Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Bard

The thing that makes Dungeons & Dragons really fun is the opportunity to create a character and bring him or her to life through interactions with others--the role-playing aspect that defines it as a Role-Playing Game (RPG). You can try out different motives, personalities, and perspectives and no one is harmed because it's all pretend. You can start with a basic character concept, but it always develops in unexpected ways once the game starts. So a while back when I wrote in my review of Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys that some of his descriptions reminded me of Degolar, I meant the character and not myself. Some of the things described were characteristics I had in mind from the start and some just developed, but as I was reading Gaiman's descriptions of his characters (Anansi and his son, Spider) I thought he could just as easily be describing Degolar. I listened to the audio CD earlier because I could get it quicker, but now my turn has finally come up for the book and I can go back and find those descriptions to share.

In D&D, bards get their magic from their music and stories; that’s how they cast their spells, by performing. This book starts:
It begins, as most things begin, with a song. . . . That was how the world was made, how the void was divided, how the lands and the stars and the dreams and the little gods and the animals, how all of them came into the world. They were sung. . . . Songs remain. They last. The right song can turn and emperor into a laughingstock, can bring down dynasties. A song can last long after the events and the people in it are dust and dreams and gone. That’s the power of songs.
This book is about Anansi, or, more correctly, Anansi’s sons. Anansi is an old god from Africa, the figure who owns all the stories. Anansi is the spider.
Stories are like spiders, with all they long legs, and stories are like spiderwebs, which man gets himself all tangled up in but which look so pretty when you see them under a leaf in the morning dew, and in the elegant way that they connect to one another, each to each.
Our main character in the book is Fat Charlie Nancy. Charles, really, but his dad started calling him Fat Charlie as a boy and the name stuck even though he only went through a short period of being a bit overweight (the power of the storyteller to name things). After the death of his father, Fat Charlie learns he has a brother he never knew of, named Spider. And according to Spider, there’s only one way to grieve: with wine, women, and song. Degolar would agree.

In D&D, every character has an alignment, where they fall on a continuum grid between good and evil, law and chaos. Degolar is chaotic neutral. He’s definitely about his freedom and independence and isn’t too concerned with right or wrong. But he’s never intentionally harmful. Kind of like Anansi:
He is greedy, of course, and lustful, and tricky, and full of lies. And he is good-hearted, and lucky, and sometimes even honest. Sometimes he is good, sometimes he is bad. He is never evil. Mostly, you are on Anansi’s side. This is because Anansi owns all the stories.
Degolar is also a wanderer. He doesn't put down roots, just goes around looking for adventure and something fun to do. Kind of like Spider:
[Spider] had resolved to investigate the matter the next time that he could in any way be bothered to do so, unless something more interesting distracted him or he forgot. . . . His plans . . . were fairly simple and could until now have been summarized more or less as: (a) go somewhere; (b) enjoy yourself; and (c) leave before you get bored.
And I'll remind you one more time that the following description is only accurate in terms of Degolar the D&D character, not Degolar the blogger.
Spider . . . regarded women as more or less interchangeable. You didn’t give them a real name, or an address that would work for longer than a week, of course, or anything more than a disposable cell-phone number. Women were fun, and decorative, and terrific accessories, but there would always be more of them; like bowls of goulash coming along a conveyor belt, when you were done with one, you simply picked up the next, and spooned in your sour cream.
So, anyway, I don't know what that says about me, but now you know a bit more about the character from our game whose name I borrowed to create my online identity.

1 comment:

The Blue Pamphlet said...

Though I've never played, I'm very familiar with the process (had the most stereotypical D&D players use our study rooms in the dorms at PSU to do their gaming nights), and how "alive" it can become.

Rumor has it a couple of the Forgotten Realms authors get together and play on occasion.

I also like the pretend aspect itself. After all, if you keep pretending, then you never grow up.

And that's a good thing.