This story consists of events that happened close to five or six years ago, so my memory of the events are not exactly the most accurate, but I’ll do my best to recount what I do remember.
Ever since I was a teenager, I had always been aware of the existence of D&D but never really got to play it due to a lack of a group to play with. At least, until I discovered a local game store where I was finally able to jump in. It was Adventurer’s League, and I had brought my very first character ever ready to go. A level one lizardfolk druid by the name of Furyeon.
I was nervous and there was a lot of people, but by sheer luck I happened to be put in a table with two of the greatest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting and I’d say that if it hadn’t of been for them, I would never have fallen in love with D&D as much as I’ve had. They were playing a pair of extremely stuck up and racist high elves (well technically a high elf and a half-elf of high elven descent), and of course, the two of them had many remarks to make about my lizardfolk. Eventually, Furyeon finally decided to give back his own retort/threat to the elves.
“Back in my swamp, we eat things like you, knife-ears.”
After that point, all of us at the table laughed and it was revealed to me later that the two players, who I very much still consider my friends to this day, had a set of backup personalities in case they came off too hard or their personalities were too much of a problem at the table and they were pleasantly surprised how I took it in stride and even went along with it to roleplay.
It was thanks to these two that I went from game store to game store until eventually I entered a group that was getting ready to run Curse of Strahd. It was here that I created, and brace yourselves here, Tolen, The Fallen Aasimar, Vengeance Paladin of Kelemvor. He stood at six foot six, with a pretty built physique. Beneath his armor, his skin was a pale white. His irises that were once a deep blue like that of a sapphire or the ocean, since becoming a fallen aasimar, became a deep, crimson red, similar to the dark hatred that he once held within. Finally, his hair was a dark black color similar to that of onyx or coal, which he often forgets to trim.
Technically this was my second rendition of him as the first version of him was a Werecrocodile, Path of the Lycan Blood Hunter, but that group disbanded for various reasons. This version of Tolen was sort of what I had imagined he would have done after the events of the previous campaign.
Everyone he had ever loved was slain by vampires, and in hopes that their souls would rest peacefully in the afterlife, Tolen pledged himself to Kelemvor and worked as an undertaker and gravedigger. A gruff and unhappy man, Tolen was very serious and was honestly downright unpleasant, as was told to me a few time throughout the duration of Curse of Strahd.
If it wasn’t obvious by the character description and appearance, I was going through my teenage edge years, but it was made even worse by my increasing anger issues. It got so bad that I lashed out at those closest to me and withdrew into my own little world, only interacting with people to play D&D and then vanishing once more to avoid any sort of human contact, even with my own family.
Tolen very much was a reflection of myself in a way and was the first character I had ever felt such a personal connection with. Which I think is the reason why I felt so moved when the character started getting development when interacting with the other PCs at the table. There was one PC in particular that became Tolen’s best friend, and was the reason he was finally able to let go of his hate, rediscover what it was to have companions, see the world in a better light, and finally remember what it was like to smile.
Throughout the entirety of CoS up to this point Tolen had continued being the edgy and serious one of the group. He had even obtained for himself a crow-like mask similar to one of a plague doctor made of black leather with silver inlays about it. Sometimes his stubbornness led him to getting into lawful stupid territory, like when they were given an invitation to Strahd’s castle, which he immediately tore up and burned without asking the party their opinions about it. But then came along a person who would one day become the arch-wizard of Candlekeep, Junduvai.
It started as idle chatter, speaking to one another, but for the first time since interacting with everyone, Junduvai had shown genuine interest in the story of Tolen and why he had come to be here, why he was always so dark and glum. Shocked to see someone actually interested in what I made for my character, through Tolen I explained his oh so tragic past and why he now followed Kelemvor.
After hearing Tolen’s story, Junduvai continued to speak with Tolen on a multitude of ocassions, even helping Tolen to change his perspective on how to continue his life. It was these interactions that drew Tolen further and further out from his shell, and as he was being freed, so too was I being pulled along.
Tolen slowly but surely became a more uplifted individual. I started roleplaying him with much greater enthusiasm than before. He had laughs with fellow party members, memorable conversations with NPCs, and in the real world I started to slowly began to follow suit. I started being able to interact with people outside of D&D, my anger problems slowly began to lessen and lessen (though I still do have a bit of a temper, it has gotten significantly better over the years), and I overall started becoming a better person.
Never before had I fell in love with a character so much or felt so strongly when their character also started having development with other people at the table. Now that I look back at it, this is probably the moment I fell for D&D the hardest I ever had. Thanks to this game and the people I could play it with, I was able to mature and become a better person, all while enjoying the story and growth of a character across many adventurers from level one to twenty.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank Dungeons And Dragons for everything it has done for me.