Connecting Character Development In Dungeons & Dragons And Discovering The Identity Within By Daniel Quasar

Connecting Character Development In Dungeons & Dragons And Discovering The Identity Within By Daniel Quasar

Connecting Character Development In Dungeons & Dragons And Discovering The Identity Within By Daniel Quasar

Daniel Quasar is a Portland-based artist, designer, and musician with a focus on multimedia, retro-futurism, and minimalism. They're the creator of the Progress Pride Flag, among many other contributions in the design and media world. Their work has been featured by Target, DC, Nike, Reebok, Adobe, Lyft, Spotify, and VH1/Logo.

Something I never thought I would find within character creation in D&D is the world of identity it would open up to me, or how immediate my diversion to alternative creations would be.

I remember the first time I made myself a character for a campaign during high school. I don’t remember exactly which tabletop rpg system was used, and we didn’t really follow any rules or books, we were just having fun between classes, but I built myself as this half-android half-human character with eyes that could change color at will. This was a very important particular detail that I emphasized, I still don’t know why.

I didn’t play more tabletop style rpg games for a while after that. Lots of life in the way, religion taking up my time, coming out at Queer and that whole experience, etc etc. But eventually I returned to it a few years ago in the Before Times.

A handful of fellow drag sisters and brothers were playing a campaign and asked me to join. I was super eager to hop in so I did. This time I created a Half-Elf character, a popular choice I would make over and over again in the future. I don’t remember a lot of the details but what I do remember is what I did with their appearance and how they interacted with the world around them. This was the first time I made my character Non-Binary, which was also prior to my own self-discovery of being outside the binary and even before I really knew the language around it. They weren’t identified as non-binary but the things they could do were definitely spot on. For instance, I made it so at any moment or glance, someone would look at them and perceive them as however masculine or feminine as the character chose. One person might have looked at me and seen the most handsome elf they’ve ever seen, while a moment later another person saw the most beautiful. (Note: I am using those words in a gendered way for this example when they normally are not, or I don’t particularly use them that way) I felt power in the mystery of it all and it was fun being able to play with an aspect of myself in that way. I felt joy from it.

Eventually that game ended and I started a project with some more performance friends. We wrote and crafted a hybrid stage show featuring D&D player characters acting out the table adventures. We called it Dungeons & Drag Queens. One of the tenants of this show was taking it away from the stage and bringing it into a different kind of space. We spent about 2 years and 4 sold out shows performing at a local game store’s bar. Our audience were the nerds so we went to where they were, instead of trying to bring them to us, and it was a wild success. I portrayed a magical princess named Chastyty (with 2 Ys) and I had Daddy's magic credit card that let me have anything and do everything I wanted. We as a cast of performers and creators had fun, never took ourselves too seriously, and tried to make it as stupid and silly as possible. Sometimes I miss it, but it was great for what it was. Plus, I think Dimension20 might have something to say if we tried to do it again.

A few years into The Pandemic, some of my friends were crafting a group for D&D and I decided to join in. It had been a long time and I really wanted to run around in fantasy worlds again, for a multitude of good reasons. I made myself another Half-Elf Bard, named Quadance, from the College of Tragedy but I wanted to go deeper and a bit more meta. After talking with my DM and coordinating things, I secretly built a character who was appearing as a half-elf but was actually a changeling, named Qade. We left this detail out of the group's knowledge, both in game and out. I think we went a solid year before I revealed myself to one of the group members in the game (which of course revealed me to the whole group in real life) and I was so nervous while it was happening. It was coming out trauma all over again, haha, but in a good way. Eventually I revealed myself to the rest of the family I made in game, and it felt freeing to live as myself for once.

Recently I had to leave the group because my schedule was getting busy and my calendar was being filled with opportunities for travel and getting to speak for amazing people. It was becoming clear that I couldn’t handle making it to my sessions and keeping a firm grasp on my growing desire to take these opportunities, so I chose to take myself out, but not without making a good exit. I was a Bard afterall, so it had to be dramatic (and again, meta). We had a session coming up and we all talked like we were going to be there, myself included. I played up being so excited and couldn’t wait to continue the game. What was really going on was my DM told them I would be late and to play without me. They were all competing in a fighting tournament my character wasn’t participating in so this was the perfect moment to make something happen. Prior to the game I wrote a letter and gave it to my DM with instructions for who it was supposed to go to and left other details up to him. I waited at home for their reaction. After the tournament was over, one of the players found that their bag had been messed with and discovered my letter in it. Immediately I received a text in the group chat with everyone holding my letter and flipping it off. They said “how dare you, and we love you.” It was so funny and so much fun, it was perfect. Something I felt was pure agency over myself and how to engage my own needs in a way that worked for me. It felt good.

Identity is such an interesting thing. We spend so much time trying to figure it out, yet also confine ourselves to what we discover or whatever society decided for us at some point in history. I was born male based on outward appearance and then prescribed a starter kit for my adventure, which would contain everything I would need as a man living in this time and location. Do this and do that, take these, play with those, avoid this, don’t do that with those people, and the list goes on and on.

I look back at these characters and can’t help but think they are historical moments of my exploration of self and how I would eventually come to portray my IRL self. A way to dip my toes into the unreal while still holding onto reality, just in case, while at the same time, adopting pieces of these characters into that real self I tried to mask with that starter kit. A mirror of real lived experiences of change.

Change isn’t always quick. It can be something that extends across a long period of time. Honestly, change isn’t always one event or one occurrence, but a collection of things all shifting in their own pace and way.

Like the Pride flag from 1978, nothing ever stays the same but it moves and shifts as society and time influences it. So too am I ever-changing.

These events, life happenings, and even these game sessions changed me. Through them, room was made for something bigger and even better.

Am I the same as I was before? …meh not really. But that’s okay. I’m really into the mystery of it every time I level up.