Tue
May 3 2011 4:28pm
Rolling with My Characters

Into the Wild Nerd Yonder by Julie HalpernIn my novel Into the Wild Nerd Yonder (now in paperback from Square Fish!), there are quite a few scenes of role playing, Dungeons and Dragons style. Here is the tale of how I made my D&D characters, and how my characters made me.

The first character I ever created was an elf mage named Imalthia. So was the second. High school was rough at times, not in an outward, people bullying me or even necessarily knowing I existed way, but in an inner turmoil, clinically depressed way. I had friends, good ones, and liked music enough to be one of the “alternative” kids. But I didn’t like myself very much. I was overweight, shy, and insecure. Not like Imalthia; she was beautiful, skinny, and could charm the pants off of anyone. (Naturally, I put the 18 in her charisma slot.)

Eventually, though, when I started to figure it out—it being life, who I was, and how that was actually a good thing—I realized it was much more fun to play a stocky, ugly, strong dwarf or gnome than some skinny, skanky elf. My epic new character came in the form of Sofa, a huge fighter with negligible intelligence, wisdom and charisma scores, although her strength was off the charts. I soon realized how much I loved doing damage instead of thinking so damn much. Who cares if Sofa would never convince a prince to divulge the whereabouts of the Staff of Fury by batting her eyelashes? She could kick his teeth in with a flick of her ankle. Besides, the Dungeon Master playing the NPC prince was just some dork math major with a Jim Carrey circa Dumb and Dumber haircut.

As an adult I became a DM to a middle school D&D club at the school where I was a librarian. There, I learned my forté was in role playing was comedy. In dire situations, throw a flaming couch down from the sky and watch the thirteen year-olds laugh. When it was one of their turns to DM, I played a delightful bard named Lulabelle who often inappropriately tooted on her recorder and constantly wove oven mitts. Or jumpsuits made out of oven mitts. And sometimes she even helped the party.

I think my D&D evolution says a lot about my own evolution as a person and as a writer. Instead of the brooding poems I wrote in high school or the serious(ly), perverted relationship stories of my early college days, I write humorous novels. Granted, they involve depression, STDs, and abuse, but I always manage to throw a flaming couch or an oven mitt in there. We DMs know how to move a story along.


Julie Halpern is the author of three YA books with Feiwel and Friends: Get Well Soon, Into the Wild Nerd Yonder, and Don’t Stop Now (out on June 7). She’s still looking for a group of adults to play D&D with who don’t freak her out. You can read more about her, her books, and her blog at the above link.

7 comments
Brenda H.
1. Brenda H.
Fun article, I enjoyed it. The moment you realize you've really gotten into gaming... is when you do stuff with your character just because it's fun. A gamer in our current group right now always plays his ridiculous characters to the hilt and it's magnificent and hilarious to watch. :)
Brenda H.
2. Dungeon Master
I remember I had quite a strange set of first characters. You see I'd grown up reading RPG magazine (never knew why my parents had them round the house, they never seemed to have actually roleplayed although my dad was heavily into his fantasy), so I had all these skewed notions of what a roleplay character was.
As far as I was concerned clever uses of spells trumped skills or strength, and every character had to have a secret they were hiding from the party. I'd look at combat systems and scoff, telling myself combat had no place in a roleplaying game.

Also for some reason, I thought it was really clever to name characters off the back of products, Chelmsford after where they bottle coke in the UK, that sort of thing.... Used to play alot of elves too!

I didn't actually play a roll to hit fighter until I was 23! (Haven't played anything else since though :P)

If it's alright I'd like to pimp my blog here :P (nothing on it yet though!)
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
3. tnh
Actually, Dungeon Master, we'd really prefer you didn't pimp your blog here. If you go to the Tor.com Forums, there's a "Pimp your own project" thread where you can post that.
Brenda H.
4. Dungeonmaster
Seems a bit unfair, back linkings all part and parcell of how the web works, so long as the comment adds something to the conversation (and the pages search engine visability) I'll let anyone post on my (completely empty) site. (Still if that is really the rule on Tor I'll just save my inane ramblings for other sites and stick to the forum here :D)
Brenda H.
5. K.Trout
I'll back up Teresa here: It's generally considered bad form, not just here but on many websites, to link back to your own site without express invitation. To earn a link, a person generally has to be doing something cool enough or noteworthy enough that _somebody_else_ wants to link to it. Self-linking is basically just spam. (Some sites do allow commenters to put their websites as links in their commenter-name, but not all do, and it's not rude of them not to offer that - again, it's a means to cut down on spam, and for high-traffic sites sometimes stringent rules are the only way to keep the place free of spammers.)
Brenda H.
6. Dungeonmaster
Never said it was rude, but there is an increasing move toward having dofollow comments on sites, and google has even come out and said they'll carry much more weight in future (so I think if anything, claiming its rude to post back links is the sentiment thats off...)

Still like I say, no offence was intended, and had there been any sort of notice telling me that back links to related sites weren't welcome on Tor I certainly wouldnt have posted.
Brenda H.
7. Eugene R.
Roleplaying is an immersive activity, and we reveal something of ourselves when we immerse, however shallow we go. It can be very freeing to go deeper and let out the characters we did not realize or want to admit we carry within. And sometimes frightening.

I am glad to read that it has been working out so well for you. I hope that your novels do well and help spread the word about the joys of roleplaying.

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