Less than two weeks ago, The Grey Havens Group and The Grey Havens YA held a Symposium in Niwot Colorado, at the Left Hand Grange. It was an exciting weekend filled with scholarly and nerdy program points for all tastes and ages. We could listen to deep and interesting lectures on myth and fantastic literature, take a creative workshop, listen to beautiful music, look at beautiful art, partake in geeky philosophical thought experiments or listen to writers give tips on the writing process, and much much more.
But one of my favorite parts of this wonderful weekend was the D&D roundtable, and not just because I love D&D and gaming in general, but because I could witness first hand, on this April Saturday how that love of creative gaming interaction has been somehow culturally passed down over several generations by now.
I knew from the very beginning that the roundtable would have too little time to truly be able to cover all the topics and discussions points that a thematic angle on Tolkien, D&D and Pop culture invites to, we only had 45 minutes after all, but this was a tryout for a more thorough discussion in the future, which hopefully would be covered by a podcast. If enough people showed up that is.
I had invited some friends to the discussion as “insider experts” and figured if there would only be a tiny show of hands, we could at least have a friendly intimate little table, nerding out on games and campaigns. To my surprise, more than 30 people showed up, to the point where they didn’t fit around the actual roundtable, but hung out along the walls of the room, listening in. Unprepared as I was for the turnout of this rather modest program point experiment, I realized that there was no way we could discuss all that I had prepared, but I was still very excited about this unexpected turn of events. Here we were, so many generations of nerds with the same hobbies and passions in the same room!
Even though time was scarce, I still opted for asking everybody to say something about themselves and their love for Tolkien, D&D and gaming. The answers were all so very interesting, everybody had their own unique path to fantasy and rpg…and yet, there were similarities all across decades of generational time. To get away from annoying siblings, to understand what a relative or friend was all about, to escape hard situations or enrich what was dull, to engage in that which is beyond our mundane borders.
For every story I was more and more wowed. And if anybody thought the older would stereotypically teach the younger and leave it at that, it needs to be said that older gamers learned just as much from the glimpses of the minds of the younger as the other way around.
And yet, we could just scratch the surface, it was clear that this roundtable discussion needed to have a follow-up later. One of the kids asked the table how he could reassure his parents that this was a great hobby to have, and those around the table remembering old scary misinformation about roleplaying games in times past, gave their thoughts on that. One suggestion was to involve the parents in a mini-game, with a creative story and some moral dilemmas to solve. This is done in camps around the world nowadays anyway, and it’s a great way to swiftly make engaged parents understand what it’s all about. Showing is always better than telling.
A young man, that is sometimes called “High King Peter” and sometimes is referred to as “The Nerdy Balrog” talked passionately about game systems, and I regretted that there wasn’t time to put him in a room with some friends of mine and just let them dive further into it. Our author friend Stant Litores regretted that he hadn’t gotten to explore D&D when he grew up and wanted to make up for that now. A grandmother was interested because of her grandson’s passion for it. Scott talked about strategy, Devon and John talked about Dungeon mastering, Sin talked about how to approach gaming modules that can seem overwhelming, my friends Alithea, Kat and Angie talked about character creation. Much was said in a short time, and much we didn’t have time to discuss at all. There was a Magic playing teacher there, that I would have loved to hear more from, as well as hearing so much more on various details and topics from the whole table. But that is for another time.
For me, the perfect conclusion to this fascinating roundtable came on Sunday, when my friends Sin and Alithea came back for our second Symposium day. Sin brought with her an original 3rd Ed. D&D box, complete with dice and all and wanted to give it to Kelly Cowling, Grey Havens founder and one of the two in charge of the Grey Havens YA. She wanted to donate this little piece of gaming regalia to the YA future gaming group. Well, Kelly wasn’t around right then, to get the box, but High King Peter was there and we asked him to take care of this 15 year old piece of game history and give it to Kelly later. He solemnly took it and nodded, “I can do that”, he said.
ETA: photo taken by Roger Echo Hawk