Photo of Xavier Hill, Phillipcezar Binda, Erin Olding by Cassie LeBel
By Mike Kehoe
We are lucky enough to live in a time when geek is considered chic. Superheroes dominate the box office, video games are as mainstream as any other hobby and now even Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) is in the midst of a resurgence in popularity.
D&D is one of those taboo topics that has always been whispered about, but for various reasons has always remained very niche. In the 1980’s, there were even ridiculous rumors that the world’s most prominent tabletop role-playing game was a gateway drug right into Satanic rituals. Now however, kids and adults alike are picking up their D20s (the 20-sided die most often used in D&D) and rolling with their friends for hours on end.
Cape Cod Community College (4Cs) is no stranger to this resurgence, with a new gaming club on campus, full of students who want nothing more than to play some games and have some fun. They meet in room G01 of the Lorusso building on the first and third Wednesdays of the month at 2 PM.
“The Gaming Club is [an] open room where you can bring your game, socialize and play there with us,” said Joao Cursino, who serves as the club’s Vice President. “We started off [playing] with the ‘Pokémon Go’ concept, but all games are welcome to our meetings.
One reason for D&D’s hike in popularity is the new rule-set known as “5th Edition”. Released in 2014, 5th Edition (or 5e) is a complete re-tooling of the game with a much sleeker and simpler design. While in the past, picking up the game seemed like a daunting task with all the confusing and complicated rules, now it is much easier to design your character and get right into the game.
First, you pick a race, such as human or dwarf or elf. That race grants your character certain attributes and abilities. Next, you pick your class, such as barbarian or wizard or rogue. Your class determines what your character can do, whether it’s shooting magical fireballs or pummeling your foes with a giant warhammer. Once you have those two things picked out, your character is essentially ready for play!
As your character gains experience, they can level up just like in a video game. As your character levels up, they unlock new abilities that are unique to the class you chose. This simplistic approach to the game has been a welcome addition and has allowed many new people to easily pick up the rules and start their own adventures.
“[Tabletop role-playing games] are a very different type of game,” said 4Cs Gaming Club President Xavier Hill. “And not easy to do, either. But once you get into the flow of things, it’s the most fun you can ever have.”
For previous generations, it was a real hassle to set up a game of Dungeons & Dragons. You had to buy all the rule books and all the dice, you had to make maps and find tokens and most importantly you had to get a group of people to congregate in one place for a few hours. Now, with the amazing advancements in technology, none of those things are necessary.
Don’t want to buy the books or the dice? Just google any rules questions you might have and utilize one of the various free dice-roller programs online. Need maps and tokens? D&D Beyond and Roll20, among others, are fantastic resources for all your gaming needs and are just a few mouse-clicks away. Don’t have a group of friends who are interested in D&D or have friends that want to play, but can’t meet in person? Thousands of people play Dungeons & Dragons together every day using programs like Discord and Skype. The technology that we have today makes it easier than ever to meet a group of friends and play a game of D&D without breaking your wallet or ruining your schedule.
“With the many communication devices and platforms now, it makes it easier to stream, host and plan sessions with friends,” Hill said. “Along with being able to post videos online as tutorials, examples and guides. It also makes it easier to advertise to those who are interested [in playing].”
One of the biggest reasons why Dungeons & Dragons is so popular now is that thanks to Twitch and other streaming services, we have a plethora of weekly D&D shows to watch as entertainment. The beauty of it is that even though they are all technically playing the same game, the stories they each tell are completely unique. Want a classic tale of epic deeds told by professional actors? Tune into Critical Role every Thursday night and prepare to have your heartstrings pulled. Want to watch a bunch of goofy medieval characters try to run an adventuring company? The Acquisitions Incorporated live shows might just be for you. Need an interesting podcast with twists and turns to listen to on your commute? The Adventure Zone will keep you company as you drive to class with a smile on your face.
In a time when we have literally thousands of options of entertainment at our literal fingertips, these D&D streams have captured the attention of a massive new audience. These shows have not only entertained these audiences, but have also inspired them to pick up the dice themselves to tell their own tales.
In the end, the great thing about D&D is that while it supplies the rules, it is still up to the players and the Dungeon Master (or ‘DM’, essentially the person in the group who sets up the adventures and the world for the players) to tell the story. And you can use those rules to tell all kinds of stories. Funny ones, dramatic ones, epic ones, anything you can think of. The rules are simple to understand and can be picked up very quickly, you can easily connect with other people online to set up and play your own game and there are dozens upon dozens of entertaining shows to watch if you want a better understanding of the game.
“D&D is a game focused on using the imagination to create scenarios,” said Hill. “More people are getting invested in creating a world where they can be someone else. For most, that can mean escaping the stress of daily life.”
So, if you are interested in playing a fun game with a few friends, it’s your turn to pick up the dice and tell a story of your own.