Monday, September 5, 2016

DnD Character Classes, Livecasts, and REM

Last night I caught the live cast of Penny Arcade's Dungeons and Dragons at Pax West with one of my friends Milo. It was hilarious and if you get a chance to see the show or just catch up with the blogs you will not be disappointed. Assuming you like stuff like Dungeons and Dragons, which I obviously do.

Dungeons and Dragons Adventuring Party. Author's character not pictured.

I also like REM which is a fact I'm not sure I've mentioned yet on this blog. Which is weird.

Maybe I don't, on a whole, say enough about my love for REM because during the course of my dinner, Milo asked me on a scale of one to 10 what my fandom for REM is. He was trying to gauge my interest in a MOTH Radio story he had listened to, the one about Peter Buck and Ambien. Anyway, I was taken aback. It made me reflect on my own fandom in an intense and powerful way.

How big of a fan am I, anyway?

I thought of last week when I went out on my porch to read and listened to Murmur. I thought of the intense awe I feel of those songs, how I sang out the choruses, hunched over with the nostalgic ache for times past, childlike wonder causing paroxysms of hands and eyebrows.

My fandom is real.

But...and this is a painful admission...I've never actually gone to a live REM concert. Not that I've gone to many concerts period, as I usually restrict my music fandom to albums and the occasional YouTube live concert, but I've never gone. I also don't own any setlists which I understand to be a thing among the REM superfans, or any signed posters, or really any memorabilia at all. I don't own all the albums, just the ones I like.

And yet, as I write these words, I know secretly I'm wondering if today is the day I listen to "Out of Time," even though the emotions that album cause are very raw and even the happy songs carry with them the almost unbearable foreknowledge of loss and regret.

Listening to Milo's story about Peter Buck and the Ambien that nearly sent him to jail, I started to wonder about fandom, Dungeons and Dragons, and character classes. I wondered out loud what First Edition DnD character class a person would be depending on their particular early 80s favorite band. This provoked a very long and heartfelt consideration of these topics, eventually narrowing down to a few iron-clad assignments.

I'll wait while most of you flee the room.

Okay, still here? There are ten basic character classes in First Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (Two others that are more or less prestige classes so we didn't bother with them): Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Paladin, Thief, Assassin, Ranger, Magic-user, Illusionist, and Monk.

The following ten musicians struck us as being particularly popular in the early 80s and distinct enough to represent specific character classes: Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Prince, Michael Jackson, Replacements, Hüsker Dü, New Order, REM, Sonic Youth, and U2.

Some of the match-ups were very easy to figure out. The Boss is a fighter. Done. Others caused controversy. Milo agreed with my assignment for New Order but not my reasons behind it. At any rate, here, for posterity and for no redeeming social value whatsoever, are the Character Classes for Early 80s Music Fans.

First, the big four. As these are the most common and popular of the character classes, I thought these should go to the big four commericial artists of the 80s.

  • Cleric: Gotta be Madonna even though her songs with more overtly religious themes came out later. Although, I could see a case made for Prince.
  • Fighter: The Boss, 'natch.
  • Magic-User: I think Prince for the elemental wizardry of his music.
  • Thief: Michael Jackson - Smooth Criminal.
Then you have the more esoteric classes:
  • Assassin: I'm not sure if I could point to a specific reason why we both thought this one would go to Replacements but we both felt strongly about this.
  • Druid: Has to be REM, for the reverb alone. Also, they've always struck me as people comfortable conversing about and with trees. That's not meant as an insult.
  • Illusionist: They have a song called "Disease Illusions" and also more than a few songs concerned with the confusion, deception, and comforting illusions. 
  • Monk: The monk is the alternate tuning of Dungeons and Dragons character classes, so Sonic Youth felt right.
  • Paladin: U2, obviously. Has there ever been a more painfully sincere hierophantic band before or since?
  • Ranger: We went with Hüsker Dü. Rangers are quick. Hüsker Dü plays really fast. There was more to it but also probably not.
Okay, so that's what I've got. I'm thinking this could be done as a Dungeon World/Powered by Apocalypse style hack. 

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