Adventure Log: Single Player D&D: Nemere Pt. 1

After several futile attempts to put a gaming group together, my boyfriend and I decided to try a 1 on 1 game.  I’m going to take a moment here and discuss the way we approached this game. We have friends who are a boisterous collection of identities and preferences.  This game is an attempt by us to explore identities that don’t correspond to our own, to step out of the safety of our projections of ourselves. At the same time, we recognize that this experience can never be complete because this is being done in a safe environment and they are identities we can shed when we’re done playing.  The point is empathy. Aaron’s character was born male but does not identify that way. This is an epic tale of adventure, magic, and identity.

Ogenton is a sleepy hamlet in the southwest corner of the continent of Nemere.  Surrounded by woods on two sides, the town keeps crop fields to the North and fishes the Alessia Ocean to the West.  Ogenton hasn’t changed in generations, and for the most part, they like it that way. Things are quiet here, so when Trent wakes up to blue powder falling from the sky it’s alarming.  He is pretty sure it wasn’t his fault, unless he’s started sleep-casting. The magic surges have been increasing lately, but he’s beginning to get control over them. Trent had never asked to cast magic.  It just happened.

Opening his door, Trent can see the line where the blue powder stops before his residence along the edge of the woods South of town.  The young man walks up close to where the powder line starts and a voice from behind him says quietly, “I wouldn’t suggest it…” Turning around Trent  sees a tall, gender non-specific person emerge from the woods. They are impossibly beautiful, to the point where it almost hurts to look at them. They look human but with light blue skin that matches the softness raining down in front of his home.  They take a large glass orb out of a leather satchel. They hold it in both hands in front of their chest, close their eyes, and begin whispering in a language Trent has never heard. The blue powder begins to stir and blow around. It’s so dense he can’t see through it, almost like a light blue blizzard.  A tendril of powder leaves the line of demarcation and flows into the glass orb. The tendril gets bigger and bigger, like a sideways tornado. The wind this process generates makes Trent’s eyes water and nearly knocks him over. Every speck of blue dust is being sucked into this orb and then suddenly the wind stops.  He opens his eyes and the powder is gone . . . along with the town and fields. There’s just open space and dirt where Ogenton used to be. The ambiguously gendered blue person smiles and hands Trent the orb. “Here, take this to Esther the Wise in Cordova.” They touch the orb in his hands and turn into blue powder that swirls around Trent and then gets sucked up into the orb.  When he looks at the orb, he can see Ogenton, the whole thing, in one piece of glass.

There’s very little left of Ogenton, some fishing boats, Trent’s modest house on the edge of the forest, Trent himself . . . and Aunt Ida comes out of the woods behind him.  Very recently, Trent and Aunt Ida had a heart to heart. She had always been nice and accepted him. She was there for him when the wild magic came and the people in Ogenton grew cold towards him.  She understood him like no one else, so he told her; he’s not really he; he is she. Aunt Ida pulled him close and told him she loved him and asked if she could try braiding her hair. That was only a couple weeks ago.  The two women stood there for a minute, mouths open. They looked into the glass and there was Ogenton, whole and intact inside the orb. They could go in any of the cardinal directions. They never heard of a land called Cordova.  Where could it be?

And this is the perfect opportunity for Trent to realise her dream and try to live as she had never been able to.  She would be Asha, with no one to nay say her and her Aunt by her side.

A couple days easy travel to the northeast brings Asha and Ida to Glen Ridge.  The road is safe and they walk it without any excitement. The rolling hills begin to be dotted with grape vines that eventually create a sort of lace mesh over the grassy mounds.  The sweet smell of fresh grapes is pervasive and nostalgic. It reminds Asha of days long past when her parents went to Moon Market and brought back some unfermented grape juice as a treat.  The ladies come across a couple people on the road. Their cart broke and they stopped to fix it. It’s Jovan and Elisa from Ogenton. Asha and her siblings used to play with their kids growing up.  Nice enough folk, but a little aloof to her as she got older and . . . stranger. They left before dawn and don’t know about the powder. Aunt Ida takes a look at the cart and wanders off over a lightly wooded hill and comes back with a big tree branch, whittles it down with the knife she borrowed from Asha (who is still dressed like a boy at this point).  Ida makes short work of the cart and the group travel on to Glen Ridge. Neither Ida not Asha tells Jovan and Elisa about Ogenton.

