The Joel Stein Show: Slay Trippers
There are a few things one should never admit in print. I've already owned up to watching porn, being bad in bed, listening to Bruce Hornsby, and having a mullet. But everyone has limits, and, at best, I will imply that I am somewhat familiar with the basic rules of Dungeons & Dragons. I may have even owned metal figurines and about 50 official books that I may or may not have kept in a box I painted black with stenciled silver lettering reading "Welcome to the World of Dungeons & Dragons." I also may not have realized it was still in my parents' basement the first time I brought a girl down there. I may hate that box like no man has ever hated a box.
But somehow being into The Lord of the Rings is now acceptable, so I thought it might be okay to revisit my involvement with role-playing games. I called Wizards of the Coast, the company that makes Dungeons & Dragons, and asked them to send an expert to run a game for me. Then I asked all my friends if they'd play. When that didn't go so well, I called the man who made it acceptable to take the threat of orcs seriously, Elijah Wood. Actors, it turns out, have quite a bit of free time.
As I flew to Los Angeles to play D&D with Elijah Wood, I realized that EW editors don't realy have a firm grasp on what makes a good story. However, with Elijah Wood playing, I was able to get several people to come, including my friend Adam, Elijah's publicist's brother, and a woman named Ali, whose presence officially doubled the number of women who had ever played D&D. The guy the company sent to be in charge of our soiree was Jonathan Tweet, 37, who designed the latest version of the game. Jonathan was not at all what we expected. Sure, he was geeky and balding and heavy and told us he invented his own linguistics, but he was married.
Jonathan, who was our Dungeon Master (just one of many terms I once used regularly and now realize sound homoerotic), told us we had gone to see Venor the druid to get instructions on an adventure, but his hut was burned down and there were arrows with a mysterious substance on their tips littered about and a mute girl pointing down a set of stairs. Jonathan didn't laugh once during this speech. In fact, Jonathan, who obviously got into the whole dungeon mastering thing as a power trip, didn't really like when we talked about things out of our wizard and druid characters. The only time we got to digress was when room service came, and a maid opened up a bottle of Coke and asked Elijah, who is not a particularly tall man, if it was his. "Is this for little boy?" she said. The room got very quiet. "Yes, for little boy," she repeated, handing it to him. "I'm 21!" Elijah yelled. "I haven't heard 'little boy' since I was 10." I offered to roll the 20-sided die to see if I could kill the maid.
We returned to the game, now slightly uncomfortable, when we came across a female goblin, whom, without bragging, I'll just say that I helped take care of. This greatly excited Elijah. "Let's loot the bitch. Can I slit her throat?" he asked. Ali looked a little startled. This is why guys usually don't let women play. Men work out a lot of anger issues when they're alone. Sometime those anger issues stem directly from comments made by housekeepers.
After the game, Jonathan asked Elijah to sign his character sheet, which I feared would be put up on their website. I haven't felt this much guilt since I screened my mom's last call. But I felt a lot less guilty when, for the next hour, Elijah and his publicist's brother stayed in my room talking about videogames and collectible toys, some of which may have been called Pogs and Kubricks. It was like my remote control didn't work and I was stuck on a public access show. "You mention anything to a geek that is made in limited edition and they've got to have it," he explained. "I get shaky when I think about things like that there's an Amelie Kubrick!" I'm pretty sure, seriously, that he was talking about an action figure from the movie Amelie.
After they left, I remembered all the things I once collected: baseball cards, those bogus CDs that were somehow plated with gold, phone numbers of women I had no shot with. But I've matured into a lazier type of geek who annoys people by collecting obscure facts and acting superior about them. I'm sure, though, that I could easily revert back to that place, even playing D&D, if I was in with the right crowd and lost my ability to ever have sex again.