it out.”

“Harrie you’re a f*cking hero!”

All of a sudden, one last Redbrand, covered in ash, cuts and bruises, emerged from the rubble of the now-incinerated tavern. With Soveliss in his sights, he pulled out his shortbow –

“Ohhhh nooo…” Harrie moaned,

…the Redbrand drew an arrow –

“OHHH NOOOOO!” The whole room cries on the edge of their seats.

“He shoots.” James narrates, as he rolls the dice.

Special thanks to Laura Campanaro.

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