Updated: Aug 11, 2021
My husband and I (Sarah) moved to London in 2011. I don't know if you've done something like this before, but it's quite the change to go from the USA to the UK. We have family in England, but we rarely see most of them as they live a fair distance away. And over the past 9 years, we have moved and restarted our real-life social network three times, been part of two different churches, and visited several others. The last move was especially frustrating as we had three children and I felt like we were finally reaching a point of having a solid support system behind us, which had taken about 5 years to build. And that support system was almost entirely thanks to #DND.
I wanted to learn how to play around 2013, and felt completely overwhelmed by the options... do I go with Pathfinder? D&D 3.5? It sounds like 4th Edition was rough, but 3rd Edition had a lot of critiques too. But then I heard that Wizards of the Coast had a release date for 5th Edition, and a Starter Set! So, in 2014, my pregnant-butt marked the calendar and preordered my copy, ready to dive in as soon as I got my hands on it. I mentioned it to a new friend of my mine at church to see if she'd like to learn - and she said yes! (That was Katie, by the way.) We built up a group from mutual friends and all except one person had never played before; even then, that one friend hadn't played since AD&D in highschool. After our very first session, we had so much fun that we got together the very next night!
Since then, I've had several groups and campaigns, both where I GM'd and was a player. I've played a Star Wars TTRPG, #Dread, Tales from the Loop... I've sat at a table with tears in my eyes, lost sleep thinking about stories and characters, and found such excitement within these worlds that I felt like I could burst. But these games go beyond just the table for me. Beyond the writing, the inside-jokes, and shiny dice.
I have stumbled on life-long friendships. I was even in a MASSIVE online D&D game (which became a shitshow, but that's a whole 'nother story) and the people I met there I count as family to this day. I went through a very stressful situation, like the kind where you're shaking with anxiety and can't eat or focus on anything... it was awful. But I found solace in talking to one of these people, who at the time I hadn't met in person. It was an extremely personal situation, and he listened and supported me and helped me process and work through it. I genuinely appreciate and love them (and we've since met and played a one-shot and boardgames and it was awesome!)
When we moved to Godalming in 2018, there was a fair bit to clean up at our old flat. Once again, D&D friends swooped in and helped. One stayed VERY late helping us take apart furniture. Another worked with his dad to fix a broken window in the house AND ferry rubbish to the dump. We've had Thanksgiving dinners with them, celebrated birthdays, and holidays together.
And this isn't about doing things for each other. It's that these friends became our family. We do life together. And that is what makes all the difference.
2018, the year that we moved to Godalming, was -to this day- the worst year of my life. And I'm counting the pandemic of 2020. Also, bear in mind my children were 2, 4 and 6 years old at the time and my husband worked full-time in London, and generally did not get home until after the kids were in bed.
*I packed up 98% of the house on my own (which was very stressful) because the husband was working so much.
*My car got hit twice times (one time by a delivery van, and they never sorted it).
*It took the council 4+ weeks to get my oldest into school because his other school neglected to provide certain documents in a timely manner.
*My husband broke his ankle Halloween night, shortly after we had moved and we had little to no support here.
*Kids drew on the walls and the letting agency did an inspection three months after we moved in and casually mentioned possible eviction for violating the lease because of the damage, giving us 3 weeks to get it sorted for a second inspection. (This was after the ankle break... me vs. three children, a bedridden husband, a house that was half-way unpacked.)
*Family came from California to visit for Christmas, but then my father-in-law ended up at the hospital for several weeks, and we were told to "prepare for the worst" that first week (he survived, thank God, but that didn't make anything easier).
And those are just the big things. Through that entire year, the friendships forged through D&D saved me. I already mentioned help during the move. But during the autumn and winter, when Ted had to get 3 surgeries on his ankle and I was driving to the hospital every few days, one friend came and hung out at the house with our sleeping babies so I could do that. Katie came and stayed with us when she was able to lend an extra hand more than once, and she was there for Christmas and watched the kids so I could take the family to Dad at the hospital.
I am *eternally* greatful for all these amazing people I now have in my life, and it's thanks to this silly, imaginative game where we roll dice on a table and talk in funny voices at each other that I even know them. These moments are only the tip of the iceburg.
If you have a story to share, please leave it in the comments. I'll make sure to grab a tissue. And if you're looking for a group, a game, please drop a note too, and we can do our best to help out.
Happy gaming, my friends.