It was a proud moment for me. My brother texted to say he was getting married and he asked me to be his best (wo)man. And then he told me it was going to be a "Lord of the Rings"-theme wedding. Oh yes. I'm fortunate to be a member of a geeky family that revels in everything from Star Trek to "Game of Thrones." My brother's name "Ara" is a shortened version of "Aragorn" from "Lord of the Rings."
I immediately googled "best man duties" and discovered I was responsible for planning the bachelor party. I knew what I wanted the theme to be: Dungeons & Dragons. We played D&D as kids. I remember poring over my brother's hardback game manuals and cheating the rolls as we built super-powerful character sheets to take on basilisks, elementals and floating eyes.
I looked online for inspiration, expecting a Pinterest bonanza of D&D party photos featuring dragon cupcakes and knightly decor, but to little avail. Like a lone fighter on a quest, I set out to design a party from scratch. I knew we would need a group activity, a dungeon, a gaming session and whiskeys of the world (this was a bachelor party after all).
Here's my guide for building a Dungeons & Dragons-theme bachelor party:
Recruit a painter: Comic-book artist Jenn Myers from Typod Mary volunteered her time, her driveway and her paint rollers to craft a series of large murals and banners to decorate my living room. The end result was a "Game of Thrones"-esque wolf banner, a dragon banner and a massive mural depicting the vine-covered interior of a castle with a skeleton popping out of the wall. It's all about the ambience.
Decorate like a druid: I wanted my living room to feel like stepping inside a ruined castle. The murals went a long way towards achieving this effect, but I also set up a plastic sword on the mantel, scatted LED candles around and attached iron candle sconces to the walls. The sconces popped up in a search for "dungeon" on Craigslist. I hooked up my Amazon Echo to play the sounds of chains, footsteps and water dropping from the online Dark World eerie RPG soundscape generator. Subtly creepy.
Capture a dragon's egg: My first instinct was to find a dragon's lair, sneak inside and steal an egg, but this proved to be impossible. So instead we hired Albuquerque chocolatier Joliesse Chocolates to make an entirely edible dragon egg from dark chocolate. The resulting confection was a glorious, shimmery object filled with truffles. My brother dispatched it with a hammer, breaking it into bite-sized pieces and revealing the artsy chocolates inside.
Book an archery range: In the heat of the New Mexico summer, I decided it wouldn't be prudent to try to track down a local SCA troupe dressed in metal armor in a park. Instead, I booked a private instructor for an air-conditioned stint at a local indoor archery range prior to the immersive dungeon-adventure portion of the party. The bows are modern, but there's a primal D&D-style thrill to stalking and dispatching 3D foam targets in the shapes of dinosaurs.
Find a Dungeon Master: My brother is an avid role-playing gamer, but that often means he ends up as the DM, leading the adventurers on their quests. For his party, I wanted him to sit back and play, so I brought in John Myers, an experienced DM, to run the game.
Play the game: Myers crafted a custom H.P. Lovecraft/D&D mashup story using the Dungeon Crawl Classics system. DCC has a high attrition rate for characters, so every player starts off with four, most of whom aren't expected to survive. I bought sets of dice in different colors for every attendee to use during the game and take home afterwards. I kept the pink sparkle set for myself.
Throughout the night, the 1980s animated TV series "Dungeons & Dragons" played on mute in the background, a kitschy counterpoint to the room's dark decorations. The entire show is available on DVD. In case you blinked and missed it during your childhood, it involves a group of kids riding a magic roller coaster to a land filled with D&D monsters and villains. It's exactly as weird as it sounds.
Our brave band of guild beggars, stonemasons, mendicants and gong farmers successfully defeated a cult on an island and prevented the rise of a behemoth creature from beneath the ocean. It was all in a night's work for the intrepid heroes of the Dungeons & Dragons bachelor party.