Dungeons & Dragons can be anything you want it to be– and it lets you do the same.
For nearly 50 years, D&D has given all kinds of people a creative outlet. According to Wizards of the Coast, the game’s long-time publisher, it started out in the 1970s as a wargame supplement named Chainmail. In those days, Chainmail merely introduced wizards, heroes and dragons to tabletop wargames. Soon after, players were turning in their armies for single characters, and the newly-dubbed Dungeons & Dragons took on a life of its own.
Every game of D&D needs a lead storyteller, a rules referee and someone to design the realm the story takes place in and the people who live there. The Dungeon Master (DM) handles all this and more, guiding their friends through tales of wonder and woe.
Nicholas Hodder, a design student at Keene State, has six years of D&D experience under his belt. Hodder, who most often takes the role of DM while playing, sees the game as a way to tell tales of adventure.
“D&D to me [is] storytelling, it’s entertainment. It’s free entertainment, and it uses one of the… greatest utilities of humans, and that’s imagination,” Hodder said.
Hodder has played single characters in games before, but overall prefers his role as DM. His love of storytelling paired with the enjoyment his friends get out of his efforts make it all worthwhile, he said.
Over the years, D&D has had many different editions, all building off of the last. Hodder has made sure to run games in five systems, nearly all of them, in order to perfect his skills as a Dungeon Master. Through this study he was able to see how the game has developed over time and pick his favorite edition, Hodder said.
Fifth Edition is the game’s most recent iteration and considered by Hodder and many others to be an excellent place to start. The system is malleable and can be anything you want it to be, Hodder said. Indeed, the rules of Fifth Edition offer a high degree of customization, allowing players and DMs alike to craft exactly what they want in their worlds.
D&D isn’t only about, well, dungeons and dragons. The game’s social nature also breeds friendships, comedic moments and tense roleplaying scenarios.
“It was really a way to find friends in my new school,” said Benjamin Allard, a Keene State SPDI major with six years worth of experience with D&D. The interpersonal connections and relationships he has made along the way are some his favorite parts of the game, he said.
Allard, who is not only pursuing a Sustainable Product Design and Innovation (SPDI) degree specializing in engineering but also a double minor in math and physics, uses the game’s social nature to unwind during his sparse downtime.
“Having that moment of surprise and the light up on some people’s faces when something goes unexpectedly wrong, or unexpectedly right, that’s my favorite part of DnD,”said Allard.
Allard recalls a particularly silly occurrence in one the games he played in. His favorite class, the spell-wielding sorcerer, can sometimes access Wild Magic, an unstable form of magecraft with unexpectable results.
“It can be [either] the devastation or the cause of many funny campaigns,” he said of the sorcerer. He continued, as his party were attempting to approach a situation stealthily, he opted to cast an invisibility spell to obscure the group from enemy sight. Instead, every player character’s hair was dyed a bright, brilliant pink. It is unexpected and lighthearted moments like this that Allard noted make him love the game.
Games are not always silly and heroic, however. Chris Higgins recalls a time when, in one of Hodder’s games, the heroes were caused to question their actions. As a battle with a powerful long-time foe drew to a close, the villain redeemed himself. Hodder does not remember the exact act, as it was some time ago, but does remember the party wondering whether they made the right choice in slaying him. Hodder’s character, a paladin of a nature god, grew flowers for their fallen former foe as a symbol of peace and respect before giving him a proper funeral.
“Don’t be afraid to roleplay,” said Higgins. In the end, you’re there to have fun with your friends.
Dungeons & Dragons is a game for everyone. Players don’t need to be professional actors or extraordinary character writers.
In Allard’s words, “Play it. Plain and simple… If you’re a creative person and have an active imagination… play Dungeons & Dragons.”
If you’re interested in trying out D&D, The Keene State Gamers Guild plays weekly online. Once the group is able to meet up again, play will continue in person and posters will be hung up with game information and a link to the Discord server where interested parties can participate.
Fifth Edition lead designer Mike Mearls sums it up well in his preface to the edition’s Player’s Handbook.
“Above all else, D&D is yours… D&D is your personal corner of the universe, a place where you have free reign to do as you wish.”
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