Escaping Reality the Retro Way With Fantasy Role Playing

To this day, I begrudgingly admit that fantasy role-playing was my favourite pastime as a child; mainly Harry Potter inspired if I’m honest. I always immersed myself in fictional worlds, letting my imagination run wild as I escaped from one reality to another.

But now I’m 20, and the closest I can get to escapism is from a good book, film, or alcoholic beverage. It seems I haven’t been drawn towards continuing my childhood love for role-playing in my adult years. 

This is how I came to be sitting in a thriving, tavern-inspired building with strangers, ready to play my first role-playing session of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). A fake, glistening fireplace was centred in the middle of the room with ten to fifteen round tables scattered about. Players alike chatted amongst the tables, occasionally sipping on pints of beer in between conversation, truly setting the medieval mood. The echoes of laughing and rolling dice on the tabletops battled against the ancient ballads playing from the ceiling.  

Truth is, I’m no gamer. I can never for the life of me remember what the X, O, triangle, and square buttons do on a PS3 controller, but I do love a good board game. That’s how I stumbled on an event called Dungeons and Flagons. Hiding in the depths of Caledonian Lane, escaping from the hustle and bustle of the Melbourne CBD, is where the Fortress Melbourne is located. Luring fantasy enthusiasts and gamers alike, the Fortress Melbourne hosts weekly events allowing for online and old-school gamers to come together and play the all-time favourite game, D&D.  

 Rocking up to the Sunday session of Dungeons and Flagons, I met with my first guide for the night. Violette, the Dungeon Master of our session, locked eyes with me. Approaching me with long strides, she jubilantly exclaimed, ‘Hi there adventurer!’ with a large grin. Violette was in her early 30’s, holding pastel-coloured tote bags, filled with gaming goodies. Her lilac dress with small embossed, yellow flowers was a striking contrast to the Dungeon Master title. I imagined leather boots and a spikey hammer in hand. 

Violette had accumulated 15 years of experience with Dungeons and Dragons. She says, ‘It’s about creating a sense of community that is inclusive for everyone.’ Placing sets of dice onto the table, Violette tells me about her daytime job outside of the Fortress.

‘I work with people who have disabilities, and we actually use D&D a lot when I’m working.’ Violette says, ‘It’s a tool for anyone to plunge into a different world and be anything they want. Whether that’s incorporating aspects from our real lives or creating one on the spot, it’s all up to the adventurer.’ She expresses that D&D is a healthy game, one that can be used as a creative outlet or a method to connect with others in a world you control and create. 

The last time I ever wanted to pretend to be an elf-like villager or a deceiving forest wizard, was when I was a kid. Back then, it was appropriate to escape into your wildest imagination. Now, adults face the stigma behind gaming. Whether it’s online or old-school like D&D, there is still a prejudice against fantasy fans and video gamers, portraying them as unsociable and unproductive.

From what I saw role-playing with fellow adult strangers, this was not the case…

By Maisie Mateos

Header via Lucas Santos, Unsplash

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