Dungeons and Dragons: The Joy of Role Playing
One of Bede’s longest-running activities, Dungeons and Dragons Club has seen a resurgence in recent years.
This boost in popularity mirrors a renaissance in the popularity of table gaming more generally, which is suprising considering the ways in which video games, computers and the internet have become ubiquitous with almost every aspect of modern life.
Counterintuitively, the board, card and role playing game business grew by a staggering 40% in the UK last year, with gamers of all ages flocking back to hobbies which enable social interaction between real people, around real tables – much to the delight of Bede’s alumnus, Maths teacher and Deputy Housemaster of Dicker House Mr Peattie.
“I am one of a growing collection of people who finds the ideas of emergent games and interactive story-telling really interesting,” he explains.
“Games like Dungeons and Dragons are great for encouraging imagination, team building, leadership, creative writing and even maths skills. It is fantastic to see students taking the lead and the initiative to plan their own adventures – they voluntarily do Prep for the activity!”
One of the most famous of a breed of games known as RPGs or ‘role playing games’, Dungeons and Dragons sees each player take on the role of a character on an adventure while another person, often referred to as the 'Dungeon Master,' generates a plot, designs puzzles and writes a range of hostile antagonists for the other players to overcome.
“Participating in creating and playing pen and paper RPG games is a thoroughly rewarding social experience,” Mr Peattie continues. “A lot of work can go into it, and several children have created their own mathematical combat systems and even ‘worlds’ in which the games take place, from sci-fi to zombie apocalypse situations to traditional ‘swords and sorcery’-type scenarios.”
With RPG games like Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder and Shadowrun encouraging players to experiment with identity, risk-taking and chance (a great deal of RPG gameplay comes down to dice-rolls) it is heartening to see so many Bedians reacting so enthusiastically when asked about their hobby.
“Creating my own game was a process,” explains Upper Fifth, Knights House pupil Will Jobling. “I had to use my imagination combined with maths. It’s about understanding your vision for the game.”
Will’s statements are echoed by fellow Dungeon Master and Upper Fifth pupil David Watson from Deis House.
“It was fun creating a game, because I knew what was coming up but nobody else did. I really enjoyed seeing the group playing through a campaign that I had helped to create. There is a real sense of excitement when the Dungeon Master does not give anything away. There is an art to doing it well.”
With tales of derring-do that cannot help but bring a smile to your face, including accounts of a sci-fi adventure in which the students had to try to fly a Siri-guided space shuttle, a fantasy escapade during which a brave warrior jumped into a pit of flaming tigers to successfully obtain a pair of Fabulous Shoes and another in which the party had to take a rabble of orcs shopping at a medieval superstore, it is easy to see why the club’s membership is on the rise.
“The other day, one player announced that their back-story was that their parents, who were scientists, had been murdered in front of them,” explains Mr Peattie, “leaving their only memory as their research notes locked in a flask.
"The player explained that the character always keeps the flask on his person, but that he has not had the heart to read the notes as yet. In my view, that is quite sophisticated, funny, and a little melancholy. We go from that sort of thing to characters doing the splits over glowing balls of radiation – it’s extremely entertaining!”
With a membership that is a little boy-heavy at present, Mr Peattie hopes that more girls feel confident enough to join the club in the future, and that the ‘super-nerdy’ perception of RPG gaming continues to fall away.
“Playing D and D has given me confidence to build my own game, generate ideas and to lead a group of people through a process,” explains Dicker House’s Ben Peskett.
“Plus, we all really like being in a story – being a character and interacting and experiencing what that character goes through,” adds Lower Fifth, Deis boy Toby Sammarco.
“After all, we all see things from different angles and have our own interpretations.”