Image: Pippa Buchanan, Flickr

Dungeons, dragons, and dissertations

“So what are you guys looking for again?” the bemused guard asked.

The tired barbarian sighed. “For the last time, we’re looking for an expert on dragons who can value this giant ruby dragon skull.”

“Wait wait wait!” The bard interjected, “You’re not saying you intend to sell our favourite booze container?”

I have been playing roleplaying games for as long as I can remember. Be it early childhood memories of Fighting Fantasy or Tunnels and Trolls with my dad; or the more recent Dungeons and Dragons (DnD) campaigns with my friends at uni, RPGs have never been far from my thoughts. Coming to university presented a wonderful opportunity to get back into my favourite hobby and to grow closer to my new friends through the magic of the shared storytelling that is only possible through tabletop games.

Above all, being a dungeon master is about improvisation.

I’ve been lucky enough to be both a player and a dungeon master and I can say that both are thoroughly worthwhile. Being a dungeon master means being the narrator, the background characters, the gods, the villains, the monsters and the world itself. As the dungeon master, you are responsible for creating the world and weaving the narrative that the players will be wading through. Above all, being a dungeon master is about improvisation. No matter how much preparation you do for a session, the odds are that your players will find some way to derail your best-laid plans and it will always create a more engaging and interesting story.

Being a player means wading into an alien world in the skin of a creature native to it. It is an opportunity to peer into the creative mind of your dungeon master and to experience a story of your collective making with your friends.

“Okay, but how do we get back onto the roof?” the barbarian asks, looking up at the skylight the party dropped in through.

A smile crept across the bard’s face. “You’re proficient in javelins right?”

The smile lept from the bard’s face to the barbarian as he turned to me and said “I throw the bard out of the skylight.” He rolls high on the athletics check, but the bard rolls low on the acrobatics check to land. This means he sails out of the skylight like a javelin then slams face first into the roof and rolls off it, right into a group of patrolling guards. The rest of the party winces as the bard tries to convince them that he is an evil demon.

I’d recommend the tabletop society to find a group.

DnD is not just maps and rolling dice, it’s a window into the imagination of your friends. It’s a great experience which I’d recommend to anyone, not just engineering nerds like myself. I was lucky enough to run into a bunch of fellow DnD enthusiasts on my course, but for those who aren’t as lucky as me, I’d recommend the tabletop society to find a group. If you’re not convinced I’d recommend looking up some stories, particularly “Sir Bearington”.

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