Dungeons, Dragons, and Dreams

Conan pup

Conan at four months

It’s been a month and a half since I lost Conan. For awhile, I thought things were getting easier and I started perusing dogs on shelter sites because I miss having a dog around. Then the dreams came.

The first one I was at a party. A friend arrived (I don’t know who), and they brought Conan. In the dream, it turned out that I had given him up to a friend and they were allowing me a visit. I couldn’t stop apologizing to Conan.

The second one I was at a shelter. I was looking at dogs, when I found Conan. In this dream it turned out he wasn’t gone, I’d just accidentally left him at a shelter. I was so happy to find him again.

What these dreams taught me is that I am not really wanting a dog again (yet), I’m wanting Conan again. My searching through adoptable dogs was me looking for one that might be Conan. None of them are.

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The above photo is my party of adventurers (I’m the monk ). I’m not sure what connection this has to my dreams about Conan, except that Dungeons and Dragons is a place I go to once a week where I am surrounded by friends who make me smile and help me forget for a bit the world that weighs on me.

I once claimed that Dungeons and Dragons had saved my life when my appendix became infected during a game. Now, dealing with life without Conan, Dungeons and Dragons continues to save me. It allows me to be creative, to escape, and to spend time with a group of friends who make me laugh and smile.

People ask me all the time, “How are you?” and I say, “Fine.” It’s true, I am, because when grief hits again it will do so in a wave when I’m not expecting it. Such as on my way home from work, when I suddenly feel happy about walking Conan when I get home. Or first thing in the morning when I expect to see Conan at the foot of my bed. Or when I vacuum my suite and there are no dog dishes to move out of the way. Ask me then, and I am not fine. For those tiny, fleeting moments, grief takes over.

Grief isn’t always about being sad or depressed. Sometimes, grief is about appreciating the moments that made you happy when the one you lost was still with you. So, when I’m asked, I will say, “I’m fine” and that will be an honest answer. But if you do catch me when I am not fine, just remember that it is a fleeting moment. An important moment. A moment I need.

If you want to help me, grab a set of polyhedron dice, and let’s play a game of Dungeons and Dragons.

NaNoWriMo

For those of you who don’t know what NaNoWriMo is, it stands for, “National Novel Writing Month.” The goal is 50,000 words in the month of November, and you can track your stats by signing up on their website.

So far, I’m not doing so well, at least in regards to hitting the target of 1700 words a day that I would need in order to meet that goal. The first few days I fought a cold and a few school assignments (and yes, I would use the term “fought” in regards to those assignments). However, today I have written a solid 1,000 words and am enjoying this story that I’m creating for the project. (At this point, I would have to write 6,800 words today to get caught up to my goal.)

So why continue if I’m that far behind? This is the first time I’ve done NaNoWriMo, but since friends have raved about it I decided to give it a shot. I’ll be honest–I went into it not expecting to succeed. In fact, I expected to fail miserably of the 50,000 word goal. So, again, why do it? Because it’s not just about hitting the goal. It’s about writers encouraging writers, experimenting with crazy ideas, and mostly about creating good writing habits. That last one I have lacked since my life turned to other pursuits.

I’m feeling as though school is well in hand, as there is less time to look forward to than there is to look back on. I have my dream job–and it’s going swimmingly. And, it’s winter so there isn’t a lot of opportunity for road trips. I’m ready to start writing again and putting some of these ideas in my head down on paper. (Or on the computer, if I’m more accurate.)

NaNoWriMo is all about that. It’s about my own goal, and ending the month with a writing schedule that gets my books written. And so far, that’s going well. And if you’re on NaNoWriMo, connect with me there! I’m under the name jmez.

What is it that I’m writing for NaNoWriMo? My concept is basically Dungeons and Dragons meets Escape from New York:

Tharbadon, an elfin bounty hunter, has been taken hostage by Med Corp. They have tasked him with finding an escaped doctor who has a cure for a plague that is spreading throughout the world. Tharbadon would not normally take on such a mission, except that Med Corp has implanted in him a capsule with the virus–set to go off in 14 days. They will only remove it in exchange for the doctor.

And here are a couple mock covers for the project. Just to keep me inspired:

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And what music is on this idea’s soundtrack? A little Scorpions, for one:

How Dungeons and Dragons Saved My Life

It was a pretty typicaldungeons2014 Sunday evening. A rogue elf, a human ranger, a human barbarian, a half-elf paladin, and me – an elvish monk – battling creatures deep in a vampire’s crypt who was possibly aligned with our mortal enemy. I started off in battle admirably, even punching through the skull of a tentacled water creature and back-flipping onto a ledge several meters up. After that, I was rolling nothing but fours and sixes against creatures I should have taken out without a sweat.

There’s a belief among gamers that your connection to your dice influences your rolls. As I continued to rack up the worst rolls of my gaming history, I realized I could no longer ignore one important thing: my gut was having spasms that was making it difficult to breathe. This had to be why I was rolling so terribly.

Unfortunately, those spasms were happening out of game and not from the Dungeon Master to my character. At first I did what every male is taught from infancy to do: suck it up and wait to see if it goes away. The trouble is, I enjoy breathing. A lot. And it was getting harder to do, so I overcame decades of societal influence and broke up the game by stating, “I’m having trouble breathing. I think I need to go home.”

I’d learn later that our paladin and host, Kolja, at first thought I was playing my character. No one knew the pain I was feeling because I have a ridiculously high pain threshold – even for a third level elfin monk. I don’t like people worrying, so I acted like all was good until I couldn’t anymore.

“Do you want to lie down? Do you need some air?” Kolja asked.

I considered both those things as a sharp pain hit my gut, feeling not unlike the fourteen poison darts that had struck the paladin just moments earlier.

“I need to go to the hospital,” I muttered and headed for my jacket and shoes.

Both Kolja and Sarah, our ranger, followed in close pursuit. After all, our number one rule has been to never break up the party. They asked if I needed a ride, but I thought I could drive myself. Since that conversation is a blur in my memory, I’d say I was in no condition to drive.
Kolja slipped into his hiking boots, whisked me out the door to his car, and we were at the hospital in less time than it had taken Von Blaten, the vampire we’d been hunting, to teleport through the mirror on Pirate Island to his underground lair where my monk was just earlier rolling fours and sixes.

At VGH, over the next 36 hours, I’d discover that I had appendicitis and it needed to come out. (I’d also discover that after fasting for that long soggy hospital toast and a boiled egg tastes as yummy as the best cut of prime rib at a gourmet restaurant. Another post for another time.) My most important lesson, besides that appendicitis sucks and that keeping a smile and good humour makes a bad situation better, was that I have an incredible Scooby Gang that rushed to help me without my needing to ask. Lee, Marcie, Sarah, Rob, and Kolja – thanks for stepping up when I needed it. And to everyone else who texted, emailed or signed the card at work (including all my regular customers) thank you for keeping my spirits up.

Of course from a gamer’s point of view I realize that had I not been playing Dungeons and Dragons that evening I probably would have ignored the pain, taken a Tylenol, and attempted to sleep it off. The infection would have gotten worse, and I may not have played my monk to fourth level.

Yes folks, we now have proof that Dungeons and Dragons saves lives.