Four generations of D&D Gamers

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!

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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.
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ETA: photo taken by Roger Echo Hawk

Preview Some of the Art that Will Be Featured at Real Myth and Mithril

The talented Sae Lokason has donated this extraordinary illustration for sale at Real Myth and Mithril. That means you can own it, folks!

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You can’t have this piece, though, because it is all ours! We are planning to hang it at all of our events!

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You can find Sae’s website here and buy other pieces from the Etsy store, Lokason Illustrations. Visit the store to check out the photo of Sae’s adorable assistant. Stay for the extraordinary art. Thank you, Sae, for being a part of Real Myth and Mithril!

Time is running out to get the best price for admission to Real Myth and Mithril: Delving into Fantasy Literature! Register now then pay online or at the door!

Yet Another Fascinating Presenter for Real Myth and Mithril!

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Cait Coker is an Associate Editor for Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction. Her research focuses on the depictions of women and sexuality in science fiction and fantasy; her essays and reviews have appeared in The SFRA Review, The Journal of Transformative Works, and The Future Fire.

Cait Coker will be presenting “Looking for Lothiriel: The Presence of Women in Tolkien Fandom”, examining the depiction of of J. R. R. Tolkien’s and Peter Jackson’s female characters in The Lord of the Rings through the lens of fan fiction. 

“Scholars of fan studies believe that fan fiction can be seen as an interpretive and analytical act that gives insight into the reception of a text by its audience. Peter Jackson’s films of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are in many ways a fan text themselves, drawing on both Tolkien’s work and adding and adapting elements for new audiences. Of particular interest are Jackson’s choices about re-interpreting and even adding women, such as Tauriel, to his adaptations–and how fandom, in its turn, rewrites and adapts them. This presentation will examine the depiction of Tolkien’s and Jackson’s female characters in The Lord of the Rings and related works through the lens of fan fiction: How do Tolkien’s most loving and devoted readers, his fans, view the women of Middle-Earth? How do fans read Jackson’s works in light of this? In the case of significant characters like Éowyn and Arwen, quite a bit is known and thus fan-writers have various resources to work with as source references, including the texts as well as the earlier drafts of the novels as published in The History of The Lord of the Rings. In the case of other characters, such as Lothíriel, their presence is little more than (quite literally) a footnote. Reading the poems, short stories, and even novels that fans have written inspired by these characters yields a new picture of the women of Middle Earth: one in which women aren’t always fabulously beautiful or amazingly brave, but take their place alongside the male denizens of Tolkien’s universe all the same.”

Click here to learn more about the Real Myth Symposium and to register!