We’re back at it again with a new blog series — D&D Diaries: My First D&D Journey. We’ve written about D&D a lot over the years, but this specific series highlights one of our writer's experiences playing the game for the first time. It’s not meant to be a play-by-play (mainly because our writer hasn’t gotten other people in his campaign to sign approval slips to discuss their business online), but mostly dives into the overall experience of playing D&D as a beginner. We hope you enjoy!
Chapter One: I Think I Hate My Character
So, I made my first D&D character! And because it was my first time, I drew inspiration from one of my favorite comic book characters (Klarion the Witch Boy) to build him. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a plagiarist. I just started with an archetype, and then I created a custom backstory around him. (If you want to know, he’s a wizard from a “devil’s lettuce” farm near Waterdeep. And that’s about the safest way I can explain the backstory and still be professional at work.) But more importantly, to make sure people knew he wasn’t a traditional hero character, I gave him a title: “the Terrible.” This was, in retrospect, my biggest mistake.
I joined a campaign with an extremely seasoned DM and a mixture of experienced and mid-experienced players. I was, without a doubt, the newest player to the game and experienced the biggest struggle not with game mechanics, but with my character’s RP.
The trouble is, when I started playing my character, I quickly discovered that I kind of… hated him. Or, more accurately, I hated playing as him. It was extremely challenging for me to think about how this character would react to situations with the party in mind. I don’t know why I chose a Neutral Evil character for my first character. But in a party filled with generally “good” characters, I struggled with not making my PC at odds with the rest of the party… and not being a chaos demon who created nothing but problems.
I did this to myself. And at one point, I was so unhappy with my character that I created a backup character while toying with the idea of sending my first character to the metaphorical gallows.
I had to check myself a few times, and thankfully our DM was patient with me as I learned how to understand my D&D character. And to give me time to figure him out completely, I actually gave him a redemption arc. I worked with my DM to have him learn about altruism (the DM’s idea), and although his short-term goal was to become a better person, I found RP moments for him to “slip” and his evil tendencies to come out.
I gave him quirks, I wrote more backstory for him, and as I spent months playing this character, I found myself becoming more comfortable with the character’s complexity. A large part of it also stemmed from my rather black/white interpretation of the word “evil” and continued focus on the title: “the Terrible” (which, during the redemption arc, I changed to “the Neutral”).
Eventually, I found a happy medium and felt more comfortable embracing his dark side — this resulted in a scene of RP that happened just last night. During a conversation with another party member, my character realized that labels like “the Terrible” or “the Neutral” don’t matter, and adventuring was more in the grey. He wasn’t going to abandon his quest to become a better person, but he also wasn’t going to consider altruism as the best option. So, he returned his book on altruism to the Waterdeep library and emerged fully realized — without a descriptor. And now, more than ever, I’m glad I got to go on this journey with this character.
TL;DR Sometimes, you don’t have to know the answer immediately. Things can reveal themselves in time. And that’s okay.