A fight rages across the landscape, swords colliding and magic crackling. In the real world, players sit around a table nervously as their Dungeon Master describes the fight. The wizard attacks, his player pausing for a second before rolling his dice. The entire table holds their collective breath; the dice rolls over and over before landing on a 20, the highest number possible. With a mighty roar, the wizard shoots a bolt of crackling blue electricity at his opponent, incinerating him instantly. The players all stand and cheer; their fight has been a success.
This is Dungeons and Dragons.
Junior Josh Patt has been playing Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) since 8th grade. Patt was inspired to start playing by online shows like Dimension 20, which takes comedic games and posts them on YouTube for others to watch. He has played in five or six different continuous stories, or campaigns, since then. He describes the game as “a board game without the board.”
“It’s a collaborative storytelling [game],” Patt elaborated. “The people playing operate as characters within that story and make decisions based on what they think their character would do. [It is] determined by a random roll of a dice.”
For his past two campaigns, Patt has acted as the Dungeon Master (DM). The DM acts as a medium between the players and the game, creating stories and characters, describing scenes and keeping track of dice rolls, Patt explained. They can use a pre-written campaign or create a story from scratch. He transitioned from player to DM simply because he could not find anyone to DM for him, Patt said.
“There wasn’t really much of a transition,” Patt said. “I just sort of threw myself into it and I gathered it from there.”
For Patt, D&D represents an escape from the stress and mundanity of normal life. Being able to meet with friends for a couple hours each day and exist in a magical world is one of the game’s biggest draws, Patt explained.
D&D is not just for students, as science teacher Sarah Davis proves. She started playing D&D in her college board game club. Her favorite moments in games are when it feels like the universe conspires to give you the exact roll you need at the perfect moment, she explained. Originally, Davis played to keep in touch with her college friends, but she has found that D&D has grown to be so much more for her.
“It’s an excellent lesson in practicing empathy,” Davis described. “[You have to] truly understand the motivations of your character and see events from a completely different perspective. It’s [also] kind of a vulnerable game, in the sense that you’re putting a lot of emotions out there.”
Junior John Linden started playing his freshman year. He was introduced to D&D from watching the TV show The Goldbergs. In one episode, characters are shown playing D&D, which made him curious about the game.
“A few years ago, I watched an episode of The Goldbergs [and] there was an episode that sparked my interest,” Linden said. “I went out and bought a starter set and dice. I started reading the [player’s handbook, although] I never really played with anybody until my freshman year.”
Linden loves playing the game and tries to play every Sunday. He described his current campaign as fun and “definitely all over the place.” During a previous session, one of Linden’s fellow players was arrested for stealing from a shopkeeper, Linden explained. It was the group’s first time in a new city and the arrest completely changed the story’s direction. Instead of getting to explore the city, the group had to act as lawyers in a trial to free their friend.
Sophomore Benjamin Wolf has been playing since he was 8-years-old. His dad played a lot in the 90s, Wolf explained, so he discovered the game at an early age. He explained that D&D characters have rules that help guide the gameplay.
“Your character is based on six major traits which allow you to do whatever you want,” Wolf said. “It’s basically your strength: how quick you are, how tough you are, how sociable and how smart.”
Like Patt, Wolf is also a DM, since his experience makes him an expert at the role. He enjoys getting to mess around and goof off during the game. There are also elements of theater and creative expression in each game, so Wolf recommends D&D to anyone who is interested in those things.
“If you like acting [or] if you like any sort of imaginary thing, you should play,” Wolf shared. “If you like anything really.”
For Linden, the unpredictability of the game is what keeps him playing. There’s a different story for everybody, he explained.
“It’s just creating your own story,” Linden explained. “[The creative] story aspect is really interesting. I’ve never had a session where I could predict what was going to happen. I think that sort of draws me back in.”