Wednesday, October 13, 2010

D & D rules O.K.!

This is the message of Tripod's hilarious show Tripod vs the Dragon, which I saw last week.  For the uninitiated, D&D is Dungeons and Dragons, a role playing game (real life, in the broadest sense as opposed to virtual/second life type role playing....), that was very popular amongst a certain demographic during my highschool days, the late 80s/early 90s.  The typical D&D player was male, smart, apparently quiet, secretly funny and is now employed by multinational engineering firms, software companies, insurance companies or google. And up to three of them, I suspect, have formed Tripod!

D&D is played using a pair of 20-sided dice, and a series of very complex instruction manuals which are referred to constantly as the players choose characters and establish their strengths and weaknesses in areas such as courage, intelligence, fighing ability, loyalty etc.  A quest is undertaken, with the random rolling of the dice determining the characters' fates and degrees of success in achieving their goals.  As you can imagine it is very complicated, and games could last many days!   I have fond memories of a group of boys in my class at school who could usually manage to find a quiet, warm corner to settle into with their dice, rule books, and complex, specialised jargon.

This is the culture embraced and celebrated in Tripod vs the Dragon.  A trio of male friends, now adults, meet weekly for an afternoon of Dungeons & Dragons, dropped off by their wives with plentiful supplies of soft drink and chips.  They, and the audience are drawn into their quest, and follow their adventures.  The set is quite sparse, an armchair, a keyboard and a huge white sheet suspended midstage.  The story is told through song and semi-scripted comic patter.  Being comedians, Tripod engage in repartee with the audience, and it isn't always clear what is spontaneous and what is planned.  Much of the action is presented through shadow effects with lights on either side of the sheet.  The effect is brilliant, so simple yet innovative and hilariously entertaining.

I won't tell you much about the story, suffice to say that it's a fairly standard quest of our heroes (a priest, a magician and a fughter who wants to be a bard), seeking to destroy a dragon, having adventures of the mind, body and heart on the way....

The closing song epitomises the message or, if you like, the moral of the story, that it's ok to be a 'nerd', and have specialised, eccentric hobbies and pastimes; it is possible to transcend a highschool life of being a library refugee, but do you really want to?  As someone who was friends with D&D players at school, (despite never being invited to play), I was filled with a warm nostalgic glow!  A night of happy, rather than cruel or sarcastic, laughter was just what the doctor ordered!  I came out feeling refreshed and uplifted.

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