Aliens and D&D
So I’ve been thinking a lot about how weird humans are, and one thing that stuck out to me was our ability to temporarily “be” someone else. But like, not acting per se, just some good old tabletop role-playing games. So here’s a short story about some aliens and D&D.
Life was pretty boring aboard the Simiks-fel, especially to the humans on the cruiser-class Ketch. In total, there were four humans on the ship, all of whom were crew members. There was Luna, a mechanic who maintained the various non-ship machines, like the cleaning bots (including Quartermaster Stabby); Sergei, an engineer stationed in one of the many circuit breaker rooms; Madi, a psychiatrist in the medical bay; and Mark, who worked in Crew Management. All of them knew each other, and had become friends with each other, despite their different jobs and backgrounds. It was during one of the longer voyages that Mark suggested that they get together when their schedules aligned and play some Dungeons and Dragons, to which they all agreed. He did mention that it wouldn’t be actual D&D, but a different tabletop RPG; but called it D&D since that was more easily understood.
The humans had set up shop in one of the crew commons. It was a rather spacious room with tables and couches and various forms of entertainment from televisions to a billiards table (suggested by Sergei). Everyone was making their characters, with Mark instructing all of them how to do so and answering various questions.
Shirska, one of the Yleksin crew members, walked into the crew commons, not really paying too much attention to what was happening. As an Yleksin, he had four arms and two legs, with semi-rough skin resembling Terran reptiles, and a thick mane that covered the top of his head and back of his neck with long but surprisingly soft russet hair. He made his way over to the pseudo-kitchen and began digging through the cabinets for a snack.
“Alright. We all ready?” Mark asked. He was met by a chorus of affirmative answers from the other three.
“Cool. All of you are in a tavern in a small town called Wolfhelm. It’s a pretty nice place called Bob’s Inn, and it’s about sunset right now. Kolvar, where are you in this tavern?” Mark said.
“I’m at the bar sipping on ale,” Sergei replied.
Shirska perked up and looked over at the humans. Why did one just refer to another by a name that wasn’t correct?
“Wren, where are you in this tavern?” Mark asked.
“I’m also at the bar sipping ale,” Madi replied.
“Tara, where are you?” Mark asked.
“I’m in one of the corner booths watching everyone,” Luna replied.
“Excuse me, human-Mark,” Shirska interjected, “why are you calling your fellow humans by names that are not their own?”
“We’re playing a game called Dungeons and Dragons,” Mark answered. “I am calling them by their characters’ names. It helps with immersion in the game.”
“How do you mean?” Shirska asked.
Mark elaborated further, “So Sergei here is playing a character named Kolvar, who is an elf. By calling Sergei Kolvar, Sergei can better get into the mindset of Kolvar. For the duration of the game, he is Kolvar.”
“Would you mind if I observe?” Shirska inquired, placing a hand on an empty chair at the table.
“Go for it, dude,” Madi said, the rest of the humans agreeing.
Shirska sat down at the table, and Mark continued. “So, there is a pair of Guards in the tavern. They seem to be talking to each other about something or other, and one of them seems pretty shifty.”
“I roll Initiative to eavesdrop,” Luna said, picking up her dice and rolling them along the table. “I believe that’s a plus one? So three.”
“You overhear them talking about a wolf attack. You glean that nobody got hurt, but the trade route that goes through this town has to close down until the wolf attacks die down.”
“I’m going to go over to the guards and ask them about the wolf attacks,” Luna said.
“Do I hear any of this?” asked Madi.
“You two do not,” Mark said to her and Sergei.
“Excuse me,” Shirska interjected politely, “why did they not hear that? Clearly they heard you tell human-Luna about the wolves.”
“Yes, Sergei and Madi heard about the wolves,” Mark answered patiently, “but Kolvar and Wren, the characters, did not.”
“I am having a hard time with this… How is there a distinction between human-Sergei and this ‘Kolvar’?” Shirska asked.
“So this kind of game is called a tabletop role-playing game. In role-playing games, one plays a role of a character in the game. Each of these three have invented a character, complete with backstory, personality, and motives, and all of us are collectively agreeing upon the existence of these characters in this context,” Mark explained. “In short, they have to think and act like their character would and play the role of their character. So Madi and Sergei here have to ignore what they heard because their characters didn’t.”
“This game sounds very interesting. Would you mind if I joined you?” Shirska asked.
Madi, Sergei, and Luna all enthusiastically welcomed him, and Mark smiled wickedly.