Dungeons & Dragons & Union

Exploring the subcultures of Union College

Stefani Leeper

Dungeons & Dragons—it’s something that most of us have heard of at one time or another but can’t seem to pinpoint. “It’s a board game, right?”

“Technically, it’s not a board game,” clarifies Josh Ayala, a sophomore majoring in International Rescue and Relief. “It’s all imagination and the board is merely supplemental.”

Oh yeah, and it’s a fantasy wargaming RPG (role play game).

So how does this all work? Good question.

In a nutshell, the game never has any set standard; the basics are designed by the Dungeon Master/GM, aka game master, and the plot is shaped by the individual players and the choices they make throughout the game. That doesn’t mean the game is without rules. There’s extensive specificity offered by game developers in game maps, pieces, and rulebooks. “In fact, five different editions of the rulebook have been created,” explains Aerlice LeBlanc, a sophomore studying Public Relations.

Players design their own characters, detailing them on character sheets. Their attributes are dictated by game guidelines. The game master is assigned the duty of designing story arcs and possibilities available to the players. Similarly to a director, the game master must explain to the players what’s going on in the various “scenes” or settings. Additionally, players and GM’s do not have to be in the same room to communicate. Many connect virtually through devices such as Skype, Line, and Kakao Talk.

When taking into consideration time limitations and lengthy turns, the optimal group size is no more than 6 to 7 people, including the GM, explains LeBlanc. When each player has finished his or her turn, a round has been completed.

While this may have been a previously unknown game—despite its inception in 1974—a handful of Union College students currently partake in the RPG. At least two known Dungeons & Dragons gaming groups meet on campus. One group consisting of five members meets on Sunday and a group of six gather together on Friday afternoons.

“We’re all a bunch of nerds,” jokes Ayala before correcting a common misconception in regards to those who play RPGs. “But that’s a stereotype. Anybody can play. That’s the great thing about it; it brings together people from all walks of life.”

“It’s something that people do, not something that defines who a person is,” adds LeBlanc. “For us, it’s a way to keep in touch with friends we don’t see anymore and to de-stress.”

Interested in getting started? It’s easy. All you need are pencils, paper, an ounce of imagination, and, of course, time.

Editor’s Note: Some psychologists feel RPGs can be dangerous towards mental health, and some feel they can be beneficial, especially when played by those with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Stefani is a sophomore studying communication.