My Inner Worlds
Spring seems like it’s already here, not necessarily because of the weather (although it helps). But because my job has eased up. I don’t have to run on pure adrenaline, and my body has mostly recovered from that spike that got me through the winter busy season. My creative brain is wakening. I feel it perking at the oddest times, usually when I can’t sit down and write. The frustrating part about art—my muse and my schedule don’t often align. But when they do, it feels like magic.
Magic, did you say? I haven’t gotten back into my stories or fiction yet, but my monthly Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game has burst with renewed fun. Captain Lia is not a magic-user, but her two best friends and pirating buddies are. The D&D world is steeped in monsters and enchantment and sends me to a place where I can play with aspects of myself. It’s not always safe to try something new in real life, but a fantasy setting where harm really can’t occur is the perfect way for me to try on different hats or perspectives.
Consider the pirate stereotype…salty, villainous, greedy, most likely missing some teeth. However, my friends and I have created a way to play pirates that doesn’t go against our real-world principles. Lia leads a ship whose crew is considered family. She would die before allowing harm to befall anyone aboard the Skull fleet. She also won’t allow raids on villages; instead, we seem to give our bounty to those in need. Definitely not a pirate thing to do. I get to be a barbarian and a bad-ass in battle. It feels empowering to kill two monsters with one swing of my mighty sword. Historically, I’ve played magic users and always had to stay in the background during fights due to my delicate constitution. Now I get to play a physically strong character and stretch those muscles within myself.
Do you have a space where you can experiment with who you are and feel safe doing so? I’d love to hear about it.
A good friend of mine gifted me with a raven and skull statue earlier this week. I love crows and ravens. While in Dublin, Ireland in 2008, I got a crow tattoo on my breastbone, inked by Zsolt at Zulu Tattoo in the Temple Bar district. I call it “downward flying crow” and will not post a picture due to its location. As a junior in high school I wrote a parody on Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” and won an award. My love of the large black corvid goes way back.
I’m so excited about receiving this present that I had my own photo shoot yesterday in two different locations: work and home, although the backgrounds look similar because I have the same decorating taste in both spaces.
Without further ado, I introduce Ravenskul, guardian of the Wolf living room, protector of all who lounge on the not-so-comfy sofa. He will also be a great prop tomorrow for my Dungeons and Dragons pirate game.
Ahoy, matey! The captain has a new friend to keep lookout for merchant ships to board and plunder.
Each month my friends and I meet for a full day of Dungeons and Dragons, a roleplaying adventure game that I’m sure you’ve heard of. They arrive at my house around noon and sometimes don’t leave until 9 pm. It makes for a tiring day, but one filled with tons of fun. Our current group started gaming together in 2012 with Rise of the Runelords, a Pathfinder adventure that took us four years to complete. Last fall we started Skull & Shackles, a pirate escapade on the high seas that has taken us out of our comfort zone.
I first began roleplaying in 2003 or 2004 with a homegrown adventure written by SJ, my current GM (gamemaster). Roleplaying stretched me. In the beginning I was terrified of making a mistake, of letting others see me, of drawing attention to any aspect of myself—you get the picture. Being with loving people who have become dear friends gave me a space to explore possibilities. Why couldn’t I be more outgoing like my selkie character Lyra? The charismatic druid I created and played mirrored aspects of myself that I didn’t feel safe expressing in real life. Over time I learned to relax more, to have fun, and to slowly incorporate the traits I liked in Lyra into my own experiences.
Matt and I moved to the mountains in 2008 and couldn’t realistically participate in tabletop RPG (role-playing games) from a distance. When we returned from our three-year journey into the wilderness, our friends suggested reforming our group to play Rise of the Runelords. Life had felt a little rough for me outside my beloved urban Raleigh-Durham area, and the sorceress I crafted for this adventure helped me learn to embrace my inner power. Elliana was a strong-willed, not-very-wise, magic user who shot lightning bolts from her fingertips. Playing her over the course of four years was illuminating, and with the help of Matt, I learned how to think outside the box. Several times Elliana used magic in an intensely creative and non-destructive way that impressed the heck out of me. Since those ideas came from me, I learned that I can express my creative side in real life and not fear it.
I grieved last summer as we completed the Runelords adventure, knowing Elliana had to retire to her hero afterlife. To help compensate for that loss, SJ allowed me to create my current character Lia as the daughter of Elliana and two other characters from the Runelords game. She is a combination of four different races, but the sorcery used in her birth went haywire, giving me a great roleplaying opportunity for times when Lia feels stress.
It was difficult to shift to this strong physical fighter, who is now also a pirate captain. We’re still learning to play our new roles in Skull & Shackles, but I can see a parallel in Lia’s physical abilities and my new interest in practicing yoga. Playing a pirate captain is stretching me, but our group has decided to be “good” pirates. We don’t prey on the innocent and will only take the life of an enemy when necessary. I look forward to seeing how the next three years will transform Lia and me in our tandem worlds.
A look at Lia's portfolio via the Hero Lab app (shown on an iPad Mini):