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A love letter to Zanna

I know the title is confusing at best, but there’s something I want to lay off my chest. Self love is important for sure, but I’m not at the point of writing love letters to myself, also because you probably know that that is not my real name. And if you didn’t until now, well now you know. And I think it’s about time I tell you the story about how I came to choose it as a pen name.

The short version of the story is that Zanna Garrick is the name of my longest tenured Dungeons and Dragons character. Lame as the story might sound, it means a lot to me because even though I had already been played before, I never had so much fun as I had in the 2+ years of the campaign I’ve played as Zanna.

Two of my closest former fellow students from college had tried several times to set up a party to play D&D, but there always had been something that didn’t make me enjoy the experience as much as they did. Then, in 2019, I found a job outside of my home city and moved up there. We tried to keep up the party through Discord and virtual tabletops, but it didn’t work. I’m too easily distracted to play online, and as I said we were playing with people who didn’t believe in what they were doing enough or believed a tad too much in it, so we didn’t last long.

At the end of February 2020 I was fired out of the blue. It was quite a shock to go back to my hometown after so much time away, and the rejection stung. A lot. I’m not sure I really got over it after two and a half years, so you can imagine how much it stung back then. Other than sending resumes literally anywhere, I knew I had to think about a way to occupy one of the first evenings back in my hometown. Luckily enough, one of the first things I did was to text the friends I’d tried to role-play with.

“Are you still playing? Any chance we can meet for a one-shot?”

But their response went beyond my more optimistic expectation. They were still playing indeed, with some new people, and they were ok with me joining the party. The Dungeon Master seemed particularly thrilled at the idea of having me back. “I’ve got an entrance ready for you, and if you play it well it’s going to turn out epic,” he said.

And it was epic, indeed it was. I loved the kind of character he wanted me to build and the side quest I had to fulfil within the game. With a little help from the Dungeon Master and a few very lucky dice rolls, I carried out my secret mission before being questioned by my party companions.

The rest is history, and I guess you can imagine how the rest of 2020 unfolded. Covid pandemic forced us all inside, and as much as we promised that we were going to keep on playing online, deep down inside I feared this was going to be end of my interest in the game. I was afraid I was going to play poorly and get distracted because of my inability to focus when there are too many shiny things around me.

But much to my surprise, nothing of that sort happened. Online session after online session, I found myself more and more focused on the campaign, and instead of doom scrolling or just minding my own business when it wasn’t my turn, I ended up looking up actions and class features so that I got to my turn ready to play. I cared about my character, I knew how I wanted her to be portrayed, and I did my best to carry it out. I became Zanna Garrick, in more ways than just one.

Maybe it’s my soft spot for lawful evil alignment, maybe it’s how the feeling clicked with the rest of the party, or maybe is the fact that they were a factor in preventing me from falling into a dark place, but I really enjoyed playing as Zanna. I found myself thinking with her head, seeing that fictional world through her eyes, and this is something I’m sure every role-player can relate to.

And this is pretty much why I find myself rambling about it now that the campaign we started two and a half years ago has just ended. It’s like when you finish that book you’re enjoying every word of, that movie that carries you away, that TV show that fills your time for one season after another until it’s over. The moment of the “now what?” as we realise that something that has been a part of our lives for such a long time, that gave us so much, is over.

In the case of a roleplaying campaign it’s even worse, because it’s not easy to say goodbye to a character you’ve been playing for more than two years. I guess I’m quite an extreme case of identification with a character, but it’s a consolation to think that in some way Zanna has found a way to survive the campaign.

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