Dungeons & Dragons makes a comeback in local schools

  • The Great Brook School's Dungeons and Dragons club, the Hall of Heroes, meets every Friday, with dozens of children playing the classic tabletop game. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Great Brook School's Dungeons and Dragons club, the Hall of Heroes, meets every Friday, with dozens of children playing the classic tabletop game. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Great Brook School's Dungeons and Dragons club, the Hall of Heroes, meets every Friday, with dozens of children playing the classic tabletop game. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Great Brook School's Dungeons and Dragons club, the Hall of Heroes, meets every Friday, with dozens of children playing the classic tabletop game. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Dungeons and Dragons uses various dice to determine the success of actions, how much damage attacks do, and other story elements. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Great Brook School's Dungeons and Dragons club, the Hall of Heroes, meets every Friday, with dozens of children playing the classic tabletop game. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Great Brook School's Dungeons and Dragons club, the Hall of Heroes, meets every Friday, with dozens of children playing the classic tabletop game. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Great Brook School's Dungeons and Dragons club, the Hall of Heroes, meets every Friday, with dozens of children playing the classic tabletop game. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Great Brook School's Dungeons and Dragons club, the Hall of Heroes, meets every Friday, with dozens of children playing the classic tabletop game. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Great Brook School's Dungeons and Dragons club, the Hall of Heroes, meets every Friday, with dozens of children playing the classic tabletop game. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Great Brook School's Dungeons and Dragons club, the Hall of Heroes, meets every Friday, with dozens of children playing the classic tabletop game. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Great Brook School's Dungeons and Dragons club, the Hall of Heroes, meets every Friday, with dozens of children playing the classic tabletop game. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Great Brook School's Dungeons and Dragons club, the Hall of Heroes, meets every Friday, with dozens of children playing the classic tabletop game. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The Great Brook School's Dungeons and Dragons club, the Hall of Heroes, meets every Friday, with dozens of children playing the classic tabletop game. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Ethan Holdredge, center, affects surprise at his character being attacked by guards, played by Dungeon Master Joseph Vasco, left while he and party member Leila Rashidi, right, attempt to rob a bank in their Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The South Meadow School Dungeons and Dragons Club meets weekly to go on tabletop adventures. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The South Meadow School Dungeons and Dragons Club meets weekly to go on tabletop adventures. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The South Meadow School Dungeons and Dragons Club meets weekly to go on tabletop adventures. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The South Meadow School Dungeons and Dragons Club meets weekly to go on tabletop adventures. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The South Meadow School Dungeons and Dragons Club meets weekly to go on tabletop adventures. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • The South Meadow School Dungeons and Dragons Club meets weekly to go on tabletop adventures. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • South Meadow School eighth grade students Beau Olesky and Jasper Vergo play imaginary saxophones behind Josh Ellis, during a campaign run by Dungeon Master Frank LeBlanc. DStaff photo by Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/19/2020 9:27:35 PM

The Real Housewives of Crab are out to rob a bank.

That’s perhaps a sentence that only makes sense to the group of middle school students who gather every Friday in the cafeteria of Great Brook School in Antrim, to play the tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons.

The group – named for an inside joke so convoluted, they aren’t even sure where it exactly started – is just one adventuring party among seven who regularly play the game as part of the school’s Hall of Heroes club.

That’s nearly a quarter of the school, in a club that only began last year, advisor Maryanne Cullinan said.

This boom in popularity isn’t out of step with the game’s popularity worldwide, either. In the last five years – when the latest edition of the game was released – Dungeons & Dragons has surged back into the cultural consciousness and has doubled in sales.

Perhaps spurred on by campaigns aired on services like YouTube, the streaming service Twitch, and through podcasts, the game is reaching a new generation of players, with new player handbooks and starter kits making up a large portion in this growth in sales.

There are nearly infinite ways to play the fantasy game, because it encourages players to come up with unique solutions to problems. Players can run campaigns based off guide books, guided by a player called the Dungeon Master, that will outline a quest, or make up their own.

Players create characters that specialize in fighting, magic, or evasion, and come up with solutions to the Dungeon Master’s obstacles. Whether they’re successful in their efforts or not depends on the roll of the dice. Because of the element of chance the dice invites into the game even a good plan may not always work as intended and a ridiculous one might succeed.

Cullinan, who teaches the extended learning program at Great Brook, became interested in starting a Dungeons & Dragons group with some of her students after attending the PAX Unplugged convention a year ago. It seemed the perfect way to frame the kinds of skills she tries to teach – social skills, collaboration, problem-solving and pre-planning.

She started a group for female students, called the Slay Queens – but quickly found that interest was high. An after school club was formed, and the rest was history.

“It’s a creative space. It’s up to you. You get to create your own stories,” said student Ethan Holdredge.

“This is my weekend before my weekend,” said Adeline Regis.

Netflix’s wildly popular show “Stranger Things,” in which Dungeons & Dragons is featured, is possibly the reason behind the role playing game being a sudden and huge hit at the Antrim middle school. In Jaffrey, however, high school students have long been dedicated to the game, Conant High School teacher Seth Farmer said. Farmer is the advisor to a smaller, but long-lasting group, also dedicated to D&D.

“We have had a club for 15 years, which I guess is longer than anyone else around here,” Farmer said.

Farmer himself grew up with the game, receiving his first Dungeons & Dragons set under the Christmas tree when he was 10 years old.

“I thought it was imaginative and fascinating,” he said.

So, when two students approached him in 2005, asking to start a Dungeons & Dragons after-school club, he agreed readily. Though, he said, he remembers being a little hesitant, because he recalled there once was a stigma around the game.

That’s not the case anymore, he said.

“It’s cool now. Dungeons & Dragons is cool, which is kind of amazing to me. It’s everywhere in pop culture, and it’s spawned an entire industry of fantasy video games that have a similar premise,” Farmer said.

It’s appeal is wide, but perhaps more so for students who don’t have a dedicated sport or other club, he said. 

“It’s a great place for them. There’s a lot of them who aren’t interested in other after school activities, so it’s important to me that this continues to exist, because without it, there are some kids who wouldn’t have anything else,” Farmer said.

“You can create a wacky character, and play in so many different ways,” Conant student Thorin Woodman of Rindge said. “You can create a giant burly lizard-man with a southern accent.”

“It’s a good way to teach teamwork and leadership,” said Aden Whitney of Rindge, another member of Conant’s club. “You’re put into situations where you have to work together, and sometimes groups that wouldn’t get along otherwise have been able to make it work, because you have to.”

South Meadow School in Peterborough and Wilton-Lyndeborough Middle School also have groups. South Meadow’s has been meeting for about a year, after two students approached administration about starting the club. Now, the club runs multiple campaign groups.

Aramis Olivio, a seventh grader, was one of the students who wanted to start the club as SMS.

“People don’t understand that this isn’t just a game,” Olivio said. “You need to make choices, and the choices have consequences if you make them wrong. It’s like life that way.”




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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