Slaying dragons, plundering gold and casting magical spells – these and an infinite number of other activities are all possible in the fantasy world of Dungeons & Dragons.
Senior Mac Scott developed a passion for the game last summer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.
Scott participated in a computer science program, where one of his fellow students saw him looking at a Dungeons & Dragons website at the end of their class session.
Scott had also brought a rule book, prompting Scott and other summer-camp students to try it out.
His summer experience playing a full adventure inspired Scott to start a Dungeons & Dragons club at school.
Dungeons & Dragons, also known as D&D, is a fantasy tabletop game that involves role-playing as different characters and slaying fictional beasts.
However, this imaginary world isn’t easy to create. The game comes with a very complicated set of rules, managed by the Dungeon Master. The Dungeon Master, or DM, is also responsible for every non-player character, or NPC, in the story, along with the world the players play in and the events taking place in this world.
For Country Day’s club, Scott has taken on the role of the DM, as he did when he played over the summer. He said it makes sense for the most experienced player to take control over the play session.
Even though Wizards of the Coast, the company that owns D&D, offers pre-generated adventures, Scott decided to write his own story.
He said he spent most of his free time creating the world and planning possible encounters, such as fighting off bandits or solving intricate puzzles.
However, the players can also affect what happens in the game.
“It isn’t fully scripted because it wouldn’t be roleplay if (the players) had no choice,” Scott said.
The game uses a variety of different dice – usually a 20-sided one – to determine the success of each action a player or NPC tries to perform.
In addition to these rolls, characters have statistics on their character sheets that affect their ability to perform certain tasks. These statistics are shown through values added or subtracted from the values rolled on the dice. Weapons and abilities can also make the actions easier to perform.
A character sheet is an outline that players use to fill in the stats, weapons, abilities, items and any backstory about their character. The more complex a character, the more fun players will have roleplaying, Scott said.
The players in the club (freshmen Spencer Scott and Emme Bogetich) have their character sheets finished and ready to use in their adventure on Jan. 13.
“Everyone will be making their own characters so that once we actually begin playing, (the players) will feel a lot more invested into the story,” Scott said.
Once the characters are made and the DM has created the world, the game can begin.
Each adventure is different, especially since Scott is creating his own. Scott taught the players most of the rules during lunch meetings in late November and early December.
Scott, who said he enjoys role-playing video games, was always interested in playing D&D but never had people to play with. During his freshman year he wanted to join the school D&D club. However, the seniors who ran the club grew too busy and could not continue, so the club disbanded.
“I had tried to play (outside of school) tons of times,” Scott said. “But it never caught on because I just found it too complicated.”
This was until Scott met others willing to play with him at his summer camp. They played nine three-hour sessions during the last few weeks of their program.
After that, Scott bought all the materials, such as dice, game boards, figures and all the player manuals.
Scott said D&D has three levels: the rules and how the game works, the roleplay and the fun. Without the rules, he said, you can’t have the roleplay, and without the roleplay, you can’t have fun.
“We want to have fun, and we do that by telling a story,” Scott said. “Because we are older kids, we can’t just make believe.
“With the mechanics, we can (make) these battles or adventures challenging, and that makes roleplay work, making the game fun.”
Once the mechanics were understood by the club members, Scott started them on an adventure made for beginners.
Seven people came to his first two play sessions, but Scott is unsure of how many will be committed to the full campaign.
“A usual party is two to six,” Scott said. “More than that makes the game way too slow going through the different turns.
“Four is usually your perfect number.”
On the Friday night before winter break, all three players attended the D&D club in Matthews Library. Scott started by summarizing the previous week’s adventure, talking about dwarfs and goblins and playing battle music to set the atmosphere. But as the gameplay went on, Scott deviated more and more from the Starter Set, turning the adventure into a Christmas story.
The adventurers stopped in a snowy town, fully decorated on Christmas Eve. There the characters were ambushed by shadow apparitions, to which Spencer’s character, a judge, shouted, “They cannot fight the law!”
Suddenly a robotic G-R-I-N-C-H (Gadget For Insidiously Nabbing Children’s Happiness) flew through a building on a sleigh, wood splintering everywhere. He flew up to his gloomy castle on the hill, taunting the players to follow with a cackle.
Spencer and Bogetich’s characters ran up to the castle, where they were joined by Batman and the Justice League. It was then the students realized Scott was really just having fun with this final, non-serious campaign.
Prior to being saved by Batman, the party battled an abominable snowman. Upon his defeat, Bogetich said victoriously, “I never liked Frosty anyways.”
This was one of many comments made during the session, as the players mixed serious combat with fun and laughter. Scott guided the players through the game, making the experience as smooth as possible.
Bogetich, who played D&D with her family this summer, said she was very excited when she heard she would be able to play with different people and vary her playing experience.
“It’s fun to have people that share my interests,” Bogetich said.
Scott said he has created a very linear storyline early on, giving the players fewer impactful choices so they don’t mess up and get killed in the first few weeks.
As the players get more experienced, Scott will start to open up the adventure, giving them choices that will affect the entire campaign.
With the full campaign on its way, the players will finally be able to explore Scott’s mystical empire of Archanea.
—By Mehdi Lacombe