Anyone can play D&D, and a D&D player can come from anywhere. Our “Player Profile” series hopes to highlight the diverse backgrounds of D&D players that have passed through our doors.
Tell us about yourself, what’s your background?
It took me a while to admit it, but I think, after teaching for the better part of 15 years, that I can finally say that I’m an educator. I love classrooms, and all the work that goes into helping people understand something useful or satisfying.
But that said, my training is actually in theatre. Back home in the Philippines, I got to work with a couple professional companies as a dramaturg—the person who evaluates the content of a show, and how a company would approach the material. It’s the work of figuring out how a group engages in dramatic composition. It’s a rather academic, yet thrilling task of reading and analyzing a text, understanding historical contexts, adapting work and for the stage.
I mention dramaturgy as it influences a lot of the stuff I do as a GM in my Dungeons & Dragons games. What makes sense for this narrative? Am I perpetuating stereotypes? What tropes do my players respond to? Dramaturgy asks these questions and more, as it assumes that if we are to be storytellers, we must be responsible ones.
Tell us about your D&D character
I get to play two characters these days, as I am quite spoiled for choice with my GMs these days! Both are multi-classed bards, but the two couldn’t be further from the other in personality.
The first is Irina, a hippy-dippy druidic singer who is all about love, peace, and community. She’s a bit obsessed with the community aspect at the moment, as she belongs to a sect that subsumes individuality for the sake of the greater whole. Her very sweet nature—well, she tries to be sweet—belies the heart of a fervent zealot. She’s currently going through a crisis of the faith though, so she’s been quite rebellious the past two sessions.
My other character is Trineth, a sorcerer-bard-warlock, pactbound to a baby phoenix who decided her heart would be a good place to nest. Trineth is constantly addled by the presence of the divine being in her chest, so she tends to ask obvious questions and makes stupid conclusions—a definite liability as she’s an officer of the law.
Why do you play D&D?
I love theatre, drama, and performing. D&D and other TRPGs (tabletop role-playing games) allow people to engage in the act of making stories and acting them out in the privacy and comfort of their own homes. Though this being Hong Kong, we don’t really get to do that openly! Space is still hard to come by! Still, there’s a joy, and power too, to create worlds within the one we occupy, even if our mundane existence might be a little cramped.
Role-playing games in general, not just D&D, when done well, are tools for empowerment and empathy. The teamwork and empathy aspect are fairly evident. You need to work with others to succeed in missions, puzzles, and whatever the story throws at you. But as this is a game whose fun depends on group buy-in, you learn to listen and cater to your gaming group’s needs. Collectively, people learn that they can accomplish so much more through cooperation in play.
A lot more can be said about gaming—so much so that cultural and intertextual studies have a branch of it called ludology—that it can’t be covered in a single profile. I invite anyone reading to give tabletop role-playing games a try, and find out what all the hype is about. We’ve seemingly entered a golden age of TRPGs, where micro-games, big publishing, and what have you are producing new products at an astonishing rate. They’re all out there, ready to be experienced. 🙂
Mahar grew up in the Philippines, and moved to Hong Kong in August 2017. He is a theatre-trained instructor for speech and debate. When not in the classroom, Mahar spends weekends playing D&D and researching bakes for bread, cake, and other desserts.