A quick Q&A with Derrek Weston Brown, and has anyone heard of an RPG called “Spellcasters”

Back a little bit before I posted the D&D poem, I also sent an email to the author and asked for some more information about the poem and his experiences.  He recently got back to me, and here are his comments.  Mr. Brown’s book Wisdom Teeth is available from Teaching for Change.

By the way, if anyone has heard of the game “Spellcasters,” let me know.  There was a computer/video game of that title later on but I wonder if Mr. Brown’s group was playing a home-brewed variant of D&D, a somewhat obscure published game, or what.  But as he notes, he’s not sure about the name….

Anyway i sent off my questions before getting the comments on the original post, but I imagine Mr. Brown will comment there is he wants to.  My questions in italics, his answers in bold.  BTW Groucho is an awesome name for a rogue.

Q:  I’m […] curious whether the poem was written because you really played D&D or if D&D is just standing in for general nerdom (the mention of Junot Diaz’s book makes me wonder)

A: Yes, I played D&D for a time, starting in middle school, probably around sixth grade until seventh grade, when Nintendo became my sole supplier for adventure. I was and still continue to be a fan of Fantasy and Sci-Fi.  I was a big Piers Anthony fan, I loved Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea Cycle, and I am and continue to be a big Tolkien fan. I just saw The Hobbit trailer and I am excited, though I wonder what it would have looked like if Del Toro had directed it. I was a comic book collector for a time as well; I dug ElfQuest, TMNT, Usagi Yojimbo, and later I moved up to Lone Wolf and Cub, Fist Of The North Star, and a few Marvel and DC titles, but I’m going on a tangent.

Anyway, I played with four to five other kids. We spend the night at this one kid’s house because he had the larger dining room and parents that didn’t mind that we stayed up late. Also his older  sister, when she visited from college, was our DM. We also played a bootleg version of D&D called Spellcasters (sp?).  Sidenote: I had a Rouge/Thief character I named Groucho. Neutral .

Q: Did it seem like something weird & lonely because the guys you were playing with were all white, or because it was a niche/nerd hobby, or because of something about the game itself?

A: It never seemed weird or lonely to me at the time because it was fun and my friends liked to play it and I liked to play it and that was that. Being the only black kid playing , wasn’t odd to me either, I was pretty used to being the only black kid is certain situations. As far as being black, my Mom instilled in me a positive and realistic outlook, understanding, and historical context behind my race. But she also let me know that “blackness” wasn’t this monolithic, rigid, requirement. Though at times, throughout my life I would struggle with the assumed things and actions that were perceived as “black,” I eventually learned that I could proceed and do all I wanted to do with the confidence that I was being true to myself.

I knew it was a nerd/niche hobby. Oddly enough, I got more grief from white kids, about my D&D involvement, and it wasn’t a race thing. it was an adolescent, middle school pecking order thing. D&D + Me = Member of the “Nerd Herd.”

Q:  There is some debate among D&D players about whether the game, in its various versions and editions, is inherently sexist, racist, Eurocentric, etc., on account of the art, language, source material (specifically the fantastic literature, mostly European mythologies, etc.), and so on.

A: Looking back on it now through adult eyes, and the fact that as a writer and Creative Writing teacher, I have to read critically and think critically, I can most definitely recognize the validity of the argument that various versions of  the game hold many “isms” .  Sexism (check), Racism/Stereotypical depictions (yup), Eurocentric (uh-huh), language and source material (of course).

But during the time I played D&D, each of us kids used our imaginations to visualize the creatures we faced, the vast lands we explored, and pretty much inserted ourselves into the games. Honestly, my thief looked like me, waaay taller, and more or less dressed like a Ninja or something in my imagination. I selected the thief, because I liked the fact that he was neutral. I didn’t have any misgivings about selecting the thief for fear that folks would  blurt out  “Ha-ha, future career Derrick!”  Nope.  This wasn’t that kind of party.   My time playing D&D was short. I was young and just really scraping the surface of the social awareness I would develop as I got older. Call it a time of innocence with a game I enjoyed for a brief time and then moved away from.

(Junot Diaz’s character from The Brief and Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao is probably the first Dominican Geek I’d ever heard of; he played RPG’s up until the very end of the novel.)

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Published in: on December 30, 2011 at 5:00 pm  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Was it The Compleat Spell Caster perhaps?

    http://rpggeek.com/rpgitem/56288/the-compleat-spell-caster

  2. as far as i know, no fantasy rpg was ever published under that name. i think it may have been a game they themselves developed for their group.

    i’m very interested in such obscure games, but if you look at rpg encyclopedia there is no entry for that..


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