It’s a thoroughly gloomy day, rainy and grey. A good day to hide inside with a book, either reading or writing. But we have chores to do, errands to run, and work. I have a little while this morning before I need to get to the bank and back so my son can have the car.
Our friend Tate is staying with us for a week. Yesterday he guided us through the process of creating characters for a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Max and Alec have had some experience with D&D, but Jen (Max’s girlfriend; she also lives with us) had never done it. She’s put in a lot of hours in with video games such as Bloodbourne and Skyrim, so she’s familiar with a lot of the elements of game play. I’ve spectated a lot of Dark Souls and Skyrim (the latter with Jen) and I’ve been involved in an aborted D&D campaign. But I, too, consider myself an utter novice.
Tate was a splendid teacher, patient with our confusion and questions, and got us all through the process. Then last night we started the campaign, with Tate as Dungeon Master. Jen and I stumbled through the first few encounters, slowly got a sense of our characters and how to play them, and an understanding of how to use our spells and weapons. For those of you unfamiliar with D&D, it is a role-playing game in which the players work together to complete a quest, fighting enemies according to certain rules, with the element of randomness introduced by rolling dice. An attack can succeed or fail depending on a throw of the dice. Each player must decide how to move, what to say and do, which weapons to use and how. It is remarkably complex and utterly engaging.
I was in and out of the room as they worked on their character sheets. I had things to do and my tax accountant to meet, and a pile of bumf to organize before he got there. But I got it all dispensed with finally, and settled down to get my D&D self figured out, with Tate’s guidance.
We played until the end of the evening, the first part of the adventure completed, and all members of our party still alive. Alec and I both had a grand time playing our roles (he is a human cleric, just out of the monastery, and I am a gnome bard, fearless and world-wise). Jen got into it, wielding battleaxes and getting into the thick of things, nearly getting killed in the process. Max is more of an introvert, but is warming up to it. By the end we were all ready and eager to set the next date.
Me, at sixty, learning to play Dungeons and Dragons with a nineteen-year-old and three twenty-somethings. Having a ball. Achievement unlocked.
I still am mulling over the problem of expectations. It is thorny, because in a civilized society we all have expectations of one another which must be met if things are to function. We expect the clerk at the store to be helpful, and not to mug us and steal our wallet. We expect others to obey traffic laws and not deliberately run us off the road. We build up trust and relationships, and those come with reasonable expectations associated with friendship. Parents are expected to look after their children; police are expected to enforce the laws. When others don’t meet our expectations, violating the understanding we have of how society works, we are surprised, upset, and even angered. This is all quite reasonable and as it should be.
At what point do expectations become unreasonable? At what point do they become an imposition, a burden? What can we reasonably expect of our friends and family, and when are we just setting ourselves up for disappointment when they don’t live up to our expectations? How do we deal with this? I am still puzzling over it.
In the meantime, I eagerly look forward to our further adventures with Tate.