A roll of the dice

Behind the scenes look at Dungeons and Dragons club

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Collin Davis

Club members and juniors Cooper Carl, Hector Wilkenwork and freshman Max Werner work to defeat a shield guardian in the “Curse of Strahd” campaign. Taken right before school went online in 2020, this was the second-to-last time the D&D club was able to play in-person. “It’s a very tight-knit group,” Wilken said. “We know each other, we’re friends [and] we’re close.”

“You step into the dark. Your torch barely illuminates the space around you, your vision is very limited, and suddenly! Flying from the darkness, you are surrounded by a horde of flapping wings and snarling teeth. Giant bats!”

Every Monday, students of all grades gather to play a game, fighting fantasy monsters and solving puzzles together.

Dungeons and Dragons, shortened into D&D, is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game where players create their own characters from an abundance of races and occupations and embark on imaginary adventures governed by a Dungeon Master, who serves as a storyteller for the game and controls all of its aspects. The game was created in 1971, but D&D has stayed relevant and popular for decades, so much so that a school club was created to play with fellow students. 

The D&D Club was founded in 2012, during the infancy of the fifth edition of D&D, or 5e, by then-freshman Mayer Mitchell, who was one of the first Dungeon Masters (DMs) of the club. With the help of one of the school librarians, Brian Welch, Mitchell decided to create a club centered around the game of D&D. Welch became the club’s sponsor and helped advertise the newly-made club to students who they thought would be interested. 

“It wasn’t a hard choice to start sponsoring the club, [since] I had knowledge about [the game]. Besides, I think it’s important for students to have something that they can [be] passionate about, and anytime you see D&D players, they are generally pretty passionate about the game,” Welch said.

Since the creation of the club, there have been five or six DMs, sometimes even more than one at a time. Currently, junior Collin Davis is the main DM and club president. Davis runs the D&D campaigns the club plays, arranges member meetings and organizes the sessions. 

“It’s my job to build a game around what the players want to do. What I like most is being able to see a plot come together as a dungeon master,” Davis said. 

“The game is made by the players. As a player, it’s a great experience to know that what you are doing is the story and that the game builds around you instead of you being built around the game.”

— Colin Davis

D&D is a unique game in that the story is built around the actions of the players and how they choose to interact with the world the DM creates. 

“The game is made by the players. As a player, it’s a great experience to know that what you are doing is the story, and that the game builds around you instead of you being built around the game,” Davis said.

With infinite possibilities of character traits, players can play as almost anything in D&D. 

“There’s a lot of things that you can do with [D&D]. In the base game, just without anything else, it’s pretty massive and with the amount of people, [the kind of game it is] can change wildly,” D&D club member and junior Hector Wilken said.

Campaigns, a series of connected D&D sessions with an overarching theme or storyline, are the main part of playing the game and, by extension, the club. 

“I like to run the campaigns based on character. I love giving the players a chance to act as their character, so I love running campaigns that are focused around characters and their interactions, their goals, their backgrounds,” Davis said.

The flexibility of the story makes it so the most important interactions are between the different players, bringing a social aspect to an otherwise solitary game. Thus, teamwork is valued by club members.

“We live in an era where you can probably get an app and play a game like [D&D] with leveling up, experience points, loot, getting new weapons items. There’s no novelty in [that sort of system] anymore,” Welch said. “To me, what D&D is about is that shared storytelling experience [and] getting together with people. It is a fun way to socialize.”

Currently, the D&D club is playing an original campaign made by Davis called the Wizard’s Tower of Martyrs Marsh, where the players have to venture up a magical tower in order to collect an ancient book and stop it from destroying a village.

 “Our players right now are really into two types of things: combat and puzzle-solving. So, we tend to have a lot of that [in the campaign] because the players like being able to fight and defeat big monsters and solve puzzles,” Davis said. 

The D&D club has grown and shrunk over the years, but there have always been members, and the club always welcomes new players to join.

“I think [people join the club] because Dungeons and Dragons gives people a chance to be someone who they are not so that instead of being Jim-John Johnson, a sophomore at Parkway West High School, you could be a brave warrior. You can be the hero,” Davis said.