When people who have never played Dungeons & Dragons, talk about Dungeons & Dragons, you can tell the preconception they have straight away. Most people think of the Stranger Things version – little kids in a basement acting out their imagined battles using dice. It is totally that and much more. If you lived through the ’80s, D&D was a scary cult. I cannot confirm or deny that to be the case…
The point is that D&D is lots of things to lots of people. To me, first and foremost, D&D is a series of random thoughts, ridiculous moments and brilliant storytelling, shared with friends.
When people ask me about getting into D&D, I tell them about my first ever character…
Orfa is a character I created when I started playing D&D over 5 years ago.
Orfa is a Human. He’s a wiry, scraggly, heavily sun-cooked mess of a human. He is totally bald, and his short beard is prickly and white, like the fuzz on a cactus. He skin is so dry and cracked that it looks like the mud-cracks in a desert.
Orfa is a Druid. In D&D terms, this means that he can cast spells and shift into animal forms. He favours small, stealthy forms like spiders and snakes, and tends to summon lightning and thunder when the battles begin.
Orfa is an idiot. Oh, he has wisdom for days, but he’s been left out in the sun for too long. The back-story-based trials that made him the druid he is today, have also left him a little…dim. Self preservation, common sense and patience are all things alien to Orfa.
I’m not here to talk about how awesome and radical Orfa is, though there are those moments. Orfa, his interactions and his adventures are a great example of the things that can happen in Dungeons & Dragons. The awesome, the bad, and the stupid:
Never Mind the Crocodile
On one adventure, Orfa and company (The Guys WHOF, as they were known) were cautiously searching a network of caverns for a villainous Drow (or ‘Dark elf’). We approached a river cutting through our tunnel and I/Orfa thought it would be a good idea to use this potential shortcut to sneak on ahead and see what was awaiting us. So he shape-shifted into a crocodile and slid into the river.
Emerging in a new tunnel, Orfa-dile slunk onto dry land and began moving down the tunnel towards what looked like a set of heavy double doors fixed into the natural stone. Before he could reach the doors, Orfa had to sneak past another cavern entrance. Peering inside, he saw two burly figures facing away from him. A Drow goon and a Bugbear (imagine a 6 foot tall gremlin with fur, and an extreme workout regime).
If Orfa was to get past these two to see what was behind the doors, I would need to roll a dice. So I made my stealth check. On a 20-sided dice, I rolled a 1. I’m sure even a non-D&D player can see that this meant things were not going to go well.
Stealth crocodile… the ultimate dungeon delving wild shape?
With a twinkle in his eye, the ‘Dungeon Master’ (the individual hosting the game who will narrate our success or our downfall) began to describe how the two creatures turn to see the crocodile/druid in the tunnel and draw their weapons to-
That is when another player spoke up.
Player: Why do they find this strange though?
Dungeon Master: I’m sorry?
Player: Why would the Drow and Bugbear be surprised by this?
The player put forward the motion that, in a world of orcs and giants and dragons and owlbears (Google them, they’re awesome) and vampires and werewolves… that a crocodile would not be a thing these creatures would care about.
Momentarily stunned, but intrigued, the DM ruled that he would leave it up to a roll. Roll high, they suspect something is up. He rolled very low, which meant that they did indeed see the crocodile, but they carried on about their business with hardly a second glance.
And so, the very un-stealthy and very obvious crocodile, who was actually a human, happily slapped his scaly feet across the wet stone floor towards the mysterious doors, as a dark elf and a large furry goblin carried on their own private conversation about their work day.
The Scrappy Doo of the Team
Orfa has a simple way about adventuring. He’ll lead the way so that others don’t get hurt. If someone instructs him on what to do next, he’ll follow those instructions because that person sounds like they know what they are talking about. He’ll help any way he can.
However, he does not have the mind for planning ahead, and gets impatient when others start planning. He has a tendency to wander off.
You see, before playing I had seen a few games played. I knew that one way the game can slow down is if players overthink each move, spending twenty minutes planning something that might only take a minute to execute, and will probably go wrong as soon as the dice start rolling. So I made a character that would bypass these conversations, recklessly striding off to confront the bad thing and keep his worrying friends safe.
I never did this to railroad the other players or jeopardise the mission. If they noticed him wandering off they could call him back, especially if they had a good reason for waiting. He was like a more obedient, and less annoying Scrappy Doo. There were actual moments where an ally grabbed the collar of his robe to stop him wandering away.
He eventually learnt to be more patient, more of a team player, as well as showing his friends that the simple plans are usually the best. Before that day, he nearly got himself squished more than once…case in point:
The Ups and Downs and Side-to-Sides of Wildshape
Half way through a particularly tricky dungeon, Orfa’s party needed to rest and heal their wounds. Orfa, largely unscathed (so far) decided he would sneak ahead to see what dangers they’d be walking into next. It didn’t take long to find trouble.
On the other side of a rickety, wooden door, two gruff, gravelly voices were bickering. Orfa shifted into the form of a snake and slithered under the door. Inside were two large, rotund ogres sat cross-legged in the middle of the floor. Between them, a grid had been drawn into the earthy ground. These two lolloping thugs were playing a game of Tic Tac Toe.
One ogre was clearly losing, and being very grumpy about it. His friend was being as equally smug about his own immense genius. They didn’t notice Orfa-Snake wind his way across the floor to watch the game. What Orfa-Snake saw was two creatures on the verge of a punch-up, and thought it would be a good idea to instigate.
Orfa bit one of the ogres.
For two seconds, this had the desired effect. The two dim-witted ogres weren’t watching each other, so when the winning ogre felt a pang of pain, he reached for his club to whack his ogre friend.
Unfortunately, the ogre missed the club and picked up the snake instead. With a big wind-up, the ogre swung Orfa-Snake like a flail towards the other ogre.
At this point, Orfa could have changed back, or fought out of the ogre’s grip, or bit the hand holding him, or curl up in defense… but that isn’t Orfa.
“Can I add to this attack?” I said to the DM. “Orfa bears his fangs.” Thus, it was a double attack. Damage from the ‘snake flail’ and damage from the venom-filled fangs.
Orfa took damage too. This meant that his snake form dropped on impact, and Orfa continued the sweeping arc as his regular self, one of ankles still held by the ogre.
Orfa could have broken free, or cast a spell, or changed form once more. That is not Orfa. As the ogre looked down at the human leg in his hand, Orfa smiled back.
“Again!” Orfa barked as he tucked in his elbows and readied his quarterstaff. Confused, the ogre did as he was told.
As the group ran into the room, they stepped in just in time to see Orfa sailing through the air, colliding face first into the side of the second ogre’s head, then cracking him again with his staff as he sailed on by.
Orfa isn’t all stupid, reckless moments. He was once a panther, sprinting across a hillside whilst on fire, calling lightning on a giant fire elemental. A scene deserving of a place on an album cover. Yet being awesome is only part of the reason to play D&D. The game is great even when it goes wrong. Failing brings its own rewards.
To this day, I have played numerous characters, all fun in their own way. None of them have yet to match the reckless joy that was Orfa Isodd. He’s bound to show up in a future campaign, and I fear for his new allies’ sanity.
Have a fun story from your D&D adventures? Leave a comment below!
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