I love D&D. I first started playing when I was in high school. I would always play a paladin or a ranger. My ranger was always named Ranger Rick James because, come on, if you have a good name, you stick with it. One night, we were playing at my house instead of our DMs. We played until around 5 AM in our dining room. Joel kept wanting a tower shield for no other reason than that it is cool. Bill made sure we were trap free as we ventured through a dungeon, constantly stopping to “check for traps!” He somehow found a toy magnifying glass in my house and, man, that was funny. Eventually, we were all goofing off when someone somehow rammed the back of their head into Ian, our DMs, face and gave him a real bad black eye. I found some frozen veggies for his eye. It was the most memorable game I played with them.
The Cleveland Heights LGBTQ Sci-Fi and Fantasy Role Playing Club by Doug Henderson took me back to those high school campaigns. The groups were full of angst and internal conflicts, but they all gathered for the love of their favorite game. The book focuses on three characters: Valerie, Mooneyham, and Ben. Celeste, their DM, introduces a new person into their group, Albert. He’s beautiful and cool and Ben doesn’t think he is there for all the right reasons. But, he’s also nice to Ben, something he isn’t used to. During their first session as a group, Ben’s character is killed. Albert, the paladin (oh yeah baby), wants to venture into the City of the Dead to bring him back. Of course, this is all the proof Ben needs that Albert likes him. Unfortunately, he’s dating Ben’s sort-of ex boyfriend.
Meanwhile, Valerie is being followed by a top-hatted mystery man named Varnec. He’s one of those guys who dresses up like a vampire and is just straight-up weird. All the while, she’s trying to adapt to working a full-time job for the first time in her life.
Mooneyham is closeted and works at a bank where he’s part of a group of guys who are aiming for the top. Things are going great until his boyfriend informs him that he was by a group of men while walking home from work. When Mooneyham finds out that one of the guys from the bank is in the group, he struggles with how to come out to these hyper-masculine idiots that he works with.
It’s a beautiful book full of love and humor and heartbreak and joy. Anyone who grew up against society’s norms can see themselves in some character of this book. Henderson’s understanding of not only the game, but of how people interact during a campaign is something to behold. I’m most likely going to pick this up when it comes out on April 15, 2021.