The outside of the Dungeon Master’s house looks like an ordinary Johnson County home. Two door garage, basketball goal and a small sign above the doorbell reading “No Solicitors.” Once inside, the interior is no less ordinary. Dining-room table to the left, couch and television straight ahead. But a careful listener can hear the faint echo of dice rolling across a ping-pong table a story below.
In the basement is the dungeon party: junior Dungeon Master Russell White, junior player-characters (PCs) Rob Kelly and Niko Colom, and sophomore PC Eli Mitchell.
The idea for a Dungeons and Dragons group started when Mitchell’s elderly piano instructor gave him some third edition rule books that had been discarded by her son back in the ’80s. The next day Mitchell showed White the book, in biology class.
White was already familiar with D&D; he first became interested earlier in the semester when the game came up in a conversation White was having with junior Tyler Cecil during Java class.
Cecil himself is a founder of another D&D group at East. Other members are juniors Kyle Engleken, Duncan Gibbs, and Angela Clem. Engleken first introduced Cecil to D&D in seventh grade, and it seemed to be a perfect fit.
“I don’t like doing anything that’s mindless as far as entertainment, [but] with D&D you get to write stories, you get to do acting (which I like a lot), and while your playing your brain is being challenged” Cecil said. “It’s actually intellectually engaging, as opposed to something like just watching TV.”
White had Cecil put PDFs of the D&D rulebooks on his flashdrive. After learning more about it, White became interested in starting a group, but didn’t know of anyone who would want to join, until Mitchell brought it up.
At first Mitchell wasn’t sure if White was joking. Sure enough, two weeks went by without White bringing it up again. Finally, a week before summer started, White informed Mitchell that he found two members who wanted to join: Kelly and Colom.
The first thing that the group did together was scour Table Tops, a local store specializing in role-playing equipment. Their objective: find cool and unique dice, which are at the core of the essentials needed for a D&D player’s arsenal. Each member picked a different set of dice from the glass display case to use on their campaigns against enemies in the dungeon. For Mitchell, black dice with white and grey swirls; for White, olive green with white speckles.
The second thing they did was have Russell put PDF copies of the rulebook on members’ laptops. The group uses a fourth edition rulebook, which was released in 2008; however, the original came out in 1974. And since its inception, the game’s carried the negative social-stigma of being the epitome of nerdiness.
Cecil ignores generalizations made about D&D players. “I think that most people that can accept anything that’s a little different will be able to accept [D&D] as a way to express yourself,” Cecil said. “And anyone who just thinks it’s horrendously dorky, I probably don’t think very highly of anyways.”
In addition to the stereotypes about the nerdiness of the game’s fanbase, it was originally thought by some that players were followers of the occult.
Though most say that by now, people have accepted D&D as just a game, others see it as much more.
“It’s a chance to go to someone’s house, hang out with friends, talk about video games and computers and have some fun,” Kelley said.
Mitchell likes that their group is casual, and would probably leave if they turned “hardcore.”
“If all we did was go to the house and only play D&D and not talk, or interact in any other way,” Mitchell said, “it would be much less of a social experience, and it would be more like playing World of Warcraft with words.”
For the players at East, D&D isn’t sitting in a basement speaking elvish and fighting with foam swords; it’s a way to express themselves creatively while socializing with friends. That’s why this weekend, and every weekend in the near future, the players will descend into the dungeon.