I read recently that we are in the modern golden age of epic storytelling.
As a closet nerd for much of my life, it is very cool when my secret passions become mainstream.
Cinema, books, video games, and tabletop gaming are experiencing a resurgence and unprecedented success in the mainstream markets.
Even at that, it is difficult to condition yourself to talk openly about your passions after decades of squirreling it away cause no one else cared... or they were secretly squirreling it away to cause they thought no one cared.
One of the by-products of my time away last October was getting re-engaged with story and narrative.
I remember as a kid hiding under the covers with a light reading adventure books long after lights out.
Do you remember "make your own adventure" books?
They were awesome!
I remember reading 800 pages in one day of a sci-fi story on summer vacation cause I just couldn't put the book down.
I remember reading the Lord of the Rings over Christmas break every year after graduating from undergrad.
I remember Jaime getting me books on CD to listen to on my way back and forth from law school.
I remember wanting to share in those stories with others, but feeling like I was isolated without common ground to begin a conversation.
Then last fall I stumbled on to a group of voice actors that live stream, for 3-4 hours at a time, their Dungeons and Dragons game.
I realized I just lost some of my conservative religious friends by just mentioning that game; trust me I was told the same thing in the '80s too, it just wasn't true.
Anyway, for those of you sticking around, I started listening to Critical Role's podcast from the beginning.
I listened to some 500 hours of content while driving, mowing, cleaning, and to the exclusion of watching any movies or TV.
I was enthralled with the story, not because it had non-standard fantasy tropes; in fact, it had all of the tropes that you would expect in a fantasy story.
No, I was enthralled because each character had autonomy and agency to control what would happen next (subject to the dice rolls of course).
The autonomy and agency gave rise to collaborative storytelling the like of which I had never experienced before.
It was compelling--I had to keep listening to know what was going to happen next.
And at episode 115 I sat on my weight bench in the basement and cried because of how the first campaign ended.
Heck, I get a little misty-eyed just thinking about it.
When was the last time a story did that for you?
It can remember good, even great stories that I return to time and time again, but I have not experienced anything like the power of collaborative storytelling before.
Thru listening to their game, if found a renewed love for narrative and a desire to experiment with it.
So, I did what I always do, jump in feet first and see what happens.
Best. Choice. Ever.
I currently run three games; one of which has 3 guys around my table and 5 via video chat.
I prepare for the way the story could branch, but I never know what they are going to do and mostly end up improvising as they make decisions.
So much laughter, so many "oh shit" moments, and so many great choices are foiled or come to fruition due to a roll of the dice.
2 hours have never flown by as fast as it does when leading one of those games.
But for all the fun, it is the story that keeps us talking about it afterward.
The players actively retell what happened in the last game for days after we finished.
And they plot and scheme about the next game on our Slack channel, that we had to set up to keep track of the game.
There is something about taking on a character that frees you from what you are in, to explore what could be.
Whether theater, writing, or playing some D&D, when you can step away from a problem and engage a whole set of non-consequential problems with creativity, and a bit of flair, sometimes you find creative solutions to the problems that have consequence.
Moreover, you find a place of belonging with like-minded/like-hearted co-adventurers.
The video below does a great job talking about that.
All of this very long post to say, it took a long time to feel comfortable in my own skin because part of what I needed to embrace was allowing my geek flag to fly.
It is okay to normalize the love of narrative.
It is very cool that people love sports, politics, business, etc.
I learn a lot of very cool stuff from those people.
But for me and my tribe of storytellers, we love the narrative and all of its endless possibilities.
If you ever want to to talk story, let me know.
It isn't weird, or at least no weirder than talking about sports - and they have a whole set of cable channels dedicated to that.
And if you ever feel like your alone in your love of narrative, I have a bit of advice: risk taking an adventure outside your doubts, you'll find out you aren't alone, and... roll for initiative!
(If you want to see some of the places we adventure to in our games, check out thebrotherswhite.com)