One of the most enduring themes of the podcast is the idea that tabletop RPGs are healthy, therapeutic, and good for people when used properly, and I have certainly found that to be true in my life. Another is that we as Christians should be welcoming to the outsider, which often means people who have been marginalized, oppressed, or “othered” in some way.
However, sometimes that also just means “friend of a friend who is going through some awful life stuff and could really use some gaming therapy.”
This past Saturday, our gaming group decided to do just that.
A close friend of one of the group members has been going through some awful, traumatic life nonsense lately. Bad enough that the group member in question has made multiple trips to said friend’s residence to help them in various ways with the awful, traumatic life nonsense. Because we’re a tight-knit group of friends in addition to being a gaming group, the group member has kept us updated on the friend’s situation, and that has come with a powerful, almost overwhelming desire to help this person out on the part of, well, all of us. Our whole group.
Just because we wanted to help doesn’t mean it was easy, though. We’re spread out over a significant amount of territory. If you were to start at the residence of one of the group members and take a road trip to meet all of the others, then loop back to where you started, you’d put almost 4,000 miles on your vehicle before you were done. Multiple time zones and an international border would be involved. There’s not much we can do in the form of physical presence.
What we can do, however, is open our proverbial online home up, and in our case, that’s the gaming table. Or rather, the gaming Roll20 site and Google Hangout that goes with it.
Fortunately, the friend in question was receptive (enthusiastic, even) to the idea of gaming, so after some back-and-forth, we set the member who was local to them to the task of helping them build a character and Grant got to work on an adventure, since it was his game the friend would be able to attend, scheduling-wise.
Our new player had only a couple days to roll up their first character, and they chose a sorcerer—not the easiest choice for a new player, especially starting at seventh level. Primary spellcasters in D&D have a lot to keep track of and sorcerers have even more than the other primary spellcaster classes do – they have a resource called “sorcery points” that can be used in a whole bunch of interesting ways, but absolutely create additional record-keeping. Bear this information in mind as you read on.
Game day rolled around and I will admit, I had some twinges of uncertainty. I told the group member who was bringing this new player in that their friends were my friends, even if I hadn’t met them yet. I meant that statement, but I’m an introvert and can be a little shaky on my social feet around new people. Still, this was one of those opportunities to live what I say I believe, so instead I leaned into the idea of giving the new player as much spotlight time as possible, even reaching out to a social media group for some good helpful cleric tactics that were still effective, but kept me out of the spotlight since I know I can be a bit of a forceful presence at the table.
I needn’t have worried.
Grant really brought his “A” game – the session was a fun, light-hearted romp full of faerie dragon shenanigans, overmatched grungs out for revenge against the party and a tense fight against a banderhobb. Furthermore, with the addition of Jenny and this new player, we’ve gone from having no primary arcane spellcasters in the party to having two. That will open up a lot of interesting story and combat options that were closed off to us previously, and that should be a lot of fun.
More significantly, however, the new player took to gaming like a duck to water. The character build they brought was extremely solid – a sorcerer with stealth, tons of social skills, and massive amounts of arcane firepower that can be shaped to exclude friendlies from blasts. The first major combat act of the new PC was to obliterate a small crowd of grungs with a single fireball. In addition, the new player is a genuinely nice person and was comfortable enough to do some actual roleplaying on their first session of gaming. At this point, I hope they stick around (which looks likely) because they seem to be a natural fit for the group.
Probably most importantly of all, however, was that we seemed to achieve the therapeutic effect we’d been going for and the new player got some relief from the life stuff for a couple of hours.
It’s nice to have the right thing and the fun thing be the same thing on occasion.