Making new friends is hard. Raising kids is hard. But trying to make new friends while most of your time is spent chasing kids is nearly impossible. And trying to do it during an international pandemic? Most of us are tempted to just give up.
Many dads struggle with feeling isolated and want to get to know more dads. Last year I started a Facebook group for dads in the Fredericksburg area called FXBG Dads; a common thread in messages from guys asking to sign up is that they want to meet more dad friends in the area. I’ve struggled with coordinating meetups because of the pandemic and the winter weather. But one idea that I’m going to try pushing for is role-playing games!
Games like Dungeons & Dragons and its less-complicated brethren are a great way to get to know new people and can be done remotely or in person. Just get someone who’s moderately experienced to be the game master and help you get started, and you’re good to go! I’ll go over some of the RPGs (role-playing games) I’ve played or want to try, and maybe you’ll get an idea for an activity for meeting some new people!
Dungeons & Dragons
This is the granddaddy of them all. Created in 1974 by Gary Gygax and David Arneson, D&D is considered the first tabletop role-playing game. If you’re not acquainted with it, it’s classic fantasy, with elves and dwarves, wizards and warriors. You create a character to play and go on adventures where your skills combined with dice rolls tell whether you succeed or fail in feats you attempt.
It’s great for long campaigns across multiple sessions over several months, but that’s hard to do with the limited time you have as a parent. But it’s totally worth it if you can swing it. You can also do quick one-off games that resolve in 2 or 3 hours. These are good for testing the waters to see if you like it, especially if you’re new to the game or are trying to get to know a new group of friends. It’s a little daunting for someone new to the whole thing, though. You have to manage a lot of stats, inventory, and spells. But rolling up a new character doesn’t have to be that hard, especially if someone helps you with it. And there are great online resources like Roll20 and D&D Beyond that can help you put together a character. They’re also good for playing games virtually.
I’ve had some great experiences with D&D. Back when I worked in an office I played with my coworkers for several sessions. I chose to be a half-orc fighter named Grug. We fell into a conversation about what the other half of a half-orc is. That led to us deciding that my coworker’s human wizard was actually Grug’s deadbeat dad. That really opened my eyes to the goofy fun I could have in the environment of a role-playing game like this. I had a lot of fun fighting off lizard-men while sniping at him about never coming to my birthday parties when I was growing up. You can take role-playing games very seriously if you want, but I think they shine the most when you use it as a platform for collaborative storytelling, jokes, and improv.
At the other end of the spectrum from D&D are one-page RPGs. As the name implies, these are simple, easy games whose rules are crammed into a single-page PDF. This makes them much more accessible than D&D and its big book of rules and spells. They’re pretty easy to make so there are a lot of good ones out there. And they’re very easy to play and generally can be done in just an hour or two, so they’re perfect for trying out with a new group of friends. I also really like how their simplicity lets you focus on collaborative storytelling instead of getting bogged down with numbers and dice rolling.
One that I’ve had fun playing with is the wonderfully-named Lasers and Feelings. There are no complicated stats to deal with; your character just has one number between 2 and 5, representing whether you’re better at LASERS (science, reason) or FEELINGS (rapport, passion). The game puts you in a spaceship and gives some loose guidelines for character building and story, but leaves the rest up to you. The simplicity of the system makes it great for beginners; I have game-mastered several sessions of it with my coworkers and even the total beginners really got into it.
Soon I’m planning on giving Honey Heist a try. What’s Honey Heist, you ask? Well, obviously, you are tasked with staging the heist of the century to steal a buttload of honey during HoneyCon. And also YOU ARE A BEAR. It sounds really fun to play and really easy to put together as a game master. I think this is what I’m going to go with for the fine folks at FXBG Dads.
So don’t despair; reach out to someone new and maybe you’ll find something in common while you’re slaying orcs.