Glen Ridge is to the Northeast of Ogenton.  They are a decent sized town with about 4,500 residents.  That number swells for a few days a month during the Moon Market, held on the full moon each month.  There are 4 other small villages that bring their wares to the Moon Market. The Moon Market began as a showcase for the different wines produced in the region.  It quickly rose in popularity and people started bringing things to trade for wine (there’s a lot of barter here in the hills because coinage is scarce). It’s a great place to go to hear local news.  Once a year at Midsummer the Moon Market holds a ball that attracts even a few people from the capitol, Nemeralis. For the town of Glen Ridge, this is the event of the year. For those who come from Nemeralis, this is slumming it.

The market is in full swing when the crew arrives.  Jovan and Elisa depart to set up their stall to sell fish at Moon Market.  Asha, a storyteller by trade, finds some entertainers and asks where they go to drink.  A jocular minstrel lets her know that they relax at The Burro. Asha asks the minstrel if they know where Cordova is.  “You mean the one from children’s stories?” asks the minstrel. Then they hear a voice coming from behind them.

“Did you just say you’re looking for Cordova?”  A tall, orange haired woman in a gorgeous dress is laughing.  “That’s rich! Who are you?”

“I am Asha and this is my Aunt Ida, from Ogenton.”

“Asha?  That’s a girl’s name!  You’re not a girl!”

“Do you know about Cordova?” Asha asks timidly.

The woman turns up one corner of her mouth into a half smile.  “My brother studied the Cordovan myths. It was a hobby of his.  I still have some of his research. I’ll let you read it, but you’ll have to do something for me first.  And then come back to the capital with me.”

“What do I have to do?” says Asha.

“You have to go to the Midsummer Ball with me…but I get to dress you like a girl!”

Asha looks at Ida, who shrugs.  Ida says she’ll go help the Ogentonians set up their fish booth and she’ll find Asha later.

Asha turns bright red, half in excitement, half in shame.  “Alright.”

The ginger woman takes Asha by the hand and leads her to a discrete but opulent little Inn.  When they enter, a small man in a fitted but plain black suit greets them. “How does the day find you, Miss Claudia?  Do we have a new guest?”

“Yes prepare a bed for my friend Asha and call the girls down.”

The man bows, “Yes, Miss Claudia!” and pulls a string on the wall, ringing a bell.  

Down the stairs come half a dozen obviously rich women, half drunk and giggling.  Claudia steps up on a stair and tells the assembled ladies, “We have a new friend!  This is Asha! Asha, do you prefer green or blue?”

“Blue.”

“Get my blue dress from my room!”  The girls look at one another and their eyes get huge.  What fun they will have at the ball with their new friend!

***

A Note From The Player: One of the most incredible things you can do with roleplaying games is be someone who you are not. Not surprisingly, many (if not most) players think about this in terms of magic, or feats of strength, or being able to act outside the law. But just like how game systems are more than their combat rules, people are more than their abilities.

When I began writing Trent/Asha, I began from a mechanical perspective. Wild Magic Sorcerer, check. Take the entertainer background, check. But I started thinking more intensely about the notion of a wild magic sorcerer in context. Imagine for a minute that one day you know that you are not who you thought anymore, that your entire concept of self is washed away because something has happened to you. What can we actually explore when we explore the idea of someone being pulled along by something they can’t control?

Now, I am a cisgender man. Every character I’ve played in a roleplaying game, back to when I was 14, has been cisgender and male. It is my life experience, it is the totality of how I approach gender, and it is, without a doubt, easy mode. Now, my intent in exploring this aspect in a game is not really about interrogating discrimination, oppression, or bigotry. Rather, it’s about seeing yourself in a way different than how everyone else sees you. And it’s about having power over that. This game is a fantasy, it is escapist, and it is supposed to be fun, even if I’m using it as an opportunity to explore a very different experience than my own. I believe that everyone should take opportunities to explore other identities than their own, and I hope I’m doing so in a way that’s respectful to those who don’t have the privilege of doing so just in a game.

I really appreciate the game that Magdalen has begun to put together. She likely noticed in our first session how often I said things like “this is nothing like my game”. The comparisons are hard to avoid; I’ve just run the eighth session of my own D&D campaign with a very different focus. Seeing both games has helped me appreciate again the breadth of D&D, or any RPG for that matter. I especially have to appreciate that Magdalen made me question my choices while creating my character. Sometimes you need someone to remind you that you should not always try to play someone who resembles yourself.

Header Art: Lone Adventurer by tracerghost

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