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The Top Six Nerdy, Fantasy-Related Things That You Can Try When You’re Not In The Mood To Read

I’m a high school English teacher by day—fantasy freak by night. If I were to include a list of all of the fantasy authors that I love, or a list of my favorite fantasy novels—well—it would be quite expansive. With being an English teacher, and having a full load of grading and lesson planning to do throughout the week, it can be hard to find the time to read those thick fantasy novels that I adore so very much. But, without a healthy helping of fantasy-related shenanigans, I can begin to get…cranky. My students don’t like me when I’m cranky.

So, whether you are like me and have a job that sucks away your time, or you’re a reader who gets disheartened when the plot doesn’t go according to your plan, or you just want to give those eyes a break, here is my list of the top six favorite fantasy-related nerdy things that you can do alone or with friends to get your fantasy fix. All fantasy lovers are nerds at heart, so if you don’t know some of the things on this list (and you really should), I hope to open your eyes to the other avenues of fantasy fun.

6. Watching That Favorite Fantasy Movie

Most anyone can find 2-3 hours to sit with a blanket and a bag of Cheetos (or, you know, an actual loved-one) and watch an old fantasy favorite. The Lord of the Rings, Inkheart, Labyrinth, The Never-Ending Story, any of the Harry Potter series, Howl’s Moving Castle, any of a number of Disney Princess movies, Shrek, The Princess Bride, How to Train Your Dragon, Time Bandits, Monty Python and the Holy Grail…the list goes on. So, if you need have a free evening and need a fairly quick fantasy fix, this is the avenue for you.

Movie Posters

5. Playing Skyrim

Skyrim (cover)(or other equally awesome fantasy video games such as Assassin’s Creed, Dishonored, Fable, and Kingdoms of Amalur)

This is more of a solo adventure unless, of course, you’re one of those cool cats with Xbox live and Turtle Beaches and can chat with a friend whilst navigating the snowy mountains of the Rim. Skyrim (or really any Elder Scrolls title) takes my top spot for video game fun. Whether you are interested in becoming a mage, an archer, an assassin, a thief, a good old hack and slash swordsman, or some combination of the previous, you’re bound to find something in this game that tickles your fantastical fancy for hours and hours. Oh, and you get to fight dragons! Technically this one would take LONGER to complete than a fantasy novel. But if you’re brain gets tired of imagining the fantasy world in that novel you’re working on, you can give it a break and let Bethesda imagine the world for you.

4. Joining the SCA (The Society for Creative Anachronism)

If you haven’t heard about the SCA, you’re surely missing out. To take a quote from the SCA website:

“The SCA is an international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe. Our “Known World” consists of 19 kingdoms, with over 30,000 members residing in countries around the world. Members, dressed in clothing of the Middle-Ages and Renaissance, attend events which feature tournaments, royal courts, feasts, dancing, various classes & workshops, and more.”

SCA KnightsSounds pretty epic, right?

My fiancé was actually a member for a while. You get a name, you build your own armor out of period materials such as chainmail, leather and so on, or you go the cheap route and create it from 50 gallon plastic barrels cut into plates, you’ll want a helmet and a shield (both preferably made from metal), and a sword, which are constructed from rattan, a kind of wood similar to bamboo. If you’re a guy, you’ll want to invest in a cup to protect your dangly bits. There are also fencing classes, which tend to fill up with ladies first.

It’s a huge community, particularly in southern Ohio. In America, it all culminates in the event called the Pennsic War, which takes place in Pennsylvania. People from all over the world attend this event. To learn more about it, follow the link here. It’s a pretty big commitment, but there is plenty of time for preparation, and it really throws you in to medieval culture like nothing else does. Think of your local Renaissance Festival on steroids.

And usually, after the weekly meeting, the whole group will go out to the bar and nurse their bruises over drinks and noms. Sounds like a great time to me!

3. Playing Dungeons and Dragons

Dungeons and Dragons (PHB)Good ol’ Dungeons and Dragons. This one gave birth to the fantasy nerd who dwells in basements with other basement dwellers, rolling dice, drinking soda, and eating junk food. Back in 1974, some guys got together and published the first game. It was later published by Wizards of the Coast in 1997. Some of those fantasy novels that you love so very much were first D&D campaigns. Many of the Forgotten Realms novels began this way.

The nice thing about Dungeons and Dragons is that you don’t need to be a basement dweller to enjoy it. Get a group of friends together, pick the best storyteller to be the Dungeon Master (this is usually the guy/girl who can come with something better than “you all randomly meet in a pub and decide to set off on a journey together”), roll your characters, and make sure that there is plenty of beer around. This one can also be a commitment, but once-a-week meetings should be pretty easy to swing. If you can’t swing a few hours on a Saturday night, then I’m gonna have to roll a douche-check…yep, a natural twenty. 😉

2. Playing Tabletop Games

Settlers of CatanLike Settlers of Catan, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Ticket to Ride, Or The Myriad of Other Board Games That You Can Find At A Game Store

Some board games are expensive—these, unfortunately fall into that category. But upwards of $50 bucks for a board game that is freaking fun is worth it. The three that I have listed here are some of my favorites, but there are many more games to choose from.

