Becoming a Master

Dungeons and Dragons fans find schooltime outlet

Alisha Soni | The Chronicle

Adventurers charge into battle, their fate uncertain. Relying on nothing but luck, they roll the dice.

Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) is a 1970’s tabletop role-playing game that allows a group of people to immerse themselves into their own fantasy world. The “Dungeon Master” runs the storyline, leading the group through the plot. Each player in the campaign (an ongoing storyline) is given some creative freedom to craft original characters and work together towards a common goal, fighting any obstacles that stand in their way.

A few years ago, drama teacher Allen Young’s students performed the play She Kills Monsters, written by Qui Nguyen, which featured D&D as a focal point. To give them a feel for the somewhat complex game, Young invited theater students to come together and learn to play after school. After receiving positive feedback from students who played together, Young decided to make the learning experience a recurring event. Later, when Connect Time was introduced as a part of the Mason High School (MHS) schedule, it presented the opportunity for Young to expand the adventures to students beyond those in the drama program.

Every Wednesday, Young hosts a “Drama and Dragons” connect session in the Black Box Theater. Students are given the chance, no matter how inexperienced, to enroll in a campaign and advance through a fantastical adventure with their group. The love for the game is something that Young feels can reach any student.

“Nerd culture is celebrated now,” Young said. “[Now], there are tables of kids I have never met before at ‘Drama and Dragons’ [because] it appeals to any kid who wants to make some friends, roll some dice and have fun.”

Usually, when a player wants to perform an action in the game, they must roll a pair of dice. Various kinds of numbered dice that can be used for D&D, the signature being one that is 20-sided. Depending on the luck of the roll, the player will experience a fortunate or unfortunate action. As a Dungeon Master and leader of multiple campaigns, Young has seen his fair share of both.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a player die [before this year],” Young said. “In one of my recent campaigns, [however], the healer went off by himself and, with some bad rolls and some bad luck, his character didn’t make it. But he’s got a new character ready for the next session.”

D&D either follows a pre-made game from official sourcebooks or a type of game described as “homebrew.” Homebrew games are original stories designed entirely by fans. Completing the creation of a homebrew game is incredibly time-consuming and complex because, not only are strong creative writing skills important, but a vast amount of research is necessary as well.

Senior Amara Hedges has been a regular player since her freshman year. Before the introduction of Connect Time, she had immediately jumped on Young’s offer to meet after school and play D&D with her peers. Currently, Hedges participates in the “Drama and Dragons” session as a way to extend her time with the game. Although she is a part of a campaign, she would be willing to become a Dungeon Master after finishing her work-in-progress homebrew game. Hedges said that the story she is building has many details that add to the amount of time it takes her to write it.

“My game isn’t even complete,” Hedges said. “I need to find the holes in my plot before the other players find them. In my unreleased homebrew game, I have a very unimportant merchant that stands up on a box and yells at people. I have a ton of voice lines written over for him, just in case the players decide to talk [to him].”

Mason’s D&D group has seen an increase in popularity over the last few years. This year, senior James Hendricks noticed a dramatic growth in those attending the “Drama and Dragons” sessions in comparison to previous years, rising from less than 20 students to around 70 students. He attributes some of this swell to pop culture.

“Especially with the comeback of retro stuff like Stranger Things, [D&D] has definitely made a comeback,” Hendricks said. “A lot of people may not know exact details, but they know of it.”

With D&D, players are thrown into their worlds as the character they specifically designed. In Hendricks’ current campaign, he takes the personality of his original character Blink, a rock gnome.

Many people enjoy D&D’s nonrestrictive rules, as much of the game is left completely to the imagination of the players. With the seemingly endless possibilities that D&D has to offer, many students, like Hendricks, continue to attend the Wednesday connect sessions week after week.

“It’s a fun way to escape from life or be something other than yourself,” Hendricks said. “I know I, for one, enjoy being other people because I like acting and I get to work on improvisation.”

Many students are captivated by D&D because of its ability to create everlasting memories and help people form unbreakable bonds with the group with which they game. After spending much of high school playing the game, Hedges said that with the love she has for D&D, she plans to continue to participate in her intricately crafted fantasy worlds, even after she graduates.

“I have completely fallen in love with [D&D],” Hedges said. “I love sitting in a room with people, figuring out a story that all of us are collectively going through. It just brings people together and it’s the primary way that I make friends. So, Dungeons and Dragons is here to stay for me.”

Illustrations by Becca Hunter