“This corridor is filled with cats. Lots and lots of cats,” Alex Teplitz ’21 says to her players, smiling unnervingly. “They meow at you.” She’s taken on the role of ‘Dungeon Master’ for the first time at Bates, and each of the five students gathered around the table with her is fixated on her every word.
Nayt Delgado ’21 is the first to reply: “I meow back.”
Soon, there’s chaos. Cats are following the characters everywhere, strange raven-people called kenku are sending waves of telepathic communication, and octopus-tentacled stalactites are falling from the ceiling to try to swallow up the hearty adventurers. Teplitz looks on and guides the story, pleased.
The Discordians is a Bates club that gathers every Friday night in the Fireplace Lounge from 7-9 for Board Game Night, in addition to running various Dungeons and Dragons adventures, hosting Magic the Gathering drafts and tournaments, and providing a variety of other campus events. With almost unlimited capacity, the Discordians foster positive environments for non-alcoholic games and activities of various sorts on campus. Dungeons and Dragons adventures are one prominent way the club does this–getting people who wouldn’t normally connect engaged in cooperative storytelling can build powerful bonds in unlikely ways.
As the Director of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) for the Discordians, I coordinate various weekly and biweekly D&D adventures, many of which have been running for multiple years with the same players. However, this past weekend, a couple of first-years had the opportunity to run some adventures themselves, testing out new storylines, characters, and monsters before a welcoming audience. Teplitz says her past experiences with D&D have “opened her mind to a world of creative possibility,” and she wanted to do more. Both she and Sam Britner ’21 led exciting new stories this weekend and helped players new and old have an excellent time.
Dungeons and Dragons, for those who don’t know, is a tabletop role-playing game. What this means is that each player creates and takes on the role of a unique adventuring hero, and then chooses what that character does over the course of an ongoing story. For example, in Britner’s adventure, I played Galinda Glitterstorm, a dwarf paladin who tosses glitter into the air frequently and loves small creatures like goblins, because they are similar to Munchkins. I nicknamed her, “The Good Witch of the Mountain.” Throughout the story, I did my best to take actions that I thought showed Galinda’s personality and desires, rather than my own. So even though smashing the magical sigil in the center of town might not have been the smartest idea, Galinda tried to do so, because its magical glow was at odds with her reflective glitter (Galinda also had an Intelligence of 9, which is quite poor). Various other players took on the role of other characters, and, together, we helped create a story both fun and dramatic.
The Dungeon Master takes on a special role in the cooperative story creation, by playing the parts of the non-hero characters in the story, and by describing the world around the heroes and knowing its secrets. So while I had no idea why the magical sigil was in the center of town, Britner did, and created an air of mystery to his tale by hinting at a powerful darkness somehow connected to the sigil. He also used quirky voices and exciting music to add dynamic tension and flavor to various characters and experiences the heroic ‘player characters’ encountered.
Both Teplitz and Britner successfully created compelling stories that the players (myself included) profoundly enjoyed; hopefully, they learned something about cooperative storytelling as well. However, it’s often difficult to find players for new Dungeons and Dragons adventures, especially here on campus. That’s why the Discordians provide resources to students who don’t have the resources or connections to find adventures to play in or players for their adventures. Tristan Kane ’20, who plays in a weekly D&D adventure, commented, “I really like the way D&D makes me think critically about problems. The ways in which we approach an issues as a team can be the difference between success or failure.”
Teplitz also shared some about her experience: “There’s no other activity I do that involves so much laughing and creative problem-solving with friends–notifications and apps and stress forgotten for those three magic hours.”
All in all, Saturday’s event was fulfilling for all involved and may lead to some fantastic new adventures, and perhaps cats, down the road.
Justice Geddes ’20 prepares his moves in Saturday’s Dungeosn and Dragons game. JAMES MACDONALD/THE BATES STUDENT