Settlers of Catan is a settlement game (obviously). You place settlements and roads and collect resources to build more settlements and roads. You can trade resources with friends to get what you need to build larger things, like cities. It’s simple, but addicting, and there are many different editions of the game. It’s a 3-4 player game; the expansion makes it a 3-6 player game.

Betrayal at House on the Hill is more for you horror fans. You navigate a house with other players and discover room tiles that you place in an arrangement of your own design. You draw cards and experience ghostly things until the big haunt starts, where there are 50 different scenarios that can play out. One player will be the traitor. To win the game, the rest of the players must work together to defeat the traitor before they succeed in their dastardly deed. It’s another product brought to you by Wizards of the Coast. If you’re interested in a fun, challenging game night, this is the game for you. 3-6 players.

Ticket To RideTicket to Ride is a cross-country train adventure in which you and your friends collect and play matching train cards to claim railway routes connecting cities throughout whichever edition you own. The longer the routes, the more points you earn. Additional points come to those who can fulfill their Destination Tickets by connecting two distant cities, and to the player who builds the longest continuous railway. Ticket to Ride is not fantasy based, but it’s super fun. It’s a German-made game, and there are numerous versions: North America, Europe, Märklin (Germany), and Nordic Countries. 2-5 players.

As I said, there are TONS of other games out there. Do some investigating in your free time.

1. Playing Magic: the Gathering

Magic: The GatheringI have only recently discovered the beauty that is Magic: the Gathering. Some of you may disagree with me in placing Magic: the Gathering in my top spot for favorite alternative fantasy fun, and you are allowed to do so. However, I think that it is the perfect thing for getting that quick fantasy fix.

Since its creation in 1993, Magic has been incredibly popular. More than 12,000 different cards have been printed since the original Alpha set was released. You can buy pre-constructed decks or build your own deck from single cards. It’s sometimes called “the big kid” version of Nintendo’s Pokemon franchise, but I believe it to be WORLDS beyond Pokemon in every way. There are so many combinations and so many different ways you can build a deck that the possibilities are endless. The art styles are so much more mature than what you will find in other trading card games of this type, and the fan base is incredible.

Magic: The Gathering - Black LotusGames can be incredibly short one vs. one matches, or sprawling eight vs. eight battles. You can play in standard Friday Night Magic tournaments with strangers, or you can play at home with your friends. Plus, if you’re the gambling type, opening booster packs can yield a lot of coin. Some of these cards can sell for ridiculous amounts of money. A complete Beta set (the set released two months after the original Alpha) goes for $1,800 on eBay. That’s a crazy chunk of change.

So there you have it. To me, these six things are some of the most fun fantasy-related past-times that I participate in. If you’ve never heard of some of these things, and you’re a fantasy fan, then you have led a very sheltered life. Let me beseech you to crawl from beneath the rock under which you reside and give some of these things a chance. I promise that you won’t be disappointed.

Let me know in the comments below what sort of fantasy shenanigans YOU get into when you’re not delving into the next fantasy novel on your to-be-read list.

Title image by CarlChristensen.



  1. Avatar Jamie Gibbs says:

    Damn, apart from D&D and the SCA that’s pretty much me to a tee! Will have to check out the SCA site though, it sounds cool.

    My favourite boardgame is Munchkin at the moment. I saw it on Tabletop and I’m hooked!


  2. Avatar Ken says:

    I’ve been on and off Magic my whole life, trying to get back into it now. The back stories of Magic are quite interesting too. I particularly like Ari Marmell’s Agents of Artifice.

  3. Avatar xiagan says:

    I miss my #1 reason – visit the FF forums. 😉

  4. Avatar Khaldun says:

    If you like tabletop games, Rachel, you should definitely check out the board game “7 Wonders”. Multiple paths to victory, lots of strategy, and games tend to always be close among players who all have a couple of games under their belt.

  5. Avatar Rachel says:

    I’ve seen that title, Khaldun, but I’ve never picked it up. There’s also a game called “A Touch of Evil” that I hear is supposed to be pretty fun as well. Munchkin is also one of my favorites as far as card-based games, Jamie. Any edition is hilarious. 🙂

  6. Avatar Charlemagne says:

    Fun article! Thanks for posting. Other than Skyrim and the SCA, this is pretty much my life. Seven Wonders is a great board game, as is Dominion (another one you should check out), and those would probably be my two favorites. I have actually been lucky enough to meet the owners of Mayfair Games, as well as take a “Game Design” class with the creator of Betrayal at House on the Hill. MTG is pretty awesome, though I play it in bursts. I’ll go month playing it all the time, and then two months without ever picking up a deck. I just work like that, I guess. And I have to back up Xiagan on this one – for me, the FF forums are the best! 😀

  7. Avatar Andrew says:

    Torchlight II is my current #5.
    Great list though. Havent played Magic in years. Boardgames are some of my favorite pasttimes though. Just need to find people to play with, hence video games.

  8. Avatar Craig says:

    Great post! I do all of these except play Settlers, but I know how popular it’s become. Modding Skyrim (and even Oblivion) can be a great way to kill time, too, and you can make the game constantly new! Soon though, we’ll have Elder Scrolls: Online, and–even if we escaped the WOW trap–life was we know it may be over. I want to add though that some Fantasy novels are such a joy to read it’s like they’re better than movies…and that’s what I’m working on over at my site–a book that’s more fun to read than playing Skyrim. Thanks for the great post!